Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Thoughts on tapering from the experts

Last night I attended a panel discussion on tapering for endurance events. It was sponsored by the folks at Ragged Mountain Running Shop, and featured four speakers, each an expert in his/her field: Kim Starr, a popular physical therapist here in C'Ville; Bob Wilder, THE Charlottesville running ortho doc to whom I have referred many ultra friends; Art Weltman, a professor of exercise physiology at UVA and marathoner; and Richard Ferguson, a professor of sports psychology at Averett College and a two-time Olympic Trails qualifier in the marathon. Not a bad group!

Take home messages:

1. Kim reported that she sees lots of runners neglect their flexibility and core strength routine in the last weeks leading up to their race because they are in a taper mindset...they aren't running as much so they aren't stretching, and they aren't lifting as much so they ignore the core workouts. This describes me to a tee, and is something I am being very mindful of this week.

2. Bob reported that during the taper, runners tend to ignore icing and stretching the nagging aches and tweaks that naturally accompany training (and that were attended to regularly during training) and this can lead to tight calves and Achilles on race day. He also shared his personal experience of trying to fit in one more long run the weekend before a big marathon, with disastrous results. The rule of thumb with this crowd was to take at least two weeks of reduced mileage before a marathon. I take three weeks before a 100-miler, with no long runs longer than 2 hours during those weeks, but I still do tempo runs and speed work up to 10 days before the event, but with reduced mileage.

3. Art shared that the research proves that even a little 20-minute jog the day before a marathon depletes glycogen stores. He suggests no running for the last 48 hours before the event, in order to store glycogen fully. He also talked a great deal about the importance of fueling and rest during the taper---increase foods with moderate glycemic index (pasta, cereal), 65% of daily nutrients should be carbs, and increase sleep hours the week before the race (very important for the Gstone runners!).

4. Richard is a big believer in the power of self talk and visual imagery during training and the race. He suggests each night before bed taking the time to visualize running the pace you want, as well as visualizing the course/trail and talking to oneself about the how you feel. These points hit home with me---I use positive self-talk and have a mantra ("easy and light", "take it slow", "make every moment count", etc), and I visualize my 100-mile pace through the course. I am very glad that I ran 95% of the Gstone course in training---this has really helped with my visualization practice.

Many in the audience had questions about marathon fueling and nutrition, as well as prevention of cramping. Ultras make all this easy to deal with since we carry our stuff and/or have crew---the 'thoners have to rely on the race drink (usually junk like Gatorade) and don't even consider bringing their own fuel, electrolyes, etc. Too much to worry about, for me... I love running ultras that demand more self-sufficiency such as Hellgate, Catawba, TWOT. It is an extra challenge that makes the adventure more fun!

Tonight: pack all the gear and get some good zzzzzzzzzz....


meredith said...

This is the most wonderful post! I feel like I was there, and needed to see every word of this. I will use your post again! I wish you all the best. Suffer strong, and enjoy every minute :)

Kim said...

I met you over at Cheat Mtn, and wish you the best of luck this Friday! I'm running the 24 hour race in VA Sat, so I will be thinking of you and Dan Lehmann and Slim as I am out on my run!! Have a great time!

Sophie Speidel said...


Great to hear from you! I am glad the post was helpful---they spoke for 2 hours and I appreciated every word. I will be thinking of you while I am out there, remembering our good times at MMTR!

What is next for you?


Thanks for your good wishes as well--I will be running near Dan and Snipes and will be sure to give them your best. Have a great 24-hour---the weather will be perfect.


Andrew Speidel said...

Hi Sophie...I'll be watching and thinking of you as head into the Grindstone. Best of luck!
By the way, have you seen this WS100 flyover?


Rowdy Racing Blog said...

I can tell you all that Sophie is eating and sleeping a lot more this week! Can't get outta bed!

Sophie Speidel said...

Speidel boys---

Thanks for the WS flyover, Andy--for some reason I can't get it to work on my computer. Perhaps your bro can help me.

Yes, Rusty (Rowdy) is correct---I slept in every morning this week in an attempt to maximize the taper. Now, let's get this show on the

Andrew Speidel said...

Hi Sophie!
You rock! I've been following the Grindstone 100 reports... CONGRATULATIONS on you finish! Get some well deserved rest, but that doesn't mean you can slack on you great race reports. Get a copy to Trail Runner and Ultrarunner so they can publish it!
Great job,
Your Bro-In-Law