We outline here a two-week taper period ahead of the Race to Robie Creek Half Marathon. This plan was developed for by 5-time Robie Creek Champ, Coach Mike Carlson, and edited by Coach Steve, both with Boise RunWalk. This plan presents our recommendations for the last two weeks of training, the taper period. Your actual plan can be based on something different. The goal is to get to the starting line feeling like a caged bronco. A Robie Bronco?
2 WEEKS PRIOR
Get plenty of rest prior to your longest/hardest training run of the season. Take a minimum of 2 easy days between scheduled workouts during this second-to-last week prior to Robie Creek.
Zero or minimal hill running the week prior to Robie Creek, this includes the last ‘long’ run. Base this on personal experience. You cannot get in better shape in the last week, but can fatigue or add extra tissue stress that can slow your competitive performance on race day. Remember, take a minimum of two rest days between each weekday run.
NUTRITION – WHAT TO EAT?
During the last few days before the race, stay away from fried or greasy foods, and reduce your consumption of red meat and large amounts of protein-heavy foods. This is a nutritional recommendation, but the reality is, by this time of the training season, just eat what got you here. Here we address race week nutrition and hydration in more depth. We also cover strategic race day fluids and carbs.
The most important thing to understand about caffeine, regardless of the source, is that it is a diuretic. It will speed up your metabolism and increase urine production. Some athletes like how it reduces their perceived exertion, boosts their mental alertness, and how it increases circulation of fatty acids which may help stretch glycogen stores. If you plan to use caffeine as a performance enhancement (either before and/or during at strategic points), make sure you have experimented in training and consult your coach for ideas on dosage and timing.
Avoid it entirely in the last few days leading up to race day. Know it has a thickening effect on the blood stream for 24-48 hours after consumption. If you must imbibe, partake after the race and after properly rehydrating.
WATER AND ELECTROLYTES
During the last few days before the race, you need 1/2 of your body weight (in pounds) in ounces per day if you don’t run, more if you do. Example: Sally weights 140 lbs, and she should consume a minimum of 70oz of water during each of the last 3-4 days prior to the race. You cannot make up for deficiencies in hydration levels on race day without consequences like having to pee more often than you care to or lowering your sodium concentration and interfering your body’s correct sodium balance. Be sure you are still getting electrolytes in your fluid and/or food intake. This becomes all the more important at the Race to Robie Creek where the temperatures are typically quite warm. Experimentation and experience again determines what and how much works best for you.
FOOD CHOICES – BALANCED APPROACH TO NUTRITION
Carbohydrate-rich foods (complex carbohydrates – vegetables, whole grains, legumes, etc.) are best the last several days. These will help maximize your all-important glycogen stores. Try to get some iron-rich food items other than red meat the last day or two. For more information read our best grocery list for runners.
THE LAST TWO HOURS
With the unusual noon start, hydrate with no less than 20 ounces of water between 8 and 10 am, with the plan of having an empty bladder at the race start. This will give your body a chance to absorb the water and eliminate as is necessary.
DURING THE RACE – FOR PERFORMANCE
Drink between 4-8 ounces of water and sports drink (with carbohydrates and electrolytes) alternately, if possible, every 15-20 minutes depending on the conditions. Consume calories on a plan: 30-60 grams of carbohydrates every hour after the first (approximately 120-240 calories). Remember to read the instructions that come with commercial products. For example, GU and Clif Shot, which both typically come in 100-calorie packages, provide directions for use every 30-60 minutes during a long distance endurance event and with sufficient water to avoid gastro-intestinal distress due to high concentration ratios. Robie Creek has not been providing sports drinks at their aid stations, so you may want to carry your own, but they do offer Power Bar products at their 7-mile aid station. An alternative to sports drinks as an electrolyte source is Succeed Buffer Electrolyte capsules (S-Caps). Ask Coach Mike for specifics.
SPECIAL ROBIE CONSIDERATIONS
The noon start of Robie Creek means higher temperatures, and the question of when to eat your breakfast/brunch. To help acclimate, run several times over the final few weeks during the warmest part of the day. It takes about 10 days to acclimate to warmer weather. Eat a normal race-day breakfast 3-4 hours before the start. Feel free to supplement with carbohydrates during the hour prior to the start, only if you have experimented with this in training and already know what to do.
LOTS OF SLEEP AND STRETCHING
Consider stretching thoroughly the last few days (including the morning of the race) and don’t forget you are approximately 17% more flexible when you are warmed up first. Stretch gently and patiently. If it hurts, that is your sign you are being too aggressive and know it takes 6-15 seconds before your brain will signal to that muscle group to relax and begin lengthening. Sleep is when we repair, rebuild, and recharge. The night before the night before is the most important of all.
The last two weeks is not the time to experiment. Don’t try anything new the last few days (foods, supplements, stretches, etc.) Stick to your plan.
What to wear? Wear synthetics… the same items you’ve worn all season. Dress for the weather, and check out the 10-day weather forecast on Wunderground Boise .
If you have new shoes, try to break them in. Put at least 30 miles on new shoes before racing them. No more than 300 miles on them on race day. Remember, the insoles that come in new shoes break down much faster than the shoes themselves, so consider replacing them.
Arrive to the start in plenty of time to avoid last minute rushing and unnecessary stress. Allow time for a 5-10 minute warm up that is completed about 5-10 minutes before the race start. Begin to drink water again, at most 8 ounces within the 20 minutes prior to the start. Be sure to allow time for using the restroom one last time. Stretch gently while standing in the crowd the last few minutes before the start. Place yourself according to your ability in the starting field so you don’t get caught in the wrong-pace crowd.
Shoot for a negative split – the second half of your race should be faster than the first. Start at a pace you are sure you can maintain for the entire race distance. If it feels too easy, then you’re probably running about the right pace. Note that nary a runner or walker has completed Race to Robie Creek Half Marathon at a faster pace than their best marathon as this is NOT your typical half! Drink some at every aid station. Don’t wait until you are thirsty! Be sure to get some fuel inside of you at a minimum by the 7-mile aid station.
Run with near vertical posture (minimal forward lean from the ankles) on the uphill and flats. Go over the top of Aldape Summit slowly, and gradually ease into the faster, steep, downhill… you still have 4.7 miles to go. Bring your heels up nearer to your rear and keep your stride relatively short and quick on the downhill. Run perpendicular to the ground. Don’t lean back and brake! Learn to belly-breathe before race day so you can minimize your chances of getting a side-stitch on the downhill.
DROP THE HAMMER – HORSES TO THE BARN
Save your inner-most emotions, strength, and athletic prowess for the relative flat last 1.3 miles to the finish. You can pass other runners here (“road kill”) if you haven’t run too hard during the first 3.4 miles of steeper road after Aldape Summit. Say something encouraging as you go by!
Celebrate and dance likes its 1999! But wait, there’s still some strategy remaining… Drink a minimum of 20 ounces of carbohydrate with electrolyte replacement drink, based on how you like it. Try and do this within the first 30 minutes after finishing, prior to your beer. Get some food into your system so your body can immediately begin the recovery repair and glycogen replenishment processes. Take care of your body following the race. How about post-race massage? Sure! Make sure it is light and easy though. Change out of those wet clothes and dress warmly. Excess beer will delay your recovery. Oh heck with recovery, on Robie for sure. Stay out of hot tubs and warm baths for the first few days. Ice and/or cold water are best… ASAP. Sit in the creek if you can handle it! Don’t plan on running for several days (walking is prescribed). No big race performances for the next month.