As athletes prepare for their key races, thoughts turn to tapering. What, when and how?
Tapers are an individual thing, however one can be guided by the general principle that triathlon of all distances is an aerobic sport. Even sprint distance racing is a minimum of one hour in duration.
If we consider an Olympic distance, also commonly known as ‘short course’ racing, we are looking at a race that takes around 2 hours for the pro’s to complete – a time duration which is far closer to the time required for elite marathon runners to finish their event. Hence, going the distance in triathlon is paramount, even in ‘sprint’ and ‘short course’ triathlon racing. To do this to the best of ones ability requires being strong the last third of the swim, the last third of the bike, and for the last third of the run. If your chosen race is Ironman, then in addition, how can you be strong for the last 3 hours of your day, where for many the metaphorical wheels fall off?
The simple fact is most triathletes taper too much. They worry about being super fresh for a race, when in fact ‘rested’ is fine.
Feeling super fresh at the race expo, the night before, and on race morning can lead one to a false sense of expectation, and reality: ‘I feel terrific, let me at it! To only then find half way into the bike that the body says: ‘I do not feel so fresh anymore!‘
If you are an athlete who has a 7 – 14+ day taper leading into your race, this is an area you may want to examine in more detail. Rather than drastically reducing the volume from your program, we advise to reduce the intensity in the last 7 – 10 days leading into your race. Maintain some volume in your taper to keep your ‘aerobic engine’ topped up and ready for your big day.
Remember that fresh is only best if you are buying fruit. Even meat is better slightly aged!