Holy tired. This past Saturday brought me to the start line of the Grand Island Half Marathon. The plan was to run comfortably hard the entire time, avoiding any red lining. I was toeing the start line with a 70 and 55 mile week in my rear view, some of which included harder speed work. I knew that I would find the GI start line with an underlying level of fatigue, but I wasn't prepared to feel awful. :)
The writing was on the wall. The Thursday before the GI Half I found myself struggling for to lug through a 10 miler. It felt like I was running through sand. Every step was effort. I chalked the run up to simply an ‘off day,’ with a delicate overlap of negligence and being fully aware of the situation.
The plan was to run the GI Half at an even 6:25/pace, a full 10-12 seconds slower than PR pace. Through the first five miles I just kept waiting to settle into a groove. I’m not one to go out super hard. Typically, I click through the first few miles near my goal pace with a little struggle. By mile four I typically dial in and click through miles with far less effort. That never happened Saturday. I just kept waiting… and waiting. I made the turn around at the GI Half on pace, 6:25/mile and thought "how am I going to make it back?" I was running on empty.
I made the turn around with effort that was far too strenuous. Needless to say, I dipped into my reserve tank more than I wanted. I backed off to 6:40’s for the final few miles and called it a day. What remained was a hard effort with a less than desired result. The medal is accompanied with a small amount of self-doubt about performing on race day.
The decision has been made: I’m heading into taper a week early. My legs are don’t hurt… they just feel heavy (like crap). Heavy enough to worry me for what’s to come. Typically, I taper for two weeks. A descending drop in mileage paired with increasing speed work have worked well for me in the past. Not this time.
This time I’m pivoting the plan. My plan is to drop my mileage with three weeks to go. I’ll be keeping things easy, too. As of now, I’m hoping to come off this week with a new found freshness. I’ll test the legs a bit in 7-10 days, hoping to find a little pep in my step. I’m not totally freaking out… yet. I still plan on moving forward with a taper that lets me peak (and crush it) on race day.
The Art of Tapering & Looking Ahead
Taper is an art. Too often runners hit taper and through their feet up, completely letting off the gas pedal. Taper is not synonymous to rest. Sure, you should find your mileage dropping, but the key is to up the quality. You can rest our legs and still improve your fitness. It’s a delicate balance of dropping mileage, but adding interval based workouts.
My taper revolves around feeling and settling at race pace. The final two weeks will include mile race pace repeats spritzed with harder, short efforts to continue speed development (400’s). Here’s an article I wrote regarding different taper techniques, including what I’ve done to PR my last four marathons, including Boston 2014.
For now, I'm trying to chill and not hang my hat on a few bad runs. I believe my fitness is high, but I just reached a critical point of burning the candle at both ends. If you’re in the same boat make sure to adjust your plan. Avoid the trap of making up for lost workouts, long runs, etc that you missed during trianing. We're in the final stretch.. you can only mess up your race day at this point.