Are tapers over-rated? When I’ve been training at a high level and then suddenly I reduce the load, it doesn’t take long before I start feeling terrible. I often feel like I’m getting fat and losing fitness. All the benefits of my hard training are evaporating. No two ways about it for me: tapers suck. That said, I know they are an important part of the preparation and I wouldn’t go into an important race without reducing my training load before it.
So how long should you taper before a 100 miler? I have usually used a 3 week gradual taper where my mileage is reduced to 75% three weeks before the race, then 50% two weeks out, and 25% the week of the race. My last long run of about 10-12 hours is usually three weeks before race day. This is a very specific 100 mile race pace run – not fast at all. I keep doing my weekly track/bark workout so there still is some intensity, but the volume is reduced. I’ll do my last track workout 10 or so days before the race. I try to do something each day the week of the race even if it is just a quick hike or a 4 mile run. Something to keep from going crazy. This is typical of a marathon taper, such as Pete Pfitzinger’s from Running Times. The shortest taper I’ve heard of is just a few days and the longest is 4 weeks. This year, because I was injured for several weeks in May and I just started going again, I’m going to do a two week taper with a final long run 15 days before the race.
I’m very sensitive to leaving my race on the trail on that last long run as I did that several times back in my marathoning days. As I look back in my 1991 logbook (I love my hand written logbooks), I see the following entry on 11/24/1991 at the end of a 103 mile week.
AM: 22 miles 2:14
hammered on long run – big group
first 18 1:47
legs died at 21
jogged last mile really slow
PM: easy 3 mile jog
legs feel pretty good
That just makes me cringe looking at it. 5:56 pace for 18 miles and then I died with a mile to go? 13 days before the race? What an idiot! So how did the race go? Not as well as I had hoped. I ran the first 20 miles in 1:52 with “tight legs pretty early” and then struggled home in the last 10K in 41 minutes, averaging 5:50 per mile, not much off my last long run pace. I have several other examples where I did something similar. Feeling great on that last long run so you just end up hammering. Not smart.
WS site says 28 days till race day. So what are you doing for your taper? Hopefully you won’t leave your race on the trail in your last long training run before you even start your taper.