Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Begin Taper

With only three weeks to go for the L.A. Marathon it is time to start tapering the workouts. I guess it already started because I didn't do a long workout last weekend. This week I'll stick to my 6-mile morning walks and next week I'll cut it down to 3 miles. Tapering doesn't mean taking it really easy--at least not yet.
Mile 1 - 10:54
Mile 2 - 11:21
Mile 3 - 11:17
Mile 4 - 11:47
Mile 5 - 11:44
Mile 6 - 11:17
Average Pace - 11:24
Total Workout - 1:08:24

So what is tapering? It is gradually cutting back the workload in order to give your body a chance to recover and peak out glycogen storage. The long workouts are over, but the intensity of the workouts should remain fairly high.

Here is a clip from an article by Dave McGovern. For more tidbits check out his web site at racewalking.org.


Once you've done your mileage build-up and completed several 18- to 20-mile walks, the real work is done. About three weeks before the race you'll "sharpen" by cutting your mileage back by anywhere from 1/3 to 2/3 of your normal workload to give your body a break from the long stuff and to work a bit more on marathon goal pace. This is your taper period. The goal of a taper is to ensure that you're well rested, but also to make sure you're "sharp" and fast. Your schedule should stay pretty much the same, but with less mileage and maybe a little bit more intensity (that means faster walking).

Your main objectives in the weeks before the race are physical and mental rest, and glycogen storage, but you also need to keep active enough to retain fitness and flexibility. Too much rest can leave you feeling flat and sluggish, but it's better to err on the side of doing too little rather than too much in the last few weeks. One of the biggest mistakes first-time marathoners make is trying to do too much too late. Whatever training you've done is "in there." You can't do a whole lot to improve your fitness in the week before the marathon, but you can beat yourself up and make yourself overtired and overtrained by trying to "catch up" on missed training.

A taper is just what it sounds like: a gradually tapering decrease in weekly mileage rather than a sudden drop. Most walkers will cut their weekly mileage by about one third the first week of the taper, then gradually drop down to about one half of their normal weekly mileage the week before the marathon. Others will cut back by as much as two thirds in the week before the race. I don't recommend dropping back that much because it violates one of the primary principles of marathon training: Don't do anything drastically different immediately before your race. You never know what effect such a drastic reduction will have on your body. Maybe you'll feel fine, but maybe you'll gain five pounds because your body is used to burning a lot more calories during the week. You never know.

For better or worse, whatever training you've done in the months before the marathon will rise to the top on race day-but only if you allow it to. You need to have faith in your conditioning going into the race. Don't undermine your training by doing too much in the last few weeks. So do cut back a bit, just don't cut back too much or make any drastic changes in your training program.