The Final Countdown
With just over a week to go until race day I thought I would take a look at the final week in terms of preparing for race day.
You may have heard the old saying “fail to prepare – prepare to fail!”
This week we had a question from a participant asking what training to be doing in the final week and also to suggest a nutrition strategy. There is a huge amount of information that covers these subjects on the internet so I thought I would try and answer this with a mix of tips gained through my own experiences.
In terms of training the last week is an opportunity to fine tune the training you should, and hopefully will have, already done. In the last week before the half you should certainly not be doing anything strenuous such as your longest run or a hard interval based session. Training volume (or number of miles) should be at least two thirds, possibly even half of what you have been doing in the build up to the half marathon. This is an opportunity to refresh yourself (known as tapering) ready for race day. If you normally run five times a week it may be a good idea to run just four times and run slightly less miles on each run. In my last Half Marathon I ran 28 miles in the 7 days leading up to the race and had two full days off in the week (compared to close to 55 miles per week and running 7 days!). This worked for me but the critical things were that I didn’t do any hard sessions in those seven days and had a day off the day before the race to replenish energy stores. It is also a good idea to try and keep off your feet the day before the race and not do anything too extreme. A day shopping or climbing Roseberry Topping should not be considered the day before the race!
It does take a bit of experience to get the “taper” right before a race and how much you taper will depend upon how much training you are doing. As I have tried to explain stick to some golden rules for the last seven days:
1. No speed work or hard sessions
2. Don’t cram miles in last minute – reduce your overall training volume. Last minute miles in panic will not do you any good and may have the opposite effect.
3. Take one or two days at least as rest days
4. Don’t do anything unusual the week or days before that will make you stiff or sore or tired!
Nutrition – again this is a massive subject that is far too complex to cover in a short blog article so here are a few rules of thumb to help guide you. I would say that in the days leading up to the race you should eat relatively normally. By reducing your training load and eating normally your body should be storing up energy as glycogen in the muscles which will help provide valuable energy on race day. Drink little and often in the days leading up to the race – particularly if the weather is hot. Don’t overdo the tea and coffee or alcohol in the last week and stick to fairly simple, normal foods. The night before the half marathon is not the time to experiment with rich, spicy foods – as tempting as that may be! You may also be tempted to over snack as you may be tempted to substitute normal training with snacking on biscuits, crisps and the like!
In my next (and possibly final pre race blog) I will cover in more detail race day and will look at race nutrition, final preparation and race day strategies.
Finally use the last week to sort your kit, your travel arrangements, make sure you have your number and chip (which will arrive in the next few days) and fill in your medical details/next of kin on the back of your number. If you have bought new kit make sure you have tried it once or twice at least before the race (longer if you have bought new shoes).