Taper Schmaper

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.

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  1. Thanks for asking. With 28 days to go I am going to try to focus on quality and do some 4 plus hour runs over the next two weekends. Then, I plan to bust a 50 miler 15 days out but do it at 100 mile pace. Then, rest and do a little Hardrock sharpening.

  2. I agree with you Craig and Andy. I think a two week taper is a pretty good idea. Craig, I think you and me are in the same boat. We lost a a few weeks to injury and an extra week of training is important more for our psyche than anything else. I plan to do that 50 miler at race pace but that will be three weeks out for me and do a four hour run 15 days out like I did this past weekend. Otherwise my training intensity will will be cut significantly after next Saturday.

  3. @AJW – What’s Hardrock sharpening?

    @Jon Olsen – Yeah, definitely the psyche is a factor. Since I don’t really do any kind of mileage until April and May each year, losing a few weeks in May is not ideal. Hope that foot of yours heals. We want you 100% on race day.

  4. Adrenaline can heel many wounds. When you see me at Squaw you will know if I am ready or not. If I were a betting man, I won’t be heeled, but I will be ready. Hold that taper off and I will see at Squaw.

  5. Do you guys heat train all the way through to race day (saunas, etc.)?

    I can only handle a two week taper, otherwise I feel sluggish. Drop all weight training, long runs, and heavy speed work, but keep 2-6 miles of varied terrain every day.


  6. Look like a good plan to me Craig.

    I had giardia bugs in my tummy last week which meant no running at all for about 6 days, so I am now kind of fresh and ready to run with a higher intensity for a couple of weeks. I was planning on running Duncan to Foresthill this coming Saturday and Squaw to RF on Sunday the 14th. I am not sure if a 30-ish mile run two weeks out is a good idea or not. I guess I can always cut it short by running down the road from Red Star to RF.

    I was planning on some easy hiking wearing all sorts of heavy clothing in intense heat 1-2 weeks before race day (provided we start getting some heat down here). I am hoping this will give me the benefit of heat training without trashing the leg muscles too much.

    Cheers, Paul

  7. @Paul Charteris – Giardia? You trying the SLF weight loss plan? It sure has been working for him. He’s been running well, especially for a really old man.

    I just got this steri-pen that the Ashland folks told me about. 45 seconds of ultraviolet light is supposed to kill giardia. Cost $100 and is small and lightweight. Not sure how you know it works but I haven’t been sick yet 🙂 Guess you only know if it doesn’t work.

  8. The Taper – yes, I am on the last two days of my taper before Kettle Moriane 100. I ran my last long weekend 3 weeks before race day, I ran 40 miles on a Saturday in 5:52, then came over the top of that with a hilly 30 miles in 5:00 hours. I ran my biggest total week ever 3 weeks before, 19 hours of running, some cycling.

    2 weeks out I on the weekend I ran 2 hours hard on a hilly trail on Saturday. The next day, that would be Sunday, 13 days before my race, I warmed up then I ran an all out 10 mile time trail on the trail with my wife pacing me on her mountain bike. My goal was to break 75 minutes for 10 miles on this trail and I ran 74:36…so pretty close.

    I believe in the 13 day all out taper. I have run about 6 days in the past 10 days…I run about 30 minutes tomorrow, Friday off – Saturday Race Day.

    Each of those days I do run I warm-up, then push it up to 50K race pace for about 20 minutes, then shut er down and warm down. Also, I have run 3 track workouts with my daughter who is getting ready for youth track….

    I am tired of not running..I am freaking out, been pacing around work like a convicted killer..

    See you all on the other side of Kettle!!!! My first 100, I will finish and run well!!


  9. I decided to take my own advise and picked up a steri-pen. Thought about using it at the Grand Canyon but decided I didn’t need to carry it. If Paul is going to go the full SLF plan he needs to get the double hernia surgery as well.

    Tapering provides a good chance to work on toenails. I’m now down to two and a half. I’m hoping to take it down further but time is running out. Hot weather seems to help the process but, well let’s see today’s high is 69, so that isn’t going to be much help. I don’t see how Billi can run so damn fast with all his toenails.


  10. Craig, just a lurker but about the steripen. It does not kill Giardia but the ultraviolet light is suppose to mess with the DNA and sterilize the Giardia so the bug can’t reproduce itself in your system. At least that’s the way I understand it.

  11. Since I am responsible for producing 60 million gallons per day of drinking water for a population demand of 1.1 million and just spend $41 million dollars on a new UV system:


    I have to weigh in on this one.

    Yes, UV can be effective in disinfection for giardia,(sterilization means something else) it depends on dosing, contact time and the UV wave length band choosen. What it get’s down to is “disinfection credits”…what we call log removal credits. UV is NOT 100% effective with disinfection and has no residual disinfection power. It really takes a combination of filteration, UV and chlorination to get the most effective removal. Buying a water filter that has pores smaller than 1 micron is really the only way to ensure removal, the little buggers can’t get through the hole, neither can anything else the filter plugs.


    You can ask Craig for your CEU’s for reading his blog.

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