Well the week has arrived. Taper week. The marathon is close and the miles have been logged, the sessions done and the hard work is almost time to be set into motion.
The ‘taper’ usually lasts anywhere from three weeks out from race day. This time around I have had a relatively short taper due to a relatively quick build, which I don’t recommend, but the taper is one of the most important parts of the equation and should be a key part of your training cycle.
There is no right or wrong way to taper, and everyone is different, but I generally reduce my mileage in the weeks leading into race day, and also tweak a few things like adding in some shorter speed sessions to get the legs firing and ready.
During taper week, which is the week leading up to race day it is all about rest, good nutrition and plenty of sleep. I also try to back off the stress levels, which this time round seems impossible, but if you can, try to intentionally give yourself ‘time out’. It could be a walk in nature, some meditation, stretching while listening to nice music, or a swim at the beach. Something that quietens the mind and turns off all that internal “chatter”. Go off social media for this week, or limit it and give yourself some relaxed quiet time. Prepare your mind for what is to come.
Of course taper week can also be spent getting yourself prepared for the race. This includes making sure all your gear is ready. What are you going to wear? what nutrition will you carry? what will the weather be like and how much hydration will you need? Get all your supplies ready early in the week so that you aren’t missing something later on when it can be hectic to try and source things. Make sure if you have any mandatory gear that you have it all together so it doesn’t get lost among the house. You don’t want to be stressing about those things in the last few days leading in.
Another thing that I find helpful is to do some visualisation of race day. Go over the race map and elevation profile. Yes, most races do have course markings, but it is important to familiarise yourself with the course description, especially if you haven’t run the route before. During a race it is easy to miss markings when you are tired and fatigued, so the more prepared for what is to come the better. Where are the hills and the harder parts of the course? Plan your nutrition strategy around this and how you will run, and go over your plan during the week visualising yourself at different parts of the course strong and capable. Come race day you will come back to these visualisations and it can really help you nail a successful day.
With your nutrition eat plenty of nutrient rich foods this week, fresh and good produce, some carbohydrates and protein and keep on top of your hydration, especially the few days leading in. Don’t over-do the food and limit your ‘junk food’ intake. Good nutrition is key and will leave you feeling good and not heavy and bloated.
Getting plenty of uninterrupted sleep is also important. Easier said than done as a mum, but if you can, go to bed a little earlier than usual. Try to stay off screens before you head for bed (yes, that includes RMA!) and do something that will ensure a good sleep like read a book or listen to some music before you shut your eyes. Good sleep will make all the difference on race day. It is normal not to get a great sleep the night before the race, so if you can do it during the week leading in, you are already ahead of the game.
Above all things, remember how amazing you are. Believe in yourself and your commitment to your training and the journey so far, and go after your reward.
Nicole Bunyon, Founder, Running Mums Australia