Tapering for a Relay? Really?


To the uninformed, relay runs are events where a bunch of folks get together in teams to cover 150 to 200 miles by rotating runners who each run between 3 and 12 miles at any one time. On a full team of twelve runners, each runner runs three times over a day and a half.  The most popular relay series is called Ragnar and the more popular events include Hood to Coast, Reach the Beach, and The Bourbon Chase. Here’s a list of even more relay races to choose from.

This week, I will be running in my sixth relay event as a member of the Coconut Bunch on Ragnar SoCal 2015 covering 180 miles from Huntington Beach to San Diego.

I have run on teams of 1, 4, 9, 10 and 12 runners and each presents its own set of excitement and challenges. What they all have in common is that they are all fun, a great way to experience running and friends in a different way and, yes, they are all exhausting and damaging to our bodies.

I have probably written about tapering more than any other endurance-related topic. Once we wrap our heads around an event, we all seem to be pretty good at digging in and training, but we have a difficult time with turning off the faucet the week or two before the event. In fact, the taper can down right drive us crazy. But this is a relay, right? This isn’t a marathon or ironman-distance race. We’re running three or four times over the course of two days and the longest we’ll probably run is 10 miles. In fact, for many, we’ll be taking less than the distance of the marathon and breaking it up into three separate runs – e.g., 9 miles, 7 miles and 7 miles. How hard can that be? I certainly don’t have to taper for this, right?

Here’s the deal, because relay runs seem so doable, they also attract a lot of folks who are new to running and new to racing. Even elite runners cannot expect to put forth multiple efforts without adequate rest in between. This is true whether we are running 100 meters or 50 miles. Our bodies need time to rest, recover and repair and underestimating the impact of this can make your second or third leg of your relay really difficult and not much fun at all.

Here then are my tips for tapering during the week before your relay:

Stay away from impact activities - In short, you don’t want to do any damage to your leg muscles this week. I cannot stress this enough. If you beat your legs up during the week, you will have a miserable experience this weekend. If you don’t want to run this week, that’s perfectly fine. To avoid bouncing off of the walls, feel free to cycle, swim or left weights, (upper body only) and don’t make this the week you decide to start any of these for the first time. This is also not the week to reignite your passion for basketball or any other high impact, high injury-prone sport.

Stretch, do Pilates and as much Yoga as you like - Once again, if you’ve never done any of these activities, now is not the week to jump into P90-X or Insanity, but if your local YMCA has a stretching or Pilates class, feel free to enjoy it in moderation. You can definitely benefit from mobilizing your joints and activating your core muscles the week before your event.

Get lean – The second most popular email or text I get is, “But I feel bloated and fat and I’m going to be huge by race day.” Here’s the truth, when you have a dip in caloric expenditure due to taper or injury, take advantage of this to get ruthless with your diet. Eat nutrient-dense, lower calorie foods that give you energy and make you feel great. Increase your fiber intake at the beginning of the week and then taper off of that as well. Stay away from sugar! Not only will you have a ton of energy on race day, but focusing on this will allow to avoid the sugar cravings that are stress induced and you will probably be a few pounds lighter on event day, and that will make your running that much easier and give you a tremendous amount of confidence.

When you do run, reduce the mileage and the volume but not the intensity - you can run twice this week but only one can be 45 mins, a second of no more than 30 mins, and if your second run is on Thursday, then make that run no more than 15 mins. For example: Monday – 45 mins easy; then Wednesday – 30 mins of treadmill intervals OR Thursday – 1.5-mile shakeout run, but not both. Remember, if you do run on Thursday, make sure your last run is just to break a sweat, fifteen minutes or less. You don’t need to run at all this week. Running at all is primarily to maintain your sanity and keep your legs loose, responsive and springy. It will also help keep your digestive tract moving regularly, and who doesn’t like that? Remember, it is better to be under-trained than over-trained and this is not the week to make up for lost training or to prove to yourself how resilient and capable of a runner you are. Save that for relay weekend.

Get your gear in order early – If laying out clothes for a marathon or Ironman is stressful, then managing all of your gear for a relay can be downright debilitating. You have three sets of clothing, you have to run at night and need reflectors and headlamps, and even more gear for when you are sitting around in the van. You need something to sleep in, and what if it rains, etc, etc, etc. Get all of your gear in order at the beginning of the week and then leave it alone. Don’t add this stress to you in the final days leading up to your event.

That’s it. If you want to read more about tapering, feel free to check out these prior articles. In short, you want to show up on event day well rested and a little anxious, but full of promise and energy just waiting to be released.







The 2012 “10 in 10 Challenge” – Week 1 Results: (-6 lbs); Cummulative Results (-6 lbs)

For those new to this blog, this entry follows my progress as a member of the 2012 – 10 in 10 Challenge, where a group of 50 or more people  have committed themselves to losing 10 or more pounds in the first 10 weeks of 2012.

This blog report covers progress through week 1 of 10, January 9th through January 15th.

How’d I do? (The Outcome Goal) My Outcome Goal is to lose 20 pounds in the ten week period. This will bring me down to 200 pounds for the first time in more than four years. I’m happy to have started this year lighter than I started last year and this has been a great start to 2012 but it still leaves me about 20 pounds heavier than where I need to be to get back to competition and where I feel healthiest. That said it is an AWESOME beginning to the year. How’d I do? I lost six pounds in the first week of this challenge. SIX POUNDS LOST. This is pretty darn exciting, in fact when I got off the scale showing 213 pounds, I felt energized, I felt lighter, and I felt really good!

I found a photo of myself from 2007 from the Cadence Kona Challenge and was shocked how how different I look now. My friend and fellow triathlete Tammy asked if I was discouraged or inspired by seeing this photo. In truth, I’m not sure of the answer.  Having reflected on it for the past day, I find that this has only strengthened my resolve to get back to a strong physical, mental, emotional and spiritual being.

Now to the six pounds lost. As excited as I feel about this result, I also realize that there is some variability to any weight result on any given day simply due to hydration and other factors. I need to take it all in moderation.

My weekend at ZenTri Base and Nutrition Camp here in San Diego definitely contributed to this positive result as I was taken out of my normal environment for 3 of the 7 days and surrounded by health conscious folks eating small healthy meals regularly primarily of green foods that don’t come with UPC labels.

The facts are that I now weigh 213 pounds, and am pleased with the way my own personal Challenge has started. I’m progressing in the right direction.The rest of my report focuses on my process goals where I use three levels of performance measures. Less than Expected, Met Expectations and Exceeded Expectations. My grade for this week?

Overall, for week 1 I gave myself a self assessment of Met Expectations. Let’s jump into particulars.

My year to date weekly progress:

  • Week 1: -6.0
  • Cumulative Challenge Results to Date: -6.0

Report Card: Week 1

January 9 to January 16:

The chart above is created using Joe’s Goals.

Caloric Intake/Nutrition = Met Expectations

January 9 to January 16:

Eat light and often: I ate light all week except for one digression for some Italian food. I did not however eat as often as perhaps I should, meaning, I didn’t regulate my eating to align to my goal of eating regularly every 3 hours and map to the timing of my caloric expenditure.

Eat Healthy Breakfast: Consistently.

Eat fresh whole foods and protein: Lots of fresh whole fruit. Protein came primarily through eggs.

No chocolate: Haven’t had chocolate since December 31, 2011.

Avoid junk food and sugar: Pretty good. Less about sugar, can still make progress on chips and breads.

Stop eating 60 mins. before going to sleep: Pretty good here as I didn’t snack before going to sleep.

Caloric Expenditure/Positive Stress = Less Than Expected

January 9 to January 16:

Workouts captured on Buckeye Outdoors, a free online training log.

Workout early: Yes – for four out of the seven days.

Min 45 mins of Cardio: An okay week with 7 Runs (25 Miles), and 2 other cardio workouts.  Not great as I missed two full days of training due to business travel.

Resistance training: Nothing :-(

Stretch and Core: Got to participate in MovementU with Jessi Stensland here at ZenTri Base and Nutrition Camp but I have a lot I can do better here.

Recovery/Adaptation = Met Expectations

January 9 to January 16:

Sleep min of 7 hours per night: A good week of sleep and recovery.

Conclusion: A really fantastic result after a week that was primarily dominated by effective nutrition. I adapted to my environment of being in three cities in three states this past week and still did enough to keep progress moving forward. Next week has even more challenges that I will have to overcome by effective time management and keeping healthy foods as close as possible as I will lose the support that the camp provided and will be working and living out of hotel rooms. See you in a week.

Exercise – A Little Goes A Long Way

Today many of us started on our challenge to lose ten pounds in the next ten weeks as part of the 2012 10 in 10 Challenge. While this is an admirable achievement, even MORE benefits will come after that ten weeks has long passed. The habits and rituals which we need to adopt to be successful in the first ten weeks of the year will make us much, much, much healthier by the end of the year and hopefully far beyond that as well.

Healthy living should be a part of your life like brushing you teeth. Unfortunately healthy living is more like flossing, everyone knows that we should be doing it, we know the negative effects if we don’t, but unlike brushing our teeth, flossing hasn’t become a habit and therefore most people in the US simply don’t do it on a regular basis.

Here’s the good news, a series of studies have shown that by just getting off the couch of doom and making walking around, moving around, and exercising a part of your daily routine you will dramatically increase the years you will live as well as the quality of life in those years that you live.

Check out this great and entertaining video from Dr. Mike Evans that explains all of the scientific details:

That’s it. It’s that simple. Throughout the next ten weeks, many of you will be exploring a variety of behaviors that will help you lose weight in a healthy manner, and in the process you’ll probably also find a few that you thought would work but didn’t. This is the fun part, keep trying. Try a variety of things and use your network to seek out advice until you find what works for you. The thing to remember is that while you are trying all of these things out, keep moving. This alone will help make daily exercise a regular part of your daily routine and once its part of your routine, it’s really hard to strip it out.


The 2012 “10 in 10 Challenge” – Week 0: bRING in the New Year with Healthy Snacks!

Now that you spent yesterday clearing out your refrigerator and cupboards of the crap in it, it’s time to continue our preparation week for the 2012 10 in 10 Challenge by filling up some of the empty shelf space with healthy snacks and ingredients, the types of the foods that result in increased energy and a healthier feeling you. There are a thousand references available to help you understand what you should eat, why you should eat it and what it will do for you. If you do this right, you will maximize the amount of weight you lose as well as maximize your body’s performance. To simplify and summarize all of this for you, I’ll provide you with six key things to remember:

  • Eat light and often
  • Shift to a nutrient-dense plant-based diet
  • Reduce the size of your portions
  • Increase the number of small meals throughout the day
  • Eat protein, PH balancing foods and low glycemic foods first
  • Don’t ignore your cravings

We’ll cover each of these in more detail in the weeks to come. To start, your objective should be to put energy producing foods into your system by eating light and often. This should be your mantra for the next ten weeks and beyond – light and often. By starting this week, you’ll get your body prepared and you’ll initiate the behaviors necessary for you to accomplish this one simply goal. From a physiological standpoint, you want to keep your blood sugar and insulin levels as constant as possible, avoiding any wild swings by either starving yourself or binging. If dripping nutrients into your system through an IV was practical, I’d recommend that, but since it isn’t, set yourself up for success by having light healthy snacks readily available for you. Put them where you will need them. Don’t give yourself any excuse not to eat them, in short time, you’ll grab them willingly but for now reduce any barriers to adopting that which might be a new behavior for you.

In my experience, there are two types of eaters, those who prepare foods and those who don’t. Being a road warrior, I’m clearly in the latter category. If you’ve never been a food preparer, and you have the urge, go for it. If you find it relaxing, you’ll get an added benefit. But if it gets in the way or creates anxiety for you, realize that there’s probably a reason why you haven’t done it to this point so during this transition period, start by changing what you eat rather than how you prepare it. Regardless if you are a food preparer or a food purchaser, to help you along, our good friend, accomplished triathlete and holistic nutritionist Christine Lynch has prepared a list of foods and ingredients based on the type of eater you are:

List #1 For the Food Preparers – Key Ingredients for Your Shopping List

  1. kale (or another leafy green veggie that you haven’t tried)
  2. quinoa
  3. acorn squash (or another root vegetable)
  4. lentils
  5. toasted sesame oil
  6. salmon
  7. coconut oil
  8. tempeh
  9. berries
  10. coconut oil

List #2 for the Food Purchasers – Healthy Snack Ideas (first identify whether you are craving crunchy, sweet, salty, or creamy)

  1. (crunchy) -  crunchy crudités of veggies and dip (hummus, tabouli, vinaigrette, favorite dressing)
  2. (crunchy) -  light popcorn or plain popcorn: use coconut oil to pop in a covered pan
  3. (sweet) - apples and almond butter
  4. (sweet) -  fruit “ice cream”: peel a banana, freeze, blend in a food processor with nuts, berries or raisins and serve; can be put through the screen of a juicer for a creamier consistency.
  5. (sweet) - organic dark chocolate chips or carob chips
  6. (salty) - salted edamame
  7. (salty) – olives, pickles
  8. (salty) -  tabouli, hummus
  9. (creamy) – mashed sweet potato
  10. (creamy) – avocado

Snacks are usually between 100-150 calories max and you want to eat them approximately every three hours. Never let yourself go longer than four hours without eating.

Christine will be providing additional tips each week throughout the 10 in 10 Challenge to help with preparing great meals with the ingredients listed above, and if you want personal advice or help setting up your own nutritional plan, reach out to her directly. You can find her blog at www.holisticguru.blogspot.com.

Remember, that today is about filling your refrigerator and your spirit as you continue to prepare not only for the beginning of your 10 in 10 Challenge journey but for the rest of your healthy life. Don’t be afraid to try new things and have some fun with it. One thing you might also do is “Like” #i8this on facebook. It’s a fun place where people just like you post photos and comments about what new foods they are trying and their reactions to them. Essentially it’s a place that encourages you to “Play with your Food”.

Happy snacking!