Tapering is a strange but necessary phenomena. To a non runner it may seem strange to make a reduction in training right before a big race, but for runners it is vital to go into a peak effort as rested as possible.
If you aren’t familiar, tapering means to decrease mileage and intensity in the immediate run up to a race.
This can be difficult from the perspective of the runner as well, as it can be frustrating to drop mileage and speed workouts as pre-race nerves and natural doubts begin to surface. We know a good, tough run would dispel those doubts, or would work to convince us that we’re capable of running at target pace, but we have to push those thoughts aside.
By the time we reach the taper week, we must accept that our work is done. A hefty session 3 days out from a race isn’t going to do a lot to actually improve your performance on the day, it’s just going to wear you out more than necessary. The big workouts should already be in the bag, because the benefits of those meaty sessions take a fair bit of time to take effect. Take a look here to see approximately how long different workouts take to do their thing.
I race this Sunday, and my last big workout will be Tuesday evening. I have full rest days on Monday and Thursday, and easy runs on the other days (with a few strides to sharpen things up on Friday, as the above link to Runners Connect mentions, very short speed sessions can make a fairly immediate impact on your body).
It’s not the longest taper in the world, but it’s also not the longest race in the world. If I was looking at racing a half or full marathon, I might have extended the taper. Still, it can be a little frustrating. Before the rest on Monday, I had been on one of my best extended chunks of training that I’ve ever had – knocking out a 3k race, and a 5k time trial, alongside a couple of strong grass interval sessions, and a memorably comfortable steady pace long run.
I went 11 days without a full rest day, which I am usually against but was a part of my plan as I came to the end of this training block. I pushed things, and my body responded. If I wasn’t about to race I probably would have continued, and I don’t know whether or not that would have been a good thing. I suppose that’s one of the benefits of having races on the calendar: it places necessary thresholds on training, sets boundaries, limits, and forces you to become goal orientated instead of just needlessly grinding yourself to the edge over and over again.
All sorts of things can change how things go on race day, but right now I feel good about controlling those things that I actually have control over, and that makes me excited. Roll on Sunday.