TITLE: The Taper Begins AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford DATE: September 12, 2005 7:39 PM DESC: Training is done. All that is left is recovery -- and the race. ----- BODY: I'm feeling deja vu all over again, only two weeks ahead of schedule. Last September 27, I blogged about the end of my major training phase for the Des Moines Marathon, my second marathon. I ran Des Moines in 3:45, which was an 18-minute improvement over my inaugural marathon in Chicago. Today I can write a corresponding entry for my third, the Twin Cities Marathon, which takes place on October 2. If you've been following the story up to now, you know that I've run a 24.8-miler, two 22-milers, and a 20-miler. I've mostly been very happy with my times and how I've felt after my long training runs. I've also had some good speed work-outs, though they haven't always ended as I had hoped. Yesterday, I did my second 20-miler of the season. Unfortunately, I have been sick for several days, which made this my least satisfying long run in terms of absolute performance all year. To be honest, I probably shouldn't have run at all, should have just rested and found a way to get a few extra miles in over this week. But I have high hopes for a healthy and effective taper over the next three weeks, and I did not want to start out my taper in the hole. I suppose that, in context, I should be happy with my performance yesterday. I was weak, depleted, tired; but I gutted it out for 2:57:00 and even threw in a 7:48 mile near the end. But that left me even weaker,more depleted, and more tired. All I could do the rest of the day was lie back and watch 35-year-old Andre Agassi gut out three hard sets against world No. 1 Roger Federer in the U.S. Open tennis championship, before falling to time and the relentless, all-purpose game of a great champion. Watching Agassi's concentration and shot-making after having played 3 consecutive 5-set matches, at an age when most professional tennis players have long since hung up their rackets, was inspiring. I hope that I can summon a resolve like his in those last miles of my marathon, as a I approach downtown St. Paul. I feel a little better today and hope to do an easy 5 miles tomorrow morning. If all goes well, I'll do one last long speed work-out this week and a shorter speed work-out next week. But, as I said last year, my main goal at this point in training is to enjoy my runs, let my body recover from the pounding it's taken the last few weeks (225+ miles over four weeks), and break in a new pair of shoes for the race. The week before the race will consist of just a few short, easy runs, with a couple of miles at marathon goal pace thrown in to preserve muscle memory. Wish me luck. -----