With just a week to go before the marathon, I’ve been re-reading the tapering sections in my favorite training books and resonating with the common complaints. Doubts? Check. Catching a cold? Check. Feeling new aches and twinges? Check.
Most training plans agree that it is best to cut your training plan by 25-50% in the final three weeks of marathon training. RW Big Book of Marathon and Half Marathon Training recommends keeping the intensity high, by holding onto a harder day so that your muscles can recover but you’re not losing any fitness. They sited a study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology that confirms the effectiveness of the 3 week taper.
Advanced Marathoning also supported the idea of substantially reducing mileage but maintaining some intensity. They specified cut backs of 20% in the first week of taper, 40% the second, and 60% in the final days leading up to the marathon.
For my first marathon, I tapered but ran almost all easy miles. I’m curious to see if I’ll notice a difference. I threw 30 minutes of tempo into Tuesday’s run, and will run a few marathon-paced miles next Tuesday. I’m been adding marathon-paced miles to my long runs as well. Most of my other runs will be easy.
With all the cutbacks, it is very normal to experience the taper crazies!
Here are some of the most common experiences during the two to three week taper period:
- Doubting yourself: The phsychological effect of backing off training often leads to a loss of confidence
- Feeling sluggish, bloated and weight gain: Your body is storing more water and carbohydrates and can leave you feeling bloated and sluggish with extra water weight.
- Catching a cold: Endurance athletes are at an increased risk for respirator infections.
- Desire to add more miles than your training plan calls for
- Phantom (or real!) aches and pains: It’s unclear why, but many runners feel new aches during the taper, possibly as a combination of getting less endorphins, blood and oxygen to the muscles, lungs and brain.
By far the greatest symptom I’ve experienced is the first one: doubt! A little vulnerability on twitter last week opened up a flood of responses…
I’m happy to report that I’ve been building confidence this week and am feeling more ready than at the time I tweeted this. I also liked Amby Burfoot’s advice from the RW Big Book of Marathon Training:
If there’s a more important part of your training program than the pre-race taper, I can’t imagine what it might be. Without the right taper, all of your hard-earned fitness can go down the drain faster than spoiled milk. We want to train, and then we want to see our training pay off with a strong race effort.
Have you experienced the taper crazies? Which of the effects are most difficult for you?