I’m not really sure that I’ve ever done what would traditionally be called a proper taper. For me personally I generally just do a little bit of everything with the aim to get fully recovered but not stale and sluggish. I think sometimes people can pretend that it’s a little more scientific than it really is, it’s so individual not only for each person but for each race.
After Sunday’s race the rest day on Monday went down a treat, the legs were a bit sore and I needed some time to get the gear clean and dry ready for the weekend. My parents were away in Busselton waiting for our arrival so Tuesday I had Leila when normally they would have. This meant taking her to tennis so while she practiced I hit the trails of Darlington for a forty-five minute trail run and the legs felt surprisingly good.
A Bit of a Surprise
Wednesday evening I was coaching swimming so I got to the pool a bit early to do a session myself. As I arrive club coach candidate Emma was just leaving and she wanted an opinion on her wetsuit fit so we chatted for a good fifteen or twenty minutes which resulted in me being left with thirty minutes for my two and a bit kilometre swim set. Knowing that this was beyond my capabilities I thought I would take the opportunity to slip in a little test session to see if I’d made any improvement over the last ten weeks.
The swim test that I prefer is known as a critical swim speed (CSS) test. It consists of a 400m and 200m all-out time trial with rest in between. The shorter time is then subtracted from the longer and divided by two to give a CSS pace per 100m, the result often very similar to that of a 1000m time trial but without the pain, or at least for a shorter time. This is then used in a similar way to what threshold pace is for run sessions or threshold power for the bike, to set training and racing targets.
The last time I performed the test was back in week one of this little adventure and the results weren’t awful with a 6:55 and 3:17 giving me a CSS of 1:49/100m. Given that I’d only swam fourteen times since then I wasn’t expecting great things but the end result was a 6:19 and 2:59 (I think only the second time I’ve broken 3:00) for a CSS pace of 1:40. I think at my absolute best I only tested at 1:36 so I’m certainly not going to complain!
The Preparation Gets Serious
Before big races (Ironman and half-ironman if I’ve trained a bit) I can sometimes feel like a bit of a fraud. I see all of the hard work and dedication of “real” triathletes and the stress they seem to be under worrying about the outcome and I just don’t have the same drive. One thing I’ve always believed though is that you can fake it until you make it. Sometimes just acting the part you want to play gets you into the mindset to become what you want, for example it’s hard to feel crappy when you force a smile for long enough.
So how do I fake being a triathlete? I do the thing I swore I’d never do when I took up this sport almost ten years ago. I go hairless. I don’t mean on my head, that’s the normal state anyway, it’s the legs that get the treatment. Mostly I just shave them but this time Tarn very kindly offered her services in giving them a wax. Even with the forest-like growth that I’d accumulated I can assure you it doesn’t hurt very much and no matter how stupid it seems it just makes me feel like I belong.
On The Road Again
The plan was to leave home around midday on Thursday but with the wax in the morning and a few other things to do packing didn’t start until around 11:30 so we didn’t pull out of the driveway until around one. Simone insisted on driving (because I drive like a grandpa apparently) and we had a few issues with the bike rack on the back of the ute which resulted in us arriving at Busselton just after four.
I normally register on the Friday because I don’t particularly care for sleeping with the wrist band but Simone gets a little excited where Ironman is concerned so once we’d parked up and put the bikes inside the house it was down to the expo to pick up our packs and do a tour of the stands. Nothing of significance was bought but there were certainly a few items put on the “considering” list.
Too Much Socialising
The big race weekends are always very busy for me. I tend to take an hour to get anywhere because the place is full of people I know and even though I’m very shy (as I’m sure you’ve noticed) I can’t avoid them and have to stop to let them listen to me for a bit. I love it really but sometimes it would be nice just to be able to sneak around unnoticed and relax by myself. I certainly wouldn’t say I’m an introvert but sometimes you don’t feel like company.
Thursday night was a catch-up with my parents who are staying, as they do every year, in their caravan at a park just up the road. Club mate Shane and his two gorgeous daughters joined us for a roast dinner that really hit the spot.
Friday afternoon Simone and I caught up with a mate, Sam, who you have heard about before. It’s going to be awesome to see him do his first Ironman tomorrow and he really seemed in a great headspace for it. A huge transformation from just a few weeks ago and one he should be very proud of. Then we were off to the Vasse for dinner and to catch up with the Perth Hills crew down here to race the full or half ironman or just as importantly offer support. It’s a great club and one I’m very proud to lead.
Saturday morning was the regular pilgrimage to what I consider to be the premier event of the weekend, Ironkids. Watching them race is just brilliant as they couldn’t care less about times or anything other than getting to the finish line and getting their medal. I think it’s something we should all probably try and capture in our own sporting lives. It’s funny too watching all the dads and mums who are doing the half or full the next day having so much more joy and pride in their kids race than they ever will in their own.
That afternoon Simone and I went to The Goose to meet a good friend Pete and his better half for a beer, it’s kind of a tradition for him and I pre-race. To my immense surprise my closest friend showed up too and I had absolutely no idea she was going to be here at all. In fact I very nearly sent her a message earlier in the day to give her curry about not wishing me luck or coming to cheer me on!
Training and Race Readiness
Well there’s not a lot to tell here. A couple of open water swims and a shortish ride on the bike to check that there were no issues are all that’s been done. Unfortunately there’s been too little use of sunscreen and I now have a slightly red glow about me but it’s too late to do anything about it.
Saturday after the last ride the spares, stickers and other final touches went on to the bike. The bike and run bags were packed, along with the stuff I need to take into transition on race morning. The bike has now been racked, the bags put in place and a brief walkthrough of transition done in readiness for the morning.
Que Sera Sera
As Doris Day sang, whatever will be, will be. There is nothing more that I can do other than get a decent night’s sleep and wake up ready to swim, ride and run for the best part of a day. If you want to get some context of what this is that we are all embarking on imagine jumping into the Swan River at the Causeway bridge then swimming to the Narrows. Now get out and ride your bike down to Bunbury for a bit of fun. Once you’re there, throw some runners on and jog your way to Busselton. That is roughly the equivalent of what Ironman involves.
Eight years ago I thought anyone who would even consider something like this, let alone do it, must be super-human. Now as I’m about to embark on my ninth I want you to know that whoever you are reading this, it’s not beyond you. Maybe you’ll need more than ten weeks of training to get there but with determination and a sensible approach it’s yours if you want it.
See you at the finish line,
Coach Trav (aka Stikman)
*Missed the series? Head to back to week one