Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Tapering is weird

My training program for the Big Sur Marathon requires a lot of miles. I've had 3:15 marathoners tell me they've never run the kind of mileage I'm running to get ready for this race. Of course, these guys weigh 30 pounds less than I do, but that's beside the point. I'm doing this program because top marathoners run a lot of miles, and studies have shown that mileage is the single best predictor of marathon performance. That might be related to the fact that people who are injured don't run a lot of miles, but I do think the sheer number of miles I have run has really helped me improve.

But nearly any training program you choose will also ask runners to taper -- to decrease the number of miles they run, starting three weeks before the race. So that's what I'm doing. A week ago today I ran 10.5 miles; today I did 8.85. Last Thursday I did 14 hilly miles; tomorrow I'll do 5 easy miles. Overall this week I'll run about 50 miles; last week I did 62. That may not seem like much of a difference, but the reality on the ground is a lot different. Instead of doing runs that push me to my limit, I stop when I'm still feeling strong. Next week will be even stranger, with only about 42 miles planned.

Today, for example, I did the usual DART run, 1.3 miles into town and a 6.3 mile loop, but I didn't push too much, running with Rodney at about a 7:45 pace. After coffee with the guys I made the easy run home and felt like I still had another 5 miles in me. And yet after this easy run, I have two recovery days planned, just 5 miles on each day at a 10-minute pace! Sure, the weekend will be a little tough, with a 5K trail race on Saturday and a 17-miler on Sunday, but it's nothing like what I've been running the past several weeks. It just feels strange.

The idea is that you're not going to lose any fitness over three weeks, and the taper will ensure that you're fresh for the main event. But it doesn't make it any less weird when you're going through it.

Details of today's workout are below.

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