When it comes to the subject of tapering, running coaches will often say “the hay is in the barn”. What they mean is that there is very little you can do in the final weeks to become a faster runner intrinsically, but you can ruin your chances of running at your full potential by messing up the taper phase. Correctly tapering for a goal race can lead to a 2-8% improvement in race time. You can read the science behind this all over the internet. In that past, I have written about the madness that is the taper ; as I taper for the Richmond marathon, let’s revisit and dig a little deeper into this important training phase.
A Higher Quality Diet
In part one of this series, you can read about my decision to make changes in my life and running, following Matt Fitzgerald’s 6 step plan from his book Racing Weight. In this post, I will go more in depth to the biggest change we had to make in order to get leaner, lighter, and faster: switching over to a higher quality diet.
Fitzgerald advocates not for a fad diet or for a runner to go paleo, vegan, or whatever; instead, he simply tells you to eat more high quality foods and less low quality ones. He ranks food groups according to their quality and assigns each serving a number of points. Your goal is to end the day with as high of a score as you can. So, indulging in my kids’ Cheese-It lunch snacks will dock me 2 points while grabbing a peach and having that instead will gain me 2 points.
Perhaps it is the competitive side of me, but this method was highly appealing and has helped me lose 10 pounds and 4% of my body fat.
If you bonk in a 10k, miss your PR in a 5k, or simply just have a bad race in a short or middle distance run, the fix can be as simple as waiting a week and trying again. It’s cheap, easy and you don’t need to recover too much from these distances. If you DNF a marathon at mile 23 like I did, you are left holding the shattered remains of 4 months of hard training and dedication, and your body will likely not be ready for another go at the marathon distance for weeks or even months.
In short, you get a lot of time to think about the mistakes you made.
But, for me, it also gave me the motivation to seek change. What can I change? What do I have no control over? If there is a Serenity Prayer for Runners, I found it in Matt Fitzgerald’s book Racing Weight. And I made the decision to change the things that I can change and accept the things that are beyond my control.