The Monthly Mileage: Oct 2018 - How to Taper for Races

What is the Monthly Mileage?

This is a series which gives you an insight into my preparation for my world record running attempt in May 2019.

It includes an overview of my running and nutrition, plus any major events, like races.

Plus I give you tips to prepare for your own races.

This month’s blog includes my ultra-race nutrition strategy, plus tips on how you can taper for a race.

This follows my win at the Autumn 100 mile race!

 In October, I won the Autumn 100 mile race!

In October, I won the Autumn 100 mile race!

September 2018’s Monthly Mileage blog outlined my training for the race.

And because I was increasing mileage significantly, last month’s advice was all about how to balance family, fitness and fun.

What Were My Running Highlights for October?

In October, my highlight was winning the Autumn 100 mile race!

You can read my personal race report here.

It Includes how I prepared for the event and the exciting race report, where I came from 20 minutes behind with 20 miles to go, to winning it.

To help you prepare for your own events, you can pick up your FREE pre-race checklist. It covers how to kit, nutrition and logistics for before, during and after the events.

Mr training decreased in October, because I was tapering for the first two weeks. And recovering for the last two.

Here are some of my key stats:

  • 438km (272 miles) - Total distance

  • 14km (9 miles) - Average distance per day

  • 160km (100 miles) - Longest run - The race itself

  • 34 hours, 12 minutes - Total time spent running

  • 7,012 metres - Total elevation - The equivalent of climbing Mount Spantik in Pakistan

Monthly Mileage Infographic for JamesRunsFar.com (Oct 2018).png

The Taper

My biggest run in training was a 52k (32 mile) run on a Friday, followed by a 37k (23 mile) run on the Saturday.

This was about three weeks before the race

I decreased mileage significantly after this.

I did a couple of higher intensity sessions in those last weeks, to stay fresh, and then I was ready for the race.

 My biggest run in preparation for the Autumn 100 mile race was a 52k (32 mile) workout on a Friday before work. I saw the sights of Central London, plus Richmond Park

My biggest run in preparation for the Autumn 100 mile race was a 52k (32 mile) workout on a Friday before work. I saw the sights of Central London, plus Richmond Park

The Preparation

There is a huge amount of logistical preparation for these ultra races.

You need to think about kit, nutrition and general admin. 

And you need to think about these for before, during and after the event.  

I use a very comprehensive checklist.  

And I’ll give that to you for free. 

To get it, simply send me an email using the below button

The Win

I didn’t go into the event with the expectation of winning.

So it was a fantastic outcome to come in 1st place.

Mostly because I benefited from the two favourites dropping out.

I was very pleased with my time of 15 hours, 18 minutes and 42 seconds. Which was a personal best of 3 and a half hours.  

But the most pleasing aspects were that my preparation and logistics for the event went smoothly.

And that I felt I could run again the next day.

Although I stopped myself from doing that, to recover properly. 

 Although I felt like I could run the day after the Autumn 100 mile race, I decided to sit on the sofa eating Coco Pops and popcorn and watch Aladdin with my daughter

Although I felt like I could run the day after the Autumn 100 mile race, I decided to sit on the sofa eating Coco Pops and popcorn and watch Aladdin with my daughter

After the race, the month was full of very gentle running.

To follow more of my running and training, follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Strava.

How Much Crap Did I Eat in October?

September was a month of celebrations, where I had eaten a lot of icing, drunk a lot of alcohol and generally been awful with my food.

In fact, my willpower was so bad that my wife, Catherine, tried to control me by shouting “Goring. Not gorging!!!” anytime I was near food.

(Goring is where the 100 mile race was held)

 Catherine had to use some fairly extreme tactics to try and control me from eating too much -  Shouting “Goring. Not Gorging” at me  was one of them

Catherine had to use some fairly extreme tactics to try and control me from eating too much - Shouting “Goring. Not Gorging” at me was one of them

But, In the three weeks before the race I did manage to control myself. 

There was no alcohol and no sweet treats.

My Race Nutrition Strategy

Quite a lot of people have asked about my specific race nutrition strategy, especially in relation to my high fat, low carb diet.

Here is my broad approach: 

In General

  • Don't try anything new in the immediate days before a race or during the race itself.  

Everything that you have on race day should have been tested in training.

  • I don’t use gels, bars and sugar/ carbohydrate based foods

This is partly due to my diet and partly because I don’t think you need the ‘sugar rush‘ (followed by a crash) in these long races. Although I do sometimes use these in races at the marathon distance and shorter

  • I use High Five electrolyte tablets. I put them in every new bottle of water that I refill.

  • I regularly take salt tablets - I use S-Caps.

Early in the Race

I eat solid foods, with lots of calories.

I know I probably won’t be able to eat these later in the race. 

My standard food is unsalted nuts and raisins, which I carry in a small sandwich bag which I put in an easy-to-access pocket. 

Luckily, these are also provided at many checkpoints in ultra races! 

I also use Pip and Nut sachets, which are delicious nut butter pastes, which are easy to digest. And they don’t have the same sugar rush and sugar crash as standard gels.

  • Late in the Race

My secret weapon that gave me the energy to win the Autumn 100 miler, was my wife’s delicious, calorie rich and easy-to-digest almond butter smoothie, which you can find here.

Catherine uses almond butter rather than peanut butter as it’s got less carbs! 

I believe this was one of the major factors in me being able to run the last 20 miles in almost the fastest part of my race. 

 Drinking my ‘secret weapon’ - An almond butter smoothie made by my wife

Drinking my ‘secret weapon’ - An almond butter smoothie made by my wife

I also make sure that I have access to baby food in my drop bags for this stage of the race.

This is because they’re very, very easy to digest, which is a major consideration at this part of the race. 

Ella’s pouches are my favourite. They’re tasty, full of calories and come in lots of different flavours. 

Following the race there was a bit of relaxation with red wine and a few takeaways to celebrate.

My key food stats for October were:

  • 101,000 total calories eaten - averaging 3,250 per day

  • 102,000 total calories burnt - averaging 3,300 per day

  • 54% of calories from fat, 23% carbs and 23% protein across the month

  • 5,500 calories consumed in a single day - This wasn’t even the day of the race… And I blame this binge-fest on my parents-in-law. Because that’s where I ate a huge amount of fajitas, drank Guinness and red wine!

  • 11,300 calories burnt in a single day - The day of the 100 mile race

Top Tips - How to Taper Effectively

My personal race report for the Autumn 100 includes tips for preparing for races.

And don’t forget that you can get your FREE pre-race checklist too.

I didn’t want to repeat that advice.

So this month’s tips are all about tapering.

Tapering is when you reduce the amount of exercise you do just before a race.

1) Don’t Skip the Taper

The first rule is that you do need to taper if you want to achieve your best result at a race.

A taper period usually lasts between 2 - 3 weeks.

You’ll generally have a longer taper for a longer race or if training has been more intense.

In these last few weeks, there is no point in trying to squeeze in some big, or very high intensity sessions.  

You’ll get very little benefit, and will probably make yourself more tired for the race itself.  

Its better to arrive at the start line slightly under trained and over-rested, than the other way around.

Its better to arrive at the start line slightly under trained and over-rested, than the other way around.
— Ellen Moss, Sporttracks - 5 Race-Day Hacks for Running

2) Stay Fresh with Speed

You’re going to want to do SOMETHING during these last few weeks.

So even though you’re reducing mileage, you should include a couple more intense sessions in the last couple of weeks.

These shorter, but higher intensity workouts will keep you feeling fresh and ready for the race. 

3) Use Your Energy to Focus on Something Else

You might find that you have a lot of time all of a sudden, following a reduction in your running.

You might even find that you have a bit more energy!

So use this time to focus on other things.  

I try to spend more time with my family.

Or you could spend a bit more time on another hobby. 

To make sure that you most of this time, put a plan together for it.  

Have some ideas for days out with the family. Or create a specific list of things you’ll like to get done.  

Focusing on something else also has the added benefit of not worrying as much about the upcoming race. 

4) Bank Some Sleep

We’ve all been there.

It’s the night before a race and you can’t sleep. 

Nerves about the race itself play on your mind. 

And then it means you have a bad race. 

But luckily there’s lots of evidence that you can ‘bank’ sleep.

So if you get plenty of sleep in the week before a race, your race performance will be much less impacted.

That’s even if you get a poor night’s sleep the night before a race.  

When they (the athletes) had purposefully slept extra in the week before the all-nighter, their performance didn’t deteriorate nearly as much
— Runner's World

I always try to make sure that I get to bed especially early the 3 - 4 night before a race.

So, if the race is a Saturday, I’ll start going to bed extra early on the Tuesday and Wednesday.

Then, if I struggle with sleep on the Thursday and Friday, I’ve already ‘banked’ the sleep.  

If I do sleep well on the Thursday and Friday, I’m even more well rested.

Win-win! 

This is especially important for events where you start obscenely early.  

Some ultra-races or Ironman triathlons mean you have to wake up at 4am.

So ‘banking’ sleep in the days before is an especially good idea! 

5) Don’t Change Anything Major  

Some of you might recognise this situation...

Training has gone well.  

You’ve got a solid nutrition plan. 

And your kit and equipment has worked well. 

But then doubts start to creep in...

  • You hear that someone else is using a different type of shoe

  • You see a snazzy pair of socks at the pre-race exhibition

  • Someone tells you that the nutrition you’re using is wrong and you should try out their food, which has worked amazingly for them.

And you think ‘what’s the harm in trying something new’. 

And then in the race you get a blister or you have stomach issues.

And you wonder why it happened. 

The taper period is NOT the time for trying new things.  

Use your training to test, test and test again. 

And then use what works best in a race.  

This means that you should be doing a bit of research for the race itself too. 

What’s going to be given out at checkpoints? Can you have a drop bag? Can crew or supporters give you anything? 

If you know what’s given at checkpoints or aid stations, you can practise with that specific brand and food in training.  

And if it doesn’t work for you, you will have to think of alternatives and plan accordingly. Use your drop bags wisely. Or carry a lot of foods that you know you can handle. 

What Are Your Top Tips for Tapering? 

Let me know in the comments at the bottom of this blog, on the Contact Page or on social media below. 

What’s Coming Up in November?

The main focus is the Wendover Woods 50 mile race on Saturday 17th November.

This is a tough course with 3,050 metres of ascent - that’s the same as climbing Mount Haleakala, the tallest mountain on Hawaii.

The course is set on a 10 mile loop which you run 5 times.

And I’ll also be seeing the Gruffalo!

Although my race nutrition strategy probably won’t include owl ice cream, scrambled snake or Gruffalo crumble (only parents may get those references!)

 The Gruffalo will be cheering us on as we take on the Wendover Woods 50 miler

The Gruffalo will be cheering us on as we take on the Wendover Woods 50 miler

I’ll be treating this race purely as a training run.

I won’t be doing much tapering.  

And I’ll be running 25 miles the next day to get some good back-to-back training runs in.

You can follow my progress as I prepare for the event on social media and on Strava.

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