I'll be honest, in the last 6 years since I started running long distance races, I've rarely if ever actually tapered. I've never trusted my fitness level enough to give myself a week or 2 off from training before a race and I usually just kept building mileage until I was running 2-3 miles less than the race distance only a week before the race. Yes, it goes against every expert training advice but it seemed to be working okay for me. I was running at my usual pace and not suffering injuries so I just kept this same routine.
This time around I unintentionally started doing things different. Trying to find time to go out and run for more than an hour when you have a toddler at home can be challenging. Mark has off every other Friday and I work every other Saturday and unfortunately this spring we were on the same weekend schedule. Meaning, if he worked a Friday I was working that same Saturday so one weekend I couldn't run at all and the next weekend I had my choice of either day. Because of this schedule, I was doing long runs every other week. It wasn't my original plan, and sometimes I would be frustrated about it but I began to notice something... I was running a much faster pace than I normally did when running 5+ miles!
It got me thinking... maybe theres something to this extra rest thing.
Not only was I running faster, but my knee was holding up a lot better than I expected!
I've had patellofemoral pain (pain near my knee cap) ever since my Marine Corps Marathon and the more I run the worse it gets... resting was getting me through the miles with almost no pain!
Okay, so I'm not giving the rest all of the credit for my increased speed and decreased pain. In fact, during my longs runs I've actually been running on tired legs because I've been consistently strength training 4 times a week, doing short speed runs once a week, and toughening myself up mentally to keep up my pace even when I feel tired. I usually have a tendency to see myself running a 9 minute pace at mile 5 and say "girl, you better slow down or you're not going to make it 10 miles!" So this time I combated that thought with a "don't you dare slow down, you're not going to die. keep going until you do!" Okay, so I don't really want to run until I die, but I do want to end a run with my legs feeling like jello. My legs have been on fire at the end of every long run this training season, which I've never really had before, and I love it!
All of that combined with extra rest between my long runs has made a huge difference for me this training season! Because of this, I started seriously looking at tapering and decided to give it a try, so here I am! 9 days away and taking it easy. I'm going to run an easy (slow) 5 miles tomorrow and maybe 2-3 miles on Monday, but then just rest, walk and stretch next week. My hope is that I'll reach the starting line with fresh, rested legs and be able to finish the race with a new PR.
I'm getting super close to my all time goal of finishing in 2 hours and its making me super nervous! I almost don't want to say it out loud or write it down because if I come close but don't make it I know I'll be disappointed. I won't be able to help it! Realistically I'll probably finish in 2 hours and 2 minutes if I can run at the same pace as my training runs, but I'm praying that somehow the freshness of my legs, the adrenaline of race day and lots of prayer will give me the extra push! (I'm also hoping to find the 2 hour pace group and stick with them as much as possible!) However, anything under 2 hours and 7 minutes will be a new record for me so either way, I'm hoping to come away with a PR next Sunday!
I'll let you know how it goes! ; )