Here I am, sitting on my sofa, reviewing my final week of training before my last race of the season. I may toss in a few running races, such as a 5k or something like that, but triathlon has officially left the building. I, like most other athletes, want to end my season on a success story. Here's the beginning of the end game...
Reserved for the last days of working out is a period of time commonly called the taper. The taper gets its name from the homophone 'tapir', which is a group of endangered species living in South America and parts of Asia. Often mistaken as a pig (the animal, not the triathlete even though that kinda works too), the tapir was the inspiration for the taper. Allow me to explain...
If you notice the body shape of the animal from back to front. This was an exercise physiologists vision of how an idea to adequately organize your season. Start off thick, as in volume. As you work your way to the front of the animal, or to your season, it gets thicker. This is commonly referred to as the 'build' portion. As you enter the neck portion, the thickness lessons into the 'prep'. Lastly, as you make your way to the snout of your season, the girth gradually slims down until the very tip. This is what gives the tapir its name.
Coaches have been using the concept of the tapir for ages. This, of course, was back in the time before the internet and coaches were not very willing to share their trade secrets amongst rivals. They weren't even willing to write the workouts down out of fear of intellectual theft. But there whispers amongst the athletes. The problem was that most athletes are not efficient spellers. Thus, tapir became taper and here we are.
There are several different approaches to the taper. Athletes and coaches must experiment what works best for them and how to apply the taper. Most taper periods are from 1-3 weeks long. They feature a drop in duration while maintaining intensity. There are those that suggest a 25-35% decrease in distance per week.
In triathlon, there are plans that taper each discipline differently. I typically fall into this category. I tend to do a 10-14 day taper. My last long run is usually 10-11 days out from race day. My last long ride is roughly 8-9 days away. Swimming keeps going until 3 days out. The idea is that you get time to recover and your body maintains a high level of fitness. That's my norm for a big race.
What did I do in my finals days of training for my soon to be Half-Iron Distance Triathlon? Very close to nothing.
T-minus 2-weeks: 3 runs, 2 rides, 0 swimsI let work, life, and laziness get the best of me. I can say that my legs were not in the least bit sore or tired heading into the final race. I did, as you can probably guess, eat like a pig. That was my tribute to the tapir.
T-minus 1-week: 1 run, 0 rides, 0 swims