This time next week, I'll be wondering if I will get ANY sleep the night before the Boston Marathon. Given that I've been waking up at 4 AM recently, feeling ready to go and immediately thinking about the race, I doubt sleep will come a week from now. My taper has been going very well. We've been home for the last two weekends- my first since November- which means I haven't skied in three weeks and I've had plenty of time to rest. I finally figured out my ideal napping/tv watching position with elevated legs. This has led to some epic amounts of a whole lotta nuthin. I'm talking about 2+ hours per day for two weekends in a row.
While tapers bring all sorts of energy back to the body, they also typically bring other odd sensations. I swear that constant exercise creates some sort of buffer around injuries. When the volume of exercise is cut back, that buffer subsides. The newly exposed nagging pains can be disconcerting, whether or not you've experienced the process before. I'm feeling it in my left hip and feet. Obviously it's from all of the pounding. I really don't think it's anything more serious than that. And when I run I feel fine.
Tapers gradually reduce volume. They also change training speeds. In general, my weekly routines have evolved into two different speeds. As a point of reference, I'm shooting for a 3:15, which is 7:25/mi. Most running during the taper is easy- 8-8:20. Then once per week intervals (200s and 400s) get me down to exact race pace. It feels very easy, and should. I'm not trying to build fitness. With the slow running, I'm maintaining fitness and promoting recovery. With the intervals, I'm training my neurological system what it feels like to go at my target speed.
That's what I'm supposed to do...but it doesn't always happen that way. Two weeks ago my long run was 9 miles. I planned the run as much as possible to mimic the race- the time of day, my nutrition from the time I woke up, my nutrition during the run, and the clothes/equipment I would use. For example, I plan to carry a Fuel Belt bottle for the first 7 miles of the marathon. It will have one scoop of Heed and two Hammer Gels mixed with water. I typically don't run while carrying anything, so I wanted to get used to the feeling. This dress rehersal had me pretty excited. After a mile, I looked down at my Garmin and saw I was going about 7:40. It was hard to believe because it felt soooo easy. So I tried to shorten my stride, relax and slow down. After a while I looked down again and I was even faster. This cycle repeated itself to the point where I ran 7:00 for miles 6 and 7, still feeling great. It was one of those runs where I felt great, wanted to let it fly, but knew I should slow down. It probably wasn't smart, but I went with it. I felt the effects for a couple of days. Not smart, but lots of fun. It also was a bit of a boost to my confidence.
One huge variable with the race that I have zero control over is the weather. I know two week forcasts are useless, but I've been looking anyway. It's changed several times, and has varied from 49 degrees and rain to 70 degrees and sun. At least it shouldn't snow. At this point I'm not sure how I'll handle heavy rain. The other stuff I can adjust to.
I look at long distance events as a mix of art and science. We can train at a certain pace and practice nutrition. That's the science. The art of the race comes from all of the necessary adjustments that are needed. Knowing when to adjust can be tough. Should I stick to my plan and fight through this discomfort, or should I be smart, listen to my body and adjust? For example, given that I haven't run in weather warmer than about 50, a 70 degree day will require more fluids, electrolytes, and possibly a slower pace, especially early on.
In the end, I think I'm smart enough and have trained well enough to have a good race. My key will be to enjoy it. I need to stay loose, smile, and take in the experience. That will promote fluid movements, extend my range and give me a better result. Go easy to go fast.
Speaking of results, www.baa.org will have live 5K splits. My bib # is 25251. I expect to be pretty slow in the beginning due to the crowd of runners and the fact that I start at the back of the pack- there will be thousands of people to get past. After the first 5K, I should be around 22:49 per 5K.