Next weekend I will be running my first triathlon of my second season of triathlons., an Olympic or Intermediate or International(I am going to stick with intermediate or international from here on) distance race. This distance entails a near mile swim followed by a 24 mile bike (some add a mile or two to compensate for the course) and finishes with a 10k run. Last year I focused on sprint distance triathlons with one international distance at the end of the year . In that event I had a great ocean swim mile time of 34 minutes but my bike failed me with three blown tubes, thus a DNF (did not finish) for my last and biggest event of the year. This year I decided to wrangle four international distance triathlons, the first of which is a week away. With such a big goal and this race lasting a bit of time for me I thus had to figure out my taper.
In the past I tried tapering by reducing volume over two weeks leading to my race. Usually two weeks out I reduced my volume twenty to forty percent and then in the week leading into the race usually I reduced my volume an additional twenty percent. This worked ok, but I usually felt a little flat on race day and often it took half the race before my body got warmed up.
For half marathons I have found reducing intense workouts and basically taking a day off extra has worked well, but I knew this event would require something a bit more. Recently I had been researching some different tapering strategies outlined on the internet and in books and had come across a three stage taper that looked promising . The basic idea is that two weeks before the event decrease volume but increase intensity. This then would lead to a decay phase involving more rest and recovery followed by a quick short burst speed workout a day or two leading into the race. The trick with tapering is hitting the recovery and peak at just the right moment and keeping the body frp, feeling flat from rest without activity, thus the last short speed session a few day out.
Three Stage Taper Breakdown (My Approach cobbled from a few sources and tailored to my needs):
- Two weeks before reduce volume but increase intensity – One blog I read the guy almost had difficulty finishing the final workouts.
- Week Before race go into a 3-4 day taper or decay period focusing on stretching and foam rolling and maybe a walk or two, this is the primary recovery phase.
- With the race on Saturday – Wednesday need to do a three mile run with one mile ran at race pace or just below, but only for a mile and no more. Also need to add some 100’s at pace in the pool and not exceed too much time and distance.
- Thursday or Friday an half hour to an hour on the spin bike to keep the legs warm but not warn out, mixing in a few bursts of speed to get the heart rate up.
- Saturday race.
Two Weeks Til Race Weekly Race Breakdwon
- Monday: I had an easy hour of upper body weight lifting and stretching.
- Tuesday: off
- Wednesday: I broke this workout into morning and night workouts. The morning workout was a 6 mile run with 5 miles completed at my 5k pace, close to my ideal pace for my race. The evening involved 2900 meters of pool swimming drills with 800 meters of kicking drills and a very heavy pacing focus.
- Thursday: Spin class in the evening with allot of speed and resistance work. I followed the spin class with three miles of hill running working on really pushing the uphill and downhill speed.
- Friday: Off
- Saturday: Triathlon Brick training day and last day before multi-day rest phase to begin.
Leading into Saturday the intensity of the workouts had proved challenging at times, but I had worked in more rest days and increased my sleep for the week. All workouts in this week were extremely intense and very demanding. Knowing I was going into my decay phase on Sunday the final brick in the week long intensity phase was my Saturday triathlon day. There were a few small and large things I needed to achieve before race day that I really wanted to work out, and I really wanted to push my body a bit before going into the rest and recovery phase.
The first part of Saturday involved a 1.6 mile open water swim. According to my watch witch was tucked under my cap, I swam the first mile in 27 minutes! Not sure how accurate that really was but I am feeling confident on swimming the mile in my Saturday race. I spent the second half of this swim by working on sighting on my weak side. When I swim I can breath either direction, but I have more control breathing to my left, which I can get ten to twelve strokes before needing to sight. If I breath to my right I have to sight every four to five strokes or I ended up going in circles. So as I finished the first mile I began to work on sighting to my week side. In my upcoming triathlon this will have little relevance except if I decide to avoid facing the sun. My next triathlon which will involve an ocean swim will require being able to easily shift the side I breath on. Overall a great swim.
After the swim I took the bike to the shop to have it checked out and adjusted a bit. This is really just a habit at this point as the company I bought from includes lifetime adjustments and tweaks. I followed this with a ride on the Silver Comet Trail, which is mostly flat but includes numerous long 1%-2% uphill grades that fool you a bit. The big goal for this ride was to stay seated on my bike for twenty or more miles. Usually I stop and rest every twelve or so miles and I needed to be able to stay on the bike for a while. The first half of ride encompassed 23 miles for which I finished it in 1:36:00. When I started this ride I could tell the weeks intense running efforts had definitely had and effect in slowing down my pedal speed. While they did not feel dead, my legs certainly did not feel fresh and responsive and it took forever to get into a cycling rhythm. I pushed knowing I would have a few days recovery to follow and I slowed down a bit on the return 23 miles.
I finished Saturday’s torture with a six mile run headed in the opposite direction immediately after I got my bike stowed. The goal here was just to adjust to the feeling of running off the bike and adapt a bit to the humidity. By the time I finished a half mile I was struggling, my legs were toast, the weeks intense workouts had done their job. I used every inch of energy in my body to slowly finish the six mile run. It was nowhere near pretty, but I finished it with my head high ready for the decay period and days of rest, stretching and rolling to follow.
Saturday marked the completion of the grueling week of intensity mixed with greater rest. By the time I rolled into bed on Saturday evening I knew that I had done the work I needed to do to increase my intensity and that I had truly earned a few days of doing nothing. In determining how hard to push last week I knew my recovery rate had grown since last year, most of these workouts last weeks would have crippled me for days. One of the most important things I had to determine was how hard to push and how long recovery would take. As I sit here in my second day of decay/tapering I feel the recovery taking hold and I have a feeling I will have a great race on Saturday. I am curious to see how this tapering strategy plays out for me and if it works I might try to employ it again on other long races. Right now its too early to tell, but I do know with only two days into the rest and recovery phase last week seems easy compared to days of light activity. Til next time.