With less than 2 weeks until the big day, it is finally taper time. Though, to be honest, it still doesn't feel like it yet. My weekly training runs are still similar, with just a slight cutback in time, but at the similar intensities. The true effect of a taper comes from the lack of a really long run. On a week to week basis during the regular training cycle, you have a couple of tough weekly runs, but the major stress resulting from your training comes from the long run.
So this past weekend, a 16 miler was planned, with about 8 of those miles being faster than goal pace, which is not exactly a big cutback or easy by any stretch. But compared to the 20 miles the week before, it is a step back. For last night's tempo run, while the core workout was only about 4 minutes less than normal, it had me foaming at the mouth by the end of the run to keep going at the harder paces, because it was one of the better tempo runs I've had. So I guess the step back is starting to take hold. After this upcoming weekend's long run of only 8 miles, I know I'll feel even better as my muscles repair themselves and my body adapts.
And that's the point of all this - to toe the line knowing that you have put behind months of solid work and let it take hold in your body.
But if there is one important thing to remember, it is that you have to keep the same focus during taper as you do during the regular training cycle. For me, that means sticking with my strengthening and stretching routines, not trying anything new, or changing anything drastic in my behavioral patterns (ie sleep or food). If you lose focus of the point of the taper, you risk losing more than just fitness.
It would be easy to try and go out there to "test my fitness". But that's not the point. I have confidence in my fitness already. I've done the simulation runs enough to know where my fitness is, and not where I "hope it to be on race day". I trust the plan. And most importantly, I trust myself to execute my race based on my fitness.
I've begun developing a list of all the things I want to do, but am holding off until AFTER the race. Call it a reward for being diligent. Trust me - I want to do some of these things pretty badly. But I've drawn the line in the sand...and it ends at Virginia Beach on March 20.