My 22 miler on Saturday marked the longest run of this training cycle and the end of the highest mileage week (48 miles). Only three weeks to go until I line up in Blackheath for the main event and from here on in it's Taper Time!
Except I'm not really sure how exactly I'm supposed to taper.
Last year, my 22 mile run was immediately followed by an injury which took me out of action for most of the 3 week period before the marathon. A compulsory running hiatus. I guess that's one way to taper! And it must have worked, because I got a 6 minute PB.
I can't remember what I did the year before that... (them's were the days before I even knew training logs/blogs existed). I think I just ran.
But this year, although my shins are still being little buggers with their splinting, and the second toe on my left foot won't bend, I'm relatively injury free. I can still run. So how much running am I supposed to do? And at what intensity?
|Taper science. Running Nut knows his stuff|
I heard something about decreasing your mileage by a quarter in each of the 3 weeks pre-marathon. But I'm not really sure how that works. If I did 48 miles last week, does that mean I do 36 miles this week? 24 miles next week? What about the week of the marathon? I can't do just 12 miles that week because the marathon alone is 26! Do I do 12 miles in the Monday to Saturday before the race on the Sunday?
What about speed training, tempo runs and hills? Am I supposed to do them? Or should all of my runs be easy?
Because finally I'm starting to feel good, and maybe even a little bit fast?! My legs seem to just want to GO.
Or maybe that's what taper wants me to feel. Is it trying to lure me in, trick me into letting my legs run free and fast? Because then they'll end up tired and heavy just in time for the race and I'll wish I'd exercised some mental strength to force myself to be good and rest (ironically, something that during the entire training cycle, I absolutely have NOT had a problem doing. I'd go so far as to say that I have probably done a bit too much resting for this marathon).
Oooh taper, you're a fickle beast.
|I searched Google Images for "Taper Beast" and this is what came up. This is a tapIR not a taper. I want one.|
I didn't run on Sunday or Monday, so by yesterday I was ready to run. I planned to do 6 sets of 800m @5k pace on the treadmill in the evening, but lunchtime rolled around and the work running club were heading out to do my favourite session - 3 loops round the lake (1km each), getting progressively faster. I'm not sure why it's my favourite; I always go too slow on the first lap, too fast on the second lap and have nothing left for the last lap.
Anyway, we did our usual 1M warm up to the lake and then I set off on my laps. The route around the lake isn't flat. It has rolling hills, but there is one steep uphill on the far side of the lake which never fails to ruin me. Even when I take it slowly. Rude.
|Death by hills|
I had company for the first lap. Another girl was running a similar pace to me and although she's usually faster, she's got a niggle in her knee at the moment, so we cruised along at 8:25/mile. We picked up the pace for the second lap and I was still feeling ok. As the big mean hill loomed into view, I put my head down and prepared to slow down. But something happened that had never happened before - as I leaned into the hill my thighs seemed to pick up all the slack and I started overtaking people left and right. I was stunned. And even more surprising, as the hill flattened out slightly I sped up. Normally, I am dizzy by this point and really struggle to maintain my pace. It was a revelation!
I still bombed my last lap, but my average pace for the 3 was definitely sub-8:00/mile. And for once, I didn't completely despise the hills.
A similar thing happened last week - a few days rest and all of a sudden, my legs were raring to go. Maybe there is some method to this taper madness after all...