By coach Eric Kenney
Ahhhh… the big Taper. You finally get to relax. Skip the hill workout and the mega mileage brick on Saturday… Some people hate this time of training. I am one of them. It’s a scary time. The time when you can do very little to gain anything and do every thing to screw up months or even years of training. However it is necessary to achieve maximum potential.
First off I like to use the term “Peaking”. Tapering promotes the idea of doing less and less, and this is not the complete story. Tapering makes me think of something getting smaller and smaller, and that’s not what we are trying to do. Peaking is the process in which we achieve maximum physical and mental performance potential. This is a lot more detailed than just cutting back your mileage.
We will discuss this in general terms for a “race”. Peaking workouts and how much you do and do not do, can and will vary a lot depending on your event, duration, and skill level.
First off the peaking phase duration will vary depending on the duration of your event. The longer the event the longer the taper, ok there I said it. For Iron distance events, stage races, etc the longer the lead up of peaking. You might see up to a month of decreased volume in extreme cases.
In the weeks leading up to you’re A race the amount of aerobic fitness one can gain is minimal if any at all. So don’t kill your self! Skip the long ride and the “I’m not sure what to do today so I’ll ride to Sudbury and back as hard as I can” like you do every Thursday. As a general rule I like to decrease total volume by 40-60%. Endurance training can be cut back by the greater. For those doing shorter distances where you may have quite a bit of intensity training here are a few key things to note.
1. Make sure you are fully rested before a hard workout. We are looking for maximum speed and performance now, not beating our selves up. This will also build confidence. You’ll be amazed at how fast/far you go on your threshold intervals after only a 30’ warm up and taking the day before off instead of the 3 hour ride.
2. Work your strengths. You will be racing your strengths so focus on them. Use them, race them. This will build further confidence and hone your skills for race day.
3. Make your workouts simulate race conditions. Use the aero bars more/ race bike (if you haven’t been) wear the clothes and shoes for the run. Do a group swim in open water. Do a race sim day. Practice fueling and mental preparation. Make sure every thing works!
4. Race. Use a B race as prep. If your training for a long distance race a shorter race in the weeks leading up to it can really get the kinks out. It will allow you to use some racing strategy you are planning on in a consequence free environment. Does the elastic band holding the shoes on the bike trick really work? Or is it not worth it?
As we PEAK, decrease your overall volume. If you have been doing 3 hr rides and 4x 400 meters running on the track do 90 minutes in the saddle, and 2 or 3x300m intervals. You want to stay fresh and sharp but not worn down. Workouts should be short and sweet. They should burn but you should recover fast. By maintaining or even increasing your intensity your body thinks that training is still on full blast and your body will continue to adapt full blast. But… you have decreased the volume and by the time it realizes that you have actually done less your body has over compensated and your flying. Further hone this adaptation with race specific workouts in a race specific environment and you will be more ready on race day than you ever imagined.
While this decreased training time will be nice you should still treat your self well. Treat your self like your still training hard. Get that recovery drink even if you feel you don’t need it. Get plenty of sleep and keep up on stretching, etc…
The other item you will need to keep busy is your brain. Don’t think too much. Go over the race plan, make sure the tires on the bike are in good shape and just go. You have done this in training so you can do it in the race. Remember there is not much you can do to get faster in the week or three before the big race but you can do everything to blow it. So stay the course. Take care. Eat the extra pasta. Skip the morning swim if your feeling tired. And don’t be afraid to light it up a few times. Show your stuff, whether in a race or a short hard work out with the training partners. You have been looking at your heart Rate all season staying in “your zone”. Time to see how far you can push your self and start looking back the all the people your beating!
Coaching is not only Eric’s full-time job, it’s his pride and joy. “I take it personally. I am also a competitive triathlete and I am as careful with my athletes as I am with myself.” He coaches athletes of all levels in triathlon, cycling, mountain, biking, Cyclocross and is working with RAAm solo rider and team this year!