With the long months of training behind you, it can be hard to manage the emotional roller coaster before your first marathon. You’ve made it this far so hang tough since navigating this part is critical to your race day performance. Let’s dive into the details of your training, nutrition, and mental tactics so you are ready to toe the starting line with confidence and ease.
Triathlons are easy . . . said no one ever! For one thing, race day can be full of surprises: the weather can turn, your goggles can get kicked off, your big toe can sprout a painful blister. All that to say, you’ve got enough going on, so why not take one big variable out of the equation? Your fuel plan. After all, your body is your most important piece of equipment, and if it’s not fueled properly, then all the training in the world won’t help you.
The taper, or reduction in the training load, is a tried-and-true element of triathlon training. Athletes come to expect, look forward to, and/or dread the three-week period prescribed by most coaches. But no matter how good you are at putting your feet up and catching up on the latest Netflix binge, most athletes aren’t as good at understanding and executing a proper nutritional taper.
Let me paint the picture: It’s just three weeks until the big day, and you’re full of confidence. The grueling bike rides, epic swims, and long runs are all in the bag. You’ve found your rhythm, you’re getting extra sleep and your nutrition regimen has kept you healthy and well fueled. Then along comes taper time, allowing your body to fully recover so you can reach your maximum performance on race day. (Although every athlete is different, a well established rule of thumb for the IRONMAN taper is a reduction in training volume of 20 percent each week, beginning three to four weeks out from race day.)