Friday morning, after running, I went to get my hair straightened. Since I couldn’t get my hair wet for 2-3 days after that, it seemed like a good opportunity to experiment with tapering. Although I didn’t have a race on the schedule, I decided I wouldn’t run until Monday morning (3 days = 72 hours of no running), and then go for a tempo run, not race effort, but challenging enough.
· No running for 3 days.
· Tapering mentality: good sleep, good nutrition, grid rolling, light physical effort.
· Go for a challenging run Monday morning: 11K/6.8M total, with last 5K/3.1M tempo at average pace 04:24 Min/KM (07:05 Min/Mile).
I did everything right:
It would have been nice to rest and indulge for 3 days, but since I don’t take 3 straight days of rest often (or ever), it was worth it to take the opportunity to treat it as a true taper and try some things out.
My nutrition was spot on, I ate healthy and nutritious foods, and roughly counted calories so I wouldn’t overeat or undereat.
I got 8 hours of sleep every night for 3 nights, which you have no idea what a luxury it is for me. I could feel how this affected my mood, my energy levels, and even how I look (no dark circles under my eyes for 3 days!).
I did very little physical activity, took care of my feet by wearing comfortable shoes, and took care of my legs by using the grid roller every night for at least 10 minutes (which is longer than my usual 5).
Pay off time?:
Maybe my expectations were too high about what the taper would yield, I was sure the last 5K tempo of this run would feel comfortably hard at the most. My reasoning was that if the pace I was planning on running is hard effort for me under regular circumstances, then after a good taper it would feel somewhat easier.
In reality, this run felt hard from the beginning. My legs were stiff and not cooperating. I didn’t think too much of it during warm up, and just took it easy and ran at a slightly slower pace than my usual warm up pace. 2K warm up and 3K easy pace later, my legs still felt heavy. The 6th KM was a mix of 200 meters accelerations followed with an easy recovery pace for another 200 meters. And then tempo time started. And I was a mess. I couldn’t get to goal pace for the first 2KM, and although I made up for it during the next 3KM, it felt really hard and I considered stopping and/or lowering my pace every 30 seconds or so until the end of the run.
Average pace for the tempo 5K was, incredible enough 04:23 Min/KM (07:04 Min/Mile). Yes, I managed the time I wanted, but this run was still a failure in my opinion:
· I couldn’t get to goal pace for the whole first 2KM. This is a relatively long distance to not be able to get to a certain pace. I did a 6K before the tempo, and 6K seem like enough of a warm up. I think stiff legs from not running a few days are to blame.
· The whole 5K tempo (both when running under goal pace and over goal pace) felt hard. I knew this wasn’t going to be an easy run, but I wasn’t expecting hardly being able to make it.
3 days of rest is too much for me. I might consider doing this again before a long race (a marathon, maybe a half), but not for anything shorter. I might do 2 days rest, or even just 1 day rest with a day of light running or cross training the day before.
I’m glad I got to try this out before an actual race, and there were certainly positives to this taper experiment: figuring out a good nutrition routine, getting 8 hours of sleep, and giving my body some well deserved rest.
Next time I take a few days off I will ease back into physical activity, and not try to come back with a hard run. As for my upcoming 5K race.. maybe I’ll take 1 rest day the day before.
Do you have your taper figured out, or are you still trying out different ways to taper?