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 Pfitzinger plan and last week tapering
Rickshaw
Runworks 2005 5M Racer
San Francisco, CA
Joined: 26 Nov 2004
Posts: 1157

Pfitzinger plan and last week tapering Posted: Fri Mar 10, 2006 11:43 am 

Nearly all marathon training plans call for a "tapering" period for the last few weeks before a goal marathon, with a significantly reduced weekly mileage load, to help bring you to race day fresh and strong. Pfitzinger calls for a 3 week taper, with a 20-25% mileage reduction the first week, 40% reduction the second week, and 60% reduction the third week.

I've always thought the last week in Pfitzinger plans was a little too hard, and now I think I see why. His plan indeed has a 60% reduction vs peak mileage in the final week, but that's computed for a 6-day week, not including the marathon itself. If you look at that 6-day week vs the same 6-day period the week before, there's actually MORE mileage during the final week. Or look at it another way: if you plot the trailing 7 day's mileage for every day during the taper period, it drops steadily until about 10 days from marathon day, then holds steady, and finally actually increases. This doesn't seem right. Is this a mistake in the Pfitz plan?

Look at the last three weeks of the Pfitz 18-week, 55 mile per week plan:

M:
T: 8
W: 5
R:
F: 4
S: 10
S: 16
total: 43

M:
T: 7
W: 8
R:
F: 5
S:
S: 12
total: 32

M:
T: 6
W: 7
R:
F: 5
S: 4
S: race!
total: 22 (6 days per-race)

If you look at the trailing 7 days' mileage each day, it looks like this:

M: 49
T: 52
W: 47
R: 47
F: 41
S: 47
S: 43

M: 43
T: 42
W: 45
R: 45
F: 46
S: 36
S: 32

M: 32
T: 31
W: 30
R: 30
F: 30
S: 34

This doesn't look right. Trailing 7 day mileage is never reduced more than 46% from peak (30/55). Also, the trailing mileage doesn't really begin to drop until the Saturday 8 days before the race. The first 5 days of the middle taper week are actually tougher than the first five of the first taper week. You could argue that real tapering doesn't really begin until 9 days before the race, resulting in a taper period less than half of the intended 3 weeks.

It seems to me that the mileage during the 6-day Monday to Saturday period of the last week should actually be just 10, not 22. That would result in a trailing 7 day mileage of 22 on the day before the race, which would be a 60% reduction from peak (22/55).


Bricks
Runworks 2005 5M Racer
Chicago
Joined: 09 Dec 2004
Posts: 222

Re: Pfitzinger plan and last week tapering Posted: Fri Mar 10, 2006 1:50 pm 

This is the exact plan I followed last summer/fall and this method of taper was the NUMBER ONE thing I liked about this plan versus more traditional plans. In my previous traning plans that followed a more typical taper I certainly came into race day rested. However after following Pfitz, I felt like I came into race day rested AND strong. I felt sharp and confident on race day, versus lethargic and/or out of rythm. I know it's not for everyone, but I felt like it did wonders for me. Coming down from 20 all the way to 8 on long runs seems extreme, but standard practice and eliminating speedwork does too. I think the strides and repeats right up to race day keep all gears fine-tuned and ready to go...

Rickshaw
Runworks 2005 5M Racer
San Francisco, CA
Joined: 26 Nov 2004
Posts: 1157

Re: Pfitzinger plan and last week tapering Posted: Fri Mar 10, 2006 2:04 pm 

Bricks wrote:
This is the exact plan I followed last summer/fall and this method of taper was the NUMBER ONE thing I liked about this plan versus more traditional plans.

Hmm, that's interesting. What other plans did you do before this one? I've done this Pfitz plan a couple of times before, and never felt quite fully rested on race day. It could be that's due to other factors, though. We'll see... if I feel dead to the world at the beginning of the final week, I'll probably cut back the miles a lot, otherwise I'll stick with the plan as written.


Bricks
Runworks 2005 5M Racer
Chicago
Joined: 09 Dec 2004
Posts: 222

Re: Pfitzinger plan and last week tapering Posted: Fri Mar 10, 2006 2:19 pm 

The first one i did was Higdon Novice, then I did Higdon Advanced. Right now, getting ready for Boston, I started doing one from that my running group handed out, simply because I didn't want to train as hard this winter and so I could just run the same thing my group was doing. In the last couple of weeks though, I have gravitated back to Pfitz, shaving off about 5-10% and will continue through and taper in his fashion. I think what kept me fresh in that taper last year was that I actually forced myself to run all the recovery runs/recovery portions nice and slow. In that taper, there's a lot of miles done slow, despite the speedwork and strides. I think if you listen to that and not run your typical aerobic pace it can save your legs a bit. the combination i felt kept me loose and sharp too. All of those others did 20-12-8 and i just don't like that drop off, and all eliminated speed work for the most part which made me feel lathargic...

Rickshaw
Runworks 2005 5M Racer
San Francisco, CA
Joined: 26 Nov 2004
Posts: 1157

Re: Pfitzinger plan and last week tapering Posted: Fri Mar 31, 2006 10:20 am 

I took another look at Daniels' Running Formula (1st edition) today, and he calls for an even busier taper period than Pfitzinger. For his marathon program B which peaks at 90 mpw, the last three weeks are 60-70, 60, and about 43 (the last week's mileage isn't specified exactly). That works out to 78%, 67%, and 48% of peak mileage, or a slightly more aggressive plan than Pfitzinger.

Given Daniels' numbers, the Pfitzinger taper looks quite reasonable. I guess I shouldn't question the experts!


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