Managing the Half Ironman Taper
This is a guest post from Coach Sarah Matchett, Head Coach of Cool Breeze Coaching.
If you’re headed to Beach to Battleship this year then race week is almost here. The key for the final 10 days of training is to remember that you are not going to gain any fitness by adding extra training. Instead, your taper strategy should focus on increasing form by actively decreasing your fatigue.
For half ironman tapering, begin to decrease overall training volume at least 2 weeks out from your event. A good general rule is to reduce overall training load by 60-70%% two weeks out from the event, and 30-40% the week of the event. The main goal in this final week is to avoid any training that will deplete you of your glycogen stores or make you tired. Most athletes find that avoiding all workouts will leave them feeling flat on race day and a few shortened tune up workouts will leave them energized and ready to race.
Focusing on your nutrition should also be part of your taper. The last thing you want to do is significantly alter your normal fueling strategy, however, beginning about 4 days before your race you should make sure that you’re topping up your carbohydrate stores so that your muscle glycogen tank is fully loaded on race day. You should also pay special attention to hydration in order to enhance your recovery.
Sample 5 Day Countdown to Half Ironman
Day 5 (Monday) Take this day off training to fully recover from any fatigue from the weekend workouts. The most important thing to do today is to thoroughly check over your bike. If you notice any issues get to the bike shop as quickly as possible. Run any errands that need to be done before the race. If you need to purchase groceries, make dinner reservations, print directions do them now. The more you can check off your list today, the less stressful the end of the week will be.
Day 4 (Tuesday) Bike. Not more than 60 minutes. The purpose of this workout is to stay loose and get into race mode. Try to get in 15-20 minutes at half iron effort followed by 2 or 3 pick ups just above race pace. The rest of the time ride super easy. Beginning today, start trying to get to bed early as you may have trouble getting quality sleep on the nights just before the race.
Day 3 (Wednesday) Short swim with a few fast 100s to get the blood flowing. Finish with 15 mins steady swimming at Half Ironman effort, relaxing and visualizing your race. Drink water all day long and add extra stretching and foam rolling.
Day 2 (Thursday) If you’re able to get to the race early do so. Traveling, finding your hotel, negotiating the race sight, and packet pick up are all stressors. Get them out the way today so you can truly rest on Friday. Try to drive, ride or run the course, especially the last 10 miles of bike into transition and the first 2 miles of the run. Make your dinner plans for tomorrow now.
Day 1 (Friday) Do 10–15 minutes of each sport just to get the muscles moving. If you’re traveling today, make sure you leave time for this after your journey. It will really help you loosen up after the car ride. Actively rest as much as possible today. Don’t stand if you can sit, don’t sit if you can lie down. Before bed, make sure everything for your breakfast plan is ready to go for the morning.
Race Day Eat your breakfast as according to plan and keep sipping water or a sports drink until race start. Check over your transition set up and then go find a quiet spot away from stress out athletes. Visualize your entire race from beginning to end, going over every step of your race plan. Trust your training and plan on having a great race.