Ideally your preparation period will involve “months” rather than weeks. As much of a cliché as it sounds, the truth is if you're not ready to achieve your set goal 2-3 weeks out from an event, you never will be.
Your main objective throughout the closing weeks is to ensure your final preparation does not leave you fatigued. Having a tough final preparation/playing catch up will be of minimal benefit. You may improve your fitness level slightly but walking to the start line sore and tired “from cramming” is not a sensible trade-off. Tapering will allow your body an opportunity to repair and rejuvenate.
Gradually reducing the duration of your long run will be crucial. You will be decreasing total running volume by 10% each week over the final 3 weeks. Speed work can be maintained however overall duration of repetitions will become less and rest between repetitions will be increased, eg; 8 x 500m with a 1min SR rather than 5 x 1k with a 45sec SR. Slotting in an additional REST day each week is acceptable.
For a majority of runners, preparation is filled with determination to achieve a goal and confidence grows with each run. But others, once confronted with the event “head on”, may suffer from pre-race anxiety.
I could often feel myself start to crumble as an event drew closer. To combat this I eventually adopted, in the final week, a simplistic approach to races where I would not entertain any thoughts about what I was about to enter into. I imagined there was a gate in my mind which I would shut as soon as any thoughts about the race entered. I found that even if I entertained positive thoughts about what may happen, negative thoughts would manage to creep in.
Combining a physical taper and a plan to stay in control psychologically will allow you to fully tap into the months of banked training.
Tip: Don’t try anything new on race day. This applies to diet/apparel/shoes and anything else that someone may try to talk you into. If it ain’t broke don’t try and fix it!
Pat Carroll and the TomTom Team