Less than a week to go and I will be running my first race at a distance greater than a half marathon, a full marathon, the big 26.2 miles. Of course I did not choose an easy race, instead I chose a severely technical, massive elevation trail race for my first every marathon, the Mystery Mountain Marathon. My original idea several months ago was to run my 50k November race without a marathon shakedown. As I started training I found descriptions of a brutal trail marathon that fell exactly at the point in my training schedule where I was supposed to run a marathon. After reading numerous race reports detailing a horrendously hard course, often not recommended for first time marathoners, I threw caution to the wind and signed up.
Immediately I realized that the course cuttoffs would prove one of the biggest challenges. The elevation profile detailed 15,000 feet of climbing, including a three plus mile climb up 1500 feet of elevation at mile nineteen. While I knew a DNF (Did Not Finish) was a real possibility due to cuttoffs, I figured if anything this would be great training and preparation for my following month 50k race. As I absorbed the challenge of this race I decided I was not going to take this race lightly, instead I wanted to fight it out and really give myself a shot at completing this race. I realized I could not run this race in the allotted time without a good taper, my fifty mile weeks had made me slow and heavy. I needed to have a planned taper.
I decided to practice the taper I have planned for my 50k race in November, figuring that it would be great to test its validity and see where things needed to be adjusted. This taper starts three weeks out and gradually reduces the volume.
- Week 1: Typical week with a Tuesday, Wednesday,Thursday run of seven, five, seven miles. The difference to this first week involved reducing the Saturday run down to 14-16 miles and eliminating the Sunday run.
- Week 2: This week has more rest and entails a run on Tuesday and Thursday of 5 and 7 miles with a Saturday run of 10 miles and a Sunday run of 5 miles. I decided to eliminate the Sunday run as my Saturday run was ran on very technical trails
- Week 3: Race week. This week has a short four miles on Monday and a three mile run on Wednesday. The final run before the race is a day before quick two mile shake down to awaken the legs.
I have experimented with different taper strategies before with mixed success, but I figured I would do as my plan required and work through this taper. The first week of the taper felt almost normal, I was pretty much running my short five to seven miles as I usually did. What really set this week apart was the short twelve mile run on Saturday and no follow up run on Sunday. What was even more disorientating was not running on Monday… basically having two days in a row without running. As I eased into the second week of the taper I noticed some of the spring returning to my running and my legs began to feel less tired. As I had a day off after every run I pushed the intensity on these runs and then rested and recovered. As I ran my Saturday ten miles, I realized this was the first time in months my legs did not feel tired and sluggish when starting a long run. For the past couple of weeks, my long runs usually occurred after running twenty plus miles through the week.
Besides feeling fresher and more energetic on my runs I suffered few of the usual taper consequences I have experienced before: hunger, irritability, restlessness, cold symptoms and lethargy. This week though everything came crashing down. Last night and this morning I started showing the early signs of a cold. Then later today I suddenly could no longer sit still, even now I feel a strong desire to stand and move around. The worst of all these has been the extreme hunger that hit. Suddenly I was hungry, really hungry. Big problem though was that I did not want anything in particular, nothing sounding appealing. Have you ever been hungry but not in the mood for any food in particular and none of the food tastes appealing? Its the worst most unsatisfying feeling. On top of that I have gained some weight and I think I am a notch up on my belt. To top it off I feel like I am going to burst with energy and a need for movement at random intervals through the day. Hopefully I will not gain too much weight before my race and the cold will disappear.
Besides going crazy I am ready to throw myself at this course and try my hand at what most ultrarunners I know consider to a be a stupidly hard marathon course. I know I signed up for a difficult first marathon experience but with my planned training and tapering I know I have given myself a chance of pushing past the cuttoff deadlines on race day. Next post I will dissect the Mystery Mountain Marathon course and detail my course preparation I have taken. Til next time.