Taper Week Madness

@ Palisades Park Police PostHard to believe a year has gone by already and I’m heading to Boston again. After living (and running) through what was a much-anticipated race-turn-nightmare last year, I just didn’t think that I’d be going back so soon; I mean, how could I have known that my chance at redemption would be this quick? I couldn’t. Exactly six days to d-day and the 2017 Boston Marathon, and I can’t believe I’m here – doing this to myself once again – getting butterflies and all excited and sh**! During my two-week taper countdown, I’ve been trying my darnedest to slow down my mind along with training and while I’ve been successful with the latter, I’m finding it a bit more challenging to put my mind to rest. Nevertheless, forging ahead while assessing what I’ve accomplished and what’s left, I remain the eternal optimist and feel that I’m in a good place now after my last long run a week ago.

Along the course

Last Saturday I took off to New Jersey Palisades Park for my last long run. While I got off to a late start, it proved early enough to make it all the way from the George Washington bridge (178th Street Manhattan) to Palisades Police Post, 10 miles in. The entire run was 20 miles, my longest for the training season since last October, and a good one; away from everyone and everything I was able to lose myself in nature and just be.

Spring-time

Since escape is rare and I don’t often get the opportunity, I enjoyed it for the treat it was. I’ve run this course for three consecutive years, around this time of year and continue to find it a challenge as it rolls along the Hudson River.

View over the Hudson

I took it easy on the hills, kept a more or less steady 8 min/mile pace and even slowed down for a couple of pics. What can I say, sometimes a picture is really worth a thousand words.

Over the Hudson

I’ve run enough marathons to know that I shouldn’t be worried yet there’s this nagging bit of anxiety that I didn’t do enough. Needless to say, the time for debating – what if – is long gone, the race is on, pun intended. Being an optimist has its advantages, which leaves me pretty confident I’ll be fine, last year’s mishap notwithstanding. This is the time, I’m told, to exude confidence, optimism and hope, so here I am cultivating an environment of positivity, looking forward to a final taper week of minimal running, some core and cross training and focusing on storing up my carbs, hydration and getting some major snooze time in. I’m Boston bound, ready or not. Strike that..I’m ready and Boston bound in four days!

All the fuss: The Marathon Taper

Source: running magazine.ca

Source: runningmagazine.ca

Yes, I had to go there. While so much have been said about this important component of marathon training, some of us may still be a bit confused with all the information and cross information out there. Tapering is concisely defined as a reduction in training before a big event (runnersworld.com). Well, simple enough right? Except, with runners, it rarely is. There are many differing views on the form, duration and intensity this Taper should take. I, for one, think the concept is important but “tweak-able” as there is no one-size-fits-all in running, only a training method or plan tailored to suit the individual runner.

A comprehensive marathon training plan will include the taper element if only to make sure of its success, as it is nearly impossible to think of the human body undergoing the rigorous training inherent in such a plan and not be given the time to regroup, recalibrate and detrain..for want of a better word. Some pros argue 3 weeks, others say two. Really, it should fall somewhere in-between there but largely be based on your level and intensity of training. Studies and reports across the running spectrum has lauded the benefits of tapering to your marathon performance and goal time, siting improved and sustained race-day performance: increased energy, strength, confidence and endurance as ways in which runners benefit from this training mechanism. Pros and coaches alike also agree that during this period of – cutting back – the body re calibrates itself through muscle repair and recovery, increases muscle glycogen, and boosts muscle power, while the mind de-stresses, which reduces mental fatigue and enhances mental efficiency. It also allows for an important factor, reducing the chances of over training, which  can lead to a less-than-fresh feel heading into the race and even put one at risk for injury leading up to race day.

Experts say the key to a successful taper to ensure maximum efficiency on race day is to find the right balance between three key training elements: duration, mileage and key workouts (competitor.com). For me, that means I’ve cut down my mileage to around 75% this week, next week I’ll bring it down to 50%, while my focus is on running longer intervals at tempo and marathon pace with my speed work dropping to 1 day p/week for 1 hr. I have one medium long run planned this weekend at marathon pace and 1 hr of cross-training at the gym. Next week, leading into the weekend, will see a slight tweak to this plan as I eliminate the medium long run, which will pretty much wrap up my tapering as I head to Boston and Marathon Monday.

I tend to be not much of a rule person and have more-often-than-not found my way by finding what works for me through trial and error. However, in the last couple years, I’ve come to trust the taper method to take me through a race and to the finish line, that is, the few times I’ve not been injured. And so, true to form, I’m in full taper mode and trying my darndest to still the chit chatter of voices in my head that bemoans my current reduced-running state. It’ll be alright I’m sure; listening to your body is key and so is finding the right balance that works for you.

 

 

Carbs and I go Running

image

Carbohydrates are the sugars, starches and fibers found in fruits, grains, vegetables and milk products. Though often maligned in trendy diets, carbohydrates — one of the basic food groups — are important to a healthy diet (livescience.com). They are to runners what crack is to an addict. We crave it..we need it..we can’t run without it – not efficiently anyway. Bad analogy I know but you get the point. While many diet fads are trying their darnest to get folks out there to quit the carbs as a requirement for weight loss, so not true by the way, we pack it on in the name of running; and so what if we actually enjoy it.

Good Carbs                                                                                                                                        Carbs are good, scratch that, carbs are great for you. They are a necessary ingredient to your diet and a main source of energy for runners. In fact, tired, fatigued, listless, unable to complete your running workouts of late? It could well mean your diet is low in this primary fuel source. Numerous studies and information by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics particularly support a diet rich in whole grains and protein for athletes. While I am well aware that we are all in the days of counting calories, it is important to note that the emphasis is on simple carbs with naturally  occurring sugars like those found in dairy, fruit, vegetables, legumes and some whole grains (these provide more of a quick bursts of energy) and your more complex carbs or starchy foods like potatoes, corn and other whole grains. These provide more sustained energy levels needed to carry you through your workouts and runs.

Carbing Up with Power Carbs                                                                                                      Most runners readily agree that carbing up is all part of the marathon training plan and should come into play just around the same time as tapering does – 2 weeks out from the big day.  The truth is carbs are a steady part of my diet throughout the year; all I do different now that race day is fast approaching is be a bit more focused in my selections, which just means eating more carbs as I tone down my running and thus storing up on my energy level, as much as possible, for the marathons. Some of the best carbs, which can be taken pre, post and during workouts to boost up and recover include: bananas, berries, old-fashioned oats, whole wheat pasta, tomato sauce, whole grain bread, energy bars, Gatorade, brown rice and low-fat yogurt (competitor.com).

An Evolving World not so much an Evolving Diet                                                                 The world has evolved from diets  once thought of as either vegan or omnivore as most of us were. Changing times have seen the advance of gluten-free, paleo and other types of diets, most with the aim of getting you to eat healthier, which is a laudable thought if only it is wholesome and sustainable. While each person is different and may respond differently to different foods, a proper and healthy diet consist of carbohydrates. All things in moderation being the watch words. As such, I’m having a guilt-free, carb-enhanced two weeks and have only two words for you,  simply decadent😜.

Good Vibes in Marathon City

bhmatson.com

bhmatson.com

I’ve been out of commission for a few days post-Chicago, giving myself time to heal and so ran just two days last week and one this week so far. I confess to have running plans this weekend on a small-scale. The thing is it’s pretty hard to rest in this city at anytime, far less around this time with marathon madness in the air.

Here in New York City, runners take this tapering business pretty seriously and what you will find is not so much less runners out on the streets, just that they’re not running as hard and lengthy; but look around, they’re everywhere. Ideally, this is the best thing for visiting runners and those who find themselves on the fringe of the running community; one can’t help but be caught up in the excitement that is the New York City Marathon.

I had such a great time in Chicago followed by a successful fundraising effort for Team UNICEF U.S.A that I’m in a really good place now in my head and had it not been for this ankle injury, which is still a concern, I would be in seventh heaven. Right now, I have to be ok with just the  first level; it’s still an awesome place to be. It’s not everyday one chooses to run a marathon for an awesome cause like I am, it is my first and I’m awfully proud of me and thankful for all the support that made this possible. My supporters seriously rock! Which leaves me feeling incredibly hopeful, that, and all the good vibes in this super city. As a runner, I know how important it is to prepare oneself for a race both physically and mentally as both are instrumental in getting to the finish line. As it is the work has been done, leaving only my ankle to coöperate.
My ankle-tester of a run yesterday took me through the city streets into and around Central Park’s lower loop a couple times. Often, I like to sightsee while I run and it was such a beautiful fall evening that didn’t dissapoint from the perfect weather and colorful trees and falling leaves and motivation by the handfuls to other runners with possibly hopes like mine or some of their own. Days like that make you thankful to be alive, running in NYC. I was able to mimic the last quarter mile of the marathon and cross the imaginary finish line area, which is being prepared. Now if that didn’t put me in a marathon frame of mind then forget it, but seeing how I was already there, it provided the proverbial icing on the cake. With marathon week coming up, I expect things will only get better and, eternal optimist that I am,  that includes my ankle.

Tapering’s the Word

source: runnersworld.co.uk

source: runnersworld.co.uk

All the fuss about Tapering. What is it? How is it done and why it is and can be beneficial to you the marathoner are some of the questions I’ll attempt to to shed some light on while I try to get you, “Speedy,” – that would be me – to slow it down some in order to bring it home on marathon day.

To Taper or Tapering, with respect to marathon training,  is the process whereby runners reduce their weekly mileage and effort in the final two to three weeks before the marathon so as to be completely recovered from previous workouts and be rested for the big day. Sucessful runners across the board swear by this as a vital part of training and preparation while it’s aim is to secure your marathon goal; even that of first-time marathoners.

The Tapering Phrase usually consists of the two weeks (sometimes three) prior to race day. During this time a concentrated effort is made to ease up on the long and hard runs, usually reducing workouts by as much as 25-50% leading up to race day. For example, for a two-week period, long runs which generally consisted of 20-24 miles should be reduced to 14-16 miles in the first week with two rest days while the second week should ideally be an easy running week with -say- one 10 mile run with three leg-rest days. Reduce weekly mileage so that runs average between 5-7 miles on other running days with the week leading up to the marathon consisting of less mileage than the week prior. One may be tempted to push it a bit, since with the cut back you might be feeling stronger and think you can go faster and longer, but coaches stress that this is where it is important to stick to method over ability so as to avoid injury and compromise on optimal muscle repair. It is wise to note that there is nothing you can do in those two weeks leading up to the marathon that will make you perform better on race day. You’ve already done it all so resist the urge to add anything new or do any more than – just enough.

Benefits of Tapering

1. Provides ample opportunity for muscle restoration and repair while allowing you to get some much needed rest from a rigorous training routine.

2. Decreases the risk of injury and setbacks.

3.  Encourages a sustainable training methodology that secures your race day plan and increases your chances at goal realization due to optimal performance.

4. Allows you time and energy to listen to and care for your body, which time may not have allowed for before.

5. Allows you to place yourself in a total state of preparedness for marathon day. Here the focus is on proper nutrition, sleep, rest and getting the necessities together for the event.

While tapering is no exact science and largely depends on the individual, their needs and the distance of the event; it is a fact that some measure of this process can benefit you the runner. Be open to making the method work for you by tailoring it to suit your needs. For example, instead of long, hard runs, consider short sprints to regulate speed and bursts of energy. Given that this is my sixth time around, I’d say you have it on good authority that it works to maximize your marathon day performance and in every instance makes you an all-round better runner. So talk aside, let’s taper on!

References: Runner’s World, MarathonTraining.com

 

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 401 other followers

%d bloggers like this: