I only have a couple days before I head to San Diego for my "3 races, 3 days" weekend. I am excited- who wouldn't be? Nervous- I usually don't like to go do things by myself, I'm really shy around people I don't know. Self-doubting- Did I bite off more than I can chew here? Anxious about the weather- Really, San Diego? Rain all three days I'm there? Hopeful- I really want not only a PR, but a big one in the half-marathon.
For me, the key to a good taper really is mental. I know in the past, my physical efforts have been undercut by my mental effort and attitude. For me, these are the keys to a good mental taper:
1. Realizing that the training I have done is enough. It has to be. Last-minute panic training never really helped anyone. I do better (at least to my perception) when I've had a little too much rest rather than too little.
2. Race visualization. I like to go through the race in my head from the time I will wake up on race morning through the end of the race and the finish line. I don't just do this once. I try to do this almost every day for a couple weeks preceding the race. We used to do this in high-school cross-country. Our coach called it "mind-stretching" and it was a part of practice every day.
3. Being present in the moment. It's easy to let thoughts of a big race consume every moment of your day. But I have other things that are important in my life as well. When I am playing with my son, that's what I think about. When I am preparing supper, I think about how much I love to be in the kitchen and cook for my family. Set aside some time to think about the race, then put it in the back of your mind for the rest of the day.
4. Talk it out. Getting it out of your head and into words can help you deal with your pre-race nerves. Talk it over with a friend or write it down (or blog it so the whole world knows you're nervous!) Just organizing the thoughts running around your head can be extremely helpful in overcoming your race-day fears.
5. Realizing that all the little aches and pains that show up during taper week are not important. Now, this is not to say that all pains should be ignored. Pains that have been occurring throughout your training should be paid attention to lest they lead to injury. But the one that just showed up this afternoon and will probably be gone by this evening? Mental. Had you been in a regular training week, you probably wouldn't even have noticed. Or, you would have said to yourself just what you should be saying now, "Oh, that little twinge? That won't affect my run at all!"
Now that I've talked all that out (see number 4!) I'm going to get ready to take my son outside to play (number 3) as soon as he wakes up from his nap. Happy tapering!