The week didn't start off too well, with a headcold. The bright side was - if you're going to get sick during a marathon training cycle, the beginning of a three week taper is really the ideal time to get it out of the way. It was after my last 20+ long run, and far enough away from the race to get it out of my system.
By Wednesday, I wasn't 100%, but good enough to at least give the workout a try - another 25x400 at 10K pace, with 100m "float" in 30 seconds (8 minute pace). The workout went well for the most part, though I definitely felt off and had to dig deep at times. Once I got to 18 reps, my coach gave me the option of pulling the plug, but who wants to stop then? I'd gotten that far - you better believe I was finishing the damn thing.
After that, it was easy running until Sunday, when I raced a 10K, finishing in 40:02 by my watch. On the one hand, that time is a very good sign for my marathon two weeks hence, especially since my legs still were pretty tired from Wednesday, and from the whole cycle. On the other hand, I was just 7 seconds off of my PR (which I think is weak), and ever so slightly on the wrong side of 40 minutes to boot. And I can't help but think I would have made up those 7 seconds had I not chosen to gut out all 25 repeats on Wednesday.
But that's just one example of the trade-off of marathon training - you sacrifice optimal performances at shorter distances in exchange for one big race at the end. (and hopefully that 25x400 will pay off in two weeks). Which just makes me hungry for another season focused on shorter stuff.
I had idly wondered how good the 25x400 at 10K pace was as a predictor workout of an actual 10K. Well.. on Wednesday, after subtracting my recoveries (which averaged 30 seconds, so they were honest), I ran 39:09 for 10K. Then, on Sunday, I raced a 10K in 40:02. So...maybe it's not that good a predictor. On the other hand, I'm not sure this was a fair test, since the 25x400 and the 10K were so close together - the fatigue from the workout itself may have had a biasing effect on the race. The clear answer is: I just need to race more 10Ks.
But that's not in the immediate future. I need to taper and run a marathon first. This upcoming week I'll pull back a lot more on the mileage - the hard work is all done now. I was going to keep swimming on the schedule for another week, but since my sinuses still hurt (last remnants of the darn headcold) I'm just going to cut it now.
Tapering is HARD, though. It's not that I'm fearful of gaining weight (it'll come off during the marathon) or losing fitness (I know I won't). Rather, it's that over the past few months I've ingrained a habit of adding MORE any time I feel like I can. More miles onto the end of my easy run if I'm feeling good; more repetitions during a track workout if I think I have them in me. In marathon training, you're always trying to add as much pure volume as you can handle, without falling prey to exhaustion or injury or unemployment or spousal/partner abandonment.
Now, I have to go cold turkey for the next two weeks, and keep everything sharply limited. No more running a few extra miles because I miscalculated my route or got into a good conversation or it's a beautiful day and I have the time. And that's a habit that's really hard to break.