Typically, I don’t taper. I hate the mental craziness that comes along, the taper madness. I have read many blog posts from athletes tapering. Those stories normally curse the weeks directly preceding a big race. Taper madness, triggered by inactivity following weeks of intense training, includes wild food cravings, outbursts of misdirected frustration, and sometimes the Jimmy legs.
So I’ve avoided taper madness by never tapering. Genius, right?
I ran 35 miles combined on Monday through Friday before I raced my current PR of 2:57:58 at the Phoenix Marathon in February. The month before, I ran my only other sub-3 hour marathon with a 2:59:03 after totaling 40 miles on Monday through Saturday. That “taper” included 20 total miles on Monday. Twenty miles at a 7:40 pace, the week of a marathon PR. Running that much before attempting a marathon PR is a laughably bad idea. I would never write that type of mileage into a training plan. If I coached an athlete who decided to do that, I would pitch a fit.
Yet, when I have a big race lurking, I keep running high mileage days.
I have suffered from some poor taper choices in the months between now and that February PR. I’ve raced multiple marathons, and I’m still trying to put together another good race. For many of them, I end up feeling like my legs are dead in the second half. Maybe my tapering miscues are catching up. It’s much easier to get away with no taper when racing at slower paces. For me to reach my current goals, however, I need to have purpose and enter race day completely rested and primed to run hard.
This week I attempted a taper. I’m racing the San Diego Holiday Half Marathon Sunday. I hope to run a PR. I’m not sure I’m ready, but at least I will know I’m rested.
I was in need of a cutback week anyway. So I dropped my mileage from 101 and 80 the previous two weeks to just 15 this week going into the race. I hope to add on after my half tomorrow to get to 20 for the day total, but that will still put me at just 35 for the week, the lowest mileage week for me since early October.
Avoiding longer runs hasn’t been fun or easy. This week has made me feel lazy and lethargic, and instead of making better food choices, I feel like I regressed.
Even during a proper taper, I should be sticking to my strength and recovery/injury prevention routines. I definitely lacked in that area as well.
So who knows what will happen tomorrow morning. But I’m going into the Holiday Half on a low mileage week, which is as close to a true taper as anything I’ve done in years. Maybe next time I’ll truly commit. I will need to eat healthily and get plenty of rest as well as backing down the miles.
Anyone else struggle with the taper?