Eight questions you should ask yourself before tapering for a marathon or ultramarathon

Fall Down Hill me3There is NOTHING scientific about this quiz! But I hope it will make you consider some factors that will affect your taper!

1) Are you over 40 years old? Over 50 years old?
Over 30 (1 point)
Over 40 (2 points)
Over 50 (4 points)
Over 60 (5 points)

2) What is the distance you are planning to race?
Marathon  (1 point)
50K   (2 points)
100K  (3 points)
100 miles  (4 points)

3) Have you successfully completed a race of this distance before (did not DNF or become injured during or right after the race)?
Never  (4 points)
Once   (3 points)
More than once (1 point)

4) How heavy was your training load?
I’ve never run that much weekly mileage before. (4 points)
It was just a bit over the weekly mileage I’ve run for other training cycles. (2 points)
I’ve run that weekly mileage for other training cycles. (1 point)

5) Is this an “A” goal race?
Yes, this is a main goal race.  (4 points)
No, but I plan to race hard. (2 points)
No, this is not a goal race; I am using it as a training run for a goal race later.  (1 point)

6) How much sleep do you normally get each night?
Eight hours or more most nights. (1 point)
Less than 8 hours, but at least 7 most nights. (2 points)
Less than 7 hours most nights. (4 points)

7) Have you struggled with injuries during this training cycle?
No injuries at all during this training cycle. (1 point)
A few low-grade nagging things this training cycle. (3 points)
One or more injury problems this training cycle. (5 points)

8) How is your nutrition (honestly!)
I am a junk food addict. (4 points)
I eat some whole foods, but quite a bit of junk, too. (3 points)
I eat a lot of whole foods, but some processed items. (2 points)
I eat whole foods with rare exceptions. (1 point)

If you scored 8-15 points, you can probably do fine with a 2-week taper. On the first taper week running 70-75% of your average weekly mileage from the last three heavy training weeks and then running 2-3 short runs (2-5 miles) on race week. Consider spending extra time with the foam roller and other soft tissue work, plus active stretching during taper time.

If you scored 16-24 points, you could likely choose a 2-week or 3-week taper, depending on which you feel most comfortable with. If you choose a 3-week taper, consider on the first taper week running 75-80% of your average weekly mileage from the last three heavy training weeks; on the second taper week running 50-60% of your average weekly mileage from the last three heavy training weeks; and then running 2-3 short runs (2-5 miles) on race week. Consider spending extra time with the foam roller and other soft tissue work, plus active stretching during taper time.

If you scored 25-30, consider using a 3-week taper. On the first taper week running 70-75% of your average weekly mileage from the last three heavy training weeks; on the second taper week running 40-50% of your average weekly mileage from the last three heavy training weeks; and then running 2-3 short runs (2-5 miles) on race week. The soft tissue work mentioned below would be helpful, too!

If you scored over 30 points, you had better consider tapering hard for a full three weeks. On the first taper week running 60% of your average weekly mileage from the last three heavy training weeks; on the second taper week running 40%  of your average weekly mileage from the last three heavy training weeks; and running one or two short runs (2-4 miles) on race week. AND during taper, you should consider having weekly instrument assisted soft tissue mobilization (IASTM) such as Graston; or active release therapy (ART); and spending at least 20 minutes each day foam rolling and dynamic stretching, as well as specific exercises/stretches to help your weak area(s).

As I said in the beginning, there is NOTHING scientific about this quiz! I put it together because I always struggle with tapering, and I decided to make a list of the main factors I should consider in my taper plan.  It seems like for every race I run (and I have run ultramarathons for nearly 5 years now), I lay out a reasonable taper plan for myself, but when I get to that part of my training, I start second guessing myself. Should I run more? Should I run less?

One of the main points I try to remember is that I am not going to make any training gains in the last two weeks before the race, and it is important to go to the starting line with fresh, recovered legs and no injuries! Less is more during the two weeks before a race!

For this race, my first 100-miler, I chose to taper 3 weeks—on the first taper week running 70% of my average weekly mileage from the last three heavy training weeks; on the second taper week running 45% of my average weekly mileage from the last three heavy training weeks; and then running 2 short runs (2-4 miles) on race week.

By the way, my score was 25. I am 56 years old; I am running a 100-mile race for the first time; I my training mileage was higher than I have ever run before; it is an “A” goal race; I usually sleep 8 or more hours per night; I have struggled with a few nagging issues this training cycle; I eat whole foods with rare exceptions.

How do you taper for your marathons or ultramarathons? Are there other factors you consider when planning your taper?

Me finish

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