12 days. That’s all I have left until the Ottawa Marathon. I cannot believe how fast it has come. It seems like just yesterday I was strapping on my shoes for my first sub-zero training run of the season.
As I began week 18 of my training last Monday, it was time to start tapering while I finish up my speed workouts. Think of marathon training like building a house. During the last 18 weeks I have worked on building the foundation with my long runs, and putting up the frame with my hill training. Endurance and strength. In the final few weeks, you focus on your speed training, getting your body used to managing pace and exploding when you need to, but holding back at times too. This is the roof. Finally, before you move into the house, you need to clean everything up, sweep the floors, wash the windows, and make sure it is liveable. This is where tapering comes in.
Tapering: When, How and Why?
Tapering is one of the most important yet often overlooked aspects of marathon training. During the last 2-3 weeks of your training, it is suggested that you taper, meaning that you run less and rest more. Most marathoners find this very difficult, because they are competitive people, motivated to run harder, faster and longer. Starting to cut back and ease off a few weeks before the race seems wrong. Many runners get anxious and stir-crazy. But it is important to follow your plan and taper appropriately.
Two good weeks of tapering will do a few things. First, it will allow your body to rest for race day. Your muscles, joints, lungs and brain will be fresh and ready to go. If you’ve trained properly over the last few months, you will already have done the majority of the running to get you to where you need to be. You won’t lose any fitness during these weeks, so don’t worry. Relax, and enjoy a bit of rest before you give your everything on race day. With your long, hard strenuous workouts behind you, you can focus on stuff like planning our your race day strategy, preparing yourself mentally, doing some runs at your race pace, and beginning to think about what you will eat the week and days leading up to the race.
Last year, I only ran 275km of training before race day. So far this year, I’ve ran over 750km. I learned from my training mistakes in 2013, and adjusted to ensure I am better prepared. Since I was injured all of April last year, when I got back on the road in May, I made a desperate attempt to ramp back up my distances, which had me running my first and only 30km run the weekend before the marathon. 7 days. That is crazy. Not only had I not prepared properly with long runs, I didn’t taper - at all. I had run my hardest, longest, most strenuous run a week before the race. It’s no surprise I struggled on race day, hitting the wall at kilometre 34.
This year I ran six 30 or more km runs, and began my taper three weeks out. That’s the difference. Plan, train, prepare, and be patient.
With speed and tapering on my mind, here were my workouts from week 18.
On Monday, I ran yet another 10km personal best, finally cracking 40 minutes, something I’ve had my mind set on all season. 10km, 39:37. I was really pumped.
Thursday was another instalment of speed interval training. This week I had to do four 1.6km intervals at a target pace of 3:47/km, but Chelsea challenged me to run every interval in under 3:40/km. It was tough, but I did it. My interval paces were 3:38, 3:36, 3:35 and 3:38. 11km total. Exhausted, but feeling good.
After a light run with the dog on Friday morning, and a 6km jog with Katie on Saturday, Sunday was my final “long-run” of my training. I use quotes because technically, 23km is a long run. That’s far. But to me, at this point, it doesn’t seem that way. I’ve done twelve 20+km runs since February, half of which were over 30km. The physical and mental improvements that you see over a few short months when training for a marathon is amazing.
Sunday was gorgeous. We had our first true summer weekend. With nice weather and the Tulip Festival kicking off in Ottawa, the city was packed with tourists, families and a ton of runners. I went down the Canal to Dow’s Lake, through the Arboretum to Mooney’s Bay (where I did a couple of hill repeats jut for fun), and then back up the East side of the Rideau River towards home. A beautiful, scenic 23km run.
So now, I continue to taper. It’s weird, but I know it’s the right thing to do.
12 days. I still can’t believe it.
The final stretch. Bring it on.