Here's what my pre-Boston "taper" week looked like:
10 April 2011: 17 miles total, in runs of 25, 49, and 50 minutes, all over the same old Canton/Fells/Fed Hill ground. Running felt progressively easier later in the day, which was encouraging, considering that this all happened the day after my 50-mile PR. Still, finishing my last mile of the day at 7:00/mile pace felt a little harder than usual.
11 April 2011: Okay, post-race malaise. Felt really awful, and just barely got in a slow mile (10 minutes) to keep the streak alive. Chalk it up to too much caffiene and not enough sleep - in combination, makes for some great mood disturbance.
12 April 2011: Not enough better than yesterday to mount a charge, so I took aggressive sleeping action, and went to bed right when I came home from work, then woke up at 10:30 p.m. to run a lap around Patterson Park (2 miles, about 15 minutes). Felt both stronger and totally off-balance from the rest.
13 April 2011: Now back to the real deal. 10 miles at APG, chasing a power line cut that I saw on drive in that looked cool, only to find that it wasn't really that far away on foot, turning the rest of the run into stupid loops around Burger King. Then home to find myself the sole participant in the Wednesday Night Canton run, which I stretched into 11 miles total, but not without throwing in a little bit of tempo to make things interesting (25:40 to the WTC, 45 and a second or two back to the Square). Total time, 70 minutes, and 77 minutes.
14 April 2011: My mom's birthday, and clean-up at work before my long Boston weekend, so only enough time for a mile (10 minutes) around Wal-Mart mid-day. Whatevz. Streak still alive.
15 April 2011: Okay, so no more long running before Boston didn't happen today, as I went out for about 5 miles in the morning (conservative estimate, as I was out for about 39 minutes, but I had a slow start), and then later, because it was too nice not to, another 10 miles (about 70 minutes), capped off with the last mile and a half at what felt like a very comfortable 6:40 pace. Nothing hurt, so I guess that was all okay.
16 April 2011: Last Baltimore-based shake-out before Boston, and I'm slightly regretting that I didn't randomly jump in the 11th annual Victims' Run in Patterson Park, which I didn't know was going on until I passed it just a few minutes into my 5-mile (35 minute) shakeout. On the one hand, a solid performance at a random race would have been a big confidence boost going into Boston, not to mention a lot of fun. On the other hand, $25 to do so (although the short-sleeved cotton t-shirt looked kinda cool) might have been a bit much, and there's always a chance something so last-minute and risky could have backfired, so I stuck to my run, and finished off feeling comfortable. Good enough.
Total time: 450 minutes
Total distance: 62 miles
One thing to notice about arbitrarily-defined weeks is that they can really mess with mileage totals (maybe). Compared to what I've been doing over the past few weeks, this week roughly represents the "cut in half" thing people say you should do every so often to prevent burnout. That said, in the 7-day period from Bull Run this past Saturday, through this past Friday, I ran a total of 107 miles, my highest "weekly" total so far this year. In other words, paradoxically my highest and lowest mileage "week" in recent history. (And to add even further confusion, I had some of my highest and lowest mileage days this past week.) I could say a lot about what I think all of this means, but I'll reserve judgment until Monday, except to say that historically, I have run some very good races coming off of some very high-mileage periods, because running that many miles prevents "staleness" that sometimes comes from too much time off, which has the effect of making you "forget" how to run.
Final words (although this post probably has enough of them already, but for the sake of some content that isn't totally training-focused) . . . since everybody has their opinion about the new Boston Marathon qualifying standards, here's mine:
This will be my 7th consecutive Boston Marathon, and I hope to run Boston every year until I physically can't run it anymore. As my PR is 2:56:32, I'm still fairly comfortably under the minimum qualifying time, even when it drops to 3:05:00 for non-masters men for 2013. That said, if I want to be sure to keep my streak alive, I'll need to run faster, to ensure that I can register earlier. While this adds some pressure to qualifying, it also puts some "skin" back in the game for me. Not to say that I've been lollygagging with my marathons over the past few years, but at the same time, there hasn't been any direct impetus to run faster. Now that 2:50, or 2:45, are meaningful goals, I have additional motivation to go after them. For better or for worse, though, so does everybody else.
Continuing that thought, what will be really interesting (and what I'd love for somebody to dig into further, and which I'd do right now if I weren't a-fixin' to leave for Boston shortly) is to see how many marathons recently have been run around the magical 3:10 mark (and, for that matter, the other qualifying marks), in proportion to total marathons run over the same time period. My suspicion is that, given that human nature is to take the path of least resistance, and work only as hard as necessary to achieve a goal, there will be a disproportionate number of marathons run very near the qualifying times. A percentage of these people have legtimately run as fast as they can expect to run, but another percentage (likely larger than the former), are people that have achieved this standard only because it would have required disproportionately more work to knock another 5 or 10 minutes off of their qualifying time. Now that registration is sufficiently competitive, and the gloves are off when it comes to qualifying (up to 20 minutes faster, of course, and then we're back to the same situation that we were in previously), I suspect that marathon times will mysteriously get faster, and at some point (to be determined how soon, of course), we'll be back where we started, where it will be a race to register online (at which point, they can re-implement the same system, with faster times, to further stave off the rush).
Of course, by then, if they don't repeal the rule, I will have run at least 10 consecutive Boston marathons, thereby obligating me to run only the minimum qualifying time for early entry. But in the meantime, Boston has become higher-stakes for me, and like every race has been so far this year, just a little bit scary. But that's par for the course, and, as has been the case so far, I intend to rise to the challenge.