I want to go for a nice long bike ride. I can’t. Tapering for Ironman is a frustrating business.
The idea is simple enough: reduce your training load as you get near a big event to make sure you hit the start line refreshed and raring to go. But actually doing it is much harder. It messes with your head. How much should I do? When should I start to taper? My legs feel really weak because I haven’t done anything for a couple of days. I’m bored, just one cake won’t make that big a difference to all the weight I’ve lost in training.
Perceived wisdom says that you should start to reduce your load from about 3 weeks out, however, that does depend on the athlete. For example, because I’ve had a pretty consistent base load of training for many years I find that I tend to recover well from even fairly tough events such as a half-iron distance event. That, and the fact that even on a pretty full week I rarely get over 10 hours of training done means that I am shortening my taper to just two weeks, and I’m not tapering my swimming at all (on the contrary, as I’ve left it all rather too late, I’m building up my swim!). The critical thing for me is to stick to race pace work. Just because you are only going out for an hour on the bike doesn’t mean you should blast round at warp speed. On the contrary, I use the time to practice riding to heart rate – I want to be working at around 135bpm, especially on the hills – I have a tendency to work way too hard on climbs, and only by keeping my HR to under 140 will I stand a chance of starting the run with some energy in the tank. I recently read that Chrissie Wellington still did 4 hours on the bike a week out from an Ironman. Now she was obviously an exceptional athlete, but I thought I’d adapt her approach and went out for 2 hours 20 minutes on Sunday. It was amazing how easy the ride felt by working strictly according to my heartrate. This I take to be a good sign that I’m getting to a rested state ready for the big day.
So this week I’ll go for a 5 mile race pace run, a couple of swims and probably no more than an hour on the bike. Then we’ll see what Sunday brings.