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.

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

CIM training season in review – weeks 6 through 9

August 8, 2010

The first five weeks of the season was “a mixed bag“. The last four have been relatively similar but more consistent:

  • Week 6 (July 12) – 6 days of running, 73 miles, 7:30 average pace, 22 mile long run
  • Week 7 (July 19) – 7 days of running, 86 miles, 7:40 average pace, 21 mile long run
  • Week 8 (July 26) – 6 days of running, 70 miles, 7:30 average pace, 20 mile long run
  • Week 9 (Aug 2) – 6 days of running, 78 miles, 7:30 average pace, 20 mile long run

With any season it’s a challenge to just focus on yourself and your training. It’s really all you can control, what anybody else is doing or feeling is just that. Even with that knowledge it is difficult at times to wonder if I’m running too slowly given the faster paces a bunch of the crew is running. In the end I am where I am with my training and people may be getting faster and seeing the benefits of their close to two and half years of training. My 2:51 breakthrough race in Portland was great for me so this may be the breakthrough season for lots of others.

I feel a little better after looking at my log to see where my training is compared to a similar timeframe leading up to Portland last summer. Looking back to Portland training last year:

  • I was coming of an injury that prevented me from running the Boston marathon, this season was a relatively clean transition from Boston.
  • My average paces in the summer are around 10 seconds a mile faster this summer
  • I’m running an average of 15 miles a week more per week than I was the same time last summer
  • I do feel a more labored and tiered this year, of course my memory is not very clear about last year.

This could mean that I’m faster but it may not. Last year it wasn’t until the second race prep that I dropped my target for Portland to 2:50 so the first part of the season was relatively easier. This season may or may not see the same drop. I’ll just have to keep on taking it easy till Steve says it’s time to start pushing the paces and then I’ll know what the possibilities for the season are. It’s hard on group runs to not just leave it all out there on the road but the patience will pay off … it better pay off 🙂

There is no absolute “right” answer to many training decisions

July 4, 2010

Training and what an individual needs is extremely specific. Over the years I’ve come to appreciate that benefits of being consistent  with a coach and the people you train with. For one thing how you as an individual react to different types of workloads, stress, mental situations isn’t something you can just write down and give to somebody. It takes a while for a coach and you to establish trust and a mutual understanding. There is no “right” answer for all of us, even all of us training for the same race. With Team Rogue for example, we have a general macro that we’re all using for our training but it’s the individual minor tweaks to our training and race plans that we all athletes have a responsibility to figure out. That is the best thing about the weekly “happy office” hours with Steve. Each of us has an opportunity to talk to him about our specific goals and plans and to listen in to what Steve tells everybody else, and moreover how he differs in advice from one person to another. It takes effort to do this so we can perform and reach our potential as individuals. I think it’s worth the effort, otherwise why not just go online and download some generic macro?

This principle of what is “right” applies to our decisions week to week during our training. Do we run easy? Do we run hard? Do we close? Do we take time off when we’re felling sick or do we push through it when we’re off? It’s evident in every group that our personalities tend to drive these decisions, it’s how each of us is wired. About a week and a half ago I started feeling sick and took a couple of days off from running. Then thought I’d try to run 16 miles last Saturday. After 8 miles into it I decided to stop. I could have run 16 but for me the potential gain versus the risk of getting sicker wasn’t worth it. This week was more of the same, ran one day and that was it. That ended with relatively strong and easy 15 miles yesterday and 8 today. Others might have tried to run 4 or 6 miles every day this week. What’s the right thing to do? For me, using the time as a mental and physical break is ideal. I have to balance my work, personal and running lives and if I’m having issues with my health, forcing my runs doesn’t help it and tends to stress me out with everything else. For others knowing they kept running just a bit and pushing through the illness is what they need mentally.

With marathon training consistency and longevity of training seem like the most important things. As long as all your decisions put together let you train for a few years consistently you can be confident you’re doing the “right” thing. So listen to yourself, and your body. Look at your macro and last two years of training and results and see which decisions were “right” or “wrong” for you. Stick with the “right” ones and try something different with the ones you’d question after reflection. See how that goes after the season, reflect, adjust, put your shoes on and keep on running.

Starting to dial in the race plan for CIM

October 25, 2008

Today was a marathon goal pace run. I’ve been varying my effort between a 2:55 and 3:00 hour marathon finish. That’s an average pace of between 6:41 and 6:53. I’m definitely not in 2:55 shape and I know it, I’m probably closer to the 3:00 hour range but have been doing some workouts at 2:55 to try and condition my body but then run CIM to get the sub 3 hour marathon monkey off my back.

Our run today was a total of 23 miles with a 4 mile warm-up and a 4 mile cool down. The 15 miles in between were at marathon goal pace. Three 5 mile loops with a 2 to 3 minute break in between each loop, which really made the loops a little harder since the legs felt heavier after stopping. My goal today was to run the first set at a 3:00 based pace or 6:53, then at 6:47 and then around 6:45 or so. The actual sets of 5 went a little differently.

5 Miles  Pace
34:43    6:57
33:56    6:47
33:21    6:40

I was off on the first 5 miles but don’t feel bad about it. I don’t run with a Garmin and the first few miles were marked a little short so I ended up thinking I was running too fast and backed off when I really shouldn’t have. I adjusted that for the next sets and knew the first few marked miles would be fast and it was the total time I needed to hit.

The worst part of the run had to be the cool down. After standing around for 10 minutes after finishing the third set my legs felt like lead weights. I managed to keep the side stitch at bay, didn’t ever even get to a point where I had to really adjust anything. I don’t think I’ve gotten rid of it completely so still need to get it checked out but it’s been somewhat at bay for the last couple of weeks which has made workouts much better.

Looking out 6 weeks to CIM it’s time to start visualizing the race for me. I’m thinking through a couple of race plan options. I want to break three hours and that’s the A goal. Now it’s down to the best way to do it. My current thought to break 3 hours is to run around a 6:50 pace (2:59:00 marathon) for the first 20 miles, then see how I feel and decide if I want to pick it up to a 6:45 ish pace gradually or not. If I were being more aggressive I’d go out to average a 6:47 pace or a 2:57:43 pace which is where I think my perfect race day would put me at my current fitness level. It’s funny how a minute here or there on the overall marathon is such a big deal, guess that’s what running at your limits does.

Am I missing out on something with “Smelling Salts”

August 17, 2008

Tomescu ran a great race in Beijing to win the women’s marathon. Both Paula and Deena had bad days, Paula because of her fracture in May hadn’t been able to train much and Deena pulled out less than 5 miles into the race holding her leg.

One thing that was strange was the “smelling salts” Tomescu apparently took during the run. There’s are a few people wondering what that was about on so if you have any insight into it let us know.

Thinking of doing the Si Labs Relay

August 14, 2008

I did the relay a few years ago with a group form work at NI, I think we came second in the corporate division at right over 3 hours. That got me thinking about the $100k prize for the team that breaks 2 hours at the even this year. You really need to be an elite runner to do that:

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