Travel, Tennis, Taper, and Boston Marathon Training Recap (4 weeks to go!)

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Hello! We just came back from an almost week-long trip to Indian Wells, where we spent roughly 12 hours a day watching tennis at the BNP Paribas Open.

So to the half-dozen people who read my weekly training recaps: sorry for posting this one so late! Please accept this as my apology:

[Feliciano Lopez, #21 in the ATP rankings, #1 in ABS?]

Travel can throw off a rigorous training schedule, especially if your destination is an eight-hour car trip away. Lucky for me, our travel week was also my taper week, because I’m racing a local half marathon this Sunday (tomorrow).

So here’s a two-in-one weekly recap:

Six weeks to go:

Monday: Long run with tempo intervals. This was the prescribed workout: start with a 20-min warmup at 9-ish pace; then do 4x 5 min at 7:40 with 1 min recovery jog in between; follow up with 70 minutes of easy pace running (8:40 or so), but try to get a hill climb in the second half of that section; then wrap up with another 4x 5 minutes at 7:40 or faster, with 1 min recovery jog. I knocked out all the prescribed paces, but darn and drat, was it hard! The weather had been unpredictable, with rain on and off in the days leading up to this run, and sure enough: just as I was done with the first set of hard intervals, it started pouring. The easy-pace portion was an out-and-back on a road with rolling hills, and coming back I had strong headwind blowing freezing rain right in my face. The second set of fast intervals felt harder than any speedwork I’ve done lately. But I did it and I’m actually grateful for the rain and wind. Boston weather is unpredictable in April and I’m glad I can get at least a few training runs in not-ideal conditions. Total distance run: 18 miles in 2:36, at an 8:49 average pace.

Tuesday: Easy five mile run with a friend; nearly 10 min/mile pace.

Wednesday: Easy 5.5-mile run at 9:19/ mile average pace.

Thursday: Progression run, 1 hr 15 min. Run first 15 min easy, next 15 min slightly faster, then run 25 min steady and the last 20 min: go hard. Legs felt good and sufficiently recovered from Monday’s long run. Splits: 9:34 – 8:53 – 8:42 – 8:19 – 8:02 – 7:53 – 7:38 – 7:41 – 7:36.

(photo from earlier that day, as I coached my Thursday Track run group; yup, that sunrise was something else…)

A photo posted by Aleks Todorova (@aleksruns) on

Friday: Easy 30-min run; 9:25 average pace.

Saturday: Another long run, this one on the trails: 13.1 miles with 1,680 ft climb. After a mile-long warmup and some running drills, I climbed for about 5.5 miles at an easy effort, then pushed the pace on the way down, and tacked on another short climb to round out my time to just over 2:05 hrs.

A photo posted by Aleks Todorova (@aleksruns) on

Sunday: Travel day; an easy 30-min run in the steady rain before we left.

Total weekly mileage: 57.2
Emphasis: Two quality long runs

Five weeks to go:

Monday: First day in the desert; an easy 50-minute run to wake up the legs (and glutes!) from the 8-hr ride the day before. 5.5 miles in dry air and wind.

Tuesday: Time to do some work. Cruise miles: 6x 1 mile at fast pace, with 1-min recovery jog. The goal was to start the reps at 7:50 and work down from there, ideally to 7:20, but faster if I was feeling good. I did a similar workout a couple of weeks ago and yeah, these miles felt just as hard. The wind was very strong, and I ran the first mile and a half with it at my back, then against it for two and a half miles, then back with the wind behind me for the last one and a half miles. You can pretty much tell from the splits when I was running with the wind and when I was running against it: 7:49 (I thought I was being super extra awesome that day, because the pace felt easy… I found out why when I turned around in a couple of miles) – 7:41 – 7:35 (ouch, wind!) – 7:42 (WIND!!) – 7:30 (second half of this with wind at my back) – 7:13 (ahhhh, that felt nice). Total miles: 8.1.

(That day, we climbed up to the very highest seats in the tennis stadium, the only ones that had a tiny bit of shade going for them if you lean against the wall. Boy, was it hot:)

A photo posted by Aleks Todorova (@aleksruns) on

Wednesday: Easy run, 3.5 miles at 9:14 average pace.

Thursday: Another easy run, 3.4 miles at 9:05 average pace. Last run in the desert before we headed to the Tennis Garden for the rest of the morning and then, the eight-hour trip home.

Friday: Entering taper mode: a 45-minute run, first 30 minutes at an easy pace, last 15 minutes progress to faster, but not too hard effort; no faster than 8 min/ mile pace. Got 5.5 miles in at an 8:34 average pace.

Saturday: Last run before half marathon Sunday; easy 30 minutes and 4x 20-second strides at a comfortable pace (not too fast). Got in 3.5 miles total.

Weekly mileage (before half marathon): 29.7 miles.
Emphasis: Taper week

The recommended taper for a half marathon is four to seven days long, depending on the athlete’s schedule and fitness. Ideally, you would cut your volume down to anywhere from 30% to 60% of your previous three to four week’s mileage, but keep some intensity in to keep your muscles “springy” (do some mile repeats, a progression run or two, some strides at the end of short runs). I’m using tomorrow’s half marathon as a tune-up for the Boston Marathon, so a seven-day taper would have been unnecessarily long. I’m also a fan of short tapers overall, which happens to be my coach’s approach and works for me (for a marathon, I usually do as short as a week, and no longer than 10 days). Every runner’s body and brain work differently, some need more time to recover – others go taper-crazy if they dial down the mileage too early. The key is to find what works best — and then make the best of it.

Party time tomorrow! 🙂

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