Taper Week Is Here…

Who hates to taper? I certainly do. I feel like I have all this energy to burn up, I struggle to get to sleep at night and just can’t wait to get out on that trail on the weekend. For those that don’t already know, Shaun and I are heading up to the Victorian Alps to do a race called the Buffalo Stampede. A 75k run with roughly 4,500 meters of ascent and descent heading off from the lovely little town of Bright to the top of MountBuffalo and back again.

Which brings up the topic of this weeks post, “What do I do the week of a big race?”

The answer is – Not much.

But I’m sure you want a bit more information than that, so here is a brief outline of how the next week will go for me.

Saturday morning, a week out from race start, Shaun and I did an easy paced 2 hour run through the hills which I followed with my breakfast recovery smoothie. (I have this for breakfast most mornings as I love it and is so full of good nutrients, but is also a great recovery food.) I also ran Monday morning for about 5k and will do a 4-5k on Wednesday just to keep the legs moving. With the race on Saturday, it’s probably not worth doing much more.

As far as food goes for the week, here is what I am doing.

  • No carb loading. Studies have shown that carb loading can increase lactic acid production during a race. The benefit you would get from carb loading for a race of this length would be so minimal, it’s not worth it for me.
  • Alcohol has been cut out of my diet for the last 2 months. Not that I drink much as I am lucky to have 1-2 drinks a week normally.
  • Alkaline foods, such as salads have become a bigger part of my diet as they are slower burning carbs and help buffer the body against lactic acid. Studies on acid buffering agents such as sodium bicarbonate have shown up to a 2% increase in performance over the placebo group.* Although sodium bicarbonate use can lead to GI distress in longer distances and is not recommended. Better to stick with natural alkalizing foods.
  • Plenty of healthy fats. I am not a big believer on the fear around fats, or should I say natural fats. The manufactured ones like the polyunsaturated vegetable oils and margarines should be feared. Those from nature, like most saturated and monounsaturated have no clear evidence to suggest they are harmful. More on that another time. But eating good fats can help stimulate the body to burn a higher percentage of fat as energy, saving your extremely limited glycogen stores from depletion. Also the body is more likely to store fat from excess carbohydrate consumption than it is with a healthy fat intake.
  • Plenty of good proteins like free range eggs, grass fed meat and some natural yoghurt. Not the sugar filled flavoured stuff. And yes, it’s full fat!
  • Along with the salads, I am also eating plenty of steamed vegetables. These can contain all the carbs your body needs during taper week. I haven’t eaten a grain for a while now and now isn’t the time to start for me. My training is declining these last two weeks, so increasing my energy consumption is actually counter productive and unnecessary.

These are just a few simple rules I follow while preparing for the big runs and I find it works well for me. Although if you are coming up to a race and haven’t tried this way of eating before, now is not the time to start. You trial this stuff in training and iron out all the problems there so when race day (or week) comes, you know exactly what will work for your body.

Run Well

Chris O’Driscoll


* Goldfinch, J. McNaughton, L.R., and Davies, P. 1988

Bicarbonate ingestion and its effects upon 400 m racing time.

European Journal of Applied Physiology and Occupational Physiology, 57, 45-48.

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