10 must-do taper rituals.

My first race of 2014 is fast approaching.  The Mount Mitchell Challenge 40 mile.  With NC getting hit pretty hard with snow this past week, Mitchell saw a foot of the white powdery stuff, and there were rumors of more!

I thoroughly enjoyed the unprecedented 6 inches we got here!  (A huge change from growing up north of Boston,) but I had a great time never-the-less.  I had so much fun, in fact, that my calfs were so knotted and sore from slipping around uphill and downhill in the snow.  I was a tad worried…but think I worked the knots out with my trusty PVC pipe and lacrosse ball.  Yes, I said PVC pipe.  My knots can be really gnarly and after someone joked about buying a cheap pipe..I thought I’d try it out.  Can’t beat it, firm, pre-cut to the right size, and just $4. (NOTE: if you try this, only use it on your really fleshy parts of your calf, quads or hamstring, it will bruise the heck out of you if you roll over any bony parts of your body.)  I still use a regular old foam roller for my back.

So onto my taper checklist:

1. Charge Garmin!  I will admit I am not a slave to my garmin, exactly..but there are times when the adrenaline and excitement are driving me, and rather than go out too fast at the beginning if I keep my eye on my pace it helps me reign it in and stay on target (and not hit a wall the last 5 miles..ouch!)

2. Decide on waist water bottle pack, or backpack.  I tend to leave this decision to the last minute. I would prefer to just carry a water bottle around my waist, but if its going to be really cold or really hot I may take the backpack to carry more layers, or just more water between aid stations.

3. YOGA! I can’t stress how much yoga helps me in the two weeks before a race.  I usually max out mileage at 100+ which will make you tight as all heck! And when you factor in lunges and squats and core work, I need to stretch out my hips and abs big time! (this really also includes foam roalling…or PVC rolling…)

4. Short runs with pick ups.  Now is not the time to be starting speed work, or accumulating miles..but I always feel its important to remind your feet what it is they are supposed to do, and how fast they should do it. Unless its a race longer than 50 miles, if it is I tend to walk and jog a lot more during the taper, and not run any pickups.  For instance Mitchell is a 40 mile race so this morning I headed out for a 4 mile run, warmed up comfortably for a mile, then ran fartleks: ran each straightaway at a 6:30 pace, then recovered by jogging until I felt more than ready to do another pick up.

5. Beets and Spinach for nitrogen.  I love beets and spinach anyway, but I try to make sure I have plenty of both in the two weeks leading up to a race.  I also cook a lot more, I tend to prepare whole foods to bring with me when I travel to races.  There is nothing like pulling into a town and finding out there are only fast food places, when you know that at mile 20 those fries aren’t going to be sitting too well.  Plan ahead and bring some tried and true meals with you.

6. Shave.  Might sound silly, but it makes me somehow feel better, faster, cleaner? If nothing else, its just one less thing to worry about chafing.

7.  Taper off of caffeine.  I must state, first, that I am not a coffee drinker, I am a tea person.  Green tea, black tea, yerba mate before long runs.  However, for the two weeks leading up to my race I cut it all off.  First, it tends to help me sleep better, I have more energy as it is because I am not running so I don’t need the added caffeine. Second, is has been shown that tapering off of caffeine helps its efficacy when used as a stimulant during an event.

8. If I have the time and money I will get a pre-race massage. This doesn’t happen as much as I would like….

9.  Wash and organize 2 different outfits for the race.  Why two you ask?  I have  my “its going to be cold” outfit, and my “surprise its a lot warmer than they predicted” outfit.  In a pinch, if the weather is somewhere in between, then a combination of these two race outfits are perfect! Always have my Altra Lone Peaks ready as well.  #rethinkrunning !

10. And finally, read over the course description and other people’s blogs about the race one more time to get a feel for the distance between aid stations, and how that felt for people.  All miles are not created equal.  5 miles on a flat course is much faster than 5 miles of a huge climb.  It could be the difference between an hour, and many hours.  Don’t be surprise on race day with just your small hand held because you thought there were only a few miles between aid stations, not realizing that it would take you much longer to get from one over a mountain to another.

Well that about covers it for me.

What are your pre-race/taper rituals?!

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3 responses to “10 must-do taper rituals.

  1. What make beets good for stamina? And, more importantly any tasty preparation ideas for beets and spinach? You’ve inspired me to put a little more effort into fixing whole food meals to boost my running.

    • Hi Maureen, I’m happy to have inspired you to try beets and spinach. This is a link to an article that can explain better what beet juice/beets do for our bodies. Basically they have nitrate that is converted to nitric oxide which does a lot for oxygen usage in your blood and muscles:

      I often roast beets with other root veggies (carrots, parsnips etc) with olive oil, salt, pepper, and rosemary. I add spinach to everything I can, smoothies, salads, stir fried greens, soups, rice dishes…baby spinach is fairly mild tasting so it can be chopped up and hidden in things, though I like to pair spinach with tomatoes often.

      Get creative, and enjoy!

  2. Great tips! I’m glad I like beets and spinach. I think a caffeine taper is smart, too.

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