So, not really tapering - more like 4 very course specific runs for this 45 mile week. In fact, almost all of my runs in these 3 weeks will be on the course.
I drove to the summit this morning and had an 8 miler on tap. My goal - down 4 miles at an easy (10 min avg) pace, then work hard on the 4 miles back up, trying to keep the average under 20 min miles.
What I can't simulate is all the other runners being on the course on race day. The reality is on an out and back course, or more properly said in this case: the up and down course - is that you get to see all the other runners in the race. Some places on the trail are just not suitable for 2 way traffic - traffic that is in a hurry, at high altitude, on rocky sections of decomposing granite.
I can't train for that really - so I don't really bother thinking about it. I just need to be as smooth and steady through the other runners, those coming down when I am going up, likewise with those going up while I am maneuvering down.
Today there were a good amount of people on the trail - lots of hikers and no doubt other runners getting some high altitude training in. I've said it before and I'll say it again - the 16 golden stairs are almost as tough going down as they are going up. They require a lot of focus, rock hopping and oftentimes I am using my hands for balance on the side rocks to get through.
Below there though it opens up and today I was feeling peppy so I switched to cruise mode all the way down to tree-line and then the 3 miles below the summit sign. That next mile below there is another section that really requires focus with lots of rocks, roots and the shadows are always an issue for line of sight.
I slowed through these and eventually made it down 4 miles, approx. 2800 feet below the summit. It's a tough transition to go from downhill to uphill in this fashion - today my legs immediately were complaining. Slow grind gear was engaged - and I plugged forward.
After about a 1/3 of a mile I started to get into a rhythm and managed to make some better progress. I was pleasantly surprised to be able to run significantly more than I have in recent memory for the next 3 miles - so much so that my average pace was under 20 min miles.
But then came the stairs and I slowed noticeably. Changing my mind that even though they are hard to go down through - they are definitely worse to go up. But I made it eventually and summited in a time under my goal of 2 hours. A successful training run in the books.