Tag Archives: Taper

Marine Corps Marathon: race-day logistics replace taper madness


Today, I'm visualizing what I'm sure will be an emotional moment at the finish line.

Today, I'm visualizing what I'm sure will be an emotional moment at the finish line.

That’s better!

I had a rough time there Tuesday, dealing with some pre-race taper tantrums. True to their toddler-esque name, taper tantrums led me to not only get cranky, but to act out in rebellion, staying up past midnight to watch the Yankees game and devouring two unbelievably delicious salty-oat cookies from Teaism (“Two” does not accurately depict how taper-unfriendly this indulgence was. These cookies are gigantic hunks of awesome that nutritionists will tell you should actually feed a family of four).

Wednesday was better. I did some light stretching and yoga-ish stuff, but basically just put in a normal work day until my late-afternoon massage with Cary Bland, a runner, cyclist and gifted massage therapist. This was everything I needed in the world, and then some. We chatted about the race a bit, after which I went into a deep, awesome massage trance that provided my first lick of relaxation all week. Bland told me afterward that, besides some tightness in my hips, my legs felt “ready to go.” He seemed pleasantly surprised by this, making me wonder what kind of sorry, beaten-up shape my legs were in last time he saw them.

Today, I’ve got a 20-minute run, with a few strides thrown in. I’ll use the every precious minute to visualize the final 10K of the marathon.

Today, I also get to add some cool details to my visualization. I get to the Arlington Cemetery Metro stop no later than 7 a.m. (being a local, I don’t have a bag to check at the snakepit that is apparently the runner’s village), warm up in sunny weather, with low temperatures hovering around 44 degrees. As I’m finishing, forecasts suggest it may be 60-ish. I know forecasts are no guarantee, but I’d rather be dreaming of the currently forecasted scenario than planning which trash bag I’ll wear at the start!


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Taper tantrums hit

So I’ve been raving about how much I looove my taper, and how my body needs the rest, and

Dear Teaism salty oat cookies: Why are you so delicious?

Dear Teaism salty oat cookies: I love you. I'd just rather wait til after the marathon to indulge in your awesomeness.

how I was silly to get all taper-crazy in the past. I even wrote a post yesterday called How to avoid Marine Corps Marathon taper tantrums.

I kind of jinxed myself, and yesterday, I found myself in the midst of a full-fledged taper tantrum.

What I did well: I stuck to my training schedule, running only 30 easy minutes, which meant I had to skip out on my group run barely halfway into last night’s route. I think I’ll skip my group run altogether and run on my own on tomorrow, to avoid temptation to push the pace and/or run longer than I mean to. Which, in case you’re wondering, is 20 minutes easy, with a few pickups thrown in, which is my last workout of any sort before the marathon. Gah!

What I didn’t do so well: I ended up walking around downtown DC for a good 45 minutes during the day from various Metro stations to various lunch and interview destinations. I know a little walking doesn’t cancel out my restraint on the run, and probably doesn’t matter in the big scheme of the taper, but having to think about whether I should be walking so much just annoyed me. I’m sick of thinking about how much I should or shouldn’t work out, what I should and shouldn’t eat, how much I should be sleeping (the late Yankees game last night didn’t help with the last item on the list).

Speaking of what I should and shoudn’t be eating, one of my stops in downtown DC was Teaism, a gorgeous teahouse/restaurant I’m writing a profile of for Specialty Coffee Retailer magazine. I had a cup of Teaism’s best-selling chai, made the traditional way: by boiling spices and black tea, then adding just enough milk and sugar to reach the perfect balance of creamy, spicy and sweet. Awesome and calming — just what I needed! The store’s other best-seller: the salty oat cookie, which turns out to be somewhat of a DC institution. The big, salty, chewy, dense hunk of delicious wasn’t in my plan for the day. But I ended up buying a six-pack of the cookies, and called my husband to tell him was the lucky recipient of six cookies, minus a bite or two I’d taste for research purposes.

I actually did need to taste the cookies to accurately describe them in the story. What I definitely didn’t need to do: down two of the addictive little monsters after my 30-minute easy run failed to wipe away the funk from a stressful day, leaving me feeling slightly sick to my stomach and annoyed that I’d broken my pre-race plan of being reeeally careful about what I ate this week.Plus, even though the ingredient list is delightfully wholesome stuff, these babies can’t exactly be low in calories, making me wish I could add a few minutes to today’s workout, not subtract, making me annoyed at the taper all over again.

As if in an act of conscious protest, I stayed up until the end of the late Yankees game last night (please let my legs channel Mariano Rivera’s post-season arm during the race Sunday!), knowing full well I’d wake up at my regular time and miss out on valuable pre-race-week sleep.

But: Today’s a new day, with plenty of opportunities to eat good, light, carby stomach-friendly food. I can ease my restless legs with a bit of time on the stationary bike, during which I’ll be prepping mentally by visualizing miles 15 through 20. And I DO get a massage this afternoon — the taper ain’t all bad!

Wish me luck not losing my mind over the next couple days. And bear with me — I’m messing around with the format of the blog and my home page again, and things may look a bit messy in the meantime. Some of the changes I’ve made already: I’m making the home page the home of my professional Web site, with the blog a side page. And I’m making the blog itself more running-focused, so I’ve “hidden” all the links to my friends’ non-running blogs. To my buddies with blogs: I’m still following your adventures in France, Germany, Elkton, Md., etc.  I’m just not flashing your Web site around for all the world to see (which I’m not sure how you felt about, anyway, now that I think about it).

Any tips for taper tantrums? If so, post them here!


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Recovery swim

I’m not doing a full-blown taper for the 2-mile Chris Greene Lake Cable Swim in Charlottesville, Va. on Saturday. I’m actually running a bit harder than usual, to see how my hip does with some tempo runs before my appointment with my running doc tomorrow.Tonight, that means the 5-ish-mile beach loop/hill run with Pacers, which involves running on my beloved Rock Creek Park trails before heading to what I’m sure will be some brutal hills.

That said, I am easing up a bit as the week goes on, nixing the core work I recently added to my repertoire. Considering my glutes are still screeching at me after a stability-ball workout on Sunday, I think this is a wise call. I’m also declaring tomorrow an off-day, and put in a nice, easy swim yesterday.

Here’s the lovely, sprint-free recovery workout, which included just enough hard effort to give me a pre-race ego boost, yet not enough to wear me out. I’ve been really into 800s lately, ever since Megan Killian (check out her training blog here) recommended a workout including a set of them. Do three of those bad boys, and wham! You’re almost done with your workout! If they’re too hard, you can back off on the speed — you get brownie points just for swimming the distance. If they’re getting boring, you can step things up a bit by inserting several hard strokes each 50.

3X 800 free w/pull buoy; first one easy, second one harder, third one w/seven hard strokes at the beginning of each 50

After each 800, do a 200 IM; first one hard, second one easier, third one cool-down.


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Runner-friendly recipes: Roasted veggie lasagna, pumpkin-chocolate bread

Let me be honest here: I know there’s no need for me to carbo-load.

For those running 26.2 miles, loading up on carbohydrates leading up to race day is a necessary step to ensure they’ve got enough glycogen stored for the long haul. For half-marathoners, we’re not really on the road for long enough to merit that kind of pre-race gluttony, at least in the name of glycogen-storing.

So I try to bridge the gap between the carby foods my body craves and the wholesome stuff that lets me remain a healthy runner (and a healthy human). I give you my two favorite pre-race meals.

Pumpkin bread doesn't stay intact for long in my kitchen.

Pumpkin chocolate-chip bread

One 15-oz. can pure pumpkin (or the roasted, pureed flesh of half of a small sugar pumpkin)

1 1/2 cups whole-wheat flour

Two eggs (or 1/2 cup egg substitute)

1/2 cup sugar

1 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. ea.cinnamon, nutmeg

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 c. dark chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine dry ingredients in one bowl, wet in another. Add wet ingredients to dry and stir until just blended. Spoon batter into a loaf pan. Bake for about 50 minutes, until the top of the loaf is firm to the touch.

I can’t really claim this next one as my own, but the good people at Weight Watchers (seriously) found a winner with this roasted vegetable lasagna. Works with a wide variety of veggies!

3 medium raw eggplant, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

3 medium sweet red pepper(s), chopped

4 small tomatoes, plum, seeded and chopped

4 medium garlic cloves, peeled and chopped

2 tsp olive oil

1 tsp table salt, or more to taste

1/4 tsp black pepper, or more to taste

9 lasagna noodles, cooked and drained

1/4 cup(s) grated Parmesan cheese

3/4 cup(s) part-skim mozzarella cheese, shredded

Preheat oven to 425°F. Roast vegetables and garlic with olive oil until tender — about 20 to 25 minutes. Puree half of vegetables, salt and pepper in food processor until smooth. Spoon 1/2 cup of vegetable purée into bottom of a 9 X 13-inch baking dish. Place three noodles over purée. Top with 1/2 cup of purée, 1/2 of remaining vegetables, 2 tablespoons of Parmesan cheese and 1/4 cup of mozzarella cheese. Repeat layers and then top with remaining 3 noodles, purée and cheese. Bake until bubbly, about 40 to 45 minutes. Slice into 6 pieces and serve.


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Taper time, baby!

Is there a weirder time in training than the taper, the days before a race in which you dramatically cut back on mileage and intensity to give your muscles a chance to rest? You spend months amping up, getting your body to a place where it truly feels wrong not to run or cross-train. Then, you do a complete about-face. Just when you have the most nervous energy, the name of the game becomes chilling out.

Runner’s World calls the fits of nerves and anxiety that besiege even normally sane runners (not saying I’m ever one of these) “taper tantrums,” and offers some tips for coping here.

Here are some of my own tips for not going nuts during (and maybe even enjoying) a taper.

Practice positive visualization. More on this later in the week. for now: I like to use a tip I read in some running book about a million years ago that calls for runners to visualize a section of the race every day before race day. So today, I’ll be thinking about the first three miles, tomorrow, six through nine, and so on.

Memorize the course map. This is a tip from Olympic marathoner Keith Brantly, who I interviewed for the Finish Line, a series I wrote before Gainesville’s Five Points of Life Marathon. “Get the course map,” Brantly said. “Put it up on your fridge. Make it the screen saver on your computer. Imagine how great you’re going to feel at certain points. Let it become part of your daily life, and you’re kind of rehearsing the marathon every day.”

Stretch. I have to force myself to make time for this. Luckily, this week, time is all I’ve got (at least when it comes to time I’d usually spend training). For me, this usually means yoga, as the poses seem to loosen my hip muscles and generally relax me. Check out some yoga-for-runners tips here. I especially like the pigeon pose for stretching your hips and glutes. I also like stretching with a foam roller. I was skeptical about this when my physical therapist first recommended it. But it’s truly amazing, and is a great way to stretch/do self-massage for slackers. Check out a few ideas for how to use a foam roller here. A lot of gyms have them, or you can buy one for about $15 from Sports Authority.

Don’t feel like you’re slacking. Brantly suggests repeating the following: “Rest is training. Rest is training.”

Besides obsessively checking race-day weather forecasts, I’ve actually been handling this taper pretty well. After my long run on Saturday, I enjoyed pizza with some good buddies, then plopped myself on my good buddies’ couch, where I spent a few hours doing nothing but eating chocolate and watching movies. I didn’t do anything yesterday, and I’m planning on just an easy swim today. Later this week, I might even take a yoga class.

Got some tips for how to make the most out of taper week? Post ’em below!

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