Taperinig? No thanks, I’m Peaking.

Posted: September 28, 2011 in Training
Tags: , ,

Peaking vs. Tapering

When it comes to marathon training, as is the case with most things in life, there are a few things that you hear so often you feel as if they certainly must be facts not merely opinion.

Don’t play with matches.

Don’t run with scissors

Wait 30 minutes to swim after eating.

You need to run a long run of 20 miles to prepare for the marathon.

These may be good ideas, but I would not say that they are necessarily facts.

Another one that will hear runners and coaches alike talk about when preparing for an “Arace, whether it is a marathon, half-marathon, 10K or timed mile – is that to really race your best you need to “Taper”.

The Taper, specific to the marathon is defined by a reduced training load in the final weeks leading up to race day.

Many training plans, marathoners and coaches feel that a three week taper period is appropriate.  Some, more in the minority feel that two weeks is the best formula.

The idea of the taper is that after a tough 14-15 week training period, your body has been beaten down.  Muscles, tendons and joints have been placed under an increasingly heavy load and need time to repair.

By reducing your weekly mileage and your training intensity (speed of your workouts, hill work etc.) those muscles will repair themselves and go through an adaptation process making you stronger.

At the end of your taper, you will feel better than you have in many weeks and will be primed for your best performance on race day.

A typical three week taper would reduce your weekly mileage from its peak four weeks prior to the event to 75% three weeks away from race day, 50% two weeks away and 25% in the final days leading up to the marathon itself.

A 60 mile a week at its peak training plan would feature a three week taper with mileage totals of:

3 Weeks out:  45 miles
2 Weeks out:  30 miles
Race Week:  15 miles

As positive as the taper period is physically, it can wreak havoc on the marathoner mentally.

After weeks of hard training the reduction in miles and the intensity of those miles makes the marathoner feel “weak” Negative thoughts begin to creep into the mind of the runner, which when preparing for the marathon is a huge problem.

The delicate psyche as an A race approaches is something that even the most talented and experienced runners exhibit.  Instead of focusing on the positive training runs and performances, the limited amount of hard work being put in makes the runner lose that feeling.  Those endorphins that come from really nailing a tough workout are lacking and not just for a day or two, but repeatedly day after day for as many as 21 days.

It is sometimes tough to “get right” again before race day.

Last year preparing for Austin I felt like I was ready to go after the first two weeks of my taper.  On February 13th, I was locked and loaded and mentally recharged.  Let me at that course I thought on my easy 8 mile run.

I still had 7 more days to go until the marathon.

Too long.

So this marathon training cycle I am going to replace the “Taper” period with my “Peaking” period.  I am not going to look at those final weeks leading up to race day as the time frame where I heal up, but rather when my body begins the process of building itself up for the greatest single run day of my life.

Instead of taking three weeks to “Peak” I am going to reduce that time to just two weeks.

After next weekend’s Rock n’ Roll Half-Marathon in Denver I will be 4 weeks away from the gun in New York.

My next two weeks will feature 60 mile+ training weeks with a 21 mile run 3 weeks away from race Sunday and a final 20 miler 2 weeks out.

I will then taper reduce my workload to 75% and a very easy final week leading up to race day.

I will be thinking about “Peaking” for the race in New York and send those final 14 days getting physically and mentally “right” which I believe will put this marathoner in the starting corral with their best chance for a best ever race.

5 weeks and 4 days to go.  We’ve got two more race Sundays – this week’s IBM Classic and next weekend’s Denver Half Marathon.

Two more weeks of tough training, followed by two weeks of Peaking for NYC.

It will be here before I know it.  Just like the final 6.2 miles in the marathon – right now, it”s time to go to work.

  1. Jim in Maine says:

    I agree with this approach wholeheartedly Joe … when I ran my all time best marathon about 25 years ago (3:29 in Chicago) I paced another runner through his one and only sub 4:00 marathon in Milwaukee (after he had 2 DNFs and 2 4:30’s) two weeks before. It was my last long run at a pace about 1 minute slower then what I hoped would be marathon pace and it worked great. I am not recommending that anyone race two marathons that close together as, in my case, I did not race two marathons – just one good long last training run and then the “A” race two weeks later.

    You are going to slam your A race this year – and, as always, it has been fun and educational to follow your journey.

    Best from Patti and I in Maine to you and yours in Texas.

    • Joseph Marruchella says:

      Hi Jim! Thanks so much for the visit and the message! That definitely confirms what I am feeling for New York. I’ve typically taken a three-week taper before the marathon in the past, and I’ve had some success, but for me at this point I think staying sharp and keeping my body “on-schedule” that extra week is going to pay big dividends in a few weeks.

      Thanks again Jim! Best to Patti and the girls. See you guys in Boston this spring!

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