More Half Marathon Reflections: Taper and Recovery

Last week, I ran a half marathon time trial and you can read more about the race itself here. But today I wanted to reflect a bit on my taper before the race and my recovery after the race.

Tapering for My Half Marathon

I increased my volume a lot over the summer, and at times my legs were definitely tired. I found that having a down week once a month helped, and this week with less intensity and lower volume usually allowed me to come back stronger the following week.

I’ve read Jack Daniels’ Running Formula, and that influenced my thoughts on tapering. If you’re unfamiliar with the book, you can read more about it here.

The general idea was to slightly reduce volume two weeks prior to the race, but maintain the intensity. Then, the week prior to the race, I’d back off the volume significantly but keep a little bit of quality in there.

I decided to run my time trial on a Sunday instead of a Wednesday, complicating things a little bit. My running “week” goes from Monday (off/recovery) to Sunday (long run), so I wouldn’t be able to easily fit the half marathon into my week as a long run.

I had my last hard workout exactly two weeks prior to the race. That Wednesday, I ran eight miles. This included a warm-up, a 4x800m interval workout, two miles at half marathon pace, and a cool-down.

From that point, I started to reduce volume slightly. My Thursday run had been 6 miles of easy running, and I cut this to 4. I also cut my Saturday run from about 4 miles to 3.25.

I kept my long run this week at 12 miles, and I included 5 miles at the end at half marathon pace. I’m still not sure if this was the right call, or if I should have backed off on this workout a bit. I figured there were still ten days until my race, so it was ok. If I could go back and do it again, I think I would have cut this to 10 miles and/or cut out the intensity at the end.

Final Week Before the Half

Going into the next week, I cut my volume a bit more. Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday were typically easy runs, and I did 3 miles each day. Sunday was a drastic cut, and I cut out my long run and only did 3 miles. Again, this might have been too much. I didn’t want to do a long run Sunday, since my race was Wednesday, but I wonder if Saturday could have been a little bit long – 5-7 miles of easy running.

Wednesday of that week, seven days prior to the race, I did my last workout. I did a total of 5 miles – a mile warm-up, three miles near half marathon pace, and a mile cool-down. Although the workout was great, I think I ended up at a pace that was a little fast – ~8:15/mi. In retrospect, I should have been running my half at 8:30-8:45/mi. I wish this workout reflected that.

I took Monday off like usual, ran an easy three miles on Tuesday, and then Wednesday was race day. By that point, I was feeling pretty good – well rested but still able to hit my pace.

A woman walking ahead of a dog, holding its leash. Walking a dog is a great form of active recovery.
Walking my dog was a great form of active recovery for the two days immediately following my half marathon.

Recovering After my Half Marathon Time Trial

I wasn’t so worried about the taper. After all, the worst that can happen is that I underperform. I was more worried abut the recovery.

The last time I ran a half marathon, I don’t think I recovered fully before I went back to some intense running. I’d also built up my mileage too fast. As a result, I quickly injured myself in the weeks after the half. This year, I was hoping to avoid the same fate.

I finished my run Wednesday, went home, ate something, showered, ate some more, and went about working from home. I was tired, but my legs felt better than I would have expected.

Over the next two days, I didn’t run at all. But I made a conscious effort to get up and walk around. I have an 8 month old puppy, so she gives me plenty of excuses to walk. Wednesday night, I took her for a few short walks just to make sure I didn’t sit around like a couch potato the rest of the day.

Thursday and Friday, I also walked her a couple miles each day. My legs felt good, and my heart rate wasn’t jumping up too high from this low exertion. By Saturday, when I had planned on putting in a few easy miles, I definitely felt ready.

I didn’t do a long run that weekend, having just run almost 15 miles (including my warm-up) mid-week. I put in 3.5 easy miles on Saturday, and I finished thinking I could easily have gone further. Sunday, I did an easy trail run that was a little over 4 miles.

After a break on Monday (with more dog walking), I went out for easy an easy trail run Tuesday (3.5 miles), and easy runs Wednesday (5 miles) and Thursday (3.25). I had a little soreness earlier in the week, possibly from the trail run, but I’m feeling good now.

I’m looking forward to an easy run tomorrow (3-4 miles) and an easy long run (~7.5 miles) on Sunday.

What’s Next?

At this point, I feel good. I’m pretty sure I’ve more or less recovered from the race, and I’m ready to get back to running a bit harder.

I’m looking forward to a short training block focused on a 5k, and I’m going to kick that off next week with a one mile time trial (to set some training paces) on Wednesday.

More on that to come.

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