Taper Thoughts: Carb Depletion and Carb Loading


During this marathon training cycle, I have been very focused on recovery as an important part of my training after returning from stress fracture. This meant only training four days per week most weeks, and sometimes as little as three. During taper, I have been even more vigilant about rest days and recovery. Now that the hard training is done, I want to be sure every muscle is completely healed and adapted, and any possibility of weakness in my bones is treated with care and rest. I want to run this marathon, but I also want to be in a good, strong position to train hard in the spring and go for some PRs. So I have given myself at least two days rest between runs this week, and may run even less during my last training week. I am a little freaked out that I might lose fitness, but I know I’m better off resting now than not.

Given all that, I have not run yesterday or today, and with the marathon just over a week away now, I’ve been doing a bit of reading on training, tapering, and marathon racing. I can’t help it. It’s on the brain this week. And as a result, yesterday I discovered my new favorite running-centered blog, ScienceofRunning.com, which is written by elite running coach and former Oregon Project coach, Steve Magness. And I got to say, I’m in love. With the blog, that is. It’s all about the science of running, from the physiological to the psychological. I live for this stuff.

The article I was reading today discusses the advantages and disadvantages of carb depletion and carb loading in the week before the marathon. My typical marathon week carb loading plan goes as follows: 1. Eat everything in sight, especially the junk food. 2. Repeat as needed. End of plan. But to be completely honest, I have essentially been doing that for the past three months. And since my training mileage this time around hasn’t been the 6 days per week, peak at 55 miles that I’ve done in the past, all that junk isn’t quite getting burned up as I’d hoped. I have gained ten pounds while marathon training. Whoops.

So now I’m considering that maybe doing a 3 day carb depletion, followed by a 3 day carb load might be a really good idea. I’m no stranger to low carb eating, and dropping a couple pounds of water weight might help me run a little better on race day. I feel like it’s a little risky as I’ve never done that kind of carb loading before, but if I want to try it, this is the best race to do it with, since I’m not going for a specific goal time, have little to no expectation of PR, and have been really missing my low carb lifestyle these past few weeks. Plus, there have been studies to show this method to be quite effective in doubling glycogen storage and boosting performance. Might be an interesting experiment, and if nothing else, something to talk about on the show. As if I needed more to talk about.

Taper Thoughts: Negative Splitting the Marathon

Blog, Sue Cloutier

So remember yesterday when I posted in detail about how I determined my marathon pacing splits, and all the cool websites I used for that? Well, 24 hours later, I am tempted to throw my entire predetermined strategy out the window. Have I mentioned that I’m your typically indecisive Libra? I change my mind constantly.

Today I was listening to The Runners World Show, and they mentioned a neat challenge put up by the run-logging website, Strava, called The Back Half Challenge. Based on the premise that most marathoners run the first half of their marathons faster than the second half (known as a positive split), Strava is offering a brand new pair of New Balance running shoes to anyone who runs a marathon this fall with a negative split. That’s right. Just run the second half of your marathon faster than the first half, and they will give you free running shoes. I mean, how could I not go for that? I love running shoes. And I haven’t yet run a negative split marathon, so that would be a great challenge. I’m also not tied to any specific goal time either, as I’m not sure that I am fit enough this fall to beat my current PR.

But why should this new challenge prevent me from executing my splits as previously planned? I did plan to start out conservatively, and progressively speed up over the race, hopefully resulting in a negative split, and possibly getting close to my PR. Surely, if I followed that strategy, I would qualify for the Back Half Challenge, right? Absolutely. I guess the issue is that I’m not entirely confident in my ability to execute it as planned. In going for this challenge, I feel I have a better chance of running a negative split if I run a bit slower for more of the first half of the race than I have planned. Say, running 11-11:30 minutes miles for the first 13 miles, and then picking up to 10:40-10:30 pace for the last 13. This would give me a much better chance at that elusive negative split than if I was running closer to my goal pace of 10:35 for most of the race. I do feel confident that I can run a negative split though if I’m really serious about reigning myself in during the first half.

I haven’t decided yet if that’s what I’m going to do. I’m actually kind of scared about starting out so much slower than my race pace. What if I get too comfortable at that pace, and I can’t pick it up later? What if I bonk anyway, and run a far slower time than I expected? Whenever I have doubts like these though, it helps to remember my training. I did the work. I have the fitness. I know I can do it. So all that’s left to do now is to decide which pair of New Balance shoes I will be requesting!