The motto for any taper is “it’s better to do too little than too much.” My general training philosophy has been “it’s better to do too much than too little.” You can see how the taper is going to make me crazy. Ever since I signed up for this Ironman – really, ever since I pushed play on Day 1 of my P90X journey, I have been GO GO GO mode. I have pushed my body to its limits non stop for nearly 1.5 years in preparation for this race. Even on our 5 day vacation to the Dominican Republic I took a spin class. The longest I went without exercising was three days and it only happened two times – once when I was sick before the marathon and a second time when I went to Austin, Texas for a wedding.
When I signed up for Ironman, I had been riding a road bike for about three weeks. I had swum laps in a pool about six times in the last ten years. I had run over five miles for the first time only two and half years prior. I certainly wasn’t the typical Ironman contender one who has complete several sprint and Olympic triathlons and even maybe a 70.3 or two. I was a triathlon newbie and I knew I had A LOT of work to do to get me in the shape I needed to be in to cross 140.6 miles in the span of less than 17 hours.
Knowing that the bike was my weakness, I have put a lot of emphasis on these workouts and that is why it has been especially heartbreaking to have my cycling plans derailed the last few weeks due to my knee pain. I had REALLY wanted to get in two 100 mile rides, and I only got in one. Then, after I missed a big week of cyling, I really wanted to get in a solid 90 mile ride to give me that boost before going into taper. That ride was cut short due to my knee pain.
Needless to say, I have been a little worried about my cycling abilities. The stress I was feeling over this really came to a head when my training buddies brought up the taper chapter of the book Going Long which outlined a taper plan that was VERY different from the one I had crafted for myself. The taper plan I created was based on the original training plan that I modified with my own schedule and it included about a 4 hour ride followed by a short run on Saturday and a 90 minute run on Sunday. I was also planning to add an open water swim on Sunday. However Going Long recommends two “Breakthrough” workouts of longer length which include a longish bike and run back to back, both with some intensity thrown in. Besides that, there would be no running or biking all week and swimming would remain similar to past weeks. I read the book on Sunday and was torn on what to do – continue with my original plan or do this new plan?
After talking to Asia, who said she was trying the new plan, then looking at my old plan, the Tri Club’s very general Ironman training plan, and the Beginner Triathlete plan, I was being pulled in all directions. Long Bike 4 hours. Long Bike 4.5 hours. Long Bike 2.5 hours with intensity. Don’t run over 60 minutes vs. do a medium-long run. Which one is right!? HOW DO I TAPER!?! Panic ensued.
And of course I went to Twitter for advice. Some offered cookies as support, but I had read to avoid these kinds of foods in order to ensure that I don’t put on pounds before race day (terrible advice to recommend passing up on cookies ever if you ask me).
Then, Maria (a triathlon coach at No Limits Endurance) chimed in and calmed me down:
Maria followed up with some additional advice that corresponded well with my original plan, so in the end, that is what I will be doing. I haven’t been using Going Long as a guide for the rest of my training, so why would I start now? Thank you again Maria for helping me with my taper stress!
Key Guidelines for Tapering
Despite all the conflicting guidance I was getting, there were quite a few common themes in all articles/books I read about the Ironman taper. The advice is more general, but is the most important part of tapering. Here’s the guidelines I plan to stick to until race day:
1) It’s better to do too little than too much before the race. If you feel like resting, rest.
2) Decrease volume by about 20% per week but do not eliminate intensity. Include short, high intensity intervals in at least 2 workouts per week. Swim volume does not need to decrease as much as bike and run volume but do not swim more than 4,000 yards in a single session less than 1 week from the race.
3) Avoid outside stress from work, friends, family, social commitments, etc. Just chill.
4) Reduce caloric intake as you reduce volume so you don’t put on extra pounds before race day (I am usually BAD at this and tend to pig out before races on fun things like bagels and cookies).
5) Get plenty of sleep (one article said don’t take naps, one said naps are recommended….see my point!?).
Crisis adverted. Now time to relax and enjoy some downtime (but not too much!) in these last couple weeks. Despite a few missed workouts a long the way, I’ve worked my ass off to get here and I know I have the fitness to race 140.6 miles. Now I just need to sit back and relax and let my body soak it up. I plan to be fully rested and AMPED on race day!
Have you ever had a taper crisis? What is your favorite part about the taper?