Tapering and Planning: Key West Half Marathon Less than Two Weeks Away

key-west-halfIt’s time to taper for the Key West Half Marathon after three dedicated months of sticking to a careful training plan worked out over a post-long run breakfast with Anita at the Campus HiFi Diner. I know some people get twitchy during tapering. But I kind of like it.

I’m really excited about this event. The Niagara Falls Women’s Half Marathon is a “destination” race for some. But since I’ve been going to Niagara Falls ever since I was a kid, it doesn’t have the same sense of destination and adventure, that same “bucket list” feeling, as Key West, which is truly something out of the way for me.

It’s by far the furthest I’ve ever traveled to participate in an event. And that makes it feel special–not to mention that Rebecca and Anita are coming down to Florida for it too. Whoa — talk about bursting with excitement!

As Sam said the other day when she was talking about the ways she and I are different from each other, I’m a planner. Like, a fairly careful planner. Not a shoot for the stars and be happy with the moon-type. If I’m going to end up on the moon, I want to have aimed for the moon in the first place. If the stars are out of reach, then I’d rather not try to get there. Whatever you think of that strategy (if “realistic expectations” are a strategy), it causes me less stress.

Part of the half marathon plan involves a taper. This is not some new invention, of course. Most experts suggest some sort of tapering off before a big event. The taper usually includes reduced mileage within two weeks of the big day, with the last very long run two weeks prior to the event. Anita and I worked that into our schedule.

New Year’s Day complicated that a bit for me since our original plan (with me doing my 22K and then meeting family at a restaurant on Fort Lauderdale Beach) fell aside when it became clear that January 1st was the only really good day to go sailing before my step-daughter and her partner had to leave. Since they hadn’t sailed on our new catamaran (Guinevere V) before, there was no contest between accommodating my long run and accommodating their opportunity to experience Guinevere V at sea.

So I’m pushing it a bit with my last long run scheduled for Wednesday morning at 6:30 a.m. But other than that, the taper is going as planned. I’ve gotten in some shorter runs in the 5K-10K range, including a little bit of speed work. I’m getting pretty good sleep even if my boat bed isn’t as comfortable as my home bed. As Renald likes to remind me, “sailor’s midnight” is around 8:30-9 p.m. So we’ve had some early nights (not quite that early, but let’s just say we said “happy new year” at around 10:30.

Okay, so I’ve got the running worked into the taper. And the sleeping. The next element of a good taper is refining your nutrition. There’s mixed opinion about what this involves. Rebecca expressed shock yesterday when I sent her a link to this article, which suggests that carb-loading before a half marathon isn’t necessarily supported by the latest research.

The main thing I’ve learned from reading around about nutrition is to stick with what works for you. As a vegan, despite that there are lots of good sources of vegan protein and I am not lacking in that department, my diet is probably more carb heavy than some. The received view is that if that’s what’s working for me, that’s what I should do. And as Rebecca says, regardless of the research, we are going to eat a pasta dinner with bread the night before the race. I like the advice in this article, which seems eminently sensible: experiment before race day. Don’t try anything new on race day.

I usually do oatmeal with soy milk and fruit, and a tea or coffee the morning of an event. I’m going to need to plan ahead for that since I don’t have my usual supplies here on the boat.

It’s also a good idea to know, sort of, what to expect during the event. I’ve learned the hard way about taking energy drinks or gels offered on the course when I’ve not tried those before. Hammer Heed, for example, is not something I can tolerate well after I’m already depleted. The Key West Half is going to be offering water and Ultima Replenisher at every station from the second one on. If I am smart, I’ll get my hands on some Ultima Replenisher before my long run on Wednesday so I can try it out.

We’ll get there on Saturday with plenty of time to kick back, pick up our race kits between noon and 6 p.m. at the Waterfront Brewery on William Street. At the same time we can scope out the start line, just a block away, at Caroline and Grinnell.

One bonus my research turned up that I wasn’t aware of before: live music and entertainment along the race course! I experienced this at my first half marathon, The Toronto Scotiabank Waterfront Half, and it gave me a real boost.

I feel good about my training. Anita and I have felt really good on our longer runs lately. No we’re not gunning for the sub-2:05 time that Rebecca is going for (she can do it! She is one badass athlete!), but we feel comfortable with our goal of finishing under 2:30 provided the heat and humidity do not force a change in that plan.

Anita has already been in touch about dinner plans (Italian!) the night before and brunch plans post-race. Rebecca and her partner are meeting up with us on Guinevere V on the Friday and we’re driving from Fort Lauderdale to Key West on Saturday morning so we be there for the 7 a.m. start on Sunday. It’s all shaping up to be quite the race weekend with good friends, fun times, and a reprieve from the Canadian winter.