For many runners, the decreased running during the taper can be very unnerving. Avoid replacing the runs with lots of cross-training. The taper is designed to allow your body to recuperate, rebuild, and be fresh for race day. Adding in extra cross-training at the last minute can cause your fitness level to dip and actually lessen your race-day potential. Enjoy the taper and focus on getting yourself mentally prepared for the race.
2. Fuel Up During the last three days before an endurance run such as a marathon, a runner's carbohydrate intake should increase to 70 to 80 percent of his/her total daily caloric intake.
Day 1: The first day of the carb-load should consist mainly of complex carbs (i.e., whole grain breads and pasta). By loading up on complex carbs the first day, you have time for them to be processed and voided well before race day.
Day 2: Taper off the complex carbs and switch over to simple carbs. Be careful though. Don't load up on tons of fruit and the like, if you're not used to eating lots of fruit. Also avoid loading up on simple carbs that contain a lot of saturated fat (cookies, doughnuts, pastries). The extra fat will slow down digestion and make you feel sluggish. This is the time to eat regular pasta and use white bread for your sandwiches.
Day 3: Continue with the simple carbs. Eat your last major meal 12 to 15 hours prior to the race. This meal should be comprised of easily digestible foods that will pass through your system before the race. This is the time for the big plate of regular pasta. Avoid heavy cream sauces and stick with basic marinara sauce.
FYI: Each gram of carbs can store 3 grams of water. So, to make sure you get complete carb storage, drink four to eight glasses of water each day. You may gain a pound or two during this carb-loading phase, but most of this extra weight is water and will actually help keep you well hydrated during the race. Plus, you'll sweat out those extra pounds on the run.
Practice: Eating before a race can be a tricky thing. Test different foods for your carb-loading phase well before race day. Pick one of your longest training runs and pretend it's "race day." Try a mini-carb-loading phase before this run. This will give you the opportunity to see how long different foods take to pass and which ones to avoid because they "hang around" too long.
Note: Diabetics and others with specific health problems should consult with their doctors about the best foods to eat during their carb-loading phase.
3. Hydrate Hydration can make or break your race. Use the following tips to ensure you're properly hydrated at the starting line.
Find out what sports drink will be provided during the race. If you're able, train using the same sports drink provided by the marathon. If your system doesn't tolerate the featured race drink or you'd just prefer to use something different, be sure to plan out how you'll carry or have access to your preferred hydration source. Some options include, wearing a hydration belt or stakeout family members or friends along the course ready to hand you your preferred fluids.
Never use the featured sports drink in a marathon if you did not use it in your training. The different brands of sports drinks contain varying amounts of carbs and electrolytes. Some contain other components such as protein. If you've not tried these products during training, you don't want to risk causing stomach issues on race day.
Don't over-hydrate. Throughout the day before the race, drink water when you are thirsty, but don't overdo it. Drinking 4-8 oz of water each hour works well. Remember, you'll still be carb-loading on this day. Make sure some of your carb intake includes salty simple carbs like pretzels. Also eat a banana or two for the potassium. This will help ensure that you're not flushing out your precious electrolytes that you'll need during the race. Do not drink alcohol the day before the race. This can dehydrate you.
Drink 16 oz. of water two hours before race time. This will provide enough time for the water to pass through your system and the excess be voided well before the start.