You can literally count the sleeps until the Surf Coast Century on one hand, but now is not the time to drop the ball! For many of us, the build to race day has involved months of structured training, early nights, long days on the trails and solid nutrition planning (cue no socialising!) So while it is normal to be nervous at this point in the build, there are ways you can make this week easier for yourself and avoid having a race day set back.
The most common thing I see in athletes at this stage in a build, is a poor understanding of what taper involves and why it is so important. Tapering is perhaps the most important part of an endurance event as it can make or break your big day. So here are my top 4 tips on how to survive taper week and feel on your game for Saturday’s race
- Don’t train too much
By now, the hard work has been done and no amount of last minute cramming will make you any faster or fitter for the weekend. However, many runners tend to fear cutting back on training, since they believe doing so will hurt their performance right before their big race. If you do continue to train on a normal program, you ultimately end up with heavy legs and fatigue accumulation, which spells poor performance on race day. Generally you should aim to decrease your training volume by 30-50% of your normal mileage in the last week. This is pivotal to setting you up for ultimate peak performance, and giving your body a chance to recover. Not only can a poor taper affect your race day, but will generally lead to a poor recovery and therefore a delay on building for your next event.
2. Don’t do too little!
Taper week does not mean sitting at home and doing nothing while gorging on carbohydrates and electrolyte drinks! While it is important to cut down your training load, it is counterproductive to stop everything all together. As a general rule, your last long run should be 2 weeks before the big event, and in the week prior, it is a good idea to get in one harder workout to give your muscles one last training stimulus and to prepare your body for the demands of the upcoming race. This may form an early week session of 1km intervals at race pace, or some stride outs at the end of an aerobic run.This session will also give you the confidence that your body is ready to go – in general you should feel like you finish this workout wanting to do more. For all other sessions this week aim to be running at 60 seconds below race pace, purely to get the legs moving while preserving energy and allowing recovery. Not only does training in the week before a race give you better preparation for race day, it also helps to avoid the pre race cold and flu. With a well structured taper, your immune system can improve and recover from the weeks of high mileage to allow you to spring out of bed on race day.
3. Avoid strength training and unaccustomed exercise
While strength training forms a pivotal part of a long term training plan, in the final week any exercise that adds fatigue to the system should be modified. Fatigued and/or sore muscles can quickly endanger your desired time and leave you feeling heavy legged for race day. Instead of a strength session, consider substituting a stretch and mobility session (provided this is something you have been doing regularly) and use the time to get your muscles feeling relaxed and mobile for race day.
4. Fuel your body but don’t stuff yourself!
Many people think tapering includes being able to stuff your body with all the carbohydrates you can fit in your supermarket trolley. The reality is, all our needs are different and not all of us require a large supplementation program pre race. Studies suggest that pre race fueling should commence 2-3 days prior to the race and not be left until the night before. The exact quantity varies between individuals, but typically on each day of loading, male athletes require 7-10g of carbohydrate per kilogram body weight and females generally require slightly less at 5-8g of carbohydrate per kilogram body weight. Picking the right carbohydrate is as important as the quantity. Bread, rice, noodles, potato, yoghurt, creamed rice, custard, juice, yoghurt and even ice-cream are just some of the many options you could consider as part of your carb loading plan. If in doubt, speak to a sports dietician for some guidance but in general aim for low fiber carbohydrate sources to avoid stomach upset on race day.
So now that the hard work is done and you are race fit and ready, it’s time to enjoy this spectacular event and embrace all that the Surfcoast has to offer. Remember to arrive early and plan your transport for Saturday in advance. Good Luck and most of all enjoy your run
If you have any questions, please let me know, I am here to help!