Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Taper Madness (Part I)

I say 'Part I' not because I already have follow ups planned, just that further instances of taper madness seem almost inevitable.

If you're a marathon veteran you'll know what I mean, but for the benefit of those who aren't it goes something like this...

...if training has gone fairly well, by the time you reach the taper you feel pretty much ready for the marathon, but its still 2-3 weeks away. During this time you progressively cut back on your training, which feels counter intuitive: you feel that you ought to be squeezing in quality runs still, and certainly feel that cutting back on training will eat into your hard gained fitness. Between the marathon being so close yet so far, and the training easing off, you spend a good deal of time thinking, or more accurately worrying. In fact, any moment of free time is likely to be spent this way, and its often referred to as taper madness.

I've been afflicted, a little, for the first two days of this week yet I'm arguably not yet in the taper. According to my plan the taper doesn't start until next Monday - a 2 week taper - and this week's intervals and tempo run are the hardest ones in the plan. That goes against conventional wisdom (which would have mileage reducing by 20% this week) and different from most, if not all, of my Paris compatriots. Moreover, looking at their plans for the next 3 weeks they seem to have less miles than me by some way.

Naturally, that is potent fuel for taper madness.

On the one hand I feel I should just trust the plan. On the other I feel I should do what I've done throughout and modify the plan where I see fit. I'm also conscious that I missed a couple of runs in early March, missed a week in early February and have substituted one recovery run a week for cross training or rest so that the overall fatigue level may not be as high.

By Monday evening I was mentally ticking off areas where I could take the edge off the plan: cut Tuesday's run from 10 to 8 miles, drop Saturday's 2 mile recovery run, switch the intervals for fartlek, cut Sunday's run from 16 to 15 miles. Nothing drastic, just enough to cut mileage to something closer to 80% of peak. By yesterday morning I was reconsidering all of that.

This was the dilemma that provided the mental back drop to yesterday's run, which was scheduled to be 10 miles at base pace.

As I set off my legs still had a hint of soreness in the calves, though only a hint, but a steep climb of 0.2 miles in the first mile slowed me right up and left me feeling a little leaden. This carried on into miles two and three and I started to consider cutting to 8 miles. Then, as I started mile 4 I felt a little better, as if I was only just warmed up, and opted to carry on to 4.5 miles and then the full 5. I'd gone out at an average of 8:22.

On the way back I found I'd speeded up: 8:07 for mile 6 and 8:04 for mile 7. So, I decided once more to roll with it and do what my legs seemed to want to do so that I could do the last 3 miles at marathon pace, figuring that 3 miles wouldn't do too much damage and that running at race pace on (what still felt) tired legs and in 15c heat might prove a worthwhile experience ahead of Paris.

Last three miles came in at 8:00, 7:58 and 7:43.

I'm content that I did the right thing but I'll stay flexible for the remainder of the week's sessions (starting with today's intervals) and will certainly cast a critical eye over the next 2 week's schedules as I still can't help but feel trimming out a few miles might be wise.

Diet yesterday: back on track.

Casting an eye over the remainder of the plan will doubtless feature in today's mental ruminations but I wonder what else I'll find to worry about?

Fuelling....the to pack my entry...not knowing what shops/food are near the hostel to help with carb loading...hydration...blisters...pacing...


BabyWilt said...

Nice post, positive and made me smile :-)

~Jessica~ said...

Not that constructive but I'd say trust your instincts: they've served you well up until now!

Good luck with your taper :)

Maria said...

You seem very good at knowing when to adapt training plans- as you are experienced with marathons then you can trust your instincts I would say.

Alison said...

Hmm, I guess it's tough to trust then plan when the plan has been encouraging you to make changes as you go along. Wasn't that just with pace though, rather than distance?

And I can well imagine that comparing yourself to others' training is a head f*ck! Just don't do it. Get off those threads and just focus on you, your plan, and how exciting this is getting!