Thursday, March 13, 2014

Tapering for an ultra

So, when your goal is to run 50 miles on trails, what does a taper look like?

If I was running a marathon in 16 days, I would have already cut back significantly on my mileage. My long run this coming weekend would maybe be 17 miles, and it would be over in just over two hours.

But in a tough 50-mile trail race (the Leatherwood 50-miler, on March 29), I'm going to be on my feet for at least 10 hours. Two hours into the race I'll barely be warmed up.

My plan calls for a 20-mile trail run this weekend -- this will take me around 4 hours, depending on the trails I'm running. Even so, my total mileage scheduled for the week isn't much different than it was when I was training for Boston last spring (49 miles last year, 52 this year). Of course, last spring I was just getting over a bad cold when I was three weeks out and my training had been severely curtailed, so my 17-mile run was pretty much a disaster.

This time around I'm feeling much healthier, but I did miss almost a whole week of training last week when I injured my left shin. I thought I was getting tendinitis in the lower shin just above my ankle, so I massaged and iced ferociously, but that only seemed to make it worse. Finally I realized it was actually a bruise, and when I just left it alone, things improved much more rapidly.

Even so, I had to curtail my training last weekend. I was supposed to do a 25-miler but only managed 10 on Sunday. Then on Tuesday I improvised a bit and ran 15 -- and felt great! So hopefully my last long run this coming Sunday will work out all right. I will end up with 70 miles for this week, which might seem a little high three weeks out from a race, but since I only had 17 last week, I think I will be fine.

Next week, the taper begins in earnest, with a total of just 38 miles and a long run of only 10 miles.

The week of the race, I'm scheduled to run just 4 miles every other day. I'm not sure I will be able to handle not exercising at all on the off days, so I think what I will do is power-walk a few miles on those days to get used to the idea of walking with purpose during the race itself.

Normally on race weeks I do a little race-pace running every day, so I'll try to match that by varying my pace a lot during the runs, since that's how I'll be running the ultra.

Now all I have to do is execute the plan, and then execute the race. I can't wait!

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