We are three weeks out from the California International Marathon. But I'm not in taper mode yet.
Yesterday I completed what I'm guessing will be my longest long run of the cycle, a three-hour beast with two 30-minute sections at tempo heart rate embedded in the middle. It was cold and windy, but I've run in worse. I finished the first two hours, including the first 30-minute tempo section, just as directed. Unfortunately, at the beginning of the second tempo 30, my gut decided to speak to me, and rather than see if I could get through it without stopping, I ducked into a handy outhouse and dealt with it.
Upon leaving the outhouse, I launched into tempo pace again as quickly as I could....only to develop a painful side stitch. Suddenly the mild headwind, which hadn't really bugged me before, seemed gale force, and I felt I was huffing and puffing. Once the stitch worked itself out, and I turned out of the wind, the pace came back. But I was already halfway through the allotted time and my heart rate hadn't once reached the level it was supposed to for that section (164-168 beats per minute). By the end, I finally got it up to 166. But I felt like I'd failed on that tempo section, and the paces were 20 to 30 seconds slower than the race pace I'm hoping for at CIM (8:30/mile). Overall, I give myself a B-minus for this run.
In the afternoon, the next week's workouts arrived from Darren. He made no comment on my long run, positive or negative. What I did notice is that this coming week will still be hard work. Saturday's long run is 2 hours and 15 minutes, all of it easy this time. But the day before is a 1-hour progression run, and I have a hard "sustained" session on Tuesday that represents no decrease in distance or intensity from the ones I've done for the last three weeks. As has been the case for weeks now, I'll run every day but Sunday.
I'm glad about this. The two-week taper worked much better for me for both the Top of Utah and Houston Marathons last year. And this cycle, which has featured less-than-optimum amounts of time to build up for 26.2, I feel I need all the real workouts I can get (without tiring myself out too much, of course).
How long do you like your marathon taper to be: two or three weeks? If you're running CIM (or another race coming up soon), do you feel like the hay is in the barn or that you still have work to do?