Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Tapering. Otherwise Known as Bordering on the Edge of Sanity

Oddly enough doing a Google search on "taper" shows two links associated with running.  I thought I would some see some logical definition or explanation possibly having something to do with a tape worm when I Googled "taper". But alas, a taper comes from Old Engligh tapor candle, wick.  The definition is
1. a) slender candle, you know the things you buy planning on having a nice candlelight dinner and then they sit and get warped stuffed in a drawer somewhere. b) a long waxed wick used especially for lighting candles, lamps, fires c) a feeble light (what is a feeble light?  I light that thought it could but didn't?)
2. a) a tapering form or figure (ok, I definitely don't have a taper body due to my hips and thighs) b) a gradual diminution of thickness, diameter or width of elongated object c) a gradual decrease.

Of course the definition that relates most to running is the last one.  There are also fishing rod tapers, taper in geometry, Luer Taper, Machine taper and a taper insertion pin used in body piercing along with other 'tapers".

A taper is supposed to allow your body to rest and repair itself before the race.  While the body is resting, the mind picks up the slack and goes full speed ahead. This crazed feeling is referred to as "Taper Madness" on one website. At this point I really haven't decreased mileage much since I'm only in the first week and had only one run, a workout at the track.  I really haven't done much tapering but I'm feeling very anxious and worrying about all kinds of stuff.  My body has starting having aches that it didn't have before.  Last night I dreamed I was running a marathon in 2 weeks and was getting sick.  I woke up feeling like I had a hangover .

I think the worst part is the general anxiety.  I just can't relax, feel like my shoulders are tense and my heart feels like its pounding quicker and harder.  I am looking forward to running tonight as compared to yesterday when I felt no desire to run at all.  Luckily it was an off day for me. I'm thankful to have read other peoples blogs over the months to know that I am not alone and this is "normal".

There is a lot of information about what to do during taper.  One site says the night before the marathon is NOT a good time for race strategy planning. That should have been done days and weeks prior.  I think that is part of my problem I'm continually thinking about the marathon and race strategy.  Another site says you may feel sluggish (yep) and then as the body recovers I'll start to feel better and rested.  It talks about nutrition and not eating at the same volume and also about carb-loading the final three days.  Easier said than done when you eat to combat anxiety.

As I said, there's a lot of information and often the sites conflict each other.  One area of conflict is what and how to reduce.  Some sites say to reduce both mileage and intensity and others say reduce only mileage. My coach is a believer in reducing mileage but keeping up intensity.  Keep doing the tempo run but with fewer miles.  Keep going to the track and doing speed work but with fewer reps. This will keep the fitness level high.  

I found one document that says a proper taper will allow a 3-5% improvement.  At a 5% improvement a 3:30 marathoner can become a 3:19 marathoner.  The rule of thumb for tapering is:

  • First week taper 20-25% (article say people often do too much this week)
  • Second week taper 40%
  • Third week 60%
I need to pull out my running schedule and see what and when I'm running.  Maybe I'm more anxious because I don't really have a running and nutrition plan these next couple weeks.   The obsession continues.......

What advice can you give me during a taper? How do you keep the anxiety at bay?

18 comments:

Lisa said...

Wish I have no advice for you since I've never tapered lol.

Good luck and try to stay sane. Apparently taper causes one to go crazy... who knew?


Take care!

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Kerrie T. said...

I haven't tapered for a marathon before, but I bet if you sat down and wrote out your plan for the race, you would feel better. Kind of like writing down thoughts when you can't sleep. Good luck!

sneakersister said...

I started a taper log for those 21 long days. (http://sneakersister.blogspot.com/2009/11/taper-log.html)

I plan to do the same thing again, I think it really helped me to stay focused and it's probably going to really help during my next taper.

I didn't find a lot of info when I googled "taper" either.

Sarah said...

I haven't done a marathon yet, so no advice here...sorry. :( I am training for a hald in May and that will be my first time with a taper.

Katie A. said...

Def start thinking about your race strategy. This will help your mind and your anxiety. I also go by the rule, keep intensity, but decrease mileage. It does work, I do this every time I taper.
As for the dreams and the bad sleep, I sleep like crap for the last two weeks before a marathon. I freak out over everything and become a germaphobe. You are everything you're suppossed to!
Work on your race plan and maybe your eating plan - I do this. And I do start carbo loading the Thursday before - if anything, my tummy is full and I feel better :) Good luck tonight!

Tina @GottaRunNow said...

During taper time, I tried to focus on the non-running parts of my life since I didn't have to do as much running.

Sabrina said...

Wow, I never knew that tapering was such a mental game. I can see why though. I can imagine I will go through the same thing when I do my Ultra in Aug. Yikes.

Jamie said...

I visualize how I want to feel or how u think the race may go while on the taper runs. When not running I try to focus on everything else (with very little luck). Usually I drive everyone nuts with my non-stop race talk.

TiredMamaRunning said...

I'm famous for buying running gear in my taper. You know-just in case I need it on race day. Not that I'd advocate "spend spend spend!" as a taper strategy...but if it's something I'm going to use anyway, well-it always seems to distract me a bit, and help me feel well-prepared.

I also ran a 5K 2 weeks out from my spring '09 marathon, and the week before my fall '09 marathon. Not necessarily a recommended strategy, but in my "experiment of one," it was an excellent way to blow off steam that also served as a confidence builder for the big marathon day. I'll be doing it again just before Boston with a local annual 5K.

ajh said...

I like to taper. I try to get more done at work that I haven't had time for. But I do almost always get a cold that last week before a marathon and I panic. So keep washing those hands and get as much sleep as you can! Good luck!

Julie said...

Hi Christina,
I have nothing for you on the tapering because I have never done it:)

Oh my God, I just looked at your race times! You are so flipping fast girl! I am dreaming of your super speedy times:) Go you! Were you always that fast or did you have to work on it?

Have a good one Christina!

Johann said...

Most of the time I don’t taper as I run most races as part of a buildup to some ultra. When I do taper I run shorter, but a bit faster. I still run 6 days per week and only rest completely the day before or two days before the race. This keeps me a bit saner as I still feel active and get some running done. I only taper for 2 or 3 races per year. The rest I run as part of my normal training.

Jamoosh said...

Great blog. I would tend to agree with your approach regarding strategy. In my experience, while it's good to have a plan, you have to be flexible with your strategy. I usually settle on mine right before the gun goes off, but realize I may have to change it as the race goes on.

Natalia said...

I have yet to taper for a race, but had an 'unexpected rest' period after the holidays. Although it was quite hard to keep focussed on starting up again, I would imagine with an upcoming marathon, you would have a lot to think about! So no advice, but hope you get the rest you need to run a fabulous race!

John said...
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Anonymous said...

What a great resource!