So now with only three weeks before Blackfoot it’s time to have the age old debate. How much rest (taper) does one need going into a 100K ultra marathon? A friend of mine (also running the Blackfoot100) and accomplished ultra runner believes he only needs 7-10 days to feel fresh and spry on race day. He also feels he can race well with only one or two weeks between intense efforts at ultra races. But let’s face it, he is an absolute beast and I have always respected his toughness. Myself on the other hand find that I need 2-3 weeks of taper before a high intensity ultra and at this year’s Blackfoot I will be running on a 2 week taper. The reason for 2 weeks and not 3 is that on May 10 a group of friends and I will be running the r2r2r (Grand Canyon), an absolute bucket list run with around 2 miles of elevation over 75K. If I can sit back and try not to run with the big boys, but instead coast the canyon then this run should be the ideal training for Blackfoot. Otherwise if I go too hard I risk not recovering in time for race day.
Upon taper time you’ve got to just trust your training and know you’ve taken the necessary means to prepare yourself for the day’s challenges. They say in a marathon the taper is uber important but I think in ultra running it’s extremely important. Showing up on race day with a full tank of gas and itching to get out there sure counters the nervous emotions. I think the mistake most make when tapering is thinking they didn’t get enough in. Anyone who has run Blackfoot knows very well that the hills play a major hurdle in the later half of the race. Two years ago I made the mistake of running too many hills in the weeks approaching Blackfoot. The first two laps went very well, whereas upon the third loop the wheels came off and I bonked big time around the 60K mark (in a 100K race that’s way too early to suffer). At the time, I thought it was salt or fuel but later I concluded it was due to too many hills too close to the race. The same happened last year during the Blackfoot 50M. I raced the Elk Beaver 100K and thought I’d be fine for 50M in two weeks time. At the 65K, like a drop kick to the solar plexus I was reminded that 2 weeks wasn’t enough recovery time for this old body.
We are all different and optimally perform on a unique set of variables and I believe we all have this innate ability to sense what our own body needs. Ultra running is a mentally challenging sport but maybe even more so is the tapering process. Listen to your body, learn from the past, be weary of advice you receive but be patient with those who supply it.