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Train smart, eat well, and enjoy the run.

Tag Archives: taper

10 Days Before the Marathon

wise running logo 7_25_12The hay is in the barn.  It is October 28 and I just ran the last key workout for the Savannah Marathon.  That leaves 10 days between today and race day.  It takes a full 10 days to see the full benefit of any particular workout, so this is a logical stopping point.  I will not get any faster.  Through rest and easy running, however, I will keep my speed and increase my health.  The little bumps and bruises, the sore parts, the cramps, strains and all of that, those things need time to heal.  They need to be gone by race day.  Fresh legs with no soreness but all of the speed I have earned through a thoughtful and hard-fought process of training.  Yes, 10 days ought to do the trick.

Getting to This Point

Much of my summer was focused on track meets and developing raw speed.  It was in mid-July that I first started sprinkling in some marathon-specific workouts.  I still had a few track meets left as well as a half-iron distance triathlon, so I was not fully devoted to marathon until later.  My long runs began to get longer and I sprinkled in some tempo runs here and there.

In August, my monthly mileage gradually went from somewhere in the twenties to somewhere in the thirties.  Throughout September, I averaged 41 miles per week.  Through experience, I have learned this is the sweet spot for my marathon training.  I make the most progress at about 40-44 miles per week.  Some people can handle a lot more.  This is me.  I have stayed right around there through the first 3 weeks of October, too.

My longest runs are every other week.  At first I was measuring by miles, but after 16 miles I start measuring by time.  My long runs went from two hours and twenty minutes, to two hours and forty minutes.  I completed two 3-hour long runs.  The Sundays between these very long runs were in the 10 to 12 mile range.

My training paces have changed over the months as well.  In July and part of August, I was doing a lot of short (200 meters to 800 meters) intervals at 5:40 pace or faster.  I gradually decreased time at those ridiculously fast paces while increasing time and distances at paces ranging from 6:30 15257355495_c5aa8f7266_oto 6:50.  These are the paces that I want to run during the marathon, so I have run a lot of mile repeats and tempo runs in this pace range.  No, I do not plan to average 6:30 miles in the marathon.  I would like to average in the 6:50 range.  I have to plan for time to walk through water stations and take a potty break.  Hence, I practiced 6:30’s and 6:40’s to aim for an average in the 6:50’s.  🙂

I have done races along the way, but I considered them all to be training runs for the marathon.  I wanted to maintain two to three key workouts per week.  That meant that I could not afford to rest up to really kill any races along the way.  So, they were just training at a good pace.

The 10 Days of Taper

So here we are, 3.5 months after the first marathon-specific workout.  The hay is in the barn.  I will take it easy.  All runs will be at 8:00 pace or slower except for a few strides now and then.  This is enough effort to maintain my speed but easy enough to heal completely in 10 days. My scheduled miles for this week add up to 26.  Next week, I will run 9 to 12 miles before race day on Saturday.

Not only am I going for a personal record (PR) at the Savannah Marathon, but it also the one year anniversary of our wedding.  Muna and I got married on the way to the race last year.  It will be a great day no matter how the race turns out.  Gotta keep things in perspective.

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“Train smart, eat well, & enjoy the run!”

    — P. Mark Taylor

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Check out these books by P. Mark Taylor for more advice on running:

The Gift of Running: A Book for Runners & Future Runners  Wise Running Book COVER mockup

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Wise Running: Thoughts on Running and Life

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Marathon Training: Love, Hate, and The Taper

“I wanna go fast!”  — Ricky Bobby

Tapering is a time of running lower miles and slower paces as you approach a long race, such as a half or full marathon.  It is designed to help us be ready for the big day…to help us meet our goal.  Amongst my hundreds of runner friends on Twitter, Facebook, and this blog, however, there is a disdain (or at the very least a discomfort) that is often expressed towards the taper.

If the taper can help us meet our goals, why such negative emotions?

Why is it that runners have such a tumultuous relationship with the taper?

For most of us, it can best be described as a love/hate relationship.  Theoretically, we love the taper.  We know that we have been using and abusing our bodies in hill workouts, 20 mile runs, track workouts, pace runs, tempo runs, interval training, and many other torturous yet wonderful ways.  Struggling through these workouts and giving everything we have has built our muscles, our endurance, and our confidence.  Runners love to push themselves.  We pride ourselves on this kind of self-denial.  Push, press, strive!

Here is where the conflict arises.  I have now been training for this marathon for over 4 months.  I have pushed my limits and done all of the aforementioned workouts day in and day out for 17 weeks.    For 119 days, pushing it to the limit was my goal.  The days that I had to take off were horrible!  I was thinking about what I should be running.  Now… after all of this time… you want me to ease up?  You want me rested?  Fewer miles?  Less effort?  Are you absolutely nuts??!!??  Where is the “Dislike” button on this thing!  No. It is absolutely unnatural.  I don’t want to do it.

The conflict continues as our brain reminds us to check in on our body parts.  Feet?  Sore.  Knees?  Swollen.  Calves?  Do you even have to ask?  Hamstrings, quads?  Yes, they are communicating loudly as well.  We know that we need the rest.  We know we need the time to heal.  It makes sense.

In the meanwhile, our spirit cries out for more striving, not less.  Our habits call for more miles, not fewer.  Our hearts love the long run.  That is why we got into this.  We love endorphins.  Let’s go get some more, right?  Wrong.  It is time to taper and heal.  We must stifle the voice crying out for endorphins and go with logic.  Bottle up all of that energy.  Store up all those carbs.  Build up that emotional energy… and pop the cork on all that pressure on race day.

If we taper right, we will be like the champagne bottle coming uncorked on race day.  Our spirit will burst forth at the sounding of the starting gun.  The cap will fly off and all of that conflict, … all of that pressure that we allowed to build through the taper… if we can manage the flow just right… will end up in a PR & all of the endorphins from two weeks flow in one session.  Good times, but only if we taper.

Happy running!

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