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?
If you are going over all the details of your upcoming race, trying to figure out how to do things the best way, then you are probably wondering if you should carb load.
But what exactly is carb loading, should you do it, and if so, how to do it right?
The technical mambo jambo, ADD version:
Our bodies store energy in the form of glycogen, in our muscles and liver.
Carbohydrates, or carbs, are our main source of glycogen.
Our bodies store enough glycogen for about 90 minutes of exercise.
See? That’s it.
Should I carb load?
Eating enough carbs before a race is not only beneficial for longer races, but it will also give you extra energy for races where you’ll be running less than 90 minutes.
Even if you are planning on consuming carbs before/during your race, carb loading a few days in advance will ensure you have the maximum energy available come race day.
However, there are a few negatives to carb loading to consider before you make the decision:
Feeling bloated: a change in diet, especially consuming extra carbohydrates, may make you feel bloated.
Water retention: Our bodies store 3 grams of water for every gram of glycogen.
Stiff muscles: extra carbs can make your muscles feel stiff and less flexible.
Change: sometimes the uncertainty of change doesn’t sit well on our minds, especially close to race day (see “make a plan” below).
The right way to carb load:
Do the math: By using a nutrition app like myfitnesspal or sparkpeople, figure out what percentage of your daily calories comes from carbs, so you can gradually increase them. Keep in mind you’ll want to eat around 7-8 grams of carbs for each KG (2.2 pounds) of your weight (this is what works for me, some suggestions go up to 10 grams per KG).
Practice: General guidelines are great to get an idea of what to do, but they are guidelines. Your body may respond better to a bit less or a bit more carbs than the recommended range, so take the time to experiment.
Make a plan: Figure out in advance what you will eat and drink every day during the carb loading phase, calculate the carb and calorie content to make sure you are on track with your needs.
Start 3-7 days before the race: The last 2 days before the race, consume 80% carbs, the days before that, range between 50% and 80%.
Choose wisely: Despite what you may have heard, carb loading is not about eating a lot of starchy junk food. Chose simple and nutritious foods, without a lot of extra fat and salt. Go for complex carbs the first few days (whole grain bread, whole wheat pasta, oats, etc.) and stick to simple carbs (white breads and flours) the day before the race.
Get them in: Some people actually enjoy eating a lot of bread, pasta and rice. But for others it is more difficult to eat a larger amount of carbohydrates. Healthy drinks are a great way to get some additional carbs without the extra feeling of fullness, think smoothies, shakes, and natural juices.
Don’t overeat the night before the race: Eat a medium sized meal, 12-15 hours before the race. You want to feel comfortably full after dinner, and actually wake up hungry the next morning.
Race day breakfast: Don’t go overboard with your race day breakfast, so you don’t feel too full and heavy when it’s time to run. A 200-300 calorie breakfast of mostly carbs, 2-3 hours before the race should be enough.
Have you ever tried carb loading? Did it work for you?
I want to taper right for next Saturday’s race, and get there with 100% rested legs. I don’t know when was the last time I felt that, completely rested legs. It’s been a while. As nice as that sounds, it’s easier said than done.
I reduced the distance of my Friday’s long run a little, and kept them both (Friday and Saturday) lighter in terms of pace:
Friday: Long Run – 18K/11.2M – Average pace 04:58 Min/KM (07:59 Min/Mile). And no, I will not round up to 08:00 Min/Mile.
The last 5K were faster than I had planned, but that’s a relatively short distance anyway, so it wasn’t too bad, pace for the 5K 04:42 Min/KM (07:35 Min/Mile)
Saturday: Easy Run – 10K/6.2M – Average pace 04:57 Min/KM (07:57 Min/Mile).
I started running really early on Saturday, around 5:30, because I wanted to make it to the gym for some strength work afterwards, and also be home early to do something with the kids.
Even though the boardwalk was almost deserted at that time, it was perfect to run by the sea so early, perfect wind, cool air, no sun in my eyes.
I just realized now, writing this post, average pace for this run was the same as Friday’s much longer run. Not good. I like my splits though.
After those 2 weekend runs, and considering I need to taper, I am keeping it lighter this week. Shorter runs, easier pace, less crosstraining.
Boring Recovery run, 8.2K/5.1M, average pace 05:03 Min/KM (08:07 Min/Mile). Did this one this morning. And geez, looks like I’m stuck pace wise.
Monday: The gym opens later than usual tomorrow, so I will attempt to do a HIIT run outside, only 4 intervals and not at my fastest speed, just kind of a light HIIT during taper. So it shouldn’t be too bad/hard to do this outside. I have set my Garmin for automatic lap pace every half KM (usually I have it for auto lap each 1 KM), so after a warm up of 2KMs and a gradual speed increase over the next 2KM, I will do 4 intervals of half KM fast, half KM slow.
Tuesday: 3KM/3280yards swim. Yeah looking forward to this one (NOT).
Wednesday: Another HIIT run but only 5K/3.1M total, with the fast intervals being only 30 seconds long. And with this I’ll be done with running until race day/.
Thursday: Rest (this is a first, I usually crosstrain 2 days before a race)
My April’s race playlist only had 3 songs I haven’t posted in my previous race playlists so I am adding them to this post.
Only three, but awesome songs, check them out:
How do you taper? Do you have a favorite taper workout?
Taking it easy today before my 10K race tomorrow.
I almost forgot what not working out on a weekend day feels like (Friday is the first day of the weekend in Israel).
Woke up at 5:30 instead of at 4:30. Yes, crazy early anyway, but it’s amazing what an extra hour of sleep does. Add to that no physical activity, and I’ve felt refreshed and energetic all day.
Grocery shopping early to beat the crowds:
Taking the kids to kindergarten:
Baby girl birthday present shopping:
Granola and caffeine loading late morning:
Later on, in the afternoon:
Those were my snacks today, in addition to the usual granola bar breakfast, a pasta salad for lunch, 2 big cheese and mushroom toasted sandwiches for dinner, and about 4 tablespoons of peanut butter mixed with strawberry jelly. I ate way too much and I wonder if it will translate into extra energy tomorrow or just feeling full and heavy.
These need “food” too:
Getting my gear ready:
I’m exited to be racing a small race tomorrow, after 2 big races.
I will be going to bed soon, early rise for an 8:15 race start.