Don’t hurry. Don’t worry. You’re only here for a short visit. So don’t forget to stop and smell the roses. Walter Hagen
Wow. Week 26. Out of my 28 week training schedule. SERIOUSLY???
It has been 182 days of training to finally reach the point of tapering for two weeks. That is akin to slowly walking up a mountain with a full backpack (that feels like it is getting heavier on some days) and base jumping down the other side! The trick is: how ready am I to jump??
Tapering is a tricky part of race preparation. It is the second shortest amount of dedicated time to a given activity in training (recovery being the shortest), and is often overlooked or full of anxiety. I can keep running the same distances and frequency, surely! Have I done enough long runs? Shouldn’t I just get a few more short ones in now – it feels odd/weird/wrong running less?
No. No. and No!
In A Step Beyond: A Definitive Guide to Ultrarunning, Kevin Setnes discusses Arthur Newton’s ninth principle of running: resting before the race (i.e. tapering). Newton was ahead of his time. Born in 1901, he was a forefather of distance running as we know it now, introducing standards we all adopt as common place such as the long slow distance (or LSD as I prefer to call it).
Tapering has been studied and refined by coaches and runners worldwide ever since. In short, the key is to drop back the mileage in the week(s) leading up to a race to ensure the legs are fresh and the mind is sharp. To quote Owen Anderson of Running Research News:
Tapering works by producing an incredible array of positive changes for athletes, including augmented glycogen stores, increased aerobic enzymes, expanded blood plasma, upgraded economy, better repair of muscles and connective tissue, improved neuromuscular coordination, and heightened mental confidence.
Upgraded economy??!! Count me in – love me a business class seat!
So how do you do it right? There are as many articles on this as my arm is long. It varies depending upon the race distance and the runner’s capabilities and fitness. Regardless, the goal is to cut back the kms run by at least a quarter each week. So for me, running 80+km weeks of recent times, I should drop to a max 60km this week (check – I clocked 58.86kms for the week), 4okms max next week, and finally no more than 20kms in total in the week leading to the run. Sounds like a plan!
OK, so I like to use running as a metaphor for life. How does tapering fit in? Tapering makes me think of stopping to smell the roses. So often in life I find myself ploughing full speed ahead onward and upward. This leaves little time to actually appreciate the pinnacle of whatever I am trying to achieve or the moment that approaches. Creating the space in life around an important event or goal aids me in ensuring I am in the best mental and emotional space possible to enjoy it or gain as much as I can from it.
Back to Mr Hagen – we’re only here for a short visit.