The IRONMAN Taper
With about a month to go until your IRONMAN race day, now is the time to start discussing how you are going to taper into the event. An effective taper will leave you sufficiently rested and trained on the start line and also give you the time to consider all other necessary preparations ahead of race day.
For those of you following our training plan and doing an excellent job of sticking to it, the plan is designed to taper you down to race day effectively, safely and properly. However, if you are doing less/more volume, then in reality, your taper will also be less/more pronounced.
The first thing to remember about tapering for an IRONMAN is that the race is a long one. Therefore, the taper may still feel like a bit of a slog! That is normal. It is the relative reduction based on your previous training loads that brings you to a peak.
There are essentially three and a half types of taper:
The low volume, high intensity taper. You reduce the volume and keep the training load by doing higher intensity training in order to stay sharp
Low intensity, low volume taper. Here, you remain training for longer durations, but you remove the intensity
A combination of both the above to reduce overall training load
1/2 The Panic taper. You just realised you have entered a race in a months time and you need to train for it. In fact you increase training volume and intensity as you panic train your way to the race.
In reality, everyone has a style that works best for them. However, option three generally works most effectively for the majority of athletes. It will allow you a bit more time to work on other admin and rest more (by reducing the volume) and keeps your training sharp by keeping the intensity across various durations.
By the end of the taper, you will know you can do more, you will want to do more, but you will not do more. As an example, instead of doing 4x1000m on the track, you may do 2x1000m. You will feel great, but you just stop short and start your cool down.
In the taper, you should also be doing system checks all the time. Make sure your body feels good and is functioning well. Have a massage, or have a couple of physio appointments lined up. You will want to ensure you are eating well for the amount of training you are doing. There is nothing to be gained by "trying to get to race weight" - that thought is about 8 months too late! Keeping yourself healthy is top priority at this point!
Finally, take some time to make sure your bike is working properly, get it checked in to the mechanics (if you can't do it yourself), make sure it is clean, well lubed and ready to race. Change the tyres to your race tyres and check there are no gashes or holes in them too, check your cleats, check your bar tape, etc etc. Do the same with your wetsuit, your goggles…everything. You have time to buy a replacement now and check it works/bed it in before the last minute.
An effective taper allows you both time to recover properly and stress your systems just enough and will have you firing on all cylinders at the start line. However, now is a good time to also make sure all the other (controllable) aspects of your event preparation are in order and considered with plenty of time. Use your new-found spare time to be allow yourself to feel completely ready, not only physically ready.