Tell Me Tuesday: The Taper

My fave line from my vision board: "Because I'm loving every wonderful, horrible minute of this"

Last week, Dimity and I had the rare opportunity to sit down and talk in person about our goals and plans for all facets of Another Mother Runner. We decided to change things up a bit on the website, including adding a regular feature every Tuesday that is part service, part personal. Given that I love alliteration, I suggested we name it Tell Me Tuesday. Welcome to the first one. Please let us know what you think of the idea of giving some targeted enlightenment once a week.

How’s this for an analogy: October is to races what June is to weddings. I don’t have any stats to back up my assertion, but it seems to me pretty much every mother runner has a competitive endeavor coming up. Thus I figured it was time to dispense five bits of advice about the one- or two-week period leading up to a start line.

-Limit your activity. We probably all know a racer-to-be dials back the miles she runs, but I’m big on cutting back on other activity, as well. This can mean anything from avoiding things that require you to stand or walk a lot (yes, Julie D., I’m talking about that trip to Disneyland you took before 2010 Portland Marathon!) to skipping book group if you’re feeling tuckered out. It may seem indulgent or even egocentric, but you’ve worked hard for months to reach the start line in your best shape possible.

-Find positive outlets for your extra energy. You’ll probably feel amped up or jittery because you aren’t running as much as you have been. You need to resist the urge to tack on “just two more miles” or “a few more intervals.” Instead, plop down at the kitchen table with your kidlets and sculpt some runners out of Play-Dough. Or sit in front of your sewing machine and work on your child’s Halloween costume. (Note that both these activities involve sitting.)

Your pee should be one of the top shades of these paint samples

-Drink up. Being well hydrated during the race doesn’t just mean chug-a-lugging the morning of. It means drinking enough in the days leading up to the race so that your urine is nearly clear. In addition, eat slightly saltier foods than you normally do. Pass the pretzels, please. (But avoid drinking much alcohol: It can limit your body’s ability to store glycogen, the all-important race-day fuel in your muscles.)

-Snooze. You don’t need to sleep extra, but aim to get in eight hours of shut-eye. (Now, how to get your kids to let you do this…)

-Review the course map, and visualize success. Worried about that hill at Mile 4? Close your eyes and replay the hill training you did. (You did some, right?!) Feeling daunted by going, gulp, 26.2 miles? Mentally revisit your 20-mile training run(s). When I was hunkering down for my fifth marathon, I funneled my extra energy into making a vision board. It helped me channel my dreams and goals for the race, and I stared at it as I ate my pre-marathon breakfast. I don’t think it’s a coincidence I ended up setting my personal record in that race.

What things have worked well--or not so well--for your previous or current taper? Your turn to tell us.

32 responses to “Tell Me Tuesday: The Taper

  1. I’m 1 1/2 weeks out to NWM, and feeling anxious that I haven’t trained enough hills. I was just planning my “hill repeats” for today when I ran across this post. Must be destiny. Guess I’ll make it a nice, easy, six instead.

  2. Late commenting because I am just now getting to read this……andwhere was I when this post was written, 4 and then 3 days before my marathon? Disneyland! hahaha! Family vacation the week before the marathon-8 kids, beach, Disney…..definitely not the most restful week for my legs.
    It all worked out well for me though-kids were beat by the end of each night so I was able to go to bed earlier and consequently sleep in a little later (yay no school while on vacation!). Also usually road trips just kill me diet wise and I was so conscious of the fact that marathon was upon me that I ate REALLY well and hydrated even better. So for me that worked out fabulously! And the legs that had been tight or sore in certain places? They were nice and loose from all the moving through the week and felt amazing through the entire 26.2.
    Honestly, I think I totally lucked out. But I’ll take it. 🙂

  3. Oh, the taper. After my IT band got bitchy after my final long run on Saturday, I swore that I’d baby myself until Nike. Tonight at the track I ran so slowly that I could barely call it running, but I spent the time smiling, laughing, conversing and feeling good. That was well worth the wimpy pace!

  4. I obsess over my playlist and outfit. I also second the vitamin C, hand sanitizer and limiting exposure to other people’s kids as much as possible.

  5. My best taper ever and then best 5km ever, we went on a vacation – we walked lots over the 10 days and ate relatively well. I think I did a couple runs but mostly mentally focused on anything but the race.

  6. I approach a taper the same way I did just before giving birth with a bit of nesting…I organize my closets, sort through all my race stuff (clothes, watch, fuel belt, etc.), get lots of sleep, don’t drink alcohol (well, less anyway), and try to keep myself distracted. Just like giving birth, race day is going to come whether you are ready for it or not. I think I need a vision board though. Great idea!!

  7. What a great new feature! I’ve been cranky recently…could it be because of my taper (and, ahem, inability to run right now due to PF) and my upcoming half mary in a week and a half? I think so!

  8. Love the “Tuesdays” idea. Also, had a flash back when I saw your poster board- I use to make those in High School- Love it!

    I think trying to get enough rest the week before is helpful, because no matter how hard I try to rest/get to bed early the night before a Marathon I never have slept well. So my take is at least I got good sleep the week before the race and just let it go that the night before the race good sleep just isn’t going to happen. I also totally agree with avoiding lots of standing/walking the day before race day.

  9. I love the quote you have on your vision board… Because I’m loving every wonderful, horrible minute of this. Kinda the way I’ve been feeling during my workouts lately!!

  10. I like this theme. If my husband asks whey the house looks like crap, I’ll tell him. The Mother Runners said I need to rest. The Mother Runners also told me that it was OK to eat that entire bag of Gardettos in one sitting.

    That is what you said, isn’t it? (jk)

  11. I needed this! I had a horrible supposed to be 20-miler last weekend (that ended at 13 with me on the side of the road crying). I promised myself that after feeling defeated and crying all the way home and through the ice bath) I would put it behind me. HOWEVER, with only two weekend runs left before NWM I was thinking of trying to squeeze in another long one. I will not do that now! I will follow the plan and follow the advice of those who have come before me (this is my first full)!

    Of course I will have to forward this to my husband who is encouraging me to run another long one and tell him that “the ladies” as I call you all, have instructed me otherwise! 🙂

    1. My 20 mile training run went just about the same as yours…don’t let it get to you. You can still finish the marathon…and you will! I was filled with doubt after my failed 20 miler and I managed to finish the race with a smile on my face, my arms in the air, and a heart full of pride! Best wishes to you, Jessica!

    2. I had to walk/run the last six miles of my 20 miler last weekend (also training for NWM), when I had really bad pain in my knee from my IT-band issues. So frustrating! But I have to believe that we’ve put in the miles all summer, and it will all work out through the magic of race day. Good luck!

      1. I had IT (and then related knee) issues this summer when I was training for my first full. I went to a chiropractor who got me running pain free and I also started to use the roller (OUCH!). I kept reminding myself of all the training I had done and how strong I was. The day before the race I wore my Badass Mother Runner shirt on a nice 2 mile run. I finished the full and am ready to tackle a new goal!

  12. Excellent idea, ladies, and I look forward to Tuesdays from here on out. The taper notes are great especially the ones about holding back on the number of miles you run. If I had five bucks for every female runner (and, yes, they are usually us Type A gals) who gave in to the urge to tack on a couple more, I’d be $1,000 richer. Add five bucks for every one of them who paid a steep price and I could take all of us to Disney World! After our races, of course…

    If, like me, you’re not artistic enough for a vision board try writing down your time goal. I’ve written mine in my day planner; on a piece of paper tacked to the bathroom mirror: and to a sticky note stuck to the dash of our car. In some cases I’ve exceeded goal so as the other ladies note, visualization does work!

  13. Actually, I take that back. I trained for this exact same race back in 2008. Around this time I pushed too hard because I wanted to make up for some missed runs. Needless to say, I got injured and couldn’t run. Not this time though!

  14. Thanks so much for these tips! It’s my first time training for a half and I am entering the tapering phase. I’m following a plan so I am trusting that – I just have to remember not to push too hard now and save it for the race!

  15. Oooh, I need a vision board too!

    So, I think this is a GREAT idea. I am actually in Taper: part deux. I have two marathons on the schedule – 21 days apart. I could tell I really needed part one prior, as it felt like such a relief — yet getting myself to slow down and not “tack on” was so, so hard and I admit to going a little faster, going an extra mile now and then, taking the jogger on a the 12 miler — ugh! I did finally insist on leaving the jogger at home with my husband, left the Garmin at home so I could claim no knowledge of pace on Daily Mile, etc.. I am pleased with how marathon one went — 4 hours and I had no Garmin *gasp* the last 6 miles. (Think I’ll be buying a new one.) Now if I had only tapered better….

    Anyway, now I have NWM coming up with my sister — I am looking forward to a relaxed pace marathon with some walking here and there…and trying to figure out taper two. My husband wants me to pace him to a sub-2 hr half…suppose that this should be a reminder to hold back. 🙂

  16. I always get sick during the taper which forces me to rest. and worry. I don’t suggest that as a way to make yourself rest. hoping my taper coming up will be illness free.

  17. Visualization really does work! For our district cross-country meet in high school, oh so many years ago, our coach walked the course with a tape recorder in hand and talked about the course. The team was given tapes and every night before bed we were told to listen to them. It worked and we qualified for state.

    I also like Tell Me Tuesday, looking forward to upcoming Tuesdays!

  18. I love the Tuesday idea — this is where I come to learn what the heck I should be doing! Tapering = not sure, since my taper is not ideal with my hip conking out a month before the big race. But I gotta believe that at this point, with the hard, physical work behind me, what’s left is all mental and the power of positive thinking. THAT has to have a place in the taper plan.

  19. I think in the 2nd week of taper you start to doubt yourself as you are not running as much. This time I’m reminding myself of past races and saying “you know you got this!” It helps that physically I’m feeling really good for this 1/2, which is amazing as I’ve trained through an injury.
    I love the Tell Me Tuesday idea as well and may have to start cutting up all my Runners World magazines to make me one of those boards – love the idea!

  20. During my taper week for a marathon, I felt like I had so much extra energy and it was hard to resist running more than I was supposed to let alone just sit still! I started reading a book I had been wanting to read. It forced me to sit down and relax when I had the opportunity. I also spent a lot of time visualizing myself running the race. I pictured myself feeling relaxed, strong, and in control of the race. I think mentally preparing yourself for the race is just as important as physical preparation. Also, I hit up YouTube for some inspirational running videos!

  21. Thanks guys! I needed this. Like many moms I have a hard time putting my own needs first but when I frame it with putting my running goals first it’s much easier. I need to take it easy and heal physically and mentally over these next couple of weeks.

  22. I make sure to be crazy with hand sanitizer and vitamin c, trying not to get sick because it always seems like that’s when I do. Also read it somewhere: during taper never stand when you can sit, never sit when you can lay down.
    (Love this Tuesday idea!)

    1. You took the words out of my mouth, Lisa! I came down with a *%^& cold the week of my marathon on Sept. 17. It was just a small cold and didn’t slow me down much, but boy did it make me anxious that whole week (and it interfered with sleep). Bring on the hand sanitizer! And avoid places where you might be more likely to pick up a virus (like preschool….oh, wait, can’t help that….)

  23. I think this is great! It’s a direction I plan to take my own blog in. I was thinking of calling it “Let’s Talk: (insert topic)” I used to post about a little bit of everything in each posting and I found that my blogposts became exhausting and really long – I’m sure most people didn’t finish an entire posting. I like this a lot!

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