Saturday, August 16, 2008

Tapering - What The Heck Does It Mean ???

Taper -
  • "To become smaller or thinner toward one end."
  • "To reduce gradually."
  • "Gradual decrease of force, capacity, etc..."
  • "to cease by degrees; decrease; diminish."
Many people get confused when it comes to "tapering" for a runner. In simple terms, it is the gradual decrease of training intensity, duration and miles as you inch closer and closer to the day of the race. The taper period usually begins in the last few weeks before the race (the taper period typically lasts between 2 and 3 weeks). The taper period is a time for the runner to allow the body to recover and repair from the intense period of training, before it is faced with the rigors of race day. It is not a time to cease all training, kick back, and drink beer in front of the television. But, it is a period that should see a reduction in a runner's training regimen.

There are, of course, different theories and ideas about the correct way to "taper" before a race, and, I suppose that each runner's taper will be (or can be) different from the next. In scouring the web for articles on "tapering", I came across a few tips or suggestions that might be useful (most are geared toward the marathon distance and average runner).

  1. Run Long....NOT - Although the length of the taper can (and should) differ depending on the length of the race, the final "long" run should occur no less than 14 days before the race. If you have missed some of your scheduled long runs during training, do not use the taper period to try to catch up - it is simply too late to make up for it now. Any run greater than 15 miles during the taper period for a marathon will most likely hurt performance on race day.
  2. Mileage....Cut It Back - Total weekly mileage should decrease by about 40 percent starting two weeks prior to the race. Race week should see a reduction in overall mileage by at least 60 percent. So, if your weekly training mileage hit a peak of 60 miles, run no more than 36 miles the week before race week, and no more than 25 miles during race week. For those training for a marathon, do not run longer than three miles during the last 4 days prior to the race. Don’t worry about mileage during race week as race day will make up for it.
  3. Intensity....Maintain It - Even though we are cutting back on total mileage, it is still o.k. to maintain the level of intensity. NOTE - this particular piece of advise applies to today's run at Rockefeller Park.
  4. Hills....Have No Place During Race Week - So, you did all your hill repeats and hill running during your main training period. During race week, avoid the hills and let your legs recover and get rested for the big day.
  5. Diet....Watch It - The taper period bring a reduction in training mileage and intensity, and with that it is to see again in weight as the body's muscles start to stockpile the glycogen they will need during the race. But, be careful not to gain too much weight as it could make you feel heavy and sluggish. Eat a bit less than usual, with well-balanced meals, and don’t start any fad diets.
  6. Carbo Loading....Doesn't Mean Overloading - On the eve before the race, eat a regular sized meal with a higher percentage of carbohydrates than usual. On race morning, top yourself off with a small meal (like a bagel, banana, or oatmeal) but do not fill yourself up.
"The trick with tapering your workouts is how to balance the need for rest and recovery with the inevitable detraining effect. There is certainly no single answer. Variables include training intensity, volume, frequency, base level of fitness, and the given event (different taper plans are needed for a 5k, marathon, etc...Tapering may still largely be a matter of guesswork and experience with each runner working it out for himself/herself. The absolute bottom line to remember is that training intensely right up to the time of a race is a mistake. Optimize the performance your hard work and training can give you by tapering up to your race day."

So, against that backdrop, today's long run was shorter (ah...gradual reduction in mileage...taper) but somewhat intense. I met up with Brad, Andrea, Cynthia Bert, Kristen and Dot at Rockies. The girls did their own thing and the boys did 22+ miles of hill work, pushing hard on all hills (the thought being a focus on climbing - there is a nasty climb up Fred's Mountain in the Grand Tetons 100-Mile Race - 4 times of the 2.6 mile climb to the top).

Today's Elevation Profile

I decided to give my new Drymax Trail Running socks, that the folks at Drymax were kind enough to send me to test out, a spin. It hit the mother lode on this one - I thought I was going to get a few pairs of socks to test, but instead got a box with nearly 20 ! My initial take on the Trail Running Sock is very positive. I'll do a full review on each of the socks after I get some more mileage under them, but I liked the dense padding (as opposed to thick padding that might affect the fit of the shoes) and reinforced toe and heel. They also boast a "shoe seal" to help reduce debris entering the shoes, and I actually do not recall a single rock getting in my shoes. On long runs I typically tape my toes to avoid blistering in troubled spots. I did not tape for today's run and have no blister issues.

No trail run at Rockies is complete without my trusty camera, and I made sure to bring it this time.....

Me, Bert, Andrea, Cynthia, Brad & Dot (Thanks Kristen for taking the shot)

Bert and Brad Navigate a Fallen Tree on the Trail

Forget gels - SPAM - The New Runner's Fuel !

Of course, there are more shots. The full slide show is below.


  1. Hey ... no mention of me "almost" catching your butt on that crazy hill?!? :) Nice seeing you today. Great job getting that hill workout in. Glad I only joined you for 1 ascent! Enjoy the rest of your taper.

  2. Taper Time.... Thanks for the explanation cause I was thinking more of Beer & TV ;-) ok I will save that for after the race.

    Good pics !

    see ya soon !

  3. Sweet pics! What? You don't like Spam? :P

  4. sounds like you had a good last long, hard run --and I love the tapering tips...always needed to reassure ourselves that we are doing the right thing!!! Is this it --your last long workout???? Yikes. Nice photos too!
    But the SPAM??? yuck:(((

  5. I think Spam is a culmination of all the crap that I refuse to eat! Gag me with a spoon! I do like Brownie Bites on a long run though!! ha

  6. Looks like you are a fun group of trail runners!!!

    Can't wait to join you next weekend!

  7. Awesome route. Cool pics. Nice post on tapering...

  8. Good luck at the Tetons race! Great taper post. I'll re-read it again in a couple of weeks when I start mine. :)

    Have fun out there.

    Enjoy those awesome socks! They're the best.

  9. Freds..Freds...Fred!!!
    bring it on!

  10. That was a great recap on tapering, I am sure that Bob is still doing the beer and TV thing though. Those are some great pix of the group. I got into my first ultra at the Across the Years and looking forward to it. If you can give me some training advice, I would appreciate it.

  11. Lisa B - Thanks a ton. I know you are going to nail Spartathlon !

    Lisa S - See you in a few short days ! I think I may sprint up Fred's all 4 times....yeah, right !

    MIT - Good luck at Across the Years. I can certainly give you some advice, but, the first piece of advice I'd give you is to hire someone like Lisa Smith Batchen to coach you - invaluable ! :)) Lisa, you owe me a commission if he signs up with you !

  12. Best of luck. Give Bob a kick in the butt for me.

    You guys are all hardcore!!!