THE MARATHON TAPER...HOW TO ACHIEVE OPTIMAL PERFORMANCE
How Long Should You Taper?
How Should You Reduce Training to Improve Marathon Performance?
Carbo-loading and Hydration During the Taper
THE MARATHON TAPER...HOW TO ACHIEVE OPTIMAL PERFORMANCE
How Long Should You Taper?
How Should You Reduce Training to Improve Marathon Performance?
Carbo-loading and Hydration During the Taper
Each race distance has its own unique physiological requirements and places a different set of stresses on the body. When training to excel at a goal race, it is important to structure a training program to contain the proper mix of workouts for the chosen distance....hence the principal, “specificity of training.”
For example, in the 5k the most important training intensity is VO2 max (5k race pace), followed by lactate threshold, endurance and then speed. This doesn’t mean that lactate threshold, endurance and speed should be ignored; they all need to be part of the training program. It just means that for best possible performance in the 5k, there needs to be a mix of all of these variables with an emphasis on VO2 max training. For the 10k, VO2 max and lactate threshold training are equally important. For the half marathon the training emphasis shifts to lactate threshold with endurance being second. For the marathon, endurance and lactate threshold training intensities are both emphasized while VO2 max and speed are of lesser importance.
Pace (P) runs are used to train the body to run at goal race pace for the marathon and sometimes the half marathon. Pace runs are not differentiated for shorter distances as the race pace for distances below the half marathon is usually at or below lactate threshold, and is at VO2 max for the 5k.
Endurance/Easy and Long Easy Runs (E)
Purpose: Building Aerobic Conditioning, Train the Body to Conserve Fuel
Aerobic conditioning can be any distance runs (or run/walk) of 20 mins-3 hours in duration. Depending on your goal time, fitness level, experience and race distance, the distance of you aerobic conditioning runs will vary quite significantly. These runs are done at about 45–1:30 min/mile slower than marathon race pace, 1:00–2:00 slower than half marathon race pace or 1:30–2:30 slower than 5k race pace. This should correlate to 65–80 % of your maximum heart rate.
Regardless of what distance you are training for, aerobic conditioning represents the majority of your training program.
Endurance long & easy runs will:
Pace Runs (P)
Purpose: Building Aerobic Conditioning and Train the Body to Run at Goal Marathon/Half Marathon Pace
Pace runs are shorter runs at goal marathon or half marathon pace. For the marathon, they are run at @ 20–30 seconds slower than lactate threshold pace or .45-1:30 faster than endurance/easy runs. For the half marathon, they are run @ 1:00–2:00 faster than your endurance/easy runs or just slightly slower than lactate threshold pace.
Pace runs will:
Tempo (T) and Lactate Threshold (LT) Runs
Purpose: Build Stamina by Raising your Lactate Threshold
Lactate threshold and tempo runs train the body to tolerate moderate levels of lactic acid in the blood while running at significantly faster pace than aerobic, “easy” conditioning (where there is very little lactic acid production). Lactic acid is the by-product of “oxygen debt” when we try to run fast for any length of time.
Stamina (or speed over distance) has become synonymous with the term lactate threshold training. Your lactate “threshold” is the speed just below the point at which lactic acid is being produced at a faster rate than it can be removed from the bloodstream Threshold pace is at your 10-mile race pace, 25-30 seconds/mile slower than 5k race pace, 10–15 seconds/mile slower than 10k race pace or 20–30 seconds faster than marathon race pace. This correlates with an effort of about 85–90 % of maximum heart rate. It is very important that lactate threshold runs are done exactly at or right below lactate threshold pace. If you train too fast, the desired outcome will not occur and it will be difficult to complete the entire workout at lactate threshold pace.
Lactate threshold running can be performed as either:
Lactate Threshold/Tempo runs will:
VO2 Max Runs (VO2)
Purpose: Increase the amount of oxygen-rich blood your heart can pump to your muscles and the amount of oxygen that can be used by your working muscles
Your VO2 max is the maximum amount of oxygen that you can take in, process and use to provide the energy you need to run. The upper limit of your VO2 max (also known as aerobic capacity) is in large part genetically predetermined. However, most runners have not “maxed” out their functional aerobic capacities. Fortunately, well-designed training can have a significant impact on improving your VO2 max.
VO2 Max workouts are medium length intervals of 600 – 2000 meters at current 5k race pace and eventually, as improvements occur, at realistic 5k goal pace. In between each interval jog 50 – 90 % of the time it takes to run the repeat. These workouts will increase your aerobic capacity to its upper functional limit. Anywhere from 2 1⁄2 to 5 miles worth of intervals should be part of every VO2 max session (for example 5 x 800 meters) At this running speed, your heart rate will generally be at 95 – 100% of maximum.
Like lactate threshold training, it is very important that the intervals are run at the proper intensity and that the recovery time is within the time range. Too long a recovery will cause the heart rate to drop too low to stimulate the best possible improvement in VO2 max. Running the repeats too fast will stimulate the anaerobic system more than the aerobic, and will make it difficult to finish the workout.
VO2 Max Runs will:
Speed Workouts (S)
Purpose: Increase leg turnover, improve running mechanics and form, buffer lactic acid
Speed workouts are done at significantly faster than threshold pace and there fore the accumulation of lactic acid is expected. Your anaerobic capacity is your body’s ability to buffer and tolerate this inevitable build-up of lactic acid in the bloodstream. Anaerobic running occurs when the intensity of your running does not allow you to produce energy through the intake of oxygen alone, therefore forcing the body to derive increasing amounts of energy from the breakdown of muscle glycogen. A high anaerobic capacity represents a high tolerance of lactic acid buildup. Being able to continue to run while lactic acid is building up is critical to racing well.
Speed workouts are repeats of 400 meters or less that are done at about 15-20 seconds faster than 5k pace (it is important to remember these are not all-out sprints). Rest periods are longer and are determined by how long it will take you to be able to perform the next repetition at your target time.
Speed workouts will:
If you have run a marathon or half marathon recently, you will have a rough idea of what your goal pace should be for that distance. For many Run Camp participants, however, the upcoming event will be the very first half or full marathon. Others may not have run the distance for an extended period of time and fitness levels may have changed. So how do you select your goal pace? Your training run and lactate threshold pace can give you a general indication, but a recently completed race of another distance can often be a great predictor of what your goal pace should be. Races used for prediction purposes should be run at a best effort. Also, races closer in distance to the goal race are a more accurate predictor than a much longer or shorter race. For example, the half marathon is a much better indicator of marathon time than a 5k is.
For the half marathon, a recent 5k, 10k, 10 mile or even marathon time can give you an excellent indication of what your half marathon finishing time or goal pace should be. You can use the following conversion factors to determine the corresponding half marathon time and then use a pacing chart to determine the appropriate pace.
10 mile 1.33
Marathon .472 For example, if your 10k time is 50 minutes (3000 seconds), your predicted half marathon time would be 6720 seconds (3000 x 2.24) or 1:52 or about an 8:30 min/mile pace. Likewise, if you ran the Crim in 1:30, your corresponding half marathon time would be 7182 seconds (5400 x 1.33) or 1:59 or about a 9:02 mile pace. Recently ran a marathon? A 3:30 marathon, 12,600 seconds, would correspond to 5947 seconds for a half marathon (12,600 x .472) or a 1:39 or about a 7:30 pace. For the marathon, a recent 10k, 10 mile or half marathon can provide a good indication of what your marathon finishing time and goal pace should be. Again, you would use the conversion factors below, than refer to a pacing chart to determine the appropriate pace for the predicted time.
10 mile 2.82
Half Marathon 2.12
For example, with a recent 10k time of 50 minutes (3000 seconds), your predicted marathon time would be 14,280 seconds (3000 x 4.76) or a 3:58 marathon. If you look at corresponding pacing charts, this would be about a 9:02 min/mile pace. If you recently ran a half marathon at 1:40 (6000 seconds), your corresponding marathon time would be approximately 12,720 seconds (6000 x 2.12) or 3:32, which corresponds to about an 8:02 pace. Keep in mind there can be many other factors that can impact your performance. Race time conversions, particularly from a much shorter distance, can be a bit aggressive for the first time marathoner. Training specificity, weather conditions, hydration and fueling are just some of the factors that can heavily impact performances. For example, you can have two people who ran a 40:00 min 10k. One may completed two 20-milers while the other wasn’t able to complete anything over 13 miles. The runner who trained specifically for the marathon will be more likely to run the predicted time, than one who has focused their training specifically on shorter distances.
Reference: Pfitzinger, P., and S. Douglas. 1999. Road Racing for Serious Runners. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.
DECLINE TRAINING: THE BENEFITS AND TECHNIQUES
Sprinters have used downhill training for years to improve leg turnover, but it can also be beneficial to the distance runner as well and has been incorporated into many distance training programs. Decline training not only teaches you proper downhill technique, but will also improve speed while running on the flats and can even help prevent
Increased Leg Turnover
Improved Downhill Running Performance
Reduce Delayed-onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS)
Gaining an Advantage When Cresting a Hill
Downhill reps of 75-150 meters
Up and Down Intervals
Pfitzinger, P. 2005. “Moving Up by Going Down.” Running Times 328 (July/August): 16
|Proper race pacing can make or break your half marathon or marathon experience and performance. The outcome can just as easily be determined by what happens the first few miles after the gun goes off as much as what happens during the many weeks of training and preparation. What is the best pacing strategy? Should you run hard early on while you are fresh? Run easy at the start and clock a negative split? Or how about running an even pace throughout the entire race?In 2005 I signed up to run the Martian Marathon. Physically I was well-prepared. I had the training under my belt and was feeling fresh...perhaps a little too fresh. The gun went off, the adrenaline was flowing and I ran the first mile about a minute faster than my marathon pace. The 2nd mile I realized my mistake and pulled it in, but was still about 40 seconds ahead of goal pace. By 6 miles, my pace was 30 seconds ahead, and by 8 miles, I started to slow ...to a pace slower than goal marathon pace. By 12 miles it was all over....my calves cramped up so badly from the lactic acid that had accumulated; I had to stop altogether. I dropped out and walked a 3 mile short cut back to the finish.
Three weeks later, at the Boston Marathon, I practiced an entirely different strategy. I ran the first few miles right at marathon pace. It felt very slow, but I knew I had to conserve energy for the hills that loomed beyond the 15th mile. By mid-race, I was very comfortably cruising along the slight downhill and flat sections of the course about 10 seconds faster than goal race pace, but feeling fresh. Eventually the hills, and a natural slowdown in pace came, but the slowdown wasn’t drastic and the hills did not present a difficult challenge. Because of the warm weather and hilly course, my calves started to cramp a little during the 17th mile, but it was different than the debilitating cramps that were caused by the accumulation of lactic acid 3 weeks earlier. Pretty soon I had crested Heartbreak Hill, ran down the other side and was approaching Boston proper. Before I knew it, the finish line loomed ahead of me and I crossed in PR time. My average pace per mile was 3 seconds faster than my first mile....and my time a PR on the most challenging road marathon course I had ever encountered.
The answer to proper pacing lies within the principles we learned earlier on lactate threshold. Your ideal half marathon pace is just below lactate threshold and your ideal marathon pace is about 20 – 30 seconds slower than lactate threshold pace. If you run faster than lactate threshold pace the lactate accumulates in your blood and muscles, which affects the enzymes for energy production and forces you to slow down. When you run faster than lactate threshold, you also use more glycogen, so you are depleted more quickly. This is especially detrimental to marathon performance as it can cause you to “hit the wall” sooner.
The best strategy, as evidenced by both physiology and my Boston experience, is to run relatively even pacing. If you run much faster than your average pace for any one part of the race, you will likely start to accumulate lactic acid and use more glycogen than necessarily. Proper pacing can be especially tricky for the half marathon since it is run so close to lactate threshold. It can be easy to creep above the ceiling. If you attempt to run a negative split and run much slower than your average pace, you will need to make up for it later on, again running faster than your most efficient pace for another part of the race. The best strategy, is to run nearly even splits, taking into the account the topography of the course. At Boston, my time splits weren’t dead even. The first few miles I ran on pace, the middle flat and slightly downhill portions I ran 10 seconds faster, and the up hills a bit slower. The nature of the course required some variation in pace to account for the variation in effort demanded by the terrain.
Most runners shouldn’t try to maintain dead even splits, especially in the marathon. During the marathon, your slow twitch fibers gradually become fatigued and your body begins to rely more on the less economical fast-twitch fibers. This will make both your running economy and lactate threshold pace decrease. Towards the end of the marathon, your pace will be reduced slightly. This suggests a more efficient strategy would be to run the first half just slightly (2-3%) faster to allow for the natural slowdown that occurs.
The first mile of a marathon or half marathon you want to run right at or slightly slower than goal pace. You still won’t be completely warmed up and won’t be prepared to go much faster. Once you have run the first mile, the best strategy is to find a good rhythm; a fast but relaxed pace. For the half marathon, this will be about 5 – 10 seconds slower than lactate threshold, for the marathon about 20 -30 seconds slower. At this stage, you should be cruising and saving your mental and emotional energy for the 2nd half. In the half marathon concentrate on maintain a fairly even pace for the first 10 miles, then dig deep the last 3.1 miles to bring it home. If you paced yourself well and stayed right below that lactate threshold ceiling, you should be able to run a strong final 5k.
In the marathon, the halfway point to 20 miles is where the mental discipline of training really kicks in. At this point you are tired and still have a long way to go. Keep a positive attitude and watch your pace closely. This is where most runners start to let their pace drift, first 5 seconds per mile, then 10, then beyond. Concentrate on your splits.....at this point, most well-trained marathoners are still physically able to maintain goal pace. Sometimes, especially during this stage, it is not uncommon to have a bad patch, and then have it disappear. If you start feeling bad, press on, it may pass. Taking carbohydrate in the form of energy gels, etc often help with this. The last 6.2 miles is what you have ultimately prepared for during your many months of training and where your long runs will pay off. Dig deep here...you want to push as hard as you can, but not so hard your muscles tighten and you cramp up. Concentrate all the way to the finish line and cross over strongly (but don’t sprint at the end of a marathon)! Then Savor the fruit of all your labor...you did it!
Occasionally weather or racing strategy may require you to change your pacing plan. If you are running into a head wind, there is a big advantage to running with a group of runners and taking turns drafting. You save considerable energy this way, but you also may need to run slightly faster or slower to stay with the group. The most you should deviate from your goal pace, however, is about 8 – 10 seconds per mile.
Pfitzinger, P., and S. Douglas. 2001. Advanced Marathoning. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.
Basic Strength Training Exercises
Single Leg Squat
Squat down on one foot until your leg is bent about 50 degrees; push back up. "Keep your hips even, and your knee over your foot," says coach Bob Larsen. Once you've mastered the move, add dumbbells (start with 5 pounds).
Repetition: 2 sets of 10; build to 2 sets of 12
What it Works: Quads and glutes
Stand on a curb or platform with your heels over the edge. Lift up onto your toes, raise one foot and slowly lower. Once you have the move down, add dumbbells (start with 5 pounds).
Repetition: 1 set of 8; build to 3 sets of 15
What it Works: Calf muscles and Achilles tendon
Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, holding a 5 to 8 pound ball in your hands. Squat down with the ball between your knees, keeping your heels on the floor, sticking your butt out, and not letting your knees go more than a few inches toward your toes. Return
to standing, raising the ball overhead, maintaining a slight bend in your knees. Keep your core engaged the whole time, as if bracing for a punch. Do two or three sets of 12 to 15 reps; increase weight of the medicine ball when you can do 15 in good form
Repetition: 2 to 3 sets of 12 to 15 reps; increase weight of the medicine ball when you can do 15 in good form.
Nutrition is an important factor in becoming and being fit and in performing our best. It is
important to have a plan that works for your body to prepare, perform and recover in training
For many people, it can be difficult to have anything in their stomach before running; however,
eating prior to a longer run can be critically important when workouts go beyond one hour. We
recommend eating one to two hours before a long run. For runs under one hour, runners do not
necessarily need to eat but may feel better if they do – it is a personal choice.
For most runners, eating a food with simply and complex carbohydrates like oatmeal or
toast/jam provides an easy to digest and good start for a long run. Others may choose an
energy bar or beverage that is formulated to provide an elevated, consistent energy level over
an extended period of time. These typically include a balanced mix of simple and complex
carbohydrates, some protein and fiber.
It is good to get use to eating something prior to running by slowly introducing light foods or
energy bars on longer training runs.
During a workout or race, no matter what type, you need to quickly absorb carbohydrate-based
calories to replace the glucose you are burning at 400 - 600 calories per hour or you will begin
to lose concentration and energy.
There are several alternatives to fuel the body during exercise.
Food like fruits
These are designed for easy digestion and absorption into your bloodstream. The goal is to
provide sustained energy through a gradual rise (not a spike) in energy followed by a similarly
gradual decline. Chews, gels and beverages are favorites due to their simplicity and agreeable
Also during exercise proper fluid intake is critical. Good hydration helps to prevent overheating
and increases your blood flow, transporting vital nutrients and oxygen to your working muscles,
which is the most important factor for a good workout. Yet during exercise water is not enough
to keep your body properly hydrated. Your body needs electrolytes in the correct ratio to replace
the sodium and potassium you are losing through sweat. At the same time, your body needs
complex carbohydrates (not sugar) to maintain your blood glucose and muscle glycogen at
levels necessary to have a great workout/race from start to finish.
Again, some runners have some difficulty taking different types of fuel sources while running. It
is important to experiment and find what works best for you.
What is GU?
GU is the most popular energy gel for endurance activities. GU is a convenient, carbohydrate
gel formulated to energize before, sustain during, and aid in recovery after your training and
competitions. Made with a unique blend of ingredients, GU provides: complex carbohydrates for
sustained energy, amino acids to maintain muscle protein, antioxidants and muscle buffers to
aid with recovery.
If rehydration was the only factor to enhancing performance, a conventional sports drink would
be enough. But athletes don't just need to rehydrate, their muscles need to recover, too. Protein
speeds muscle recovery. During prolonged exercise, up to 10% of the muscles' energy can
come from metabolizing protein, which can come from the breakdown of muscle. Having protein
in sports drink minimizes the breakdown of protein from the muscle during exercise. The result
can be a quicker recovery.
The ability of any athlete to perform at their best is directly related to how fast their muscles
recover after exercise. Protein-enhanced recovery drinks give muscles a jump-start on getting
back to peak performance. In fact, recovery drinks have been shown to significantly reduce
muscle damage following exercise. Compared to a conventional sports drink, it minimizes
muscle soreness. These are fortified with proteins, amino acids and other muscle-restoring
elements to help hasten the repair and restoration of cells in your body.
What do these products offer that traditional foods cannot?
Easy portability. Bananas, as great as they are as energy boosters, quickly get beat up when
transported in an adventurer's pack.
Long shelf life. No refrigeration (or similar food-handling precautions) needed.
Convenience. What you need (concentrated, specialized nutrients), when you need it (any time
you choose) and where you need it (any place you choose).
Which items are best suited for you? We suggest you experiment with various products.
Stick with the ones that:
Try different methods during your training so that you can be confident on race day!
Please Note: This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional dietary advice. Always seek the advice of your doctor or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding proper nutrition for your body.