I am finally in my last week before the marathon, and in full marathon taper mode! This will be the 8th marathon distance race I’ve run, so tapering is not a new concept. However, marathon tapering on Hansons is fairly different from any other taper I have done in the past. I’m excited to see how these changes will impact my overall performance on race day, and I will definitely be writing a full recap and review of the plan as a whole. Today, I’ll be sharing how the Hansons plan recommends tapering, what adjustments I am making, my marathon tapering tips, and what my final week of marathon preparation will be looking like.
Tapering On Hansons & How it is Different
Hansons is known for being a high mileage, high volume training plan, and the taper portion is no different. While the mileage in the weekly runs is significantly less than typical weeks throughout the plan, the Hansons marathon tapering plan is still much higher than other training plans I have followed before. Most other plans I have seen recommend about 3 runs around the 3-4 mile mark in the last week of training. Hansons prescribes one 5 mile run, four 6 mile runs, and a final three mile shakeout the day before the marathon. So, definitely more mileage and running days than other days, which can be a difficult pill to swallow for runners who may be TIRED at this point in training. By some runners, I mean me. I am some runners. I am a whole lot of tired.
The training plan does cut out all of the “something of substance” runs, meaning there were no tempo or speed workouts this week. All of the runs in the final week are to be run at an easy pace. The Hansons Marathon Method book explains that it takes 10 days for the body to make positive adaptations after a workout, so there would be no point in programming a tough workout in the last 10 days. The body wouldn’t reap any rewards, so it seems certainly grounded in logic. I am certainly not complaining about the decreased intensity (see above tired remarks). The only adjustment I am making to the taper plan is that I am shifting my Friday run to Wednesday, simply to give myself some additional rest closer to the race. Otherwise, I am following the plan as written, somewhat begrudgingly.
Hansons doesn’t really make any strong suggestions on nutrition during the taper. While the program doesn’t have a set marathon taper diet, it does recommends eating in a sensible way, and increasing the amount of carbs in the final days. Otherwise, though, the nutrition is really up to the athlete to figure out. I decided to try a four day carb depletion, followed by two days of normal eating, and then two days of carb-focused nutrition. I’ve read some anecdotal recommendations and positive experiences with a short carb deplete prior to a carb load. Theoretically, it could encourage the body to store and more efficiently utilize carbs. I don’t have any false hopes that four days of altered nutrition will have me running Kipchogee speeds, but I’m always down to play with things and see if there is any positive effect. If not, I definitely won’t be reducing carbs again any time in the near future.
During my carb deplete, I substantially increased my fat intake to ensure I was still getting an appropriate amount of calories. My runs during the deplete felt like they took a lot more effort, similar to what I imagine running with ankle weights would feel like. Not something I’d recommend. At all. I was also pretty (incredibly) cranky. I don’t think I’ve ever appreciated my relationship with carbs more than during that deplete. I will say I wasn’t really all that hungry, but I ate pretty much the same (boring) foods for those four days, and did not enjoy my fueling. What is the point of making bacon and eggs if you don’t have a tortilla to put it in? I also just felt like my energy was lower. After four days of very low carbs, I am happy to report that I enjoyed a lovely stack of pancakes and felt much less stabby. I am looking forward to my carb load more than ever! Outside of my nutrition, I will also be very focused on making sure I am very well hydrated over the next couple of days.
Once again, CrossFit and weight lifting during the taper is not something that Hansons covers in any detail. This isn’t exactly surprising, as I don’t think very many marathoners following the plan also CrossFit. I didn’t want to completely eliminate my workouts in the week leading up to the race, but I’m also very mindful of the fact that I’m not making any strength gains at this point and I need to make sure I don’t wear myself out. The taper is the time to rebuild and recover, and my body won’t be recovered if I’m doing something dumb, like the Dirty Dozen WOD. So, to accommodate this, I decided to adjust my normal schedule, and I worked out Mon-Wed, leaving me Thurs-Sat to fully recover.
In the last week, I also have a few CrossFit “rules” that I like to follow to make sure I’m fresh for race day. I don’t do any box jumps, because running a marathon is hard enough, and I’m not interested in seeing what it’s like to run a marathon with skinned shins. I also eliminate any sprinting, mostly because I don’t trust that I won’t take the opportunity to suddenly trip on an invisible rock and twist my ankle. I don’t do any intense core work, because I don’t want to have sore abs during the race. I try to keep my overall intensity fairly normal, but limit any real heavy lifting. Wednesday’s WOD was probably the toughest workout of the week, and I was honestly pretty happy to be done with CrossFit for a few days at that point.
Core & Mobility
I already touched on my thoughts on core work, but in the last week I don’t do much core work at all. Like I mentioned above, it takes about 10 days for positive adaptations, so there wouldn’t really be any benefit. My core also has a tendency to be sore for DAYS after a good workout, and that’s not what I’m going for right before running 26.2 miles. I do put more energy into making sure I get in some solid mobility work in the days leading up to the race. Most of the races I run involve a fair amount of travel, and I think it’s important to keep everything as loose as possible. So, instead of doing core work, I try to use the time to increase stretching instead. I’m not a yoga person, but I can say that there’s one yoga YouTube channel I’ve enjoyed. Yoga with Adrienne has quite a few video’s that are reasonable length (10-20 min) and are geared towards the muscles runners tend to utilize more. Adrienne also has a great personality, so if you are looking for a mobility resource, I definitely recommend Yoga with Adrienne.
Outside of the changes in running, lifting, and mobility, I don’t change too much of my usual routine. I do try to get a bit more rest during my taper, and use my shorter runs as an opportunity to sleep in. After 16 weeks of 5am wake up calls, I am more than happy to “sleep in” until 5:30am. Such luxury, I know. I also try my best to limit stress. My husband has been great in helping me with this in the past. He is willing to do all the nonsense I hate doing, like grocery shopping, and this helps me relax more than normal. Work is a bit more difficult for me to control, but I tend to do a decent job of compartmentalizing. Finally, I do a few things during my taper to reduce my chances of getting sick. I’ve learned the hard way, multiple times, that months of hard work can quickly be undone by one sinus infection or head cold. I wash my hands a whole lot more, I avoid gross places (like malls), and I take an elderberry supplement to support my immune system. I also incorporate some Zicam, as my seasonal allergies have a nice habit of turning into infections. I’m not going to say I feel nice and healthy, because I don’t want to jinx anything, but I will say that so far I’m not feeling sick!
So, there you have it. All the little things I’m doing during my taper to (hopefully) give me a good race day. Only time will tell if any or all of them are beneficial, and the hard thing about racing is just how much is out of your control. You could have the “perfect” training block and taper, only to wake up and find that a tropical storm has moved into the area, causing 30mph wind gusts. Yes, that actually happened to me a few years ago. It’s also difficult to really tease out what was beneficial, and what didn’t make a difference, since I’m not patient enough to only make one change to my routine at a time. So if I have a great race day, it will be difficult to say which specific factor made the difference. I will say, however, that until I snag that elusive BQ time, I will keep trying out new things in hopes of finding the routine that works for me. Wish me luck, because I’m ready to race!
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