- Backpacks & Waist Packs
Those of you with a race in the near future will likely be turning your thoughts to tapering.
“In the context of sports, tapering refers to the practice of reducing exercise in the days just before an important competition. Tapering is customary in many endurance sports, such as the marathon, athletics and swimming. For many athletes, a significant period of tapering is essential for optimal performance. The tapering period frequently lasts as much as a week or more.”
The general idea is that you finish your period of training with a workout simulating the actual race distance and conditions and that this is immediately followed by a period of tapering. The taper is a process of winding down, reducing the extent of exercise over a period of up to 3 weeks. Medical studies suggest that the final three weeks of marathon training programs are critical to training.
“A review of fifty studies on tapering indicates that optimal levels of muscle glycogen, enzymes, antioxidants, and hormones, which are significantly depleted by intense endurance training, are achieved during a taper.”
(Information from Wikipedia)
I have included some links that may prove useful for anyone with an impending race. I would suggest that these are excellent sources of reference and should be read by anyone who has a race to prepare for. Having read the information, it is then down to seeing what works for you. Unfortunately, tapering, whilst theoretically straightforward, is often practically quite different - or at least it is where I am concerned.
In a nutshell, the idea is that you run less and rest more. Sounds good! – or at least it does in principal!
If this is the part where you expect me to tell you how I followed the recommended 3 week taper to the letter and combined it with a few days of carb loading so that I ended up on the starting line brimming with energy and raring to go - stop now or forever be disillusioned!
My first taper was for the Edinburgh Marathon back in 2009, my first marathon. I followed the suggested 3 week taper. I followed the suggested approach to carb loading in the final few days leading up to the Marathon. Come the day of the marathon, I found myself on the line, ready to go - unfortunately feeling rusty, lethargic, and bloated. In fact, I would go so far as to say that I felt like the Michelin Man! (In all honesty, the Michelin Man to the right looks far fitter than I felt that day)
That was the first and last time that I followed the recommended approach to tapering and carb loading!
Speaking with friends who also ran that day, many of them for the first time, there was similiar disillusionment with the traditional 3 week taper. It appears that I wasn’t the only one who got it ‘wrong’.
So, beware - it is not a one size fits all approach and should be approached with caution. I think the main thing is to do what feels right. Listen to your body, and obviously to consider at all times that this is intended as a wind down period so that you are in the best possible shape on the big day.
If there is one thing that I have learnt about tapering, it is that it fairly highlights any niggles you have and this is also something to beware of. I can’t recall where I first read that but I have to agree with it. While you are in the full on training stage, punishing the body week in, week out, it is only natural to feel tired and/or sore. When you still get those feelings having backed off from training, that is when the mind goes in to overdrive – am I injured, how bad is it, will it be sorted in time for the race, and so on. My advice to you is ‘Don’t Panic!’
I am writing this the day before the D33, the first of the Scottish Ultra Marathon Series races for 2012. I have spent the past week panicking! Everything from illness concerns, injury concerns and kit concerns has gone through my head this past week.
The extent of my ‘tapering’ was that, for the first time in a month, I did not run in excess of 20 miles. Last weekend I started my taper with runs of 10 and 12 miles respectively. I reached these arbitrary distances as a result of a quick poll on Facebook amongst friends who are also running tomorrow. With responses ranging from Munro bagging to 5 mile runs, I plumped for what I saw as the middle ground.
Unfortunately, things did not go to plan! Neither run felt particularly good.
The main problem was the throbbing pain in my right shoulder. You would think that this would have little bearing on your ability to run. Unfortunately, it prevented me from swinging my arm naturally, something that was essential to running with any ounce of speed! I tried running with my right arm hanging by my side - this didn’t help in the slightest. Fortunately the trail was quiet – no one was around to witness my attempt at a zombie run. By the time I returned from my run on Saturday I was fairly despondent. Less than a week to go and I was injured.
Now normally I would be clueless as to when I had incurred the injury. That was not the case on this occasion. I thought back to my descent from the trails around the Lairig Ghru less than a week earlier, arms windmilling as I tried to descend with even the smallest element of control (fail!). This was most definitely when I had done the shoulder some damage.
The Sunday run went marginally better, but only because the sharp pain in my shoulder was replaced with a numbness from mile 8 onwards. On top of that, I was distracted by the heat which was most unexpected, offering the potential of starting the years tan!
One thing that I was reminded of which again put me off ‘tapering’ was that I usually feel pretty ropey in the first few miles of any run, up until the point where everything settles down and I just get on with it.
When I am running shorter distances, that point of contentment appears to come relatively late in the run and, as a result, I do the whole over-analysis of what went wrong/where/how etc.
The return of Mrs Mac from a month away working in Houston certainly got the week off to a good start.
On the Monday neither I nor Mrs Mac felt 100%. I thought long and hard about what they say about planes, people, recycled air and germs.
At that point, I wrote off my impending race. I was almost certain that I was in for a dose of the flu. My tendency to fear the worst kicked into overdrive!
All things considered, I decided I would be on the start line, regardless of how poorly I felt. This was, after all, the first race of the season and I would be there, flu or no flu.
On Tuesday I felt fine - or at least health wise I did. So that will be the no flu option then. Ahem - Panic over!
I ran for just 3 miles on Tuesday evening but it was enough to highlight that the shoulder injury was still with me.
Bugger! (Panic resumed)
On Wednesday, my new Hoka Stinson Evo trainers arrived. (Panic momentarily forgotten)
Now any sane person would probably discount the thought of running 33 miles in brand new shoes. You should ***never*** run in brand new shoes.
With this in mind, I ran just under 5 miles on Thursday evening. I now, ahem, consider the shoes to be broken in and will toe the line in the Stinsons on Saturday morning.
On the plus side, the Hokas felt lush.
On the down side, there’s still no sign of a let up in the shoulder injury.
Bugger! (Panic resumed)
So, a day until the D33, the first of the Scottish Ultra Marathon Series races, and I know that I will not be 100% when I reach the start line. I had hoped to attain a new PB. I have revised this. I only want to finish, anything else is a bonus.
I have not, however, sunk into the depths of despair. Thinking back to this time last year, my longest (and only) long run had been 18 miles. Thanks in part to the mild weather, I have racked up a good few long runs with the longest being 30 miles. In 2010 and 2011 my January & February mileage was 210 and 201 miles respectively. In 2012 I racked up 335 miles – which, in panic mode, leads me to consider ‘have I overtrained?’ (arrrgghhhh! I just can’t win!)
It’s like race day but amplified - you know the feeling where the hours are counting down, the nerves are kicking in, and you just want to get started - the way I feel now is like that, only I started 7 days too early and maintained it for the best part of the week! (Who am I kidding, I am still panicking - I will still be panicking until about an hour in to the run when hopefully everything will start to settle down and I once again attain that point of contentment.)
All things considered, I should feel better prepared and, with this in mind, I have to ask myself, why but why have I spent the last week panicking!
The weird thing is that I think the successes of last year are partly to blame. The logical way of looking at things would be to take the experiences of last year and to take this as proof that I can complete my ultramarathons. I have, however, taken the successes of last year and turned them into a stick with which to beat myself! What if I can’t do them, what if I get a DNF, what if I don’t get a PB, what if my miles are slower and not, as you would expect one year on, faster.
Only time will tell how tomorrow, and indeed the rest of the 2012 season, will turn out. The main thing that I need to do is to keep some perspective on what’s important and to try and enjoy the races, to learn from them, and to try and better my previous performances if at all possible but to work within whatever set of circumstances I happen to find myself in on the day!
Best of luck to all those running this weekend and especially to those who will be with me at the D33. I hope that your race day build up is considerably less stressful than mine!
Having been listening to more running related podcasts, I thought I would share this gem with you as it may well strike a chord with a number of Running Bug members. It was a US based podcast and the presenters were interviewing someone who had lost a lot of weight but was, like myself, still classed as ‘heavy’ in comparison to a typical ultra runner. If I recall correctly, the guy in question was now approximately 16 stone, having started at 28 stone, an amazing amount of weight loss.
“think running an ultramarathon is tough? Tough is walking into a meeting hoping that the chairs dont have arms, tough is walking on to a plane and seeing in people’s faces the worry about ‘is this guy sitting next to me’.”
Hopefully I will not need to dig deep this coming Saturday, but if I do, then this is one that I can certainly give some consideration to. I was really touched to hear the above in the interview.
At the end of the day, I choose to put myself through the ringer in my ultramarathons. I know that there will very likely be low points and yet I choose to make these testing times part of my life. When I heard the above it certainly put things into perspective and it made me think long and hard about just how judgemental people, myself included, can be.
1st trip for Harris to Loch an Eilein to finish off our long weekend. Finally time to head home. Back soon :o) http://t.co/RM8fBkDJha
@BoatofGartenGC spot on with the weather forecast. What a cracking day once the mist lifted. Can't wait for our next Cairngorm holiday :o)
Finally leaving Coylumbridge after a great weekend in the Cairngorms. Sun is shining, it's 6pm and 17deg, seems wrong to leave lol! :o)