The Taper Crazies Leading Into Ironman Texas 2021

Updated: Nov 29, 2021

By Mary Kay Jesson CRM Endurance Coaching

First, a little bit of backstory on my season and my long overdue taper. I was supposed to race Ironman Texas (IMTX) in April, but six weeks out, the race got pushed back due to COVID restrictions and a lack of permits, an entire year of planning and training derailed by the virus. Although Ironman did offer deferral and transfer options, ultimately, I decided to press forward, which was a significant pivot for my family and me. To continue training was both rewarding and beneficial but also incredibly challenging. I had been looking forward to a relaxed, fun-filled summer, but six additional months of training, overcoming physical hurdles while battling mental fatigue, guilt, resentment, and jealousy would consume. At times I found myself questioning the pursuit itself.

As the race and taper finally drew near, I felt strong and capable, but the summer felt like a blur. Sure, we found some time to enjoy ourselves together as a family, but the time commitment to prepare for an Ironman took its toll. When the taper did finally arrive, I was more than ready, but the taper also drew feelings of self-doubt and restlessness. As a type-A, busy mom, I often struggle with the extra time taper allows in the weeks leading up to the event. With the volume of training reduced to emphasize rest and recovery, it can be challenging to relax when many projects got delayed when the race was postponed. The "taper crazies" were in full effect.

So, I set to work, keeping my mind primed for the task at hand. Below are some of the tricks I used to keep focused and grounded in the last two weeks leading up to the race:

  • Write a race plan (Details of pacing strategies, equipment needed, and reviewed fueling strategies)

  • Focus on mental training, including visualization techniques, and practicing affirmations to help persevere through challenging portions of the race

  • Sleep, naps, and more sleep (Sleep to perform)

  • Schedule an appointment with a sport's specific chiropractor or massage therapist for last-minute tune-ups

  • Selfcare (Massage, foam rolling, mindfulness practice, or meditation)

  • Spend extra time with family

Despite my well-rounded approach to the taper, I still found it challenging to stay the course. So, I made it a point to avoid certain activities at all costs:

  • Starting new house projects (What might seem like a great way to fill the extra time may also lead to increased demand on the body, placing you at risk of injury or cumulative fatigue that can affect performance on race day)

  • Stressing over weight fluctuations (Many athletes find themselves hungrier than ever during taper. During your taper is an excellent time to focus on fueling strategies such as carbo-loading. I highly suggest checking out the Fit Cookie Nutrition podcast by Holley Samuel for advice on structuring your nutrition leading into race day.

  • Obsessing over the weather, competition, new gear, and other "non-controllable" on race day. You have done all that you can to prepare for YOUR RACE, and that's where your focus should be. Everything else is outside of your control. "Your race, your pace."

So how well did my taper go? Now that the race is over, I can coach knows what she is doing! That said, it wasn't without struggle. My taper started about two weeks out, and the reduction in volume wasn't quite what I expected, and honestly, I was a bit nervous. I was worried that it wouldn't be "enough" of a break to get my body ready. I tried my best to keep my routine, working out during the day while my girls were in school so I could still be engaged in family time in the mornings and evenings. I did utilize the extra time to do daily bodywork (foam rolling, massage guns and tools, and some stretching), which led me to feel physically ready for race morning. I also snuck in some extra naps, which is a rarity in my world! Those are things I think improved upon in comparison to previous big races.

During race week, nerves and the weight of the race started to get to me. Due to the race logistics, I needed to send half of my equipment and bike early to ensure arrival on location. This added level of anxiety can be difficult to embrace because even perfectly laid out plans can go astray. Since my husband and I flew to the race, I didn't have the luxury of overpacking, and amongst the chaos, the house needed to be in order because my mother-in-law would come in to stay with our girls while we were away.

Fortunately, travel was relatively smooth. We arrived two days before the race on Wednesday, and I had ample time to wind down without stressing over logistics and gear. While I wouldn't have done anything differently, next time, I would better anticipate the final two weeks' stress and perhaps spend more time mentally preparing myself and my family.

The taper can be a stressful time - full of nerves, excitement, and anticipation. The bigger the race, and the longer you've been training, often the bigger this pendulum of emotions. Take time to sit and remember all the hours of training you've done. Focus on those workouts that you nailed, and learn from the ones that weren't as successful. Trust your training. Spend time with people who will boost you up and enhance your mood. Then, enjoy the celebration of all that hard work on race day!