OK, so we’ve got a big one coming up: The Austin Marathon and Half Marathon on February 18. Folks, that’s only two weeks away. And while much has been written about “tapering,” most people think it’s just a matter of cutting down the last few days before the race and taking a day off before the big 26.2.
The reality is, at two weeks out you should already be adjusting your training to peak for te marathon. That’s right. Don’t necessarily think of it as a taper, but as a peak.
Former Austinite Greg McMillan, no a top national coach, is a big believer in peaking versus tapering.
“By studying peak performance research — both physiological as well as psychological — as opposed to just the tapering research, I’ve been able to dial in how to truly peak on race day. It works for all athletes no matter where you find yourself in the pack come race day,” says McMillan.
McMillan recommends reducing weekly training volume, but not too much. He believes that dropping your mileage volume too much can be a mistake and says you should “keep the engine revved.” That is an important point. What McMillan is referring to is that you should keep some form of speed work in your training in the next two weeks, even though the actual workouts will be shorter in both distance and duration. Form a physiological standpoint, that helps maintain your blood plasma volume, a key training adaptation that helps facilitate oxygen delivery to working muscles.
“I’ve found that some fast running in the peaking phase helps bring the body and the mind to tiptop condition on race day,” says McMillan.
The final piece to the puzzle is to trust your training and have confidence that you worked hard to get where you are. When you think back on all of the workouts (and races) that brought you into peak marathon shape, it’s pretty amazing.
The bottom line is that there’s no training you can do to improve your performance in the last few weeks, but there are plenty of things you can do to mess it up! The idea is to here is wind down, allow your body to heal from any damage; you want to build your reserves and strength to get to the line in the best possible shape.