Executing the Perfect Taper

by Karen Smyers

One of my favorite phases of training and racing is The Taper. It ranks right up there with massage and carbo-loading on my list of reasons that I do triathlon. I find myself looking forward to the taper weeks and even months in advance. When I am trying to schedule a time to do my taxes for example, I will think, oh, I will do it in early September when I am tapering for the World Championships. I imagine I will be brimming over with time and energy during this phase. This seldom proves to be the case, but it is a good excuse to file for an extension.

Taper Prerequisites To execute a good taper, it is (unfortunately) necessary to have some sort of foundation from which to taper–in other words, you must have done some pretty hard training leading up to the race; otherwise you run the risk of tapering yourself right out of shape. In general, the longer and harder the work phase leading up to the taper, the longer the taper can be. So if you have had a several month long build up to Ironman, you can take as long as a month to taper for the race. If you have had a three week intense build up for the National Championships, a one week taper is probably about right. Continue reading

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Strutting Your Stuff

Karen pregnant with Casey

by Karen Smyers

As the bun in my oven continues to “rise”, now approaching the dimensions of a hearty French boule, I find myself feeling less like an athlete and more like a sedentary housewife biding my time until a heart attack does me in.*  Although I am still able to run (or waddle) a few times per week and swim as often as I can stand squeezing my zaftig figure into my lycra suit, I find myself doubting that I was ever a finely-tuned triathlete capable of performing flawless transitions in mere seconds or scaling St. Croix’s Beast with nary a whimper.  And if I am finding it hard to believe, I am sure that new acquaintances find it impossible.  For my languishing self-esteem, I need to surround myself with the dead giveaways that remind others and me of my erstwhile identity.  If some of you are suffering from winter identity crisis, these tips may help you remind others that you are no ordinary Homo sapiens.  You are a card-carrying member of tri athleticus.

The first clue you can give is to wear a Timex Ironman watch with everything.  This includes business suits, little black dresses, and all casual wear.  Unfortunately, the general public has caught on to the availability and prestige of these watches so even if you have a special 1996 Hawaii Ironman special edition, it is not apt to be noticed as unusual.  So I also try to make sure it is on chronograph mode and registers the time I ran my 8-mile loop in so that if anyone asks the time I have to mumble, ”Oh, wait, let me see, 1:02 that’s not right, that was my 10-mile run this morning, ah, here we are, it is 3:30 p.m.”  (It can’t hurt to round up the mileage a little–they probably have no clue how to figure a per-mile pace anyway.)  If you have your lap times from your track workout the night before and can manage to mention a few of those, you can really score big. Continue reading

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