Though it doesn't look like it on paper, this was my first week of taper. My weekly mileage is distorted by the fact that I ran my last 20+ miler on Monday, rather than Sunday. My original plan was to do 20-22 on Sunday, rest on Monday, and then do 12 miles including track on Tuesday. But due to my head cold, we swapped to an easy 12 on Sunday, the 20-22 on Monday, and rest on Tuesday.
Had I done my long run on Sunday, the last two weeks would have been 80 and then 72, which looks more reasonable. This is all an example of how weekly mileage doesn't always tell the full story, since I don't believe shifting a long run by one day makes that much of a difference in the actual stress placed on my body. Despite the official numbers, this week did feel like a slight cutback
Since we shifted stuff, my key workouts ended up being two long runs, plus a tempo. All three went really well. My last 21 miler was run in pretty rough conditions, so I was thrilled with the pace I was able to hold. I was also pretty happy with how short 21 miles felt - that was the biggest confidence boost of all - when you're only doing two 20+ mile runs during your training cycle, it's nice to have the reassurance that the distance itself is not an issue.
We had a temperature cooldown midweek, which meant that I got to tempo in relatively cool conditions, though hopefully it will be even cooler in Duluth. For both tempo and my second long run on Sunday, I had the very cool experience of my splits being significantly faster than the effort felt. On Sunday's long run, I closed the last 2 miles at 6:50, though the effort felt much less.
All of this is an indication that I've got a good race in me. All I need to do is to stay healthy and cross my fingers for good weather.
Part of that is making sure that I taper well the next two weeks. There's always the temptation to chase "good" workouts in the last few weeks, to validate one's fitness (while actually leaving the best part of one's race in the workout) - I recognize that and can resist. But there's also the issue that I feel really good right now and want to run ALL THE MILES, which makes tapering less appealing -- taper is just much easier to do when you're exhausted.
There's also a interesting confidence issue. I think there's a mythos about marathon training - that you're supposed to feel beaten up and exhausted at points, and if you didn't, you undertrained. So when you come into taper feeling so good, you wonder if you worked hard enough. Maybe you should have trained harder - maybe you're not ready.
But what if what we think is "normal marathon training" is actually overtraining? What if the routine that feels like "undertraining" and slacking off is actually hitting it on the nail?
One way to find out :)
My plan for the next two weeks is to cut back my mileage to about 45-50 this coming week. I'm also cutting yoga out of my schedule, except for a bit of DIY yoga at home. For the final week, I'll also eliminate swimming and upper body strengthwork completely, while running about 20 miles over the 5 days pre-race.