Tuesday, March 29, 2011

It's taper time

Well, here we are, three weeks from Boston (as of yesterday), and I am ready to taper. Oh yes, I am. Tapering, as most runners know, is the period of time before a race where you reduce your running volume, though not necessarily intensity, in order to allow your body to rest, rebuild minor muscle damage that your hard training has caused, and also rebuild nutrient stores and glycogen. I really like this article by Patty and Warren Finke from Run the Planet that discusses tapering and carbo loading. I will say that the mileage volumes they recommend, even in taper, are quite a bit higher than I ever do! That is partly because they assume 6-7 days of running...and I don't do that. Also the "advanced" plan has a final long run of 25 miles, two weeks before the marathon. Twenty-five miles? That's crazy talk! But otherwise I like what they have to say. Some important points:

  • Rebuilding glycogen stores in the body requires two to three days of lowered activity.

  • Carbohydrate loading should take place during these last three days (not necessarily just the evening before the race).

  • Rebuilding minor injuries in muscle takes at least five days.

  • Any training effect you get from hard training in the last ten days before the race will be minimal.
So what does taper look like for me? In many ways, my running schedule will not change a lot during the taper period, at least during the week. Mondays will remain an easy, mid-length run (until Monday, April 18, that is!) (6.5 miles yesterday). Wednesdays are speed-work. I am not certain whether tomorrow I will do the nine 800s that I cut to eight last week, or just do a tempo run and leave the 800s for a final shot at ten next week. The Wednesday before I leave for Boston I will probably do "speed-work lite," meaning an easy run with a few 400s at the end. On Fridays I usually do a medium-long run with marathon goal pace miles. I will probably stick with that this week and modify it for next week (due to a half marathon scheduled on Sunday, April 10--that will be my marathon goal pace run for the week!). The part that will really change is the length of my weekend long runs. During this training period I have done six runs that were over 16 miles long. (For some reason 16 miles is the point where I consider a run to change from long to LONG.) Those runs were 17.5 miles, 19.25 miles, 20.65 miles, 21.5 miles, 23.15 miles, and 19.62 miles long. I have been torn between whether this weekend's long run should be longer, 15-16 miles, or a cut-back, 10-11 miles. Originally I planned shorter, then switched to longer...now I am back to shorter. On April 10 I am planning 13.1 miles, and April 17 will be a rest day! Taper is not only a time for resting, it is a time for sharpening. With that in mind, I have two races to run in the next three weeks! On Saturday I am planning to run a 5K, just to fire up those fast twitch muscles a little. Then, on April 10, I am running the Whidbey Island Half Marathon as a marathon-pace practice run. As far as eating, I'm not changing my habits much. However, the Finkes do recommend carb loading in the last three days before the marathon. That pretty much coincides with the days I will be traveling to Boston and hanging out resting my legs before the race. I love the suggestion to start with a big carbo-load breakfast such as pancakes or french toast, three days before the race! I can do it!

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