May 18, 2009

The Taper

It is mid-May and I am heading into my 8th race of the year and I have been pretty stoked at the progress so far. After a few weeks of no racing and building my volume I am now jumping into a few weeks of races. Del Valle, Alabama, Big Bear Cross Country race and the first Multisport race all within a five week block. Taper time?

(the madness of trying to fit it all in ;-)

I know that the official definition of a taper is a reduction in volume and/or intensity to help you PEAK for an optimal performance. . . I have had little to "reduce" in the past because my volume was low and have learned some good lessons about cutting out too much and feeling "flat" on race day. Although peaking for a race does not necessarily require a reduction in volume either if crafted correctly to provide "race simulation" workouts you can carry some quality volume into some races. Figuring this out for one sport and one race is hard enough. . . add 4 sports and a boat load of races and things get hard to dial in. Great is the mystery of the taper!

Even if you do nail it at one race, one year it will always vary depending on what fitness you are bringing into your taper, length of race, etc. It is even more complicated when you have a series of races that run back to back...I talked to Sean about it this week and one thing became immediately obvious. The timing of your taper/peak all depends on your "A" priority race. That is a problem for me because I don't feel I have a "A" priority race....yet. Just about every race I do is a solid "B" in priority . . . until I get to the starting line and it becomes an "A" Ha!

Taking all of this into account I have started ramping up my intensity this last two weeks and noticed that my volume has dropped but only because I required more time to recover from these workouts. It is all part of the "experiment" to see what works for me and I will use this experience and "the facts" to help me plan for the future. If I can stick to it! I am open to any suggestions too!

(finishing up last weeks "Aliso brick" workout)

There is little benefit (physiologically) that you can gain from trying to build fitness/power/speed, etc within about 10 day window so typically I would back off on Wednesday the week before a "big" race. I usually take it easy the weekend before a race but for something like the next few races I have (all under 3hrs) I am trying something new. Last week, I kept it going after the Del Valle race for three days, took a rest day and then put down the two hardest days (intensity wise) that I have had back to back. Then, I took a full days rest and Friday and Saturday (just 7 days from Alabama) I hit the some puke inducing intervals on the bike, set a new PR pace on a trail run and followed it up the next day with the Swami's ride where I chased down everything I could until I nuked my legs! Ha! Good times! By Sunday, I was as James would say "shelled!"

Now it is Monday and it SURE feels like a Monday! I am planning on a few more "race sim" workouts this week and then I am off to Bama to see if I am race ready. If I blew it by doing too much I will be able to hit the first Mulisport in great shape! If all goes well with the shorter races I may even jump into the 12 hours of Rim Nordic (solo!) just to finish myself off! Its going to be a great learning lesson and I am looking forward to it ;-)


apoorva said...
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Luke said...

nailing a taper is one of the most elusive things in the sport is seems. finding what works for you, just like nutrition seems to be the key. the strange thing is that i've had some of my best races with minimal reduction in volume and intensity leading up to the race. research crash cycles by friel...interesting stuff!

jameson said...

i have done a lot of experimenting my tapers/peaks and have nailed a few and definitely blown some. don't follow the rules! the only way to find out what works for you is to be willing to try new things.

check out what luke said too... i had what i feel was my best race ever last year in 'bama (ironically enough) and it was right after i put myself through a "crash" cycle...

have fun in bama.... the course is a fun one!