I’m now in the final week before my longest race ever, the Western States Endurance Run 100 miles. The longest distance I have ran beforehand is a 100 km, so the last 60 km will be unknown territory.
When I ran track, I knew how I wanted to train, rest, and taper before an important race. Running ultras and trail I also learned how much I wanted to rest before these distances to perform well. The taper for a 100-miler I have never done before. I’m going by the same approach but adding some extra rest days and easy days, since yes, a 100-miler is long and I need to store up extra energy. For short races you can get “over rested” and feel sluggish on race day, but for the longer races I don’t think you can be over rested. It’s almost good to start the race feeling a little sluggish and heavy, because there is a long time to get going and get into the race.
Psychologically, a lot of people don’t like tapering and get anxious when reducing the training before a race. I actual don’t mind this part at all. Most of the time I train quite a lot, so I enjoy some lazy days once in a while when I can stay in bed reading and eating snacks in the middle of the day. Mentally, it’s important that I have some time alone with not many impressions, emotions, or people before a race.
My body needs to go into resting mode and so does my brain! I notice that before big races I don’t do very well with loud sounds and noise. My brain also does well with as little activity and impressions as possible because it also needs to rest and gather energy before being fully focused on the run, to make the right decisions, to push the body, and be able to handle fatigue during a race.
I don’t make any special note of how my body is feeling the days before the race because I know from experience that it says very little about how the race is going to turn out. I trust that I know how to race, and I will be better once actually racing than in training.
It is a process to get ready for a race, both physically and mentally, and performance doesn’t come by itself. To me, that is one of the interesting parts of being an elite athlete, to have big goals and dreams, work for them, and see if it’s possible to reach them.
A big good luck to everyone that is racing these upcoming weeks and further into the summer!
Remember, relax and enjoy your taper!