It’s two weeks to Ironman Texas and I can tell you that all my peeps are ready for tapering or already in taper mode! Is there a science to Ironman tapering? Or is it really an art? I combed the internet looking for guidance, called all my veteran friends and coaches, and guess what? No one agrees - as usual. It seems that tapering is as much art as science and there is no one plan that works for everyone.
Here are some tips on Ironman tapering. (And no, doing nothing for two or three weeks before the race and drinking beer is not one of the tips!)
I did read some great advice in an article by the legendary Dave Scott wrote on tapering and then he was instantly contradicted by another, more scientific article, by Alun Woodward. Here are some of their thoughts and my personal commentary (can’t disappoint the fans of my pathetic humor).
Despite clear evidence that a shorter taper is most beneficial for endurance athletes, many Ironman training plans today include a full three-week taper. This is actually due to looking at marathoners and their habitual over training. If you are over-trained, and on the brink of exhaustion, then a three week taper is for you. If you are more like an ultramarathoner and bounce back from your long rides and long runs quickly, your taper may only be a week or so. The hardest part about giving an answer to the question, “How long should I taper before an Ironman”, is that each athlete is so different. Some athletes repeatedly bounce back from 6+ hour rides and 2+ hour runs as if they were nothing (these folks can taper less and i personally hate them), whereas others are sidelined for 2-3 days in a haze as they recover (these folks can taper more and this is much more like me). So the first place I suggest you start is with your own athletic history. How have you recovered from you longer efforts in training? That will give you an idea of how much time you need. (Gues I need a month, oh no! I only have two more weeks….)
Everyone agrees that no matter how long your taper, it should be a fine balance between these 10 components:
Every individual taper is unique. Your age, preparation and personal history of your previous tapers should all play into the final formulation. A balance of rest and active recovery are key, but not too much rest. I recommend that you do something every day and just maintain your schedule. I have gone into a marathon too rested and bonked. I’ve also gone in exhausted and bonked (lots of bonking history) I have learned to listen to my body. Do regular self check every morning and rest as needed. Better to be 15% under-trained than 1% over-trained. Be confident that your body will rejuvenate and respond to resting.
The Gods of Ironman have conflicting stories about tapering, but the truth is in your own history of recovery. If you listen to your body, and are honest about your bonk history; you will know how long of a taper you need. Keep these tips in mind and be ready to rock your next Ironman!
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