As you work your way through a training plan, your mileage and intensity build over a course of weeks. If you are training properly, your plan will start with relatively light effort and modest distances a few months from race day. As the weeks pass, your mileage and intensity levels will build, peak, and then taper.
Your total weekly mileage is your training volume. Your total weekly mileage and intensity together are your training load. Your overall goal is to gradually increase training load, with regular “step down” weeks for recovery, until you are about a month out from your target race. This is known as the “peak” of training, when your volume and intensity – your training load - are at the highest points of your training cycle. In other words, your mileage and intensity both “peak.” After that, you taper to race day.
There is no “magical point,” like a specific day, where your training load should peak. Instead, it is a period, generally about a month away from your race, where you are running more miles and with more focused intensity than at any other time in your training cycle. This is your “peak period,” not a “peak point.” Accordingly, you should think of your “peak” in terms of weeks, not a single point.
Keep in mind that the peak period is not the point at which your performance should “peak.” Ultimately, you want your performance to peak on race day. Your training plan should still contain high intensity, like pace work and speed work, inside the final weeks of training. You do want to give yourself more rest by lowering your volume, but you should maintain your speed and high-level performance as you approach race day. If all goes according to plan, the lower mileage during the taper will leave you feeling more rested, but the continuing intensity will have you feeling fast and ready for race day.
If you are uncertain about how to structure a training plan for your half-marathon or marathon, consider working with an experienced coach who can guide you through training. Your coach will help you find the proper volume, load, buildup, peak, and taper for your race.
Paul Carmona is the Online REVEL Coach who has designed training plans specifically for REVEL downhill courses. He is a 20-time REVEL Marathon Finisher and has run multiple Boston Qualifiers on every REVEL course that he has run, with his current streak at 18 BQs in a row at REVEL marathons!