Warrior’s World

Taper Tactics

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When
it comes to tapering for Comrades, most of us find ourselves in one of two
groups:

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PACMAN RUNNERS: Like Pacman,
these runners are never satisfied, always wanting more, gobbling up as many
kays as possible right to the very end. Pacman runners start to panic as race
day draws ever nearer and as the nerves begin to mount, every aspect of their training,
especially the quantity, is brought into question. Pacman runners begin to
doubt their training and believe, either through own illogical conclusion or
through listening to others brag about the amount of kays they’ve accumulated
over the last couple of months. They often believe they have not done enough
mileage and don’t have enough “time on the legs.” And so, in a desperate
attempt to shove more kays into the logbook, and to ensure that they are not
found wanting on the day, they do one more long run, or squeeze in one more
double session, or add an extra kay or two to the remaining runs left in the
last few weeks.

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BRING-ON-THE-HOLIDAY RUNNERS: These are
runners who simply cannot wait for the taper period for one reason or another.
For this runner the 60 to 65km long run marks the high water mark, and once
they hit that target they shut down into holiday mode while they wait for race
day to eventually arrive.

 

I’m
hoping that the problem with these two groups is blatantly obvious. The Pacman
runners end up doing far too much, lining up at the start of Comrades tired and
drained, and the day is simply a long hard slog from beginning to end. The
Bring-on-the-holiday runners end up doing little to nothing for far too long,
normally five to six weeks before race day, so by the time race day comes their
legs and bodies have long since gone into holiday mode. Once in that state
there is no way you’re going to convince your body that suddenly running 90km
is a good idea!

 

THE SPOT-ON CONFIDENT GROUP

There
is, however, a third group of runners. In contrast to the other two, this is a
very small group of runners. They get the taper just right – not too much and
not too little – and they are confident in their training and in what they have
done in the preceding months. They will line up at Comrades well rested, strong
and sharp, and they will achieve the goal they have spent months training for.

 

GUIDELINES

I
have no doubt that every one of us wants to be part of this third group, so the
question then is, what is the correct way to taper? Here are a few guidelines
to ensure that you get it right:

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Your taper should start around three weeks before race
day.

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Your taper should see a drop in quantity and an
increase in quality. The drop in quantity will ensure that your muscles
recover sufficiently before race day and the increase in quality will ensure
that you line up on race day sharp and ready to rumble. Just a note of caution:
An increase in quality does not mean hitting the track flat-out.

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Your total weekly distance should drop off with each
week, by 20-30% in the first week of taper, 40-50% in the second and 50-60% in
the third. So, for example, if your peak week was 100km, then week 1 of taper
would be 70km, week 2 of taper 50km, and the last week would be 30km.

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You’re going to lose your mind in the taper weeks.
Your mind will tell you that you’re getting unfit, that you should be doing
more, that you’re not ready, but this is normal. Instead of focusing on those
thoughts, turn your mind towards the race: Visualise the route, and plan your
race strategy, as this will ensure that you line up not only body sharp, but
mind sharp too.

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Get lots of sleep.

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Load up on vitamins and minerals and immune boosters.

 

And
have fun. Enjoy not only your taper, but also the race you have spent months
getting ready for. Good luck with the remainder of your training!

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