Dave Scott’s Perfect IRONMAN World Championship Taper

From TrainingPeaks

By Dave Scott

Over the years I’ve seen many athletes not achieve their full potential in races because they failed to execute a proper IRONMAN taper.

I’ve witnessed triathletes who have not backed off enough and were tired and flat at the event; I’ve also seen those who have dialed back their training far too much, and dulled the fitness that they had taken months to hone.

Follow my prescription as we countdown to race day in Kona, and you’ll arrive at the starting line with that perfect mix of expansive aerobic capability and sharp, high-intensity output that will propel you to an optimal performance.

While this is written with the IRONMAN World Championship in mind, it will work for any IRONMAN you may be racing. Tapering is an art form, so above all else, listen to your own body.

22 Days to 10 Days Before The Race

1. Maintain your schedule. Maintain the same number of training days per week and follow your typical schedule. If you normally run on Tuesdays, then continue to do it! Don’t alter things.

2. Long training days. Your training is nearly complete, and so you should resist “cramming in” your final long workouts too close to the event. If you’re planning a long run, schedule your last one 18 to 22 days before the race. Your last long bike should take place 14 to 21 days from race day. Your long swim: Nine to 10 days prior.

3. Maintain “race-like intensity,” but reduce the segment length of repeats. There is a great physiological return on reducing your sub-threshold and threshold training to between 90 second to 3.5 minutes per repeat.

These shorter segments—even with complete recovery—will not leave you whipped after the workout. By resisting the temptation to lengthen the repeats, you’ll maintain the adaptive stress of the session and enhance your day-to-day recovery.

An example set is: 3 x 3.5 min + 3 x 90 sec + 3 x 2.5 min + 3 x 90 sec. The rest interval between repeats should be long enough to maintain the desired intensity throughout the workout.

4. Notice improved performance. One characteristic of a proper taper is that you’ll begin to feel a bit fresher during and after the workouts, while experiencing a 2 percent to 5 percent increase in performance (either by comparing tangible measurements or Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE)).

For example, all of your training sessions might feel easier with a concurrent increase in speed, watts or simultaneous reduction in heart rate.

Simply, you should begin to feel like you’re flowing at less effort. This sensation is a positive affirmation that your training has been effective and you’re on track for a good race.

Additionally, niggling stiffness or sore spots should subside. Acute soreness means you need to rest more or consider a combination of modalities to expedite the recovery (see #8 below).

5. Reduce overall training time. A reduction in total training time should start during this taper block. Looking at weekly training volumes, my suggestion is not to reduce the volumes by a fixed percentage.

The problem with this math is that the athletes who train 11 to 14 hours per week (i.e. most age-group athletes with full-time jobs and families) cannot compare themselves with those training 30-35 hours weekly (i.e. professional athletes and elite age group athletes).

The following are my percentage reductions based on your hours per week:

  • For those logging 11 to 14 hours per week, reduce your volume by about 15 percent.
  • If you’re typically training 15 to 22 hours, bring the volume down by 20 percent.
  • If you’re at 23 to 30 hours, then reduce that by 25 percent.
  • If you’re training more than 30 hours, then reduce that by 30 percent.

These percentage reductions should be reflected in all disciplines, and particularly in your run workouts. The eccentric load of the run slows the recovery process. Also be sure to look at your personal strengths and weaknesses and reduce accordingly.

6. Maintain your mobility, stretching and strength training. Eliminate the heavy lifts or explosive plyometrics, and reduce the weight and number of reps, but maintain your typical routine.

Take the exercises to fatigue but never to failure. If you’re on a minimal strength program, continue at least twice per week emphasizing core, gluteal, rotator and back strength, plus maintain joint mobility with foam rolling and stretching.

7. Watch your weight. Your goal is to neither gain weight nor hit your optimum race weight during this time block.

Eat nutrient-dense foods with healthy fats and protein at all meals. Cut back on simple carbohydrates.

Don’t alter your macronutrient balance. This is not the time to adjust your diet strategy! If you’re madly driven to lose weight during the final 10 days, then keep this weight loss to no more 0.5 percent of your body weight.

8. Continue your bodywork. Maintain treatments with your physical therapist, massage therapist, acupuncturist or yoga routines. These are all good, but don’t try something new during this period!

Nine Days and Counting to Race Day….

Click here to read the rest of the article, including final taper and race day nerves strategy

Pacing the Cage: Making the Most of Your Taper Week

By Will Murray

Originally published by USA Triathlon – reprinted with permission

It’s the week before your race and you feel like a caged tiger. While you still have workouts that are short and crisp to stay sharp, your training volume is vastly reduced. All of a sudden you have a lot more time on your hands. How do you make the most of this extra time during your taper period to have your best race day experience?

Training makes you fit; practice makes you fast.
When was the last time you practiced your transitions? Everybody talks about the free speed you can obtain with clean transitions, but that speed only comes with practice. For T2, bike-to-run transition, try this:

  1. Set up a bike trainer and your T2 transition area.
  2. Hop on your bike, yes with your helmet and sunglasses and cycling shoes, ride for two minutes.
  3. Do your transition — changing helmet for ball cap, changing shoes and putting on race belt. Then run 400 meters.
  4. Capture your time for the transition, from the instant you stop pedaling to your first step.
  5. Repeat six to eight transitions until you get your transition time down to less than 10 seconds.

For T1, your swim-to-bike transition:

  1. When you do open water swims, practice running out of the water for 100 meters, then jog back to the water.
  2. Practice your exit of the water five or six times to get the feel of snapping from a horizontal position to vertical and trying to run.
  3. If you can run out of the pool without incurring the (unwanted) attention of the lifeguard, give this a try.
  4. Practice your bike mounts and dismounts at least six or eight times.

“Baseball is 90 percent mental. The other half is physical.” – Yogi Berra
Your taper week is a great time to practice your mental skills.

  1. Write out your race plan. On paper (or electrons). Include your pacing plan and your fueling and hydration schedule.
  2. Include mental elements in your race plan. Study the course map and course profile to identify specific locations where you will need extra motivation. For example, at two-thirds of the way through the run course, many athletes lose focus and start dwelling on how tired they feel. You might think of two or three people who you know have your best interest at heart. Think of what they would say to motivate you that would really help lift you. Place them along the course map in your mind’s eye and hear what they would say as you see yourself hitting that point.
  3. Rehearse the race in your mind. For specific instructions on how to do this, read “Two Minutes to a Better Workout.”
  4. Prepare for the worst. Ask yourself, “What could go wrong?” Mentally travel through the race, from setting up your transition area to the finish line, and test for things that might go astray. What if I drop a bottle? Make a plan. What if I start to chafe? Make a plan. Being prepared is the best way to put worry away.

Test your gear.
I recently heard an athlete lament that the electronic shifter battery on his bike died during the race, turning his bike into a single-speed. He had not charged the battery in two months. Don’t be him. Go over your bike carefully or take it to the shop. Especially check your tires and shifters. Lube your chain. Clean up your bike.

Do a dress rehearsal, literally. If you haven’t done a swim in your wetsuit in a while, take it to the pool or open water and swim a little. Do a short bike-run brick in your race kit. Practice placing your anti-chafing remedy. Test the drink that the aid stations will be handing out to get used to the taste.

Plan to sleep.
Make plans to get a good night’s sleep the night before the night before the race. Many athletes have trouble sleeping the night before the race, so if you do find yourself staring at the ceiling, use that time well. During your waking period, rehearse again the race you want to have tomorrow. Make a movie, full color, with sound and scents and sensations, of the race going as well as it can. See yourself having a great race, start to finish. If this doesn’t put you back to sleep, then you will put your mind in the right frame for the next morning.

Taper week gives you a lot more time to focus on those things that will help you have a great day for your race. In addition to pacing like a caged tiger, you can also practice those skills that will make your race day smooth, efficient and fulfilling.

Will Murray is a USA Triathlon Level I Certified Coach and the mental skills coach for d3multisport.com. He is co-author of “The Four Pillars of Triathlon: Vital Mental Conditioning for Endurance Athletes.”

The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and not necessarily the practices of USA Triathlon. Before starting any new diet or exercise program, you should check with your physician and/or coach.