Sharp: The “A” Race Taper

“The details can be extremely complex, but when it works you get into a wonderful state, one that can linger for a couple of weeks. You feel quick, alert, full of energy. You find yourself snapping awake and hitting the floor running, on a roll with regard to much more that just your sport. Sharp.” ~ John Jerome, The Elements of Effort: Reflections of the Art and Science of Running


I am now in the final week of my taper for the Ironman 70.3 World Championships.  The race is exactly seven days away. Not much can go wrong at this point. Keeping the body sharp, and in fact – enhancing the sharpness is key. My workout volume was at its highest the week before last at 14 hours.  It dropped to almost half that this past week. This final week I’ll be spending about 1/3 the time I usually do training.

I am feeling quite machine-like I have to admit. Sharp is a good way to describe how I feel. I hit the ground evenly on each foot.  I hit my pace on the bike without a problem.  I know how my pace both sounds and feels. 1-2-3-4, 1-2-3-4, 1-2-3-4.  It is sweet music to my ears.

Although, I am not the fastest swimmer – I am swimming very strong. 2 km is nothing. I am not fatigued as usual after my swims. This is a very good sign. To finish the 1.9 km swim as if it was nothing and prance to T1 ready to charge on the bike is worth a lot no matter if I lose 8-10 minutes over some of my faster competitors.

tempo 5s

Zoot Tempo 5.0 – by far my favourite longer distance race shoe

I’ve had many confident visualizations of hitting my pace on the bike and dancing up the final 15 km of rollers feeling light as a feather as if carried by my own personal magic carpet; feeling super light as I hop off the bike, into my Zoot Tempo 5s and onto the run course. I do feel like “home” in my good old Tempo 5s.

The run course has been changed from the original 70.3 Mont Tremblant route – out and back the rail trail, to a two loop route that turns around twice at the falls behind the old village Hotel Mont Tremblant – and we chute twice down the steep hill through the new village. This part I am a bit skeptical of as downhills don’t fair my old hip very well.  But, my feeling is that there will be enough pent up “A” race-day adrenalin floating around to flush out any immediate pain that will impede my ability during this race.

I actually like the fact that the rail trail has been omitted.  I found it quite lonely and complacent. I didn’t like the new asphalt. So, bye-bye rail trail and hello to my new motto “what ever goes up must come down”.  This is a mantra I have been re-assuring myself with while enduring some good rolling hill tempo runs the last couple of weeks. There is no need to charge the hill, because the net on the down will keep my race pace goal on par.

“The taper is an attempt to supersaturate the body with recovery.”  ~ John Jerome, The Elements of Effort: Reflections of the Art and Science of Running

Two time IM 70.3 female race winner for 2011 and 2013, Mellissa Hauschlidt has a lot to say about rest and recovery As quoted in the latest issue of Triathlon Magazine Canada, two times per week she gets in a Bikram Yoga session. “It’s a great sweat, simulates hot climate races and provides added flexibility for all three disciplines.” Mellissa goes on to give her best advice regarding injury prevention, and that is not to push through a “small niggle” as this can lead to a more serious injury.  Taking a day or two off won’t cause one to lose all of their fitness.

That said, I am down on my Bikram Hot Yoga sessions whenever I can fit them in and I have completed two sessions so far this taper, with one more to go tomorrow at Bikram Yoga Yonge.

toe stand

Toe Stand

I highly recommend yoga as a means of not just building upon your current flexibility but as a means to get to know your body and all of its little idiosyncrasies. For example, I was able to get into “toe stand” well on both sides this past Friday, as opposed to last Friday one side was noticeably harder to maneuver.

I am also down on rest. Today, I did not run due to poor air quality.  According to the Air Quality Index, yesterday’s air quality in downtown Toronto was moderately poor.  I am asthmatic and I felt this during my morning final brick (bike-to-run) session. I cut the session 10 km short and still faired okay, but probably did enough damage to make anything I tried to accomplish today not worthy of a decent confidence booster/race day bench mark at all.  Feeling this way upon waking, I decided I’d take my workout indoor and complete Thursday’s swim I had missed.  After coughing up several “hairballs” I had to alter this workout and made the decision not to complete today’s short tempo run.

When in doubt, rest is best. 

Alas, a bit on the “application of pain”. After all, this is what the taper is intended for. Limber the body up as best we can so as to be able to get out there and give it our best and then some.

“Once you know the pace for a given event, you just hit it and hold it — and then try to squeeze a bit more out of it.  The pain comes once — early — and, basically stays. You try to hold it steady.  You know that if it gets too bad you’ll tie up and be out of the race, and if it gets too easy, you’ll be left behind.” … “Some athletes deal with pain by considering that they’re applying it not to themselves but to their competitors.”

“Racing finally taught me that finding that cusp — the point where the pain is continuous but bearable, where it’s just short of stopping you — is the object of the game. But when I learned that also finding it and riding it — keeping the pressure on, discovering that you can not only continue but can squeeze it a little tighter — is the best thing that happens in competition. I don’t know about you, but I found that to be a bigger thrill than winning.” ~ John Jerome, The Elements of Effort: Reflections of the Art and Science of Running


The Elements of Effort: Reflections on the Art and Science of Running by John Jerome

The Elements of Effort: Reflections on the Art and Science of Running by John Jerome


Personal Photo Credits: Iden Ford Photography 2014