Tag: taper

Tips for the Taper….

caution - tapering runner

caution – tapering runner

In every marathoner’s (and half marathoner’s) life, there comes the dreaded, feared, hated TAPER. Soon it will be that time for many of us. So, I thought I’d provide some resources, thoughts and tips to help you make the best/most of this critical period.

I hear there are some people who love the taper. I’ve never been one of them. Last race I started using a peaking approach (per Greg McMillan) which worked much better for me. I’m using that approach again this time.  Don’t Taper, Peak! You might also like an e-book Greg put out that covers the last few weeks pre-race: Surviving the Marathon Freak-Out. It’s got tips on the last few weeks of training, peaking, preparing for your race, executing your race, and a bit on mindset.

If you’ve got a taper approach that’s worked for you, I suggest you don’t change it because of something you read here! If your training plan has a taper included in it, it might be best to follow that approach and take any tips here that are different under advisement for use next time. If your taper approach hasn’t worked in the past and you’re looking for info or help, then I hope you find something useful here. Please remember, I’m not a coach or expert, just providing information I found and comments on what I’ve learned.

The taper is a tricky beast. The point of the taper is to give your body time to recover, absorb the last few weeks of training, and be prepared and rested/fresh for a great race day performance. In theory, it also gives you a little bit of a mental break, as training can wear you down.

However, reduced training time also gives you a bit more time and energy to worry, fret, etc. I suggest you use some of that that time for race planning/preparation. That helped me a lot for my last race, and I’m doing it again. I cannot recommend strongly enough that you read Sage Rountree’s Racing Wisely and go through the checklists in the book, some of which are also on her site. I also suggest doing some other mental training – visualizations (including watching course videos if available), reading books like Running Within (one of the few running-specific books in this area) and The Champion’s Mind. Other books I’ve read include Elite Minds, 10 Minute Toughness, and The Triathlete’s Guide to Mental Training (by Dr. Jim Taylor, mentioned in podcast list below) which is co-authored by Terri Schneider who wrote the book I’m reading now Dirty Inspirations.

I’ve gotten real inspiration and learned a lot from the book From Last to First by British Olympic marathon bronze medalist Charlie Spedding – I’ve probably read it four or five times. I also read and re-read articles, memoirs and biographies of favorite marathoners (Joanie, Meb, Deena, Billy, Grete to name a few), triathletes (Chrissie) and other endurance athletes (Rebecca Rusch, some ultrarunners), as well as (for Boston) course descriptions and race history. I find this reading relaxing, inspiring, motivating, and helpful.

Do NOT take on big projects at work or at home – it’s not the time to clean out your garage/closets, work 12 hour days, or otherwise load your system as it tries to prepare for race day.

Be prepared for little niggles to make themselves heard, and for you to be convinced you’ve got some injury/illness. Barring some pre-existing issue, it’s likely your body is just behaving a little differently because of the changes to your mileage/training load and that your mind is messing with you a little due to pre-race jitters. That said, don’t ignore anything that seems unusual, really painful or that is causing you problems. Get it checked out.

This is not the time to decide to throw in extra core work, extra stretching or weight work or that Bikram yoga class someone’s been telling you about. The risk/reward approach during taper is much like that on race day – do nothing new or different.

Get some extra sleep if you can while sticking fairly close to your regular routine. For some of us, the body loves routine and will complain about changes, even ones that should be good.

Carry and use hand sanitizer, and stay away from people with colds or the flu (even if you got your flu shot). Do this all the way through to race day – especially if you have kids or work with kids, and if you’re traveling before or for your race.

Know that your taper mileage may vary – literally and figuratively.  Some runners do better on more rest, some on less, some on big reductions of miles, some on reductions of miles but continued speedwork, etc. What taper approach works for you for any given race is part science and part art – and part luck (or lack thereof). Tapers can be anywhere from a few days to a few weeks, depending on your race, your experience level, and other factors specific to your situation.

To quote a really cheesy but true phrase – the hay is in the barn. You’re about as fit and ready as you’re going to be. No workout you can do once you hit taper is going to have enough of a beneficial effect by the time of your race – as it takes time for your body to absorb the training and adapt – to offset the risk of fatigue or injury.  And no single workout that didn’t go well or that you missed during training will, in and of itself, make or break your race.

Easy rule for this period: when in doubt, don’t.


By now, you’ve nailed down or dialed in what your nutrition and hydration strategy for the race will be since you’ve been practicing it on long runs. (right?) But there’s also the question of how to eat during taper. I suggest looking at the taper section of The New Rules of Marathon and Half-Marathon Nutrition by Matt Fitzgerald for helpful tips. The book is a worthwhile read for your next training cycle (if you haven’t already read it) to understand more about race fueling and for suggested approaches. You may also be able to find him on podcasts talking about this topic.

If friends/family have a good sense of humor and “get” you as a runner, one of those “warning, tapering runner” signs, tshirts or mugs might not be a bad idea.

Here are some resources to help you have a successful peak or taper!


MarathonTalk – they have taper tips (often the same ones) in their Training Talk segments around spring/fall marathon time, here are some

Episode 169 April 3, 2013 – also has Matt Fitzgerald as a guest

Episode 219 March 19, 2014

As your race gets closer, listen to MarathonTalk “race week” tips

Episode 65 April 6, 2011 – bonus of guest Greg McMillan

Episode 220 March 26, 2014

The MT boys even have specifics for race day!

Episode 227 May 14, 2014

Episode 205 December 11, 2013

Other choices might include Trail Runner Nation podcast episodes with Lanny Bassham on mental management, Dr. Jim Taylor on dealing with pain and fear of failure. Note these are focused somewhat on trail and ultra running.

There are many articles in the running magazines and online about tapering – here are a couple I like.

The Three Most Common Tapering Mistakes

5 Pre-Marathon Mistakes to Avoid

Other useful reads

How to Taper for Your Next Marathon or Half Marathon

The Art of the Marathon Taper

The Art of Tapering Like a Pro

The Art of Peaking for a Goal Race

(like I said, it’s a science AND an art…..)

How to Taper Correctly (not my title)

But in the end, you’ve got to keep a sense of humor about it. (look for tweets with #tapermadness or #eatallthethings to find fellow tapering runners)

The Five Stages of Pre-Race Tapering

One last thing….you can taper or peak exactly per plan and have things not work out. Or you can have a wrench thrown in your taper and still have a fantastic race.

For Shamrock 2014, I was doing well following my peaking plan. Then the Monday night before the Sunday race, I got some food caught in my throat. Not enough to cause me problems, but enough to feel. Tuesday morning, it still wasn’t gone, so instead of my planned run/chiro appointment, DH and I made a trip to the local emergency room, where we waited for 6 hours for me to get an endoscopy (which requires twilight sedation). While we were waiting in the ER cube, I did some of my chiro exercises and Wharton flexibility work. (yes, I AM that crazy…plus it was something to do and helped my nerves) All was ok, and we were home before dinner – having spent about 10-11 hours in a hospital without food or water (hadn’t eaten in 24h), some of that unconscious with a tube stuck down my throat into my stomach. I think the whole incident was so freaky it put a stop to most of my regular taper and worry nerves. (and in theory I could always blame a poor race on the procedure/anesthetic though I would have been pretty devastated)

The next day (Wednesday), I nailed Tuesday’s planned cruise intervals workout, Thursday I nailed that planned run, Friday off for travel, Saturday a short, pleasant shakeout run. And you may recall, I PR’d and beat my BQ on Sunday. So the bottom line is – stay as calm as you can during your taper and roll with things that are out of your control. It may work out just fine in the end!

Wishing you the sanest, healthiest possible peaking period (aka taper)!

Weekend Update March 28-29, 2015

I’m again joining Tara’s Weekend Update linkup. Hop on over to the linkup page and check out how everyone spent their weekends.

3 weeks to Boston. Gulp.

For those moving into taper – here’s my post full of resources and tips, to help you get through the #tapermadness

Look what showed up in the mail on Friday!

Boston 2015 Runner Passport

Boston 2015 Runner Passport

Made my day – which needed to be made after a twangy knee sent me to the chiro for a second time (mild tendon inflammation, he says it will be fine – I’m going to try to see him 2x/wk the next 3 weeks just to stay on top of everything). I read through the packet and looked at related info online – got lots of detail, which I appreciate – bus time, walk to start time – and will read it again. (and again)


Sat – 18.5 miles (was to be either 20-24 or 24-28 at long run pace, depending on which McMillan plan you follow, 4-5d/wk or 6-7d/wk). I thought about just doing this easy, but decided to try to get some goal pace in (still trying to find that goal pace for Boston, chose one that was just at the top of the rx’d pace).

So: 3mi warmup in pace zone, then 12mi goal pace. Thought about going further at goal pace (wanted 18) but decided not to. 3.25 miles in slower part of long run pace zone, 0.25 miles slower. I’d had middle hamstring discomfort that expanded down behind both knees over the course of the run, but eventually just wound up behind my right knee – and afterward it was more the top of the R calf than behind the knee. In the last few miles, my left ankle sometimes would collapse, taking my leg with it to some degree when my foot hit the ground – this was quite scary and caused me to grab the treadmill rail a number of times. There wasn’t really pain involved, just a “wrong” feeling. But, it happened a few times, and though I thought I could probably gut it out to 20 or 21, I decided to stop to avoid doing harm. Psychologically, it was and is quite hard – this run was to be the last 20+ miler of the training cycle, and I really wanted to go 23-24. But I also want to get to the race healthy, get in my goal pace workout this week and my two remaining FFLRs. So it’s probably good I stopped – especially given how my R leg was feeling when I was done – but it’s something else I’m fighting in my brain as I work to be positive approaching the race.

Schedule: Was going to get up at 5 and do a full schedule, but my Passport tells me I don’t have to be at the buses till 7:55 so I caught some more sleep after DH left in the wee dark hours for his race. At this point, trying to grab all the sleep I can get. Bus ride (assuming I get on the first couple) puts me in the Athletes’ Village 9-ish (probably snack on bus) with some time to get through portajohn lines (at least once, hoping twice) before we have to leave the Village (10:15) to walk the 0.7 miles to the start line. All very organized, done in order by wave and corral. My wave starts 10:50, but since I’m corral 6, I expect I’ll start 10:55 or so (anyone with experience/knowledge, correct me if I’m wrong please!) I used the time in the morning to catch up on blogs and the remarkably quiet twitter (lots of folks were racing yesterday) as well as make lodging plans for Beach to Beacon and listen to a guided visualization by Dr. David Asp, while I was doing legs up the wall. I may actually put it on my iPod with my race music so I can listen to it on the bus or in the Village – assuming I can figure out how to do so in a way that doesn’t screw up my music!

Fueling: (run started closer to 11:30, warmup started ~11) 7:35 1/2c applesauce with 1 scoop Hammer plain whey protein. (hungry at 815, and continued to get hungrier!) 9:45 squeeze packet of applesauce & 5MAP for protein (a few sips of water) and 3 FRS chews – all things portable on the bus to eat there or in Hopkinton 10:30 1 pouch Vespa. After warmup and drills, just before start of run, 1 Vanilla Gu dumped into a Hammer flask with water to the ‘1’ line – thought this might work well to carry to the very start. It was still sweet and thick and made me a bit thirsty. May need to add a bit more water but not too much! (but no water on course till mile 2) During run, GUs starting at 3 miles, mixing up flavors a bit: 3/Vanllla, 6/Salted Watermelon, 9/Salted Caramel, 12/Strawberry Kiwi Roctane, 15 Salted Caramel. (plan was 18/Blueberry Pom Roctane, 21 Caramel Macchiato, 24 Jet Blackberry)

Listened to:

  • Marathon Talk (latest ep) with Adharanand Finn, author of Running with the Kenyans (which I just finished re-reading) and the new book The Way of the Runner (about Japanese running) which doesn’t yet have a US publisher. I almost ordered the book from Waterstone’s in the UK, but shipping costs more than the book!
  • Runners Connect episode with Alex Hutchinson on supplements and miscellaneous running info
  • Part of the DizRuns episode with my fave Mike Wardian (from last year, was saving it for a tough day as I love listening to Mike) – only part because I didn’t go as long as I’d planned.

Sleep, core temp, and hydration: Was was too cold after run (got the room down into the 40s), so took an Epsom salt bath and shower. Took Tylenol as a preventive against elevated core temp. Didn’t get that warm but also didn’t have any appetite or thirst. May not have done a great job hydrating. Yet another bad night of sleep post long run – 6th week in a row. I really think it has something to do with the late start/finish and possibly the caffeinated gels. But it’s not helping my recovery! I slept 10-11, then I was AWAKE with legs twitching, thoughts racing, and a HR of 56 until 2am, when I dozed until my pill alarm at 3am. Was able to go back to sleep until 5, then doze till 6. So that’s 5-ish hours of sleep, in 1-2 hour chunks. Gotta think that’s sub-optimal.

Sun – 5 recovery pace miles. I was quite worried about my R calf and L ankle. Very cold out, ran inside. The calf got better as I went along before it got crankier at the end, not surprising. The ankle held up, but I have some discomfort on the outer top of my L foot, from ankle down to toes. Probably yanked some stuff yesterday. Finished up the DizRuns Mike Wardian podcast from yesterday, and listened to Bernard Lagat episode on Babbittville before the Carlsbad 5000.


Sat  – There wasn’t much of Saturday left after my run! Chatted with DH while doing some dinner prep. Took an Epsom salt bath and a shower while catching up on twitter. Then dinner, Arrow, more running chat and an ep of Madam Secretary before settling down with Meb’s memoir, which I have been saving to read for when I really needed it as the race approaches. (still waiting for his new training book – I preordered it, envious of bloggers getting review copies before the April 7th release) and re-reading Kings of the Road. Friday night I read Hal Higdon’s The Duel. (I’ve already read Duel in the Sun and the memoirs of Beardsley, Salazar, Shorter, Rodgers – and of course Benoit and Switzer.)

Was excited to hear this news! Congrats Christine and Adam! Christine is the lovely woman I ran with at the Shamrock shakeout run last year, who waited for me at the finish and gave me a huge hug – she was so happy for my BQ! Her mom Pam, the other half of WeRunDisney, BQ’d the same day at a different race. Between the approach of her/our first Boston, getting our Runner Passport and now this news, Pam is over the moon.

Earlier in the week my bud Tawnee of Endurance Planet made a similar announcement.

Sun – Got up and decided that though sunny, it was too cold out (26, real feel of 17) to go on easy run with DH. We’d thought about it but he decided not to run and I ran inside. Probably best to check out my ankle/leg in a safe environment anyway. Did okay. Then, breakfast of asparagus, bacon and coconut bread with jam. Food prep, blog writing, and a mid afternoon massage. Rushing around trying to get a couple things done. Then another evening of summer rolls (I ordered more tapioca paper but will run out today) filled with zoodles (zucchini noodles DH got at WF) and other veggies and TV watching. Then a little reading and snacking before bed then I’ll get up and go to the office….hey, where’d the weekend go?

Work schedule this week: in office Monday, off Tuesday, in office W, Th telework (and a second chiro appt), in office Fri.

How was your weekend? Have a great week!