How to Taper for a Marathon

November 25, 2012

The answer is … I don’t know. There seem to be as many different schools of thought on how to taper as there are flavors of frozen yogurt (yes I’m craving some right now, who isn’t in the last week before their marathon!).

So Many Flavors, Such Few Days to Try Them All

It’s too late to really change my tapering plans, but as with any taper the mind does get a little warped so I decided to go back and look at my previous tapers and also do some reading. There’s calls for 3 week tapers, 10 day tapers, 2 weeks tapers, very little up tempo work, quite a bet of up tempo work. The only thing that seems consistent is reduce your overall effort … when to do it, how much to do it by, what type of workouts to do result in different opinions. And no one opinion is right or wrong when you look at the results from these groups and athletes.

So what has worked for me. I went back and looked at my running log for the last few years. Since the first season with Team Rogue my taper has been around two weeks and hasn’t been a huge drop in mileage. Below are my last two taper weeks from two different races (both at CIM), the first from 2008 (sub 3:00 race) and the second form 2010 (sub 2:50 race).

CIM 2008

Mon Tue Wed Thur Fri Sat Sun Total
of Base
Rest 9 M
(5 Steady)
10 M 7 M
(4 Tempo)
Rest 13 M 7 M 46 84%
Rest 7 M
(6 @ MGP)
7 M 7 M Rest 7 M Race 54.2 99%

CIM 2010

Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun Total
of Base
4 M 10 M 12 M 13 M
(5 Tempo)
Rest 13 M 11 M 63 90%
Rest 8M
(4 Tempo)
11 M 7 M
(4 Steady)
Rest 5 M Race 57.2 82%

So it’s really about a 10 to 15% drop. If you exclude the actual marathon the week leading up to the race is around 50% of the base so the day of the marathon I tended to feel relatively fresh. I’ve found the shorter tempo or steady work 5 to 12 days before the race is really valuable too, keeps the legs primed. I remember going into a race once without much MGP or Tempo work in the two weeks before the race and my legs felt really loose, almost too loose and unresponsive. This approach has worked for me in the past so I’m sticking to something similar for CIM this year.

CIM 2012 Taper Plan

Mon Tue Wed Thur Fri Sat Sun Total
of Base
Rest 8 M
(10k Ladder)
8 M 9 M
(4 Tempo)
4 M 14 M 9 M 52 90%
Rest 8 M
(5 MGP)
8 M 8 M Rest 5 M Race 55.2 95%

The 2012 plan is somewhere between 2008 and 2010 so should be good for me. My training from a volume and pace standpoint also happens to be between the 2008 and 2010 seasons. All there is left to do is just run the race … and keep the taper mental daemons and phantom leg pains at bay.

California International Marathon (CIM) take 3

November 16, 2012

Well it’s just over two weeks till the CIM marathon. This will be my third time running this marathon, both the previous two times were PRs. In 2008 I ran under 3 hours for the first time and in 2010 under 2:50 for the first time. When you hear about CIM you can be decived into believing the course is downhill, it is net downhill for sure and a fast course but it is rolling. Keeping under control early in the race seems like a good way to approach this race, after mile 18 the course is flat to downhill and if you have anything left in your legs you really can open it up.

What does 2012 hold at CIM for me? Well you never know until the day of the race. I’m positive this isn’t a PR year for me, but I do hope to run somewhere between 2:50 and 3:00, ideally sub 2:55. When this year started I was coming off an inconsitent year of running and I told myself being back in the shape I was in for CIM 2008 would be the goal for this year. My training indicates I’m there so goal accomplished. Now I just have to go run the race with the rest of the Team Rogue crew training with El Jefe.

This has been the first season with Jeff as the Team Rogue coach and I’ve enjoyed working with him. It’s been interesting having him get “comfortable” and “get to know” all of us in the group, I can see him tuning things to us individually now as he’s gotten to know us, what we need and what we respond to.  After CIM we’ll roll into Boston marathon training. It’ll be the second season with Jeff and I’m excited about how he adjusts our training now that we’ve had a full training season together. If you’re looking for a group of committed people to train and run with come join us.

The significance of a first mortgage payment

November 11, 2012

Not a running post, been a while. Driving back from the San Antonio half marathon today I was reminded by many mentions on the radio that it’s veterans day today. It reminded me of a really moving experience that was recounted to me, and also of a recent disappointment. First the good.

The story is short and sweet and about a veteran. The story ends with a first mortgage payment. One of the realizations of the American dream many would say. The road to that first mortgage payment wasn’t easy though. This veteran used to be one of the many homeless veterans (17% of the homeless are veterans) in Austin. The veteran got off the streets, was part of a transitional housing program that Green Doors provides. The veteran then moved into an affordable housing program (again with Green Doors), managed to find employment, moved into his own apartment and eventually his own home … and made his first mortgage payment. When I heard this story I really was lost for words, the good that comes from enabling somebody to transform their own lives is immeasurable.

So now the bad. The affordable housing I mentioned would not have been possible without the 2006 housing bounds approved by the citizens of Austin. Proposition 15 which failed to pass last week was going to enable organizations in Austin like Green Doors to expand their affordable housing programs, something that is desperately needed. What’s done is done.

Anyway, I also wanted to thank all of you that supported Prop 15 and continue to support organizations like Green Doors with your time and money.


How is marathon training going … really?

August 27, 2012

That question has to be one most people training for marathons wonder about all the time. You have a good workout, then you have an ok workout, once in a while you just have an all out shitty workout. And then there’s the season where every run, every workout is amazing and the race just sucks. It’s never about one run, or even one season really. You just have to keep going. The most important thing has to be believing in your training, the ups and downs are just what they are.

If you haven’t been able to tell from my previous few blogs my mental angst has more to do with comparing myself to 2010, undoubtedly my best training and racing season so far. My overall fitness at a poorer level but comparing my log from 2010 to this year things look to be in a decent place. A few people have been sharing a couple of articles lately, one on Lydiard and the other on Canova. In both cases there is an acknowledgement that the base in important, there is some difference in what do once you have the base. Maybe less than the articles would indicate. I noted one thing in the article on Canova:

Once a long run of similar duration to your marathon feels comfortable, then you’ll know it’s time to enter the specific period. At that point, Canova says, “What you need for stimulating is to increase the intensity of the duration.”

Point taken. I have to say that 2008 to 2010 was more of a traditional Lydiard approach for me. But I do remember that in 2010 running 20 miles on a Saturday was just normal to do, it wasn’t hard, it was just something you could do. I feel like this season that’s where I am again. I can run 20 or 22 miles without worrying about it, it’s comfortable so faster work is good. I really needed that year and half in ’09 ’10 to get my base to where it is (something the article also talks about). This season Jeff has had us working in faster paced workouts earlier in the season than I did from 2008 to 2010. I like it, it’s good. The 7 to 8 mile Steady runs, the workouts more at lactate threshold and tempo pace, some faster 10k work on the track.  The paces for each of the workout ranges is slower than 2010 (the price I’m paying for being lazy in 2011) but for where my fitness is I’m managing the workouts so things are lining up for CIM 2012 and beyond.

Another good mileston on the road back

August 25, 2012

I’d be lying if I said I’m where I “would like” to be with my fitness. But then where I “would like” to be and “where I should realistically” be are two different stories. 2011 was just a crappy year for training, laziness, lack of motivation, lots of reasons and excuses can be made but it was all on me.

The year and half that ended with CIM in 2010 was my most consistent injury free period of training and the results showed it. Looking at my log since my re-start before Boston this year I noticed that from the beginning of May I’ve managed to run just over 1000 miles! It hasn’t been easy, new job, more travel, difficulty to motivate myself knowing I’m not going to be in PR shape this year (ok time to be realistic, next year this would be nice to be back in the 2010 shape I was in) … in any case I was surprised that I’ve managed to get my average training volume back to the same run rate as 2010. Just need to keep it going for a another year!


Going out on a limb here … but disagreeing with James and John

August 23, 2012

I’m not a coach, I’m not a scientist … so I just get to disagree and explain it from my perspective from personal experience, some reading (not as much as James or John), and conversations. What made we want to write about this, these two recent posts:

So why do I disagree. Well I’ve only “bonked once” and that was on a Sunday recovery run after listening to Steve Sisson (who has since changed his mind about not taking any nutrition) and not taking a single Gu for 2 weeks but with not bonking I’ve consistently gotten fitter and faster, going from a 3:57 first marathon to a pr of 2:48 … so YOU CAN GET FASTER WITHOUT BONKING!

I read all this teach your body to burn fat stuff but any reading I’ve done on this brings up a couple of points consistently:

  • fat is a plentiful store and we have lots of it compared to carbs
  • fat per gram is around twice as much energy as carbs
  • fat based energy processing occurs at lower intensities (50ish % of max heart rate) and takes more time
  • your body can only become so efficient at fat burning, and it is good for lower intensities

So it’s those last bullets. Marathon goal pace is more in the 75-80% of max heart rate. So what the hell is fat burning going to do for me there. I can easily keep my body topped off with easy to process carbs with GUs in a marathon. But Kamran you’ll be better off making use of some fat stores too … ok whatever but if I can keep my glycogen stores up I will perform better than not doing it so why only take one GU in a marathon? And since your body can only really become so efficient at processing fat, and it’s really for lower intensities why should I train my body in that state? I don’t really want to enter a deficit and train for a deficit of energy for my marathon. I’m going to hydrate, take electrolytes and enough energy to be able to go as hard as I can for the entire 26.2 miles … carbs are the way to go for me.

Now I don’t want to discount everything John and James said but wanted to make the point strongly so people get a different perspective. I’ve been coached by Steve, who James cited, for a many years and that man (apart from being crazy) is an awesome coach. James used a quote from Steve: “The body can adapt to any stress if you give it enough time.” I completely agree with this, but I don’t think this means I should bonk by not taking any energy in during a workout. Running longer than you did the last time is stressing it, making sure you rest to give it enough time to take effect is adapting to the stress. To reach that breaking point both physically and mentally I like what Steve called Race Preps (well that was the p.c. name they used to be called Soul Busters), here’s my recap of one of those and below is an interview with Steve himself after one of them.

That type of workout is the toughest physical and mental challenge I’ve ever done. I took a GU like I was racing, one every 30 to 40 minutes but it didn’t matter, the workout stressed my body to the point where I just couldn’t handle it, being able to keep running was victory! You remember those workouts when you’re racing, you remember you were running half marathon pace on a 28 f$%king mile run … you can handle 4 more miles … suck it up. I don’t really want to remember “bonking”, I want to remember a damn tough workout where I mentally held it together.

So yeah during training you don’t have to Gu every 20 minutes but if you do, well you’re probably taking in more calories than you really need but let’s say you wait an hour and then every 45 minutes or so … that seems like a good idea to me. On a race day take GUs (plural), take electrolytes, drink water, drink Gatorade.

Did you see the Olympic marathoners this year? Did you see them picking up their specially made drinks with the right balance of electrolytes and energy? Well they seem to think it’s a good idea, and they make their living off of this, and I think they’re way way more efficient than me so why the hell would I not take multiple GUs in my race?

Lining up for their bottles at the Olympic Marathon

Consistency is back

August 19, 2012

Looks like training is back to something I can sustain regularly. Looking back post Boston Marathon the weekly average mileage has been 60 miles/week. Three and half months till CIM so still a long way to go. It’s been good get back into a regular running habit again, helps with Asia being there to make sure I don’t sleep in the mornings or slack off with the gym work🙂

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