balance and inspiration

Mastering the triathlon taper

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After a quick glance at our social media and private Facebook pages, we have noticed a significant uptick of “taper” related posts. It seems that many of our TSC athletes are in “taper mode.”

“It’s race week! Time to put the feet up #tapertime”.

“Only 2000m in the pool. It must be time to #taper”.

“I’m so hungry! I’ve got the #taper munchies”.

With many of our triathlete’s seasons coming to a close in the Northern Hemisphere (our folks Down Under are just gearing up), many are peaking for their key races. But to truly peak for your race, you need to first go through the taper. This means a decrease in training to allow you to arrive at the start line fresh rather than over trained. All of your training plans have a good taper structure built into them to take the guesswork out of it. But if you are self coached, it is easy to fall prey to over training or neglecting the taper altogether.

While the taper might seem like a simple concept, it is actually hard to get right. There is much more to it than putting your feet up and cracking open a beer. The former, I actually recommend, the later should wait until after the race.

Here are three tips to nailing your taper so that you can dominate your race.

Pump up the intensity not the volume.  Even though you might think that you should be taking it easy in the lead up to a race, a good taper should have a lot of small doses of very intense sprinting. This will keep your muscles and mind sharp leading into the race but not enough to bury you and prevent recovery.

Focus on race pace. In addition to your short intervals, you should include short race pace intervals. At the beginning of the week, use your Garmin to make sure that you hit your splits.  As the week progresses, go strictly off feel and then look at the data afterwards in TrainingPeaks. This will help you associate what you were feeling with a number so that come race day, you will know exactly what X pace and X wattage feels like without having to be so focused on the numbers.

Keep it clean. Now is not the time to make a massive overhaul of your diet (i.e. don’t go keto two nights before a race). Keep eating what you are familiar with and do not stress out about carbo loading (it’s actually a myth) or specific numbers. Just keep your diet clean and the least processed as possible, so that your body does not have to deal with any extraneous stress.

Get some sleep. Use the extra time that you have to catch up on sleep. If you are traveling to the race go to bed at the same time you would in the time zone that you are going to be racing in. It helps with jet lag.

Less is more. You may have a lot of energy in your workouts, but hold back and stick to the plan. Save that extra energy for the race. It is actually better to come into a race slightly undertrained but fresh, than overtrained and under recovered.

Overall, focus on the race and your plan. Know that you have done all the work that you can. Trying to squeeze in any extra, fear driven workouts in will only hurt your race times.

Race well and race hard.

Coach Chris and Kev