Saturday, February 25, 2012

Albany Snickers Marathon - Taper Plan

This is just my second marathon build-up, trying to improve a 3:41:40 initial performance to somewhere between 3:22 and 3:35.  So take this for what it's worth.. me testing a plan to see how it works.  Based on experiences with shorter races, I've learned a few things about how I respond to different stimuli, and I've also picked up a few habits that may help, but who knows.  With other aspects of tapering (particularly the mileage and paces), I'm mostly trusting the free Runner's World Smart Coach app, keeping in mind that that particular plan had me going for a 3:17 finish, which I don't think is likely, but you never rule things out. 

Soo... the general idea for tapering is that you have a 3-week taper for a marathon after your last long run (of 20 ish miles).  The first week, you do 2/3 of your peak mileage week's mileage (for me, 2/3 of 30 = 20), and you long run goes down to 12 miles.  The second week, you do 1/2 of your peak mileage week's mileage (1/2 of 30 = 15), and the long run is 8 miles, which is what I did today.  In the week of the race, you do 1/3 of your peak week's mileage in the days before the weekend race (1/3 of 30 = 10). 

I'm a low-mileage person compared to real marathoners.  I'd like to do more because I think it would help, but it takes time to build up, and I've overtrained in the past in my over-eagerness to get better, and what I'm doing gives me good enough results, so whether I stay at this mileage in the future or increase it, I'll be fine.

Recovery from different types of workouts takes different amounts of time.  For hard efforts (like races), a good rule-of-thumb is 1 day per mile.  So after a marathon, it'll take a month to recover.  After a half, it'll take 2 weeks.  A 5K takes 3 days.  From my experience, that's a good rule.  That philosophy is kind of built in to the taper training plan.  The last 20er was 3 weeks (21 days) out, the 12er is 2 weeks (14 days) out, and the last "long run" is 8 miles, 1 week out. 

Going a bit deeper, different body systems take different amounts of times to adapt to stresses.  Overwork any one aspect (nerves, bones, muscles, tendons/ligaments, cardio), and the injury or over-stress may cause you to not run at your best or not be able to run at all.  Questions to ask yourself... if you do a hill workout X days out from the race, will you recover/adapt in time for it to do any good?  Same question goes for speed, endurance, plyos, etc.  To answer that question, I recently found this article:

Here's a summary on how quickly it takes to get the adaptations:
- Repeats (sprints with full recovery) targeting the nervous system take 1-2 days.
- VO2 max (including those induced by hills) targeting the cardio and muscular systems take 10-14 days.
- Tempo runs are a bit less taxing than the VO2 max workouts and take 7-10 days.
- Long runs targeting all sorts of stuff take as long as 4-6 weeks.

Tapering is an art, since there are so many factors going into how quickly you recover... work stresses, sleep, nutrition, massage... all that on top of the mere training aspect.  Peaking is something I don't have enough experience with to know how to hit correctly.  Coaches probably know how to do this, since they've seen many athletes respond to training plans.  The best I can do is to just trust the plan.

My Habits:
I do 1-hr strength sessions everywhere from twice weekly to once every two weeks, and I've noticed that if I wait 2 weeks, I'll loose a bit of strength.  1.5 will maintain it.  1 is what I average.  Doing a strength session within 8 days of a race saps some energy from the race, so for this build-up, I scheduled my last strength session for 11 days out.

I like to be as light as reasonably possible on race day.  I go as far as to get a haircut right before the race.  I don't compromise on fueling, though.  With my history of over-doing it one way and the other in the past, I now just stay at the happy middle.  It's a narrow middle -  a bit of swaying to under-fueling or over-fueling, and I feel it, so I stick with the middle.  I don't try to lose or gain weight - it may shift down a couple of pounds over the course of the training cycle naturally, though. 

I normaly run at night, since I don't run in the dark outside, since I'd only be able to go on roads (vs. grass) safely (ankle-wise).  It's best to train at the same time of the day as the race.  Won't work for me.  I'm normally stiff when I wake up, so I don't know how others do it.  But on race-days, I'm able to loosen up really well with a hot shower, so that's a must for me on race-morning.

I normally eat whatever I want and kind of eat what I feel like eating.  Most of the time, it's always the same - fat-free or low-fat dairy, whole grains, soy products, lots of fresh produce.  Sometimes, I'll feel less inclined to have produce or more inclined to have protein.  I'll probably stay away from excessive fiber the day before the race, and I'll proably only have soy-based protein... no dairy, no meat.

The night-before-the-night-before is supposed to be the most important for sleep.  It helps you adjust to an early sleep time the night before the race if you move up your bedtime one hour per day for a few days prior to the race.

I'll try to eliminate risks of injury and energy-sapping by getting good sleep, stretching, avoiding sick people, and eating high-quality foods in the days leading up to the race.  I hope work is more relaxed than normal, but I can't control that much. 

Things I'm Trying:
Tart cherry juice for recovery.  I had a wine-sized bottle with 4 servings (110 cal ea).  I normally don't drink juice (rather eat whole fruit), so it's taking me a long time to finish it.   I don't know how much it's helping, but I figure it can't hurt.  I used it last cycle, too, for Houston.

Beet Juice for better race-day performance.  I think you're supposed to take in the days before the race.  So that's what I'll drink this coming week, once I finish off the cherry juice.
I also tried this last year, having my last bit 2 days before the race.  Didn't particularly feel any impact, but maybe I didn't have it close enough to the race.  Since I won't be traveling by plane this time, I can bring it with me and maybe use it closer to the race.

Carbo-Loading.  I may try to do more to actively carbo-load, though.
To max out, I'll need 10g/kg of body.  We'll see... I'll just do what feels comfortable.  That's a lot of carbs.

Hope that helps!  Do any of you have other things you consider and plan for?  Any things you're testing out?  Anything you've found particularly effective?  Disagree with anything?

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