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.

An unexpected but happy ending – CIM 2010 Race Report

December 7, 2010

It would be an understatement to say I went into the race this Sunday with high expectations or an overly positive attitude. To the contrary, I was on the fence if I should even run the race. This training season had it’s problems and the last three weeks leading to the race were less than ideal. In the end the results are something I can be proud of.

CIM 2010 – The Results
2:48:30 Finishing Time
Two and a half minute PR from Portland time of 2:51:08 in 2009
Ten and a half minute improvement from time of 2:59:09 at CIM 2008

CIM 2010 – The Lead-up
This blog catalogs a lot of the details of the season, from the race preps, to my inability to stick with the little but critical things to a successful training season. The last three weeks included a 40 mile week (target of 70), a quad strain, getting married :), and getting the flu. Since both Asia and I were planning to race CIM I was going to Sacramento no matter what, but if I would start or not was going to be a late decision. My hydration plans from Wednesday through Saturday included a decent number of servings of Theraflu, I even had a half serving Sunday morning before the race. I knew Steve and Ruth would be on the course so if I felt poorly I’d just stop and hitch a ride with them. I was finally starting to feel better on Saturday afternoon and after Steve’s team meeting at 6 I decided I would go ahead and toe the line and execute to my original goal and plan when the season started … try and finish somewhere around 2:45.

CIM 2010 – The Plan
My plan for the race was in line with Steve’s recommendation for Team Rogue. It was broken up into three parts. The first half, miles 13 to 18 and 19 to the finish:

  • First Half – Run 5 seconds slower than MGP (6:23)
  • 13 to 18 – Run MGP (6:18)
  • 19 to 26.2 – Close

This plan should have put me somewhere between 2:45:05 and 2:47:00, as you know from what I ran this isn’t quite what I was able to achieve. Don’t get me wrong I’m ecstatic at my actual time but want to be honest with everybody that it wasn’t my goal. Yes I can rationalize my results and there are many very good reasons for it but my goal was to get under 2:47 for sure … so let’s say I’m happy and proud of my effort and results but have some unfinished business.

CIM 2010 – Toeing the Line
As we got to the start I had one thought going through my head, it was that both Asia and I come out of the day not getting sicker than we are. It was weird to only have that thought in my head. Guess it’s the perspective of battling a bunch of things the weeks leading up to Sunday.

CIM 2010 – The Race
CIM is a very well organized race (my CIM review from 2008 holds, actually the C- for the water stops is now a B+). At the start we were probably in the 5th or 6th row, which in hindsight was way too far behind. The start involved a lot of weaving and getting around people who … well really didn’t need to lined up with the women trying to get their trials qualifier with the 2:45 pace leader.

I was on plan for the first half. My overall time was 1:23:01 which was a 6:23 pace. Spot on and I was feeling decent. Somewhere between miles 10 and 15 the sun came out and I realized I was feeling a little drier than I’d like to. I decided to take my extra GU and thermolyte pills at this point, something I’m glad I did. Miles 13 to 18 the target was 6:18 pace, I ran this section in 31:42 which was 6:20 pace. Still not too bad given a close is just that, as hard as you can go and making up 10 seconds isn’t unreasonable. Well the close was anything but that. The last 8.2 miles took me 53:47 at an average pace of 6:34. After 19 miles my pace just kept slowing, my effort didn’t, I honestly felt like I was sprinting the last 1.2 miles but the pace after mile 25 was 6:40 🙂

I’d already passed the last spot I’d see Steve and Ruth (mile 18) so hitching a ride with them was a no-go. It was really now a question of giving up or not. At each mile I made an agreement with myself on my “evaluation” criteria”. At mile 20 I realized I had two minutes to give to still finish under 2:50 so that was it. I made an agreement with myself that my pace started going over 6:40 I’d just stop. Each mile it felt like I was about to hit that point:

Mile 20 – 6:32
Mile 21 – 6:26
Mile 22 – 6:35
Mile 23 – 6:35
Mile 24 – 6:39
Mile 25 – 6:38
Mile 26+.2 – 8:00 (6:40 pace)

All those miles felt like I was running all out. My quads were burning and I went through attempts to surge and get my body out of the funk at every mile mark. My guess is I was running the first quarter mile of most of these miles closer to my MGP and then recovering and holding on for dear life for the rest. As I crossed the finish and the clock read 2:48 I was ecstatic, it was a great PR considering three days earlier I didn’t even know if I’d be able to run the marathon.

CIM 2010 – How the Hell?
After the race I have wondered how the hell I managed to run the time I did. Each of these probably deserve their own blog posts so this is just a list for now:

  • Consistency – I’ve been training with Team Rogue for two and a half years now and the accumulation over time and the 15 twenty plus mile runs early on this season have been a deposit I was able to claim some dividends on this weekend.
  • Will – This was a big part of Steve’s talk to the Team at the pre-race meeting. You just have to will it, it’s not about feeling bad in a race, you have to have the will to achieve your goal. Once I got on the line I think I did rely on my will … did it waver the last 8 miles, yes but it didn’t break.
  • Belief – This is really a matter of believing in the training we’ve all done as a team over the season and the years, it would be crazy to put in all these hours and not believe the effort will produce results.
  • Group based Training – There is no way I could perform at this level without the group based training I get from Rogue. It’s the programs put together by Steve, it’s having people to hold you accountable, it’s having people that push you to excel. There are too many of you to list, you know who you are so thanks for helping me this Sunday.

San Antonio Rock n Roll Half Marathon Race and CIM Final Race Prep Report

November 15, 2010

Yesterday a decent number of Team Rogue members ran the San Antonio Rock n Roll half marathon. This is 3 weeks out from our race, CIM on December 6th. A 1/2 marathon three weeks out seems like a great addition to the training approach for the team, nice way to test the legs out and gauge where our fitness lies. Overall I’m pleased with the run yesterday, a 2:45 marathon at CIM seems achievable … not a for sure thing by any means but something between 2:45 and 2:48 seems like something I could manage given things go well.

Yesterday was a 1/2 marathon PR for me with a time of 1:19:19 (6:03 minutes/mile pace). The plan for the race was to go out at 6:05 for the first 6 miles, then down to 6:00 minute pace for the next 4 miles and then hold on for dear life. My overall time was 13 seconds off the “plan” so not too bad on the day.

6:02, 5:56, 5:59, 6:08, 6:08, 6:11, 6:00, 5:59, 6:02, 6:09, 6:03, 5:59, 5:58, 42

The first five miles were according to plan, after we reached the highest point on the course and were on a nice downhill for some reason I eased off too much and hit a 6:11 mile when it should have been faster. I just didn’t mentally gauge my effort well, something to keep in mind on the downhill’s at CIM. After that it was pretty smooth sailing until mile 10 which was a gradual uphill for most of the mile so the 6:09 mile. Then it was just getting into a rhythm and getting to the finish. I’m happy with where my fitness is, but not sure about breaking 2:45. The final race plan will likely come into place the week of the marathon given all the life things (getting married this weekend) that have to happen before that 🙂

As for the race, the support for Rogue’s was amazing. The number of people screaming “Go Team Rogue”, or “Go Kamran and Asia” was great, it seemed to also come just at the right time. Having Steve there right after mile 12 was nice, he gave me the kick in the ass I needed so I didn’t just get comfortable and take it easy at the finish. Seeing Ruth and John twice was nice, I’ve only been a spectator for this race in the past so appreciate them being out there to support all of us.

It was also great to finish and see Team Rogue Elite, Joe shared the good news about the 1-2-3 finish for the men, 2-3 finish for the women, and a men’s Olympic marathon trials qualifier to boot.  Not too shabby for a days running!

3 weeks till CIM for the Team. Time to sharpen the body and mind.

Another day, another race prep, another 20+ mile run

October 9, 2010

Today was another key milestone for Team Rogue training for CIM, our second race prep. This was a step up in intensity from our first race prep in September and involved 2 sets of 10 miles at marathon goal pace (MGP). I really don’t know what I was thinking or feeling going into this race prep. I’ve been concentrating on everything except for running lately (work, new business idea, getting engaged 🙂 Coming into the race prep I have to admit I wasn’t mentally engaged, really haven’t been for a while this season. At the start of the race prep I was talking to Steve and we were joking about the busyness of our lives and he just said to run the first set and see what happens. This season has been pretty different for me training wise. I’ve probably run more miles than ever but have been mentally the most disconnected from my training. I decided early on this season that with everything else going on in life running is the one thing that can’t be a source of stress, it’s my “relaxation” … yes running 70 to 80 miles a week is my relaxation.

Guess I should get back to the point of this post which is the race prep. We had a good sized group again and there were 8 or so of us in the 2:45 to 2:50 goal range. A 2:45 marathon is a 6:18 minutes/mile pace so that was the target today. Given the challenging first 5 miles of the course it was no surprise that the first half was off pace, and the second downhill part under pace. Steve put cones out every 2 miles, a 6:20 min/mile pace for 2 miles works out to 12:40 min.

Miles       1,2         3,4        5,6        7,8       9,10       Total     Pace
Set 1      12:47    12:46    12:45    12:31    12:26    1:03:17  6:20
Set 2      12:41    12:58    12:36    12:29    12:15    1:03:00  6:18

From a time based result standpoint the race prep went well. During the first set after we crossed Lamar near Justin and headed down Guadalupe there were many moments when I felt I could pick up the pace but knew there was another set to go and picking up the pace could be risky. The second set started off fine, actually a little faster for miles 1 and 2 than the first set but something blew up on miles 3 and 4 for the second set (running 12 seconds slower for those two miles compared to the first set). That of course results in the “freak out” where I tried to pick it up a little too much, which resulted in miles 5 and 6 for the second set being 11 seconds faster than the first sets. Then it was back in the groove for miles 7 and 8 for the second set. If I kept that effort going I would have come in at 1:03:11, right at the same time as the first set. Brent caught up to me towards the end of the second set and I had plenty of gas left so I figured I might as well push a little bit so that brought me in right at 1:03:00 for an overall 10 miles at a 6:18 pace 🙂

What does this mean for me at CIM? Racing a marathon is so much more than the physical ability to run at a pace. The mental aspect of running a marathon is a critical element. Your mind is what keeps you going when you’re down, when some freak clips your heels, when you drop your GU … you name it, the marathon will mess with your mind every chance it gets. I’m not mentally sharp this, and I’m not sure if I can be. It’s kind of a pity because this is undoubtedly the fittest I’ve ever been and may also be the last marathon I put serious training time into for a year or two. I guess the good thing is a sub 2:50 marathon seems pretty reasonable at CIM this year. I doubt I’d be able to keep training if it wasn’t for all the people in Team Rogue so thank you all for keeping me going … special shout out to Damon-later, Chris and Asia.

September 2010 Training Summary for CIM

October 2, 2010

September 2010 was a good month.

  • 340 miles (300 in 2009 this far from the race, 220 in 2008 same month for CIM 2008)
  • 3 runs over 22 miles including one race prep at 26
  • Spotty on the gym but managed once  week average for the month (not enough)
  • Pace work and leg turnover coming around
  • Sweet Austin weather last two weeks

Defining your long run

September 25, 2010

I was grabbing lunch at work this week and ran into a runner at NI and we were talking about our training (my marathon training and his Ironman training). Somewhere along the way he mentioned long runs and how for his Ironman he isn’t really going to run much farther than 15 miles for his long runs, very different from the three 20+ mile long runs he used to do for marathon training. He made a point about the intent in his training for the Ironman, to survive the distance versus training for speed when focusing solely on the marathon. The risk of the higher mileage with all the additional training he has to do for the Ironman just makes longer runs impractical for him.

His comment about 3 long runs over 20 miles got me thinking about my last two years training with Team Rogue, a program Steve Sisson started at Rogue two summers ago. During my training for the Portland Marathon last year my log shows me running 10 long runs over 20 miles with a good deal at 22 or 24 miles. This season for CIM I should be around 15 long runs over 20 miles. 3 years ago I would have been amazed to run 3 long runs over 20 miles. It’s been interesting how at this point after the two years being on Team Rogue running 20 miles just seems normal, a down or recovery week results in a 16 or 18 mile long run on the weekend. This may sound crazy to others in training groups or designing their own training plans, but the results really have been great for me. It didn’t just happen overnight, it took me a while to realize there were many things I needed to do to train at this intensity.  It’s taken two years to be a this point where I feel like my body can handle it. The strength work, focus on nutrition, regular massages and icing have been essential to get to this point. The amount of discipline it requires to train at the intensity Team Rogue demands can be daunting and I often question just how long I want to keep it going. It’s difficult to think that after CIM this year I may not train with Team Rogue, there are many friends I see every other day that train at this level and just unplugging will be difficult. At least I know there are other training programs at Rogue that aren’t quite as demanding as Team Rogue I can slide into when I need a break and still be part of the community.

Oh did I forget to mention I got engaged last night. Well I did 🙂

Team Rogue – Run with us if you are serious about getting faster

September 6, 2010

This week we exit the base phase of training for the California International Marathon 2010 (CIM). CIM 2008 was the first race for Team Rogue so this two year anniversary race will be telling. The first season we followed what many others in Austin considered a fools errand. I remember the talks of they’re crazy, too much mileage, they’ll all get injured, you name it there was plenty of doubting going around in Austin’s running circles about Steve’s and Rogues new group. What I do no know is you just can’t fake the results. My personal results and those of the great friends I’ve made in the team since the summer of 2008 have proved out the program. CIM 2008 I ran 2:59, Portland 2009 a 2:51 and Boston 2010 a 2:53

There are a number of things that make the program work for me:

  • The first is the team nature of only one or two races around the same time for this whole group. That results in a consistency with training partners and focus that really makes the tough workouts manageable.
  • The program is measured.
    • The base phase has no speed work except some pick-ups, it’s a true aerobic conditioning phase. We all build to a base between 60 and 90 miles a week (some people hit the 100 miles/week range). It’s based on the individual and our lifestyles.  I was amazed to look back at this season, since the beginning of June to this week I’ve run 980 miles compared to 580 in 2008
    • The next phase of hills/strength eases the team into faster turnover while trying to walk the fine line that pushes the body without injury. I have to say that Steve has gotten better and better at this through the seasons.
    • Then we have a 6 week peak phase leading up to the race.
  • It prepares you mentally with 3 to 4 race preps a season are mentally grueling.
    • 4×5 miles at marathon goal pace (MGP) or a 26 mile workout with 10 miles at MGP and 6 miles on the track cutting down each mile from MGP to Half Marathon Goal Pace to 10k pace
    • You may not hit all your times but you will dig deep to survive, your mind will be ready for the demons of the race
  • Race weekend support
    • Steve and the coaches travel with us to the race and tweak race plans
    • They’re out on the course to keep us on track
    • They are there to celebrate afterward

As the Team Rogue “experiment” started proving itself out Rogue worked in the core principles into the regular marathon training programs, with larger aerobic bases and not falling into the cookie cutter track and speed work from day one approach often followed. That’s one thing I really do like about Steve, he’s a habitual “learner” and “experimenter”, knowing there’s more out there to try and not afraid to try it. That was true in the Performance Project, Team Rogue and also makes it’s way into the more standard Rogue training programs (once’s the experiments have been proved out 🙂 When we kicked off Team Rogue in 2008 he was honest with us that he was trying something new, others in Austin would think we’re crazy and we’d all learn along the way. Two years later many of us area still there, running faster then we ever though we’d be able to and enjoying the company of some great runners and friends.

Team Rogue this year has veterns from the first season in 2008 and a lot of new faces, we’re aiming for 2:40 to 4:30 marathons. What makes us all the same is that we’re committed to one of the most challenging marathon training programs Austin has to offer to “recreational runners”, to the 5:30 am runs, to 10 miles being “short runs”, to attending core classes and hitting the gym so our bodies can support the workload Steve’s program demands of us. We’re getting out of the base phase for CIM this week and the 3 month count down to the race is beginning. It’s too late to join us for CIM but the team will be running Boston 2011, if you’re serious about getting faster and not afraid of the commitment … come run with us, we don’t bite 🙂

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