Marathon Reflection Monday: The REAL Taper Edition

{So, this is the post I had wanted to do LAST Monday}.

Way back when I first started training for a marathon and the whole concept of a 3:30 finish time was pretty abstract, I thought if I could do my last 20 miler with an average of 9 minute miles (1 minute slower than marathon pace), my training would have been a success.  

This is based on my Half Marathon Land ability to run races a minute faster per mile than my long runs.  Also, the experts at these things say long runs should be between 30 seconds and a minute and a half slower than race pace.

But first…

OMG TAPER!!!  But really this time! (for the record, this may be the first time I’ve actually ever typed out “OMG” but if any occasion calls for it, it’s this one!).

If you didn’t know, Aaron and I were both quite ill last weekend and decided against running our last scheduled 20 mile run.  After weighing the options, we decided to postpone the long run to Saturday.  Even though it was not ideal to allow only a 2 week taper,  we didn’t feel adequately prepared.  On marathon day we would have been 5 weeks out from our last long run.  Physically, I don’t know if that’s as terrible as it sounds, but mentally, it was quite unnerving.

So, we woke up and did our last 20 miler on Saturday.  I knew from the beginning that I’d take it slower than normal just to make sure my legs didn’t get too trashed.  Mornings have been cold and dark, so we started much later than we had during the summer…at about 7:40.

We did the same course we did on our first 20 miler.  Lots and lots of uphill with an eventual 6 mile downhill at the end.  Truthfully, it was a rather uneventful run in the best way possible.

Everything felt good.  I fueled at mile 7, drank a half liter of Gatorade at mile 10, and fueled again at mile 16.5.  At no point did I hate running (GOOD!).  My body didn’t hurt, and even my feet didn’t get tired (EVEN BETTER!).  I didn’t get depressed over the amount of mileage left (considering some of my earlier long runs, this is a huge Amy breakthrough).  It did start getting warm at around mile 15 and I was thirsty, but it was nothing compared to some of the temperatures of summer.

I finished 20 miles in 3 hours and 53 seconds.  9:02 pace.  It felt comfortable and strong, and is almost 8 minutes faster than the first go 5 weeks ago when I wasn’t focused on taking it easy or going slow.

And more than that, it gave me the confidence that has been wavering over the past few weeks.

With all the good things that running brings, it can also turn into an all-consuming quest to be better (than myself or others) or to crush goals.  Both worthy aspirations in my book.  But I am incredibly competitive and Type A.  The underlying pressure of meeting my goal of running a Boston qualifying marathon has sometimes driven me to insanity.  I’ve felt inadequate, weak, or just plain not enough during this process.

Yesterday, I tried to go back to why I came up with that crazy goal in the first place.  It wasn’t because I really thought I could qualify on my first try.  The odds are not in my favor, and looking around blog land, many faster runners than me aren’t able to run marathons that fast.

I set a high goal so I would work hard and give it my best effort.  To say that I would simply finish would allow me to take it easy.  I wanted to give this marathon training my all, and I knew the only way I would do that is if I set my bar high.

I don’t know if doing this long run was the best idea.  The general consensus during #runchat yesterday was that trying to make up runs during taper time is pretty much the stupidest thing you can do (I of course didn’t publicize our 20 miler to the marathon #runchat people for fear of being judged). I don’t know if I’ll recover enough in two weeks.  But I am feeling a billion more times confident in my ability.  And I think that is everything.

I ran the final long run that I wanted, and my hope in myself is renewed!

So, now all we can do is make this a very effective taper and we’re pulling out all sorts of stops. Air filters running constantly in the house, hanging out in the steam room at the gym everyday to get rid of residual sickness crud, being diligent about daily vitamins and supplements, and eating so clean it hurts (with the exception of some special occasions coming up).  I’m also going to try to put those yoga for runner’s DVD’s to good use (they have been used exactly zero times during this marathon training season), and ice/stretch/roll muscles everyday.

And that’s about all we can do.  Training is done.  Now it is time to sit back, and hope that our efforts over the last 3.5 months were enough.  And if they weren’t….well, at least it looks like I’ll be able to finish  my first marathon in under 4 hours!

Have a fantastic week! I’ve seen some fantastic race PR’s from this weekend!

27 thoughts on “Marathon Reflection Monday: The REAL Taper Edition

  1. That’s awesome!!! I would’ve done the same thing as you with regards to the 20 miler. If it will help build your confidence come race day – do it! Now sit back and enjoy the taper (and try not to go crazy with the extra time on your hands). I’m so excited for you for your race!!

    • I’m already going crazy! But I’m trying to really relax. I’m mostly sad that I can’t justify “post long run eating binges” for the next 2 weeks.

  2. You are SO gonna rock this marathon! I think it’s great that you got in your second 20 miler and I think you definitely had the right approach. Sounds like it’ll be smooth sailing from here on out 🙂

  3. You’re gonna be AWESOME Amy 🙂 I am so excited to hear the results. I’m going to miss Marathon Reflection Mondays though!! Also you’ve inspired me to sign up for my next marathon ahead of schedule. Hopefully you and I will BOTH be training for a Spring marathon

    • I was actually thinking about how sad it will be when I don’t have something to write about on Mondays! Yay for marathons! (I’m secretly already kind of getting excited for another even though I said I wouldn’t). And hopefully you still like me when you’re hitting those 16/17 mile runs!

  4. Wow – you were right about having a great 20 miler. Congrats!
    Rested legs are important, of course, but I think confidence is even more essential to success. It would not have been fun to be worrying/anxious for the next 2 weeks! Now you can focus on taking care of your body during the taper. I think that quote you posted is so true. I spent all day Saturday (pre-10K) remembering that it will hurt to try to PR and preparing myself mentally for it.

    • I agree…I would have been a nervous wreak (well….even more of a nervous wreak) for the next 2 weeks. I’m hoping this confidence and mental prep will carry me through those crazy unknown 6.2 miles. I still need to check out your race recap but it sounds like you did wonderfully!

  5. Oh my god, prepare for more craziness….. Seriously, I’m going nuts AND I’m sick, so I couldn’t really do much if I wanted to! You’ll rock your marathon though. I’m glad I’m going first so I can have a week of glory before you destroy my time. 😉


      I was already sad when I went grocery shopping and couldn’t justify the big tub of pumpkin pancake mix because I didn’t have a long run this weekend. And by the way, I told Aaron this weekend about the wedding you have on Saturday, so now we both hate her guts for sabotaging your race even more! We’ll hate her so you don’t have to. We’ll also hate your germy students for you.

      • Ha ha, you don’t have to hate the bride for me. I found out the meal was so late I wouldn’t even be able to stay for it, so she found out last week that Ian would be attending solo, and I would be heading to marathon-ville. It came down to the fact that the race was in my diary before their second wedding ceremony (I made the real one, so I don’t feel so bad).

        Feel free to continue hating on germ-riddled kids though.

        Oh, and there’s no way I can justify what I just shoveled down my throat for Ian’s birthday meal, but whatever. I’ll fast tomorrow or something.

        PS – Pumpkin pancakes are the bomb.

      • That’s sad, but also probably good for the sake of the marathon! We’ll stop sending bad voodoo vibes then I guess. Our friends are also getting married this weekend, and I’m kind of half-heartedly reminding myself that now is not the time to go overboard with celebrating. BUT…we’ll see/yeah right.

      • You’re so supportive Amy! I have VMA for both of you, and I also have anxiety as to when I will be able to wish Rachel good luck from Canada with the time difference! Thinking of both of you strong ladies 🙂

  6. Great job on the 20 miler! I think that you will be plenty recovered in 2 weeks, especially since it sounded like your run felt so good. By the way, where did you run? I’ve got a 20 miler coming up and am getting so tired of running on the Tramway and Bosque bike paths, I need a new route to take!

    • Thank you! Yeah, I did the Bosque for a few weekends in a row when Aaron was injured (I wanted a trail with lots of people and little chance of getting lost) and I try and avoid it as much as possible now.

      We started off with a 2 mile loop around our neighborhood, then up toward Albuquerque Academy on San Antonio. There is a trail that goes behind Cherry Hills Library up all the way to Eubank (really nice and less crowded), then across Eubank all the way North to where it ends (another good stretch…Eubank has a nice paved trail), then up that street to Tramway (hate to tell you that we did use Tramway too!), Tramway to Academy and up around High Desert, then down that trail (Bear Canyon maybe?) that leads from the top of Spain all the way to Arroyo del Oso golf course which leads right back to our house. I’m not sure where you’re coming from, but it made use of a lot of good shorter trails, but the 1000 foot climb is kind of rough. I’d hate to have that at the end of the run instead of the beginning!

      • Thanks, I know exactly where you are talking about (I live near Academy and Tramway). That is a wicked climb to do in a 20 miler, I’m a wuss when it comes to hills (although I need to incorporate them more!). I have to get myself pumped up just to run the uphill portion around the Academy! Considering that much elevation climb and that you still maintained an average 9 minute pace, you are definitely going to ROCK the flat Chicago course!

      • I hate hills. My husband loves them, and it is really hard to run anywhere from our house without having to do lots of uphill, so I just whine about it all the time!

  7. Great to see! I am really using you and A as a road map of what is to come for me…I am hoping for a strong 19 this weekend and a solid 20 miler a couple of weeks later. I would be more scared if I didn’t have you guys to show me what to expect mentally. I think you are both going to do fantastic in Chicago, taper time!

    • Haha….I suppose we’re happy to be your guinea pigs. The weird thing is, I hated both 18 and 19 (like, wanted to murder anything running related), but I’ve truly enjoyed all 3 20’s. All of the sudden, your body just gets used to the distance, and everything falls into place. So, as your guinea pig, I can tell you that you have that to look forward to!

      And pretty much the only reason I’m participating in this madness is because of other bloggers who make it seem like this is no big deal. I’m still freaked out (the next several posts will be an Amy freak out session), but much less so knowing that other people have gone through and survived to talk about it (well, almost all…I think there tends to be 1 death per major marathon…let’s talk about something else).

      • Wait, you ran 20 miles three times, plus 18 and 19 milers? Crap, I suddenly feel unprepared considering I have only done one 17 and 18 miler, and only have 19 and 20 left of my long runs!

      • Actually I think I lied…maybe I didn’t do 18. We did 13/14, 16/17, 19/20 20/20 with back down off it weeks in between. So I think we only did 1 loooong run more than what you’ll do. And for all we know, you’ll do just as well (or better) on less mileage. I have truthfully found very few people who’ve done the amount of long runs we have.

  8. ROCK. STAR. I’m no expert, but you sound a lot like me when it comes to having your mind in the right place for a race. I’ve definitely run too much on race weeks before or botched training, but at the end of the day, if my confidence isn’t there, perfect adherence to a training regimen won’t help. I think you’re going to rock this marathon out of the water!

    • That’s exactly how I feel. Physically, my body can probably do it, but if I don’t have a good attitude about it, I’ll be miserable the whole time! Thanks for the encouragement!

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