You may have heard athletes talking about tapering the last few weeks before a race. Tapering is usually a decrease in training duration/distance (usually maintaining the same level of intensity) intended to help the body recover and adapt to the training that has been done leading up to the race - the amount of training is tapered off with the hope that athletes will be able to go faster than they would have without a taper. Tapering works, but it relies upon doing enough training before the taper starts; if you have not done enough training, you have nothing to taper.
If you have been training for a sprint triathlon and have been training five to seven hours each week, then you should not need a long taper. Here is one way to taper your workouts.
By the time you get to four weeks out from the race, you should already be doing at least one brick (combined run/bike) workout every week. When you get to three weeks out, try to set up your training so you are doing two bricks each week, and if possible do one "triple brick" or "super brick" of all three modes - run, bike, and swim - in one workout session. With two weeks to go keep your level of effort the same for all of your workouts, but shorten one swim, one bike, and two runs by about 50%. During the last week shorten the rest of your workouts by about 50%. Take a day off from training two days before the race. The day before the race, do a very short brick or triple brick, most of it an easy effort, but include 1-2 minutes at race effort in each mode. On race day you will be ready to go.=== Race Day ===
The race is tomorrow - what should you do? First, try to relax and take stock of all the work you have done in training; give yourself credit for that preparation and know that you are ready.
Should you do a workout? Yes, but keep it short. For most sprint tri's, the workout to do is a 10-15 minute easy bike with 1-2x 1-minute race efforts followed by a 5-10 minute easy run with 1-2 x 1-minute efforts at race pace; if you can start it with a short swim (5-10 minutes with those 1-2 x 1-minute race efforts), great - but if not, then don't worry about it, get the workout done, and get back to relaxation!
Eat the way you normally do, but you may want to take in a little extra water to ensure that you are hydrated. Pack your race gear before you go to bed so the morning is a little easier. Before you go to bed, decide what you are going to eat for breakfast.
On race day plan to arrive early to give yourself time to:
- Lay out your gear
- Review the course map
- Inspect any parts of the course you want to see
- Give your bike a quick operational check (brakes, shifting, etc.)
- Use the toilet
- Attend the race brief
Once the race starts, execute your race plan and enjoy the challenge. After the race, rehydrate and refuel as soon as possible to help you recover. During the race, keep one thing in mind - you can go faster in a race than you did in training, but not for long. In terms of effort, race like you trained and train like you want to race.
Good luck and Swim On!
Training for Your First Triathlon
Triathlon Workouts and Training Part I
Workouts and Training Part II
The Last Few Weeks Before A Race