So now we are in our last week and half before the big day.
Your running has been cut back but most of you will notice the frequency of your running might not be massively reduced - but the volume of running, and the number of reps during intense sessions is reduced. The taper is the time it progressively recovery and focus on the race. This email is designed to give a few tips, many are obvious, some less so as you build towards race day….
* What happens during your taper? During your taper your body rebuilds glycogen stores and repairs the micro-damage that training inflicts – particularly from the really intense last 4-5 weeks. As you’ll know by now it is rest that results in repairing that damage which is when the body gets stronger and super-compensation takes place, allowing us to run longer, stronger and faster.
* Plan now - getting to the start early. Work out how you are going to get to the start. many of you are will be coming from North London - it's quite a trek down and if you are relying on public transport remember the rail companies do not always help you out with their time tabling. The marathon website provides this information which you may find useful - http://www.virginlondonmarathon.com/marathon-centre/virgin-london-marathon-information/runners-information/ If you get stuck please let me know and I will see how I can help with anyone who requires a lift. Plan this now. Please note that the start is a little walk from Snow Hill or Cutty Sark, and straight up a big hill – allow enough time to walk this slow – I don’t want you running!!
* Expo and picking up your number. The expo is open Wednesday-Saturday. Wednesday and Thursday are by far the quietest days so if you can go then – do so. I will likely be there most days so do give me a call in case I am. The Expo is great and London is the best organised major race I have been too – so don’t worry if yo have to pick up you number of Saturday – its fine, will just be a little busier. There are loads of interesting and nerve jangling exhibitions at the expo. Have a quick look around, suck in the atmosphere, feel the buzz, get excited, grab me if you see me at Saucony, then leave. Even if you are there on Wednesday I really don’t want you all spending hours on your feet this week.
* Carb load/Taper – Over the years the way top coaches think about carb loading has changed. It’s no longer the case that we play around with bizarre approaches such as starving yourself for the first half of the week, and stuffing yourself full of pasta for the second half of the week. Anyone who recommends this either in person or in a magazine or article is working off unproven science from 20 years ago. I have spoken to many of your about needing to increase your food intake generally in training – you should all be well used to snacking on high quality carbs by now. The carb load doesn’t really require you to increase your food intake significantly as if you keep eating as you have been doing, but reduce your training your body will naturally replenish glycogen stores. HOWEVER if you haven’t listen to me and you haven’t increased your food intake through your high training weeks you will need to increase your % of carbohydrate intake during your last week – particularly from Thursday onwards. You might notice your weight increasingly slightly through the taper – this is totally normal – please continue to eat!!
* Final week nutrition – do’s and don’ts – So having talked generally about carb loading what specifically should you be doing? Other than a few points of advice I would say eat as you normally would (bearing in mind the above). This is not the week to be trying loads of different food or taking loads of supplements you have not tried before just because the guy or girl at the expo was attractive or looked particularly convincing. Having said that you might find a couple of bits of advice useful. At least 1-1.5L of water a day please, perhaps including electrolyte tablets (http://www.wiggle.co.uk/high5-zero-electrolyte-drink-20-tabs/). Thursday, Friday and Saturday its worth watching your fibre intake a little, for once thing white wheat rather than whole wheat and bran, avoid too many vegetables, especially on the Saturday…..for obvious reasons. Many people, myself included, like to cut down a little on protein on the Friday and Saturday as well. Protein is a very poor energy source and will just sit in your digestive system, adding weight but no fuel. Alcohol has no direct performance benefits and many of you may be horrified at the thought of drinking the night before a marathon….and that’s fair enough. I will, admit to having a glass of wine or two the night before a race though, it works for me, relaxes me and sends me to sleep. Obviously limit yourself, and generally beer will just leave you bloated and sluggish. My personal night-before-a-marathon meal is nice and simple Aglio et Olio. Don’t feel the need to stuff yourself – the taper as given you the carb load – just a normal meal otherwise you might well feel bloated come race day.
* Sleep - When you sleep your body gets the chance to heal the micro damage cause by your training. Prioritise sleep and nutrition above everything else this week. Aim for 8 hours + from Tuesday onwards....
* Water - I have mentioned it above but don’t leave hydrating yourself properly until the day before the race. Be conscious of drink at least 1L of water a day from Tuesday onwards. Don’t worry about sports drinks, but do add an electrolyte tablet or two if you can get hold of some (don’t worry if you can’t – your body will sort out most of the electrolyte balance).
* Weather – hot, cold, windy, calm, rainy or dry you cannot do anything about the weather. Please don’t obsessive check the forcast every day this week or next expecting that through the power of Michael Fish you’ll be able to guarantee 12 degrees, dry with no wind. The weather will not take away from all the training you have done. Stay positive, stay focused. If it is freezing take layers to shed, if its boiling hot and bright sun wear water proof sun cream, sunglasses or a hat, if it’s raining take a jacket to wear at least until the race start and a change of shoes and socks – changing into race shoes just before you give you bag in to keep them as dry as possible. Other than that remember this – you have all trained through some of the most appalling conditions I have seen in a London build up – you are hardened, you are ready.
* Kit – If you don’t know what you will be wearing on race day now is the time to think about it and practice with it a couple of times before the big day. My advice would be to wear relatively minimal, lightweight clothing. The race WILL be warmer than you have been used to training in, even if the morning itself feels cold. If you are going to wear warmer clothes do so in layers that you can easily remove. Regardless TAKE OLD CLOTHES TO THE START and discard them as you approach the line to start running. I do not want any of you doing warm up drills or lots of running before the start – it’s a waste of that precious energy – keep your muscles warm with that horrible knitted jumper you have been meaning to get rid of for years :o) Pin your number to your vest and attach you chip to your shoes the night before.
* The day and night before - Keep up with your nutrition plan, good breakfast and lunch, normal to light evening meal. Charge your watch if you are using one, ipod too if you are using one. I would suggest going for a really easy 15-20 minute run with 10-20 minute post run stretch - release both the mental and physical tension. Stay off your feet for the rest of the day - no shopping, no visiting tourist attractions, let the kids run after you for once! Get into bed nice and early, even if you can't sleep - the rest is important....
* Breakfast on race day. Keep it simple guys. You should not be doing anything you haven’t done before here. Nice, simple, carbohydrate based meal – quinoa porridge for example is perfect. Water, coffee or tea is fine. The big thing for those of your running London is the gap between breakfast and race start. Normally I would advise eating breakfast about 90 minutes-2hours before the start, however most of you will need to be gobbling down your pre-race fuel well before then. YOU MUST ensure that you take something with you to eat on the way or when you get to the baggage drop – flapjack or something similar is perfect and again water with electrolyte tablets. I cannot stress the importance of this enough guys, especially if you have not run a marathon before. Without over simplifying all the hard training you have done it can be distilled into the following statement – ‘PRESERVING YOUR ENERGY FOR AS LONG AS POSSIBLE’ in the race. All those threshold sessions, long runs, race pace running – its all about keeping those precious glycogen stores going as long as possible. If you leave your house at 6am and don’t race until 10:30, spending the intervening time walking about yu will be undoing all that good taper. Keep your energy up and take on board a couple of snacks in those hours after breakfast and before the race.
* Toilet paper!! – Take your own to the start….
* Vaseline/Bodyglide – In the marathon you get blisters in odd places. I am not going ot break this down for you but put Vaseline, or ideally Bodyglide (wiggle.co.uk/bodyglide - not as sticky and doesn’t ruin clothes) everywhere that might rub. On your legs, nipples, between toes (yes!!), armpits. Trust me if you don’t there is a chance you’ll really wish you had.
* Pre-race - Plan to get to the baggage dorp at least 45 minutes before the start - you'll likely have to queue to use the toilet so allow extra time - an hour is better - workl everything back from this. This might mean getting up early - 6am perhaps or even before (so get to bed early the night before). Shower, stay calm. Once you get to the start stay off your feet. Do not spend time warming up jogging and doing drills - preserve your energy. Eat the snack you have about an hour before the start.
* Race - I'll talk to you all individually but some generic points for MOST, but not all of you. Do not rely on your Garmin GPS to give accurate paces. By all means use it, but I would recommend switching off any auto lap function you have and pressing the lap button each time you go past a mile marker to give you an accurate idea of pace. Do not weave to get past people in the early stages - you are wasting energy and adding on extra distance. Don't worry if you have a few slow splits - your pace will settle. Expect your pace to drop a little in the last 6 miles. My aim is that most of you run as close to even splits as possible and you CAN do this, but it is normal to expect the second half a minute or more slower than the first half - I will talk to you all about pacing to allow for this. Use the first 2-3 miles to settle and find a rhythm - CALM YOUR BREATHING! shake your arms, keep your shoulders loose, relax. Watch miles 2-5 part of which goes downhill - pace might increase a little but don't get carried away. Drink as often s you feel you need to but don't go overboard, small sips, forget the lucozade. If you are using gels I'd recommend roughly 4 - at 5 miles, 10, 15 and 20. Mostly importantly take the time to smile and enjoy what is a truly amazing experience you will never forget. Let the crowd roar rush over you through Deptford, over Tower Bridge and along Embankment. In terms of effort I want the pace to feel comfortable for the first half or more, the last 6 miles is eyes out time - give it everything you have got. I have had runners that have run the last 10km as the fastest of their race - believe in yourself and don't let the occasional demon get on top of you. The last 5km should be considered a race - thry to pull in as many vests in front of you as you can. There will be times when it feels tough, relax, keep your leg speed high, and you'll work through these sticky spells.
* Finish - Let family and friends come to you - it's your day - arrange where you will meet and don't bank on seeing each other out on the course - ideally you will see your cheering squad but don't stop or worry about seeing each other....getting to the fishing line as quickly as possible is the sole focus!
* Affirm yourself, and your training, surround yourself with positivity. Pick 2 or 3 runs or training sessions that went really well - think back to these. Don't talk to anyone at the start who is pessimistic, or negative. I have no time for this. At least 40% of the race and your success is in your head. If you believe you are ready and you will perform, you will...
I'll chat to you all individually anyway, enjoy the next week and a half....