Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Taper Time

Is it that time again? Already? Wow, that snuck up fast. Taper does crazy things to a person. Last year, for my first Ironman (Ironman Arizona), I did the standard 3-week taper, which was almost not enough. After my "final push" block of training, I was extremely fatigued and had a hard time with reducing my volume by only 25% that first week. I ended up feeling sluggish on the start line. This year, I'm trying something different. A little experiment (gulp). I hope it works! After my crazy, 3-week "final push" (I only did a 2-week final push for Arizona), I took a (gasp) recovery week. That's right! A full recovery week. And I'm SO glad I did! I took several off days and did a lot of whining, sleeping, and eating. I finished out the week with a hard-effort workout (Camp Pendleton Sprint Tri--see post below), perfect for revving the body in preparation for the official taper. I feel absolutely wonderful this week and ready to tackle my taper with gusto.

Now, I am officially beginning my 3-week taper:
Week 1 (this week)--reduce volume 25% from my average highest volume block (about 16 hours so 25% reduction is 10-12 hours)
Specifics--pretty much a standard training week without extra bikes or runs (each sport 3x plus weights 2x; volume of each workout somewhat reduced, especially long Saturday ride (50 miles; but still including rolling hills at a hard effort), and Sunday run (America's Finest City half marathon--13.1 miles at race pace. Yippee!!! One complete rest day (Boo).)
Week 2--reduce volume 50% (6-8 hours)
Specifics--(bike 3x and swim 3x but run only 2x to allow legs to heal; long bike is 30-40 miles (pretty flat but hard intensity); long run is only 6-8; only 1 weights; 1-2 complete rest days (or 1 rest and 1 active recovery)
Week 3 (race week)--reduce volume 75% (3-4 hours before race day)
Specifics--everything is very short this week; goal of each workout is to keep legs feeling fresh, prevent stiffness and sleep well at night (nerves, mental well-being). Only 1 run, 2 very short bikes (~30 minutes each), 2-3 swims (also short: ~30 minutes each). 3 complete rest day with Saturday (day before race day) as one of those (mandatory rest day)

The goal is to rest...but not too much! This is my opportunity to put the final icing on the cake. I'm adding some high-intensity bursts to each workout, especially since the volume of each workout is reduced. Some track workouts, sprints on the bike (especially on the trainer), 100 m sprints in the pool--just enough to feel good and fast and stoke the anaerobic engine. It's about time! At the same time, I'm making sure I feel well-rested and eager to tackle each workout. If I don't, no worries; I'll skip it. If there was ever a time to be a slacker, this is it. However, the high levels of anxiety (I'm driving Brent crazy with my full-on, "spring"-cleaning-the-house-project) and restlesness I'm feeling indicate that the taper workouts will do me good. Plus, it helps me sleep soundly at night! In addition, I'm eating really, really healthy. No sweets until after race day! This is helping my IBS immensely and prevented unwanted pounds from creeping on now that my volume is reduced. Lots of healthy carbs though (cereal, rice, pasta, whole-grain bread, fruits, and veggies).

Comparison to Ironman Arizona (April 2008):
How does my preparation for Ironman Canada stack up against Ironman Arizona last year? Let's look at the data:

Everything is increased (mostly because my training period for Ironman Canada is quite longer--starting in December with a long, gradual build-up) but what's most striking is how much the run jumped up this year. Almost a 200 mile increase! Whoo hoo! My swim increased from 72 miles to 97 miles...also nice. And my bike increased from 2014 to 2475, almost a 500-mile increase! I wish I recorded elevations on my bikes because I feel like I've trained more on hills this year (since Ironman Canada is significantly more hilly than Arizona).

Let's take a closer look:
To make the comparison easier to evaluate, I lopped off the first 5 weeks of prep from Ironman Canada (I pretty much had 2 prep periods anyway this year). Now my Ironman Canada training is 25 weeks, whereas Ironman Arizona is 20.

My Ironman Canada training is all over the place between the Prep and final 8 weeks of training, probably owing to a few winter illnesses (including the sinus infection from hell weeks 16-17). However, I maintained my base throughout and during the final 8 weeks, blew my training out of the water. I trained harder than I ever have before, and it's evident. My volume during this period is unsurpassed.

Here's a closer look, dissecting the swim, bike, and run for Ironman Arizona (cool colors) and Ironman Canada (warm colors). My swim for both is about the same. My bike for Canada Prep really takes off the last 8 weeks. And my run for Canada Prep is consistently the same or much higher.

All-in-all, it looks like I have bigger peaks and valleys in my Ironman Canada training than for Arizona. I guess when you train harder, you have to recover harder. I know I feel as fit as ever. I feel I prepared as hard as I could have. When I got sick or injured, I rested. When I got tired, I rested. I did what my body told me and pushed when I could. I just have to taper well now, keep my fingers crossed, and hope that what I did was enough.


Renee said...

Love the detail and graphs! Enjoy your rest, relax as you can, and remember that this is FUN!

Diana said...

How exciting! I'm sure that it's hard to stop working so hard when you've been doing it for so long. I know I can't!

Nico said...

Nice blog!!!
Good luck in your next IM.

Sherry said...

I always love your graphs!

I am realizing more and more how important REST/RECOVERY is! I don't think I took ANY recovery weeks at all last year... and I guess that's why I kept nursing injuries. This year my volume has exploded and I haven't even seen an injury! Amazing stuff!

Good luck with your taper! Tackle it HARD! Watch out Canada, Rachel's coming to town!