2013 Taper day 4

Friday is normally my rest day. Plus this should have been a rest week, according my theory of having an easy week after 4 effort weeks.

I missed yesterday because I just didn’t want to step into the dark, swirling, drenching rain. When it cleared and the sun came out, I nearly but not quite reorganised my day to run.

By this morning I was keen to catch up the missed run and to see what a day’s rest would bring. So I set off early to see if I could PB  my 8.72 km route – my regular 8 km run. Felt great – Legs strong, good focus – until I checked my watch and laughed.

1-IMG00361-20130509-0901Part of me hadn’t turned on the stopwatch.

I like that part of me – the ultra-me who knows and does the long runs. Welcome back!  This other more often ego-me, the one who decides to do Comrades and make a thing about it, gets all panicky too easily.

Ultra-me knows best what I can do and should be doing. He’s taking charge even now. Great. The PB didn’t matter. It could even have been too much

I know  – well if I feel good – I’ll get it next week

Before then I can look forward to tomorrow’s 20 km easy effort run.

The taper idea

The taper theory

Having built distance into the legs and reaching the  peak mileage week, the next and last phase of Comrades training is the taper.

The idea of the taper is to lessen the weekly distance run (mostly the long run of the week) while  increasing the intensity of running, so that the effort-demand stays the same without the wear of  long runs and longish runs on top of other long runs.

I’ve come to think of the mileage- and endurance-building phase as a hardening, toughening phase. The taper is a tempering phase. The first builds steel into my running muscles. The second makes them stiller tougher, and adds a bit of whip and sharpness to them – like a well-made sword.

What this means in practice for me  is that I keep the number of days of running, make the weekly long run shorter, while pushing harder on some of the hills. If I can get myself motivated, even to approximate interval training by running harder for distances up 1 km during the runs I do.

Maintaining intensity is important. So is watching for the effects of overdoing running


  • One of the body adaptations of the long training weeks is an increase in blood volume – to feed the muscles at the level at which they are expected to work. This is the one the worry me most. If the work rate drops the blood volume begins to drop except that I still need it for Comrades run-day.  Increasing the intensity during runs keeps the workrate high and keeps blood volume at the right levels.

Intensity – hill work, intervals, paced runs over set distances – also increase leg speed. Which has a direct impact on Comrades race pace. A good taper cut 10-15 seconds per km off the pace which can be maintained over the Comrades distance. I know that’s why I could cruise the last 12 km of Comrades in my best year at 4:45 min/km rather than the 5 min/km I planned.

Even 5 seconds per km is good. It translates into 7 min quicker over the route. Or a 7 min “cushion”.

  • Increasing intensity also make me feel really pumped up, and life and world look infinitely  luscious as long as its all not too much.

Overdoing it

  • Doing too much is always a risk. It’s even more of a risk now in the last weeks leading into Comrades. Slight sniffles quickly become colds and flu’s. And the time taken recover properly from a cold, more from a flu, more from antibiotics destroys so much of the training already done. And while recovering you don’t run so the effects of not running kick in – the drop in blood volume, the accumulation of the by-products of running which can jam you up. 

Its best to notice the early warning symptoms – higher pulse rate, itchy throat, drippy nose, tiredness, sore muscles, a little cough. Which means its best not to ignore them

Its good to eat even more healthily, lots of a variety of fresh fruit and vegetables, Even more consistent drinking.

Its good too to err on the side of caution. If you think its too much don’t do it.

The practice

  • Today is the second day of my taper. I ran 8 km carefully checking as I ran, the state of my feet, ankles, calves, knees, quads. No problems at all. The long runs didn’t lay waste to my body.
  • The first day of my taper for 2013, I started it with a long sleep and no running. I missed being out under the stars  but it’s okay.

I need another glass of water.

And an orange.

Four days before the long run

Here come the old, not-too-wrinkled vigour boys, well this one anyway; and for ~5 km this morning, anyway too.

The first 5 are always easy. It’s just the other 55 to worry about for Saturday’s Two Oceans.

Actually the first 20 km and hopefully probably the first 40. It just the last part that’s hard.

Anyway, I’m not allowed to worry about those either. Comrades is a whole ~32 km further. Those last km after 56 km the real worry-mes.

But even those hard last Comrades km, I have learned to deal with.

I put off worrying about the hard bits until after I’ve finished the run.

Last long run coming

Two Oceans Marathon

Two Ocean’s marathon coming up soon, less than two weeks.

The last extra-long run  preparing for Comrades. Two Oceans Marathon – 56 km of Cape Town. Some race it. So it’s a challenge even though any distance, even 100 metres can be a challenge too.

But I’m not worried. It’s a test but not a big one. An opportunity to practice Comrades race pace, drinking and eating on the run, running a crowded road and to put a bit more steel in my legs. They need that effort beyond the 42.2 km marathon mark. My mind needs to be out there and remind it to feel good at 50 and 56 km  as Comrades is a lot further.

And I’ll practice the training taper too. So this week I’ll run a little less with a longest run of about 15 km.

I don’t mind, even though I love just getting out there and I like the way my body has got stronger since December and how I found another gear for running.

A couple of easy weeks, Two Oceans, then more miles and hillwork and  I’ll be ready for the big one.


Summer breeze

Stepped into a bit of a southeaster  this morning – woke the  sweat, jasmine of summer, inner-city urine supper; reminded me of of how all the steps in the way I run now and will run in 11 days. Didn’t much notice the run. Too short to quick. My moon-shadow pointed to Venus, led the way; I let the endorphins play. Was that the last 8k, the run before the challenge? No … no … nope, want these sips while the sparkle still bubbles. Gotta feel I’m doing something.

Misty tapering

Met a guy in a Comrades jacket. First time I’ve heard someone say “Last year I came 8000 something. This year I want to improve my position.” Other than those the very top athletes I didn’t think people cared much about position.  Misty eyed about runningOther numbers worry me: ~17.5 times my little 5k route seems hard. 10 times my 9k seems easy. 1 x 90k nearly impossible. The numbers of running eh? I’ll stay with this morning bright moon, the rising fog, espressos and the thought of just one more medal. Oh, and I am practicing what it will be like on race day. Ran with my timing chip this morning – to get used to its weight. Got all misty-eyed about what might happen on the big day.

Still tapering

Two weeks to perfection. Lie in next to a warm body, soft breath, hair across the pillow. With a little one too, angel-breath, elbow in my ear; rain gurgle in the gutter, car swish in the road. For now I’ll take now a bouncy run-grin-beam. Streets silent before the first bird. Surge a hill, weave across-down Molteno Rd through its median-gaps just for fun; flit along the reservoir which holds the cloudy sky, and often the stars. Lick my fingers dipped into fullness. I like running, you see.


Restive rest

What to do on a running rest day? With the big day looming I have to run or laugh or beam. Life bursting my seams. Keep lid on. Jump in the pool, trim the lawn at 5 am? Took my coffee and crunchies to the planet conjunction – intimate now are Mercury, Jupiter, Venus, Mars. We chatted, I basked in their eye-full, dream-full. If this is training Comrades I don’t want it to stop. Maybe I won’t run this year and keep training for next year.

Jumpy running

Oh I ran this morning in the foghorn mourn, touched the ground in the lightest way 94 kg can, legs running so very smoothly; shirt off to feel drizzle in the darkness; Fingernails glitter in the sparkle-night, toes call out, “us too, cut holes in the shoe” more and more I know why I run; and know why I am jumpy about the 29 May. 87 is further than this easy 6k.


Tapering choice

Drizzle or the overcast sky laughing at an early plopper doing the last of only 4 of the 500 m hill reps? Glad Robyn was awake to pull the trigger-words “peaked too soon”. My target-7 reps:hard work is good you know. Heart-rate up past Comrades slog level, but not close to how Robs can make it race. Definitely drizzle; I listened carefully for rolling laughs across the sky, while stretching ITBs, reining in my mind.