Thursday, 24 November 2011

Taper - final observations

This taper, very much like my recent training, has been very different to anything else I have ever done.

In the past a taper was all about recovery prior to the ‘big day’. For example, when I did the Bob Graham Round I didn’t do a thing for the two weeks previous as I was too tired to even try. From looking at my training programme for that (electronic excel spreadsheet) I had planned to do some stuff in the week before just to freshen up but even binned those as I was literally zonked.

It was the same story pre Highlander Mountain Marathon this year – nothing for two weeks beforehand. And yip you’ve guessed it, two weeks after that and carrying three injuries for the Highland Fling, I had amassed no training during the ‘taper’.

In reality those examples were recovery, not taper.

Tapering is quite an individual science. In fact there is not much written about the topic. Generally, however, it is thought that for a long ultra of around 100 miles three weeks ought to be the length of time one devotes to tapering. And the taper should involve a gradual reduction in training volume but maintenance in intensity.

To emphasis the individuality of tapering take a look at Killean Jornet’s philosophy. He did three huge weeks of training this year followed by one week of recovery pre UTMB.

So I went from 77 miles in my last week of high volume to 35 miles in my first week of taper, then to 20 miles last week and around 7 or 8 this week. As mentioned elsewhere I also introduced some plyometrics - which damn near crippled me; I will never do this again i.e. introduce something new into the taper.

This last week has been quite interesting and is the bit that some others might get something from;

Caffeine cull
I love my tea; I’m a regular 5 or 6 cups a day man. But after reading John Kynaston’s training for the WHW I decided to cut it from my intake during taper.

The last two weeks have been a bit of a problem for me; let’s just say I now know why smokers put weight on when they give up smoking!

Anyway I’ve managed it so hopefully I have another string to my bow for when I start ingesting caffeine (coffee, tea, coke etc) during the latter stages of my challenge.

Beetroot juice
I’ve been taking 250ml of this twice a day for the last 7 days. God knows if it works but hopefully I will utilise my oxygen intake better than ever during the challenge.

Cherry Juice
I’ve had 30ml mixed with 250ml of water, once a day for the last 7 days in a bid to reduce the onset of muscle damage during my run.

High Intensity workouts
I’ve done two this week but nothing else. Both were very short sessions, lasting less than 20 minutes overall.

On Sunday I did 4 hill reps each last about 2 minutes and on Tuesday I did 4 intervals each lasting about 90 seconds. Each session started and finished with about a mile of a warm up and cool down.

I have also done some core workouts. The belief is that the fatigue resistance is trained for; all I need to do is keep the VO2 max ticking over. This is the thing that unless regularly trained rapidly deteriorates, certainly with me anyway.

Pack kit
Gone are the days of tipping up with a cheese sandwich wrapped in newspaper and a bottle of pop that once opened stays open.

Sadly I’ve had my stuff all sorted since Sunday (5 days early). I was going to write a post about this as it has to be done with military precision but as we all have different kit and preferences I’ll give this a miss.

A couple of things I picked up from my recce though (when I was freezing at times) I have invested in a pair of waterproof gloves and a bondear cap. I also have a pair of sealskin socks which may get used depending on how cold my feet get as we progress.

I’ve done nothing since Tuesday. In fact it feels like I’ve not done any running for a month! However, I have noted my legs beginning to feel like granite. Ha-happy days!

Carb load
I’ve never done this before either as I tend to eat what I want. That said I have increased my food intake with two portions of rice and two more portions of fruit both yesterday and today; nothing too drastic – just an increase in carbohydrates.

Tapering has been the least favourite period of my training. As soon as I did my last training run pre-taper I felt myself mentally giving up. I immediately lost my focus for training and have struggled to concentrate for prolonged periods since.

My head is all with the West Highland Way so much so, I feel as though I’m 9 years old again and waiting for Christmas day. It wouldn’t be so much of a problem had it not held me back from getting stuff done. Therefore, this is something I need to address for future challenges. Perhaps by writing about this and becoming more aware of it I will already be better prepared for the next time?

Last but not least;
the weather forecast! For those who don’t know Britain has been experiencing some fairly benign conditions lately. I had fooled myself into believing that my late November attempt of the WHW would be quite similar to a summer attempt save the lack of light (and midges).

However, it now looks as though I will have as much a struggle on my hands with the wind, rain and cold as I will with the distance. Never mind, I’m really looking forward to getting out there and seeing what it has in store for me.

When I think of horrendous conditions I think Falklands, Lake District, Highlander MM 2008, OMM 2008; and all are thought of fondly. Here’s to more thrilling stuff for the memory bank J


  1. Its going to be interesting :-)

    Enjoy the journey...

  2. At least the wind will be behind you over Rannoch Moor. Sort of. Good luck!