The Middle Ground

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  • Tapering for races has always been a bit of a conundrum for me.  Whenever I have tapered right off and had a couple of days before the race off I've ended up with calf problems and had either an awful race or DNF.  My best race times have come off little taper or even no taper and a race the day before such as my 5k pb was done the day after my 5 mile pb.  I think that's a bit extreme though and the 5k would have been well under what it was had I done that instead of the 5 mile first.  Anyhow, for me I need to keep some running in the taper week to allow the blood to keep flowing due to past compartment syndrome problems.  So I'll ease off the mileage, but keep some kind of running going the day before the race.

  • Now this is getting interesting!

    Kaysdee - That 5 mile PB is showing the same sort of thing as my build ups. In effect, the 7 days pre-race contaned a flat out 10 miles, a flat out 12 miles and an intense interval session.

    Hilly's comments seem to add more weight to the little or no taper route.

    I think the word 'conundrum' sums it up nicely, Hilly, because if you had a really big A race that you thought you might win and, just to add a little silliness into the equation, lets suppose that potentially you would win £10K if you won the race, would you be able to bring yourself to do two eyeballs out sessions in the 4 or 5 days pre race?

    It may well be the correct thing to do but something still remains deeply embedded that you should be easing up.

    At least I'm not on my own in this conundrum pondering. image

    BR - Thats interesting. The reason for the 10 milers being in the equation was simply because they seemed to be the most effective way of feeling strong throughout a race and being able to push on in the later stages. The cardiac drift control is an extra bonus when it comes to marathon training especially in trying to keep the glycogen burn rate steady.

  • Curly45Curly45 ✭✭✭

    My take on this is from much less data than you guys...but because I have run the parkruns nearly every week throughout my marathon training (both times) then I do have a weekly race to look at in the context of the mileage...

    Okay so I was coming back from illness from 04 July but the graph seems to show no correlation between mileage and times (although the general trends are for increased mileage and decreased times I think this is just a result of me getting fitter):

    http://i186.photobucket.com/albums/x28/becky_rtw/timesversusmileage.png

    Therefore I would suggest that the key value here in the data you lot have provided is intensity...

    Also I want to merely suggest (as in I have no data but thought I would throw it out there) that some of your worst times have also come when you havent tapered - by tapering are you taking the edge of both ends of the spectrum - awful and amazing, thus leaving yourself with a nice solid middle groud (haha) performance?

  • Its an interesting thought but I think that you reach a fitness level whereby, other than marathons, you dont really have what you'd call 'awful' races. You might have disappointing races but when you look at them in context they still tend to be within 1% of what you might have been hoping for.

    I think the underlying theme is that when you get to a certain fitness level it takes a hell of a lot more to scupper a performance than you might first expect.

    IIRC Marigold won a 5 mile road race a few weeks back in 24:xx in the middle of something like a 20 mile training run with 7.5 miles before and 7.5 miles after. And this was at the end of probably a 100 mile week. I might have got the numbers a little bit wrong but the point being that there is a stage in training where the body, or rather the muscles, is/are so used to the workload that it would rather maintain the workload than do something alien like resting.

    I also suspect that arteries/capillaries etc are stretched during the really intense sessions to allow maximum bloodflow and remain fully stretched for a window of maybe 2-3 days before slowly contracting again. maybe if you race within this window you hit the sweetspot where oxygen transportation is at its most efficient.

    But then again, I could be talking absolute bollocks! image

  • Curly45Curly45 ✭✭✭
    Wouldnt be anything new there...image
  • Agreed. Although you might also argue I guess that although it might take more to scupper a performance (stripping out obvious stuff like illness/injury/energy intake) you get to a certain fitness level where it is much harder to take your performances to the next level and this is where training has to be extremely specific and refined to the individual?

    I agree, I am much better running even a little most days than resting. The day after a rest day I can feel quite sluggish but the day after that I feel great.

    Which is why, if i do rest before a race on a Sunday I like resting on the Friday and doing an easy jog + strides the day before.

    The 'awful' races being due to said illness/injury/stress/energy intake etc?

  • RatzerRatzer ✭✭✭

    I posted something really intelligent, and it got wiped by a server error, so I can't prove it.image

    On the taper thing I was wondering whether it was related to the 'taper your diet' question that was on here earlier.  Sometimes taper is also construed as a carb-loading period.  Ease off the training, with the dual purpose of resting your body and allowing your muscles to fill up to the max with glycogen.  But surely having topped up glycogen stores is only relevant to 20milers and above?  Therefore is it necessary to taper for this reason for a shorter distance?  And so if you add in the fact that your body is used to hard and high mileage, for the shorter distances might a taper have little impact?

  • MoraghanMoraghan ✭✭✭

    We'd expect nothing less Ratzer!

    Probably 3 intertwined issues with regards to a peak race:

    1)  Managing lingering workout fatigue and introducing mental and physical race readiness (not necessarily reducing volume).  This would be the taper as usually understood.

    2)  Peaking workouts - which are designed to bring you to a performance peak - as opposed to those workouts in the last week, which are really race rhythm workouts.

    3)  Managing the last week's training so as not to blow it.

    The answer none of us is going to like is it's different for everyone.  I think many runners will screw the race up by putting on so much mental pressure by virtue of having a taper process, that they'd be better off if their PB snuck up on them in the middle of training.  How many times have we seen that?

    Which, if true, leaves us with a bit of a conundrum!

  • Ratzer - Thats what I'm thinking. The key being, as you say, that 'your body is used to hard and high mileage', ie the workload is steady and has been for a few weeks. It may be a totally different story where an increasing mileage curve is in play as there would be more fatigue involved but for steady mileage muscles need little recovery.

    Have a think about how a dalmation works. Does it respond to the word 'walkies' by saying "I'd love to go and run about like a loony but I think I'd better rest up for a couple of days because of that session I did yesterday".

  • Curly45Curly45 ✭✭✭
    The answer none of us is going to like is it's different for everyone.  I think many runners will screw the race up by putting on so much mental pressure by virtue of having a taper process, that they'd be better off if their PB snuck up on them in the middle of training.  How many times have we seen that?

    Which, if true, leaves us with a bit of a conundrum!

     Guilty as charged on that one...so does this go back to mental coaching that was mentioned a lot previously on the Super Six thread?

  • Nicely summed up, Moraghan!

    (Btw that Curly's a bit rude, isnt she? image)

  • RatzerRatzer ✭✭✭
    Moraghan wrote (see)
    3)  Managing the last week's training so as not to blow it.
    The main reason I'd taper!  Can't get to the last week and then pull something by going too hard!
  • RatzerRatzer ✭✭✭

    Blow it

    Pull something

    hard...

    image

    Just going for a cooldown session.  Catch you later.

  • PhilPubPhilPub ✭✭✭

    Seems I'm as confused as the next person when it comes to analysing the effects my tapering has had on race performance.  I can compare two races within a couple of months of each other where I felt I'd had a mini-taper for one, and effectively 'trained through' for the other, with unexpected outcomes.  Both races were in prep for the Beachy Marathon last year.  

    Race 1: 10k.  2 days before: MP run of 8M, which is a few miles less than I would've planned otherwise.  Day before = rest.  Took a fair bit off my pb but during the race really struggled to get HR up to what I'd normally expect for a 10k.  Put this down to the volume of training I'd been doing generally, and assumed that if I'd had a proper taper over a few days, I would've been fresher and run faster.

    Race 2: Southern Road Relays. This was four weeks before the marathon so peaking on mileage.  3 days before: MP run: 15.2M incl. 13.1 @ 5:52/m, easily my best training session leading up to the marathon, then 7M the day before the relay.  So not the best prep on paper but I ran a blinder, beating my 5,000m track pb en route over an undulating course.  (Probably helped getting towed around by a 15:40 5,000m runner!)

    Maybe the mental aspects of race-readiness and/or confidence going into a race play a bigger part than I previously thought?  I know that on the day of the relay I felt ready to give it some proper welly, even if my legs felt a bit heavy.

  • This is what I was looking for - more anecdotal examples questioning exactly what 'tapering' is for distances 1/2 marathon and below.

    We all seem to be confused, but confused in the same direction ie why do the 'blinders' seem to come off the back of hard sessions in the previous few days?

    There may well be a psychological element following on from a really good training session of thinking you can 'conquer the world'. As an example of this, the 10 mile PB that I quoted earlier involved the most stupid race strategy ever , based on over confidence. The strategy was - stay on Steve Cram's shoulder as long as I could and then hold on! image (It was a while ago before you ask!).

    The strategy lasted for barely 2 miles, and resulted in going through 3 miles in 15:57. Its mind boggling to think that it was held together well enough to record a 55:xx, but it does kind of throw some credibility into Phil's 'confidence' element of the build up.

    You would think that, on paper, putting a 13.1 miler @5:52 into your training 2 days before a key race would be just plain daft. But could you really have run any better in the relays with a more sedate build up. It must be unlikely if you went under your track 5000m pb en route (unless it was exceptionally soft, of course image)

  • RatzerRatzer ✭✭✭
    The confidence issue was raised on Radio4 a few days ago (most of you know what radio4 is, don't give me that look!).  Some psychologist on interview and joined by Johnathan Edwards.  One of the items was the claim of a psychological boost from a relief of pressure leading to better results.  J Edwards used to be a devout Christian (surprised me that he isn't now, but that's a different forum) and appeared to admit that his beliefs could be used as a kind of crutch in that much of the pressure could be piled onto God.  There seems to be a similar vein here in that the best races (anecdotally) are those where you're not specifically leading up to them, just treating them as a step on the way, or part of normal training.  Or, perhaps leading up to them but by not tapering the pressure is somehow relieved - they're not being treated as 'special'!
  • RatzerRatzer ✭✭✭
    Of course, then you've got to apply those 'tricks' to something you are peaking for... image
  • Curly45Curly45 ✭✭✭

    Interesting stuff on confidence - part of the reason I run a parkrun nearly every week is to get over my confidence issues (the reason I dropped out of the marathon this year)...

    I'm aware that I always feel as if I dont belong and that I cant suceed at an event, so I use parkruns to give me more experience, but its slow going - there's always the voice in the back of your mind saying you cant. It gets worse when I target a race as an A race as well so I think for me tapering is quite negative in that respect, but when I get to end of a training plan I am usually exhausted (or right on the edge of exhaustion) so I'd hate to not taper enough. 

    Maybe we (I) need to rethink and remove the idea of 'tapering'. Perhaps thinking of each race as a change of trains. You have an end goal (the destination) but to get there you have to change trains which involves a short wait at the station (not too long, but also you dont want to get there late and miss you connection)? 

    (got to love a good metaphor image)

  • MoraghanMoraghan ✭✭✭

    This year's middle distance season involves completing pace workout progressions, followed by lactic tolerance training and then change of pace workouts.  I then have 5 - 8 weeks that is full of just racing, resting and race maintenance when there is sufficient gap between races.  To a major extent the 'taper' takes care of itself.

    Of course by the end of 8 weeks my long distance capability will be totally shot, so then it's time for the 2010 / 11 base.

  • Curly45Curly45 ✭✭✭

    5-8 weeks of racing imageimage

    But you are still targeting one particular event as an A event arent you? In which case are the others are train through races and will you 'taper' in traditional terms for the A one?

  • PhilPubPhilPub ✭✭✭

    image 500th reply!  image

    Moraghan wrote (see)

    Of course by the end of 8 weeks my long distance capability will be totally shot, so then it's time for the 2010 / 11 base.


    Yes, you'll need to get back into LD shape for the Southern Cross Country champs.  You know you want to!  image

    [edit:  D'oh!  OK, 501st...]

  • I think like Moraghan (who seems to know a thing or twoimage) there are two issues here. Firstly, the confidence/mental side of training and racing and secondly, the physiological aspects of tapering.

    Does a solid training session in the week prior to a race give you the mental edge on race day or leave you tired for the race itself? Do we need to trust our training/fitness more? I don't know.

    I had a lot of confidence issues last year Curly. Liz gets me to write 3 positive things about my weeks training every week. Doesn't have to be attaining a pb, it can be simply completing all the sessions when busy or having a strong MP session or whatever. But it works on your overall frame of mind.

    I raced quite a lot last year and tried out various mental coping techniques for when the going gets tough. Different things work for different people. I like breaking the race into manageable chunks and trying to stay strong 'just for one mile' I also like focussing on the next person and slowly trying to draw closer whilst maintaining a constant and sustainable effort. Or even doing a race at training pace with the aim of maintaining good form for the duration, taking the focus off the end result or my 'time'

    You are a 'can' not a 'can't' image

  • I work the same way in a race, Sue. I run to around 3 mile stages, unless it's a 5K image. I "struggle" probably in the third quarter of every race where the challenge becomes more mental than physical. I remember in the 10m, my pace was beginning to slip so I gave myself a conscious kick up the backside and speeded back up, then realised it was no harder to keep going at that pace, than the slower pace I was drifting to.

    I think I have fairly good mental strength, when the going gets tough, I really try to dig in. Although maybe it's just because I am incredibly stubborn!

    Now, for the half I've just done, I did a 3 x 1m HMP session of that week and whilst I hit my paces, it was an effort so I was beginning to have doubts that there was no way I could do it. Then, as you read with the bad morning I had, when I lined up I was thinking this is going to be a disaster. It was great!

    At my level, my races are stepping stones. I'm never going to win anything, but just want to be the best I can be. They are incredibly important to me at the time, but even if they go badly, after a bit of a sulk, I know they are still really important, not only in the gains in the training leading up to it, but also if it can teach me a lesson - if something has gone wrong that was my own fault, like poor pacing - I know what to change next time.

    Hopefully I have years of development ahead of me, so I try to keep my eye on the long term goal. I still want to nail whatever target I've set though and I will pout and it will be the end of the world for a day if I don't get it image.

  • MoraghanMoraghan ✭✭✭
    Curly45 wrote (see)

    5-8 weeks of racing imageimage

    But you are still targeting one particular event as an A event arent you? In which case are the others are train through races and will you 'taper' in traditional terms for the A one?

    Officially I have two concurrent competition periods of 5 weeks each.  The A event just dictates where it falls in that schedule - in about week 4 of the first.  Every other race in these two periods is 100% serious.  There is no taper because the entire period is just racing or race maintenance workouts.  There would be nothing to taper from for the A races.

    The position of the A race is not too close to the start so as to enable plenty of racing when fresh which will help the A race, but not too close to the end when base fitness is completely eroded.  The second competition period ends when the eroding core fitness starts to overwhelm the improvement in race specific fitness.  Declining times and / or burnout will tell me when to stop. 

    It's going to be short this year because I lost a lot of training at the worst possible time because of knee problems and other issues.

    PhilPub wrote (see)

    image 500th reply!  image

    Moraghan wrote (see)

    Of course by the end of 8 weeks my long distance capability will be totally shot, so then it's time for the 2010 / 11 base.


    Yes, you'll need to get back into LD shape for the Southern Cross Country champs.  You know you want to!  image

    [edit:  D'oh!  OK, 501st...]

    Never again Phil!
  • RatzerRatzer ✭✭✭
    Sue C wrote (see)
    I raced quite a lot last year and tried out various mental coping techniques for when the going gets tough. Different things work for different people. I like breaking the race into manageable chunks and trying to stay strong 'just for one mile' I also like focussing on the next person and slowly trying to draw closer whilst maintaining a constant and sustainable effort. Or even doing a race at training pace with the aim of maintaining good form for the duration, taking the focus off the end result or my 'time'

    You are a 'can' not a 'can't' image


    That's my method too, Sue, looking at the person in front and figuring out how to get past them.  I usually completely miss mile markers in my world.

    Moraghan - "It's going to be short this year because I lost a lot of training at the worst possible time because of knee problems and other issues."
    If you have an enforced break like this, what do you concentrate on recovering?

  • Ah, now thats interesting about race coping mechanisms.

    It is always going to be the middle third or third quarter where you are most prone to 'mental drift' and hence a dropping of pace.

    For me, in nearly every race I have the same aim for this period. I will spend the second quarter attempting to position myself for a tow through that third quarter. It really pays off to close down, say, a 10 metre gap on the runner in front and then switch off until the final quarter.

    It can start to feel quite comfortable sitting in behind someone, even though the pace has remained constant, leading to an 'urge to surge'. But, unless the pace is obviously dropping, it is almost always a better tactic to stay in the tow until the final quarter or the final km in a 5K.

    It is almost always a tactic that gains you a place too since it can be mentally draining running that section of the race with someone on your shoulder. image

  • MoraghanMoraghan ✭✭✭
    Ratzer wrote (see)
     Moraghan - "It's going to be short this year because I lost a lot of training at the worst possible time because of knee problems and other issues."
    If you have an enforced break like this, what do you concentrate on recovering?


    It's been a weird one.  I've never had to have more than 3 days off in a row (typically 1 or 2) but it's been very regularly and combined with having to re do a couple of workouts because I didn't manage them and being stuck in foreign countries mean I'm well behind on some of my pace progressions. 

    So to get those workouts in (which are key imo) I've had to ditch some longer endurance sessions which together with fewer long runs (a consistent knee problem trigger) meant I've lost a fair bit of LT / VO2 max fitness.  This year I also did a vo2 max phase before LT which I will not do in the future as it didn't work for me.  I also find MP progression runs are a key workout that I will include deeper into the schedule in future.

    So, for the next 5 weeks before the comp period I am racing on just one day, doing just one 400m pace session and will concentrate on 1) 800m, 2)  1500m and 3)  LT/VO2 max combo sessions.  My rearranged weeks will also mean I should be able to squeeze in some long runs.

    My knees may well be out of the words as I've been rehabbing very diligently, so I may be able to rescue things!

  • Unfortunately I threw away all my running logs when I stopped running but I have a pretty good memory of how I got my two most desired pbs (I'd been after them both since I started running) My 5 mile pb was achieved after racing the said distance on three consecutive weekends, went from 36.20 to 34.14, sub 35 was my dream. Only ran two or three easy short runs during the week as was prone to injury at the time. 10k was the same, raced quite a few one after the other, really can't remember how many but went from 46 something to 44.25 again only easy running during the week.

    For me it was definitely getting a feel of how much I could push myself over the distance. Would say racing just the one distance consecutively was a big factor for me.

  • Mr VMr V ✭✭✭
    Interesting discussion regarding tapering and your mental state/ confidence entering a race. I did a 10k last night that I had targeted as a key race. I was well prepared and had tapered. I was fairly confident of going sub 40 but after about 2k I already knew this wasn’t going to happen. I felt awful the whole way round and actually considered stopping at 7k. Anyway I didn’t and eventually bumbled over the line in 41.15. I still can’t quite work out how I ran so slowly given conditions were good, course was quick and I didn’t set off too fast. The only obvious thing was I had problems getting there and getting my number so was slightly stressed by the start. I wonder if it links into what people have been saying about tapering and preparing for a specific race putting too much pressure on yourself – especially for someone fairly inexperienced like myself. It does knock your confidence a bit – so I’m thinking of doing parkrun on Saturday and getting it out of my system.
  • Curly45Curly45 ✭✭✭

    Sorry to hear you didnt get the sub 40 Viper - I know it can be a very illusive target for a lot of people! 

    I always like to take a few days to get the race sorted in my head - like what went wrong (tapering, illness, target to hard etc) so I know how to work on that for next time, but I think if a parkrun helps you do that then why not image

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