Taper madness, that two to three week period when marathoners look to pass without major incident, is already starting to hit. We are, according to the experts, grumpy, achy, cramming, hungry, tired, jumpy and generally have nothing to do with ourselves.
Even as I get ready for my 25th marathon -- yes, 25! -- I'm encountering the same roadblocks, making the same mistakes.
Here are the pitfalls and how I continually repeat them, or try to avoid disaster.
OvertrainingYes, we've crammed in 50 mile weeks and hundreds of miles and dozens of hours logged in, yet even in the final three weeks, we think that every single run needs to be fit in or somehow you'll lose fitness. I've made this mistake, even this week when I should have taken a rest day. Result is I went out too fast and now I'm nursing a (phantom?) ache.
Lesson: What I've said, the hay is in the barn, that the 16+ weeks of training is what got you to your fitness. Best to bring down mileage to 75%, 50% and way down the week of the marathon. I know you can keep some quality workouts -- for example tempo or pace -- but cut down on junk and overall mileage.
I'm so achy!!!Yes, the phantom pain or real cramps/aches that start to happen. I've had many a scare, and it's compounded by the fact that you're already cutting back on mileage. I once ran a marathon (Flying Pig) where I was limping on a foot three days before race day, bought a pain gel two days before, and was applying it the night before. (I ran a PB race day).
Lesson: Yes, this happens and the experts say it's your body healing itself. From experience, if you have tightness through your muscles, by lack of stretching, it can really start to hit. My advice is to pile on the rest and stretch, roll and take your hot baths. Even last minute aches can go away by race morning, but be prepared to treat it.
So... what do I do now?Blog, maybe? I typically run six days a week, and typically log between 5 to 7 hours on the roads. Add my warmup/cooldown and stretch and I'm spending 10-12 hours a week training. Cut that in half and all of a sudden, I'm trying to figure what to do with myself.
Lesson: Even if you don't have to run, there are plenty of running related things you can do to keep yourself occupied. Like, for instance 1) blog about it (check) 2) scope out race logistics (check) 3) put together your gear/gels 4) research your race pace 5) imagine what you're going to have for post-race dinner 6) my favourite, start researching races for the next season
Carbs, carbs, carbs, carbs, carbs, carbs...Usually by marathon day, I've eaten probably six to seven straight meals of carbs. Primarily, I'm thinking about sticking to routine, knowing what my body likes on race day and always scared of not fuelling properly and -- more importantly -- making sure we're doing our business on marathon morning. Fibre is bad the day before. Worst thing is if you start carboloading for three weeks. Not good.
Lesson: Most of us train for our long runs on limited fuel, so there's no reason to bulk up weeks before. I think an overlooked part of loading for races is to make sure you both hydrate, load up on carbs and make sure your electrolytes are in check. So this means for me carbs plus salt/electrolytes and drinks that don't throw off your balance of salts. I love the following foods, but start around Wednesday night before the marathon 1) bananas 2) bagels/peanut butter 3) pasta with tomato sauce 4) rice 5) pretzels/chips or other 'salty' carbs 6) some protein but not a tonne 7) um, not that many salads as of Friday night 8) water with Nuun or diluted Gatorade.
TIME TO RACE RIGHT?!
Yeah.. not a good idea. I think it's actually great to feel jumpy in the final week. Personally, most marathon weeks I'm feeling on edge. Maybe I'll do a long run but also do it at pace cause I'm feeling sooo rested. Maybe I'll do a tempo run, or turn a simple 5K recovery into a speedworkout, cause I'm so fast. Wrong
Lesson: Being bouncy and jumpy is actually an awesome feeling, if you can get it, then thank god you don't have the aches many of the rest of us have. Just remember this, "you are training to race, not racing to train" so hold back. I like to tell marathoners that the first half to 16 miles of your marathon day should feel easy, and much of that ease comes from being at a comfortable place from the start line. Use the race to "express your fitness", not the days leading up to it.
Can I bathe in this stuff?
Yeah, I'm sure we've all been there. In fact, today, a co-worker who is sick handed me a pen for me to sign a form, and I proceeded to go find another pen, sign the form, then find a wetwipe to cleanse my hands. You should see me the week of marathon if I'm around sick people. As your immune system -- hit by months of training -- is depressed, you are in theory more likely to be susceptible to sickness. In theory.
Lesson: I'm actually sure you're good to be on edge on this. So I'll say this. Yes, bathe in this stuff! Though know that they only kill 99.99% of germs.
Which leads me to this (image from Brandon)
The grumpiness? You earned it!
I don't usually get grumpy, but a combination of anxiousness, preparedness, a fidgety energy fuelled wanna-be-running-but-not weekend warrior. I have more time on my hands, am missing the outdoors and I'm achy, hungry for carbs, eyeing the Advil and digging out the Purell.
You know what, just wait for the second after I cross the finish line.
I'll be ready for a beer then.