Master your Two Oceans Taper

Ensure you arrive at the race feeling fresh and sharp

With a less than 2 weeks to go before the Two Oceans Ultra and Half marathons, taking place on Saturday 31 March 2018 in Cape Town, it is finally time to start that all-important training taper.

Without an adequate training taper, all those months of hard training and meticulous preparation can be undone with a poor race-day performance as your body hasn’t been given the time to adapt to the training stress you imposed on it in the lead up to the big day.

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Accordingly, it pays to give as much attention to the last two-week period before a big race as you did to the preceding months of training. While the heavy training blocks aim to deliver you to the start line in peak condition, an adequate taper will ensure you’re able to convert the adaptations and conditioning developed during that time into a new overall or course PB on race day.

Defining the taper

The aim of any taper should be to ‘flush out’ fatigue without losing training-induced adaptations.

However, a taper doesn’t mean no training, as many people incorrectly believe. To taper properly, overall training volume should decrease, but training intensity can increase.

With two weeks to go to race day, there should be a massive drop in volume – between 75-50% of your peak training volume. However, intervals at slightly faster-than-race pace should be included to keep your neuromuscular system ‘sharp’.

In the week before the race, there should be another drop of 50-25% in overall volume. However, during these runs, the athlete would need to work at race-pace intensity for at least one fast session, with a few intervals or bursts during tempo runs. The trick is to still leave these fast training session feeling good, not depleted or burnt out.

Two days before the event is usually a complete rest day, with a short 20-25 minute session that includes 4-5 bursts at target race pace to round out the taper. However, rest days shouldn’t be devoid of activity. Go for a walk and stay relatively active, perhaps with some light stretching.

Don’t over-taper!

Resting too much, with insufficient stimulation to maintain the levels of neuromuscular function that are necessary for optimal performance can also leave you feeling flat or sluggish with heavy legs. That’s why it is essential to do some race-pace and stride bursts in the final week as it maintains that sharpness.

So don’t take a break from training during your taper. Use this important time to progressively downscale your overall training volume, with a suitable increase in intensity that doesn’t leave you feeling tired.

Do an equipment check

With two weeks to go, you should have bought the running gear you want to race in. Never try anything new or untested on race day! If you’re planning to run in your new adidas Supernova tee and those funky Women’s adidas by Stella McCartney Run Adizero Short. Make sure you do a few taper runs in the kit to ensure it is comfortable and fits properly. By now you should also have done at least 50-100km in your preferred training shoes. Don’t take a new pair out of the box on race day as they can cause blisters or feel uncomfortable on race day.

Author: Mariska du Plessis

Mariska is the editor of Fitness Magazine, a writer, photographer, videographer and Wellness Blogger.

Follow her on Instagram: @justmariska_