It's that time of training again. Tapering. Admittedly one of the weirdest parts of marathon training, I've learned to love tapering over the years. In a nutshell, tapering means that you run fewer kilometres and you rest more. When you've been training you ass off for months through the gruelling winter, running harder and further every week, focussed in on your goal, scaling things back 3 weeks before the race just feels wrong. You're heading for that goal. You can see it. Why am I slowing down now? This makes no sense. The answer? Science. And I don't argue with science.
Here's how my friends at Running World explain it: "Reducing your total weekly volume by 20 to 25 percent per week gives your body a chance to recover from all that hard work by restocking depleted glycogen supplies and repairing tissue damage". See? I told you. Science.
Essentially at this point of your training, you've put in all the hard work and long hours. You've built up that incredible base of strength and endurance. You won't lose any fitness in these final tapering weeks. Now it's time to chill out and relax. This is possibly Katie's least favourite time of my training - not the 6AM runs in January or when I disappear for hours on the weekend. Nope, it's tapering. Because I can't relax. I can't sit still. Tapering makes me anxious and go a little bit stir crazy. On the up-side, I go cooking crazy to occupy myself. I think we have some bagels, butter chicken, granola, and burritos in our future.
The final month before a race also brings about some concerted speed training. I love this stuff. While I'm cutting back on my total mileage (kilometreage?), I'll shift my focus to managing my speed and working on my explosiveness. Understanding your pacing is crucial to running a good race - as is knowing how and when to throw in a surge of speed. Interval training is a great way to work on your speed, endurance, form and economy.
Here's how interval training works. After a short, easy warm up (I usually do 1.5-2km of a light run), I burst into 4 sets of 1.6km speed bursts, with a few minutes of rest in between to catch your breath and bring your heart rate down. The focus during these bursts is to keep a strong, hard, steady pace - much faster than your race pace. They are supposed to be intense and difficult. Half the battle is pushing through until the end of your 1.6km interval. For example, my target race pace for Boston is about a 4:12-4:14 per kilometre. During my interval training this past week, by intervals were 3:42, 3:38, 3:33 and 3:30. With each interval, you become more exhausted, but being the competitive guy I am, I always try to run every interval faster than the last.
20 Days Until
With only 3 weeks to go until Boston, I can't help but be overwhelmed by feelings of nervousness and excitement. Training has been going really well and I am very happy with where my fitness is at. My mind is also in a good spot - confident, focused and driven. I still have some unfinished business that I look forward to taking care of in Boston - which will be followed by a few pints I'm sure. As Spring arrives, the temperatures are creeping above 0 and the snow is slowly melting, which means I can finally ditch the toque and start training in shorts.