Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Tick Tock

The countdown for Belfast has reached single digits. This is about to get real.

Like so many runners, I am never quite sure what amount of training would be appropriate during the taper. I used to do a fairly conservative taper with a big reduction in mileage, but I did notice a few funny things happening that way. For one, my best races always used to be tune-up races, hardly ever goal races. And last year I did manage to surprise myself on several occasions, most notably the 2:56 marathon I ran in Killarney last year after no taper at all; in fact, that had come at the end of a fairly tough week.

However, an ultra, especially a long ultra, may well be different and I am still left guessing. The choice was easy last week as I was recovering from the Waterford marathon, even though the legs never even felt like I had been running a marathon (or almost a marathon). This week is trickier, do I add a few workouts and if so, how many and what kind of workouts?

Following the (not universally accepted) idea that the taper should see a reduction in mileage but slight increase in intensity, I eventually decided that I would do a mountain run on the weekend and one faster run midweek.

The mountain run was one I have done many times before during this training cycle, twice up and down Windy Gap. I never once pressed the pace and recorded one of my slowest times on that route but was very pleased that I was able to run up the very steep ascent to the gap more or less entirely on autopilot. Not so long ago that run used to feel so tough that I thought it might kill me.

Two easy days followed and I did a tempo workout this morning, nine-and-a-half days out from race day. Many programs contain such a run to rev up the engine at this point of training, the 3x1 mile repeats I used to do when following the Pfitzinger/Douglas program being a prime example. After not doing any fast running for so long I did not quite feel up to mile repeats, so I settled for 2-mile repeats instead. I plugged a figure of 6:30-ish pace out of thin air, but in fact ended running almost entirely by fell, I checked the pace maybe once or twice early on each repeat and not at all after the first minute.

It felt like hard work at times but was perfectly doable and I never pushed too hard. One thing I noticed straight away when looking at the numbers afterwards was that my pace/HR ratio was well down, the VDOT number was significantly lower than any training runs I have done in weeks. I actually take this as a good sign, I'm much more efficient when running at a slow pace than at tempo pace, which is what I want to be for an ultra.

And now even the mellow taper-workouts are more or less complete. I'll do some very short and slow runs at ultra pace, one more mountain run, and not much more.

This really is it, training is done.
6 Jul
12+ miles, 1:50:42, 9:02 pace, HR 146, Windy Gap x 2
7 Jul
8 miles, 1:02:33, 7:49 pace, HR 135
8 Jul
8 miles, 1:04:34, 8:04 pace, HR 135
9 Jul
10 miles, 1:10:36. 7:04 pace, HR 157
   3 x 2 miles, 6:23 pace (HR 160), 6:26 (168), 6:29 (167), ~4 mins recovery


  1. There are many advocates for the short taper. Read a good article in Running Times about it once. I think your great tune-up races during the taper prove it so in your case. Anyway, enjoy an easy next week. Looking forward to seeing how you go.

  2. Impressive tempo pace for a ultra taper Thomas. You're certainly in great shape for Belfast.

  3. Best of luck Thomas. A serious challenge indeed. Best of luck to Grellan too- his tune up race for Connemara 100?