I do not taper well. Oh, how I do not taper well. No matter how hard I trained during the final push, and no matter how desperately my body needs a taper, I loathe the taper. I feel flat, slow, fat, tired, antsy, and useless. I start questioning how fit I truly am, and how well I will race. Tapering for me is no bueno.
My taper for Cedar Point is somewhat graduated. Monday (20 days out from the race) I had my last big long run with race heart rate intervals. Then it was a 90 min ride on Tuesday, a 5k open water swim on Wednesday, track on Thursday, and then the weekend off to work at Rev3 Maine. When I returned it was a 2k tempo swim plus 4 hour easy ride on Tuesday (12 days out from the race), 2 hour easy run on Wednesday, 3k pool swim Thursday with lots of race tempo intervals, 60 min moderate run on Friday, 4k open water swim on Saturday, and a 2 hour ride on Sunday. That kind of taper I can handle. Backing down on the intensity while still keeping up some duration allows me rest and recover for my upcoming race while still indulging in the occasional scone (which, for some reason, I am obsessed with this training season). But this week? 20 minute run Monday, rest Tuesday, 30 minute ride Wednesday, off Thursday, 40 min total of S/B/R Friday, and 45 min total of S/B/R Saturday (with my 140.6 race on Sunday). I do not like this one bit.
One of the hardest things for me during the taper is ignoring my instinct to shove everything in sight in my pie hole. During my peak training, I was shoveling in about 3000 calories per day. Although I focused on “core” meals of high quality kale and protein, I allowed for plenty of indulging. Chipotle? Yes please! Scone the size of my face? With icing, of course!
But alas, my calorie furnace is starting to die out and the embers are barely glowing. It’s very common to gain a few pounds during the taper, but I am determined to prevent that from happening. Additionally, it’s also common to be so aware of gaining weight that you restrict too much and enter race day in a depleted calorie state. So there’s a fine balance of fueling your body for your race without adding on additional pounds.
For my taper I’m sticking with what historically works well for me. That means a fairly low-carb diet, high in veggies and lean protein, until 2 days before the race. Every day I’ve been having a green chia smoothie followed by my staple of sauteed peppers (from the frozen bag) topped with three eggs over easy and generous amounts of hot sauce. Lunch has been either a butternut squash lentil stew:
For snacks I have been addicted to this detox salad recipe (any excuse to eat more raisins is always appreciated). Dinner has been sesame kale (tons of kale topped with 1 part sesame oil to 2 parts rice vinegar and 2 parts low-sodium soy sauce, all whisked together to make dressing) with baked chicken (marinated in the same sesame kale dressing). On nights I don’t have time or energy to cook I stuff my face with detox salad and eat it with a can of tuna. And of course, I start my Biotta Beet Juice loading.
48 hours before the race I’ll start adding in some carbs, typically in the form of sweet potatoes. I will cook several before I leave, wrap them in foil, pack them, and eat them cold as snacks. I don’t do any specific carb loading, and although I’ll cut down a little bit on the fiber, I still eat my veggies the day before. If I have the choice, my preferred pre-race meal is salmon, sweet potatoes, and broccoli, although I’m not sure what my options will be at Cedar Point.
So that, my dear friends, is my taper diet in a nutshell. To summarize: 1) don’t put on weight. 2) don’t restrict too much. 3) focus on lean protein and veggies. 4) Beet load.
What are your taper diet rituals? What about your go-to pre-race meals? Share below!