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




Published by Whole Heart Whole Health Registered Kinesiology and Sport

As the founder of Whole Heart Whole Health, I am specially registered to practice Kinesiology as a regulated health professional. I am also soon to be fully certified as a York University Post-Grad Certified Professional Health Coach specializing in Therapeutic Interventions for Lifestyle, Wellness and Chronic Disease Management. This Professional Health Coaching Certificate includes comprehensive Care Planning for Chronic Disease along with Fundamental Cultural Health Safety Skills. My services are your very own lighthouse navigating you beyond the basic Gym Membership, Personal Training and Fitness Classes. My Whole Heart Whole Health policy is to ensure you are on the right path because at all times I'm the light looking out for you. My ultimate goal is for you to recover faster from surgery or injury and to feel better after a life setback such as a mental health crisis or diagnosis of a serious chronic condition. My navigating, planning and programming will ensure you get stronger, move better and move well and able toward and often beyond your very best. From helping you regain your fitness, to building upon what you already have, to connecting you to the right specialist, to working with your current specialist, to guiding you toward the most effective evidence based health and fitness related information, I am dedicated to your whole health. My services are suitable for all populations, including special populations and those with special needs. Now, how did I get here? On a more personal note, I have always been fascinated with lighthouses. No doubt, my father served in the Royal Canadian Navy for just over 8 years until he met my mother in Digby, Nova Scotia back in the 1960's. Both of my parents passed long before our standard North American lifespan, and this broke my heart so badly, I pulled myself out of a corporate lifestyle in the area of Wealth Management to study Kinesiology and Health Science. I've never looked back because I knew at the time what research was beginning to confirm even back when mom and dad's chronic illnesses began, that our current healthcare system can do better to help US find our way to optimal health. Our current system is built to guide us toward illness and death, as this is the only was we can have access to services and advice - when we are sick. This is why my policy at Whole Heart Whole Health is completely opposite of this - I am your guiding light to HEALTH and your lighthouse to guide you away from illness and death. "Il n'est rien creu si fermement que ce qu'on sçait le moins... Nothing is so firmly believed as that which we least know." Michel de Montagne

One thought on “Sharp: The “A” Race Taper

  1. Nice post
    Sounds like you are in a great space for your race

    I am going to stay at the farm this week to work on the book and hit the roads on my bike so I wont see you before you go.
    Good luck – which is only for the mechanical stuff
    You are so well prepared you don’t need luck on the mental and physical

    I will follow you on the web

    On my side I am going to try a run this week and will do Wasaga if it is OK.
    It is way better but not perfect.
    So hard to keep up the stretching and rolling when they are not part of a workout routine.

    If I don’t do Wasage I will do the 50 mile bike race the next weekend.

    See you in a week.


    [Description: cid:image001.jpg@01C7DDC9.2A27B9C0]
    Two years in a row, Ranked #1 for New Skills and Learning, Financial Times 2011, 2012

    Jim Fisher
    Professor Emeritus
    Rotman School of Management
    University of Toronto

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