Sunday, August 15, 2010

Is Tapering Necessary?

Is tapering for a race necessary?  Obviously for some races (like 100-milers) I believe that it is necessary for a taper, but what about shorter races?  I know there is a ton of scientific research out there about peaking for a race, and then tapering down for optimal performance; but I haven't found much research of the opposite.

This is why I ask:

Last month at White River 50-miler Anton Krupicka shattered his own course record (a stout record that he  set the year before by edging out former course record holder Uli Steidl's time) and when I talked with him afterward he said, "tapering is overrated!"  He told me that this race was part of a pretty big week for him putting him well into the 100's for miles. I congratulated him on his stellar performance and we talked a little about this notion of not tapering.  Then I told him about my similar experiences of this paradox in the sport.

For me my first experience with not tapering was back in February of 2009. I decided to run The Hudson-Mohawk Road Runners Club Winter Marathon in Albany, NY as my long run to top off a 103-mile week.  I felt so strong during the race and instead of slowing down toward the end I actually picked it up the last 10k and went on for the win in 2:47.  I had previously run slower times in the marathon when I tapered for 2-3 weeks. forward to April 2010...same scenario...I went into the Peterson Ridge Rumble 60k with a bunch of miles under my belt and was planning on using the race to round out a 115-mile week.  I was able to pretty much hold my pace for over four hours (and even surged toward the end of the 36-mile race) and again came in for the win.

Finally, my last experience was also this year when I spontaneously went down to Reno, Nevada and decided to use the Silver State 50k race as a long run to get me right up around 109 miles for the week.  Same result...Course record time for the win and I felt super strong the entire race all the way up to the end.

Hmmmm....I see a pattern here.  Watch THIS VIDEO to hear what one coach says about tapering  in accordance to his cross country runners.

Don't get me wrong I have had great races when I did taper as well and I am not suggesting ruling out the tapering period of training.

Anyone else have any experiences along the lines of not tapering?  I'd be happy to hear from you. :-)

Also:  Stay tuned for Inov-8 releasing some hot new running shoes including four pairs of minimal road shoes and super stealth trail running editions.


Lisa said...

I think tapering is a good thing. I noticed a difference when I stopped working out about three days before my last race. It really did make a difference! I had more energy, felt rested and performed better.

rustyboy said...

I think it's (as is everything in this life) an individual-thing. Yes, that's a scientific term.

I didn't taper enough before Hundred in the Hood last year and crashed out at mile 92. Whereas I normally taper for 3 weeks, I only did 2, and paid the price. Also, I'm a middle of the pack runner. Anton and you are obviously designed genetically to go longer and harder, so I can see how a taper wouldn't be necessary.

Devon said...

I think part of the success of not tapering comes from reduced expectations and pressure. You go in playing it conservatively because you know you have good miles already on your legs and aren't specifically targeting the race as a race.

I have had several non-tapering successes such as Breakers Marathon in 2008 which I won and would have run my fastest marathon to date if they hadn't let the lead pack of women run 1.5 miles off course!

I think sporadic racing in the middle of a training block can be successful, I think the tapering becomes necessary after you've done peak mileage in preparation for a race and have worked your body hard for a long time. I usually do a two week taper for big races of 50m and above, keeping some quality workouts in there and tons of rest and recuperation.

Interesting post!

Yassine said...

Lisa, Russ, and Devon...thanks!...I agree with all of you and it's great to hear your input and experiences.

Russ: I think at mile 92 everyone is crashing tapered or not! ;-)

Devon: Interesting about the expectation piece...I could see that...and same for me...50-miles or more I do about 10 days to 2 weeks. Good to hear from you :-)

Brian said...

I think the real name of the game is consistency. Rather than a peak and taper before a race, build a level of consistency where the body gets used to the work load you demand from it. I don't really see any value in working up to a given level (a peak) if you are physically unable to sustain it. If you do that you are basically doing the bare minimum to prove to yourself that your mind and body are capable what you are about to ask of it in an event. But you haven’t prepared yourself to race at that level, you’ve only just stopped short of your breaking point. But when you can ask your body to run those 100 miles, 150 miles, or whatever the case might be, week after week, then you have achieved consistency. You won’t be flirting with your breaking point, you’ll be comfortable and consistent at a higher level.

Dan said...

I'm a middle of the pack runner and find when I taper for 3 weeks I feel very stale and sluggish during the race. Now I just cut back training the week leading up to the race and feel good and run better times. Keep in mind I'm only talking 50Ks and 50Ms.

Holly Vipond said...

You guys are in a different class from me (I was one of the early starters at WR so you blew past me... twice!) but in my experience I need a taper more when I'm not accustomed to the distance or the mileage for that race. WR was my first 50-miler and my training for it was heavier than I've ever done before... I did a 3 week taper and I'm glad I did, because I needed time to rest/recover between the peak of my training and the race. But when I'm used to a distance and/or the mileage that I'm doing, then tapering isn't as important. With that said, sometimes I wonder if the same rules apply at the front and back of the pack anyway... what you do and what I do almost seems like a different sport!

Matt Woods said...

What I do best is rest!

I look at it this way. When I run my body breaks itself down and I use up fuel. It's crucial for rest to allow the body to rebuild itself and for storing energy.

Tapering does not gurantee I will run a better race. However my body should be better conditioned by a taper.

Anonymous said...

I'm a middle of the packer...working my way up! I usually keep my mileage consistent too ~ the week of the race easier run. I think expectations is a huge part. I always dream big and if I hit it ~ then, yipee for me!

Yassine said...

Really great to hear all of your comments and experiences...thanks for chiming in! :-)

Mike said...

I've been wondering for a while if it wouldn't be better to take an easy week 3 weeks prior to a race and then start increasing the training intensity in the 2 weeks prior to a trace. But I haven't tried this yet so have no idea if it would work.

rustyboy said...

I'm running a little experiment for P2P 100. I was completely burned out last week and skipped a couple of long runs. I'll bump it back up this week, then taper.

Fingers crossed it works!