Dialing the art of tapering, race prep and strategy | SierraSun.com

Dialing the art of tapering, race prep and strategy

Julie Young
Fit to be Tried

Editorand#8217;s note: The following column is part of an ongoing series about training for the XTERRA Nevada triathlon, also called the XTERRA Lake Tahoe, which is scheduled for Saturday in Incline Village.

Taper is defined as, and#8220;The practice of reducing, or tapering off, exercise in the days just before an important competition. Tapering is customary in many endurance sports and a significant period of tapering is essential for optimal performance.and#8221;

Tapering allows athletes to recover from the physiological and psychological stressors of sustained blocks of daily training and#8212; alleviating this resulting fatigue equates to fitness gains.

The length of taper depends on the particular event. For example, Western States 100 Mile Endurance trail runners may start their taper a month or more out, whereas racers gunning for the XTERRA may only taper for the week or two preceding the event.

The taper period is also based on the athleteand#8217;s current fitness, past training, and competitive experience and goals. Elite and competitive master athletes target key races through their competitive season and for these races practice perfect taper protocol. However, there are other, less important races in the season, which these athletes will train through, not taper to a T.

In essence, tapering is not complete commitment to couch time. It is a reduction in volume training while maintaining a degree of intensity. Above all, the taper period is an opportunity to pull back on the physical and mental reins, leaving the athlete hungry to hit the start line.

The workout protocol the day immediately preceding an event is individual. While some athletes respond to a complete rest day with very light activity in the 30-minute range, others respond more positively to the inclusion of short, sharp efforts with the goal to open the legs and lungs following the preceding relatively light rest days.

Race nutrition also needs concerted thought. Proper hydration and fueling takes place the weeks leading up to the event, and is money in the bank. What we eat and drink the morning of the race, and during the race, simply tops off the tank.

The miscellaneous (equipment, clothing, nutrition) race logistics is not rocket science and#8212; it just takes planning. Check details off your list, as early in the week as possible and#8212; practicing procrastination is not recommended. Leading up to XTERRA, for example, wash and check the mechanics of your bike midweek to determine if maintenance is required, allowing sufficient time to resolve issues and#8212; a much more favorable scenario than a frantic Friday night dash to the bike shop. Make a mental checklist of all of your other equipment, clothing, nutrition (gels, bars, fluid replacement powders, etc) needs, and gather them together in your race bag. This prevents arriving at the race without your running shoes or swim goggles.

Tackling these race details early in the week allows for a relaxed pre-race evening. Oh, and by the way, similarly to the nutrition plan, fill your sleep reservoirs the nights leading up to the event and do not count solely on the pre-race nightand#8217;s sleep.

XTERRA Nevada race strategy ultimately depends on each individualand#8217;s experience, fitness and goals. But speaking generally, the XTERRA Nevada bike course is pivotal, a bit testy and demands respect. Whereas the XTERRA Tahoe City bike course allows a and#8220;Can I go faster, can I go faster?and#8221; mentality. The Nevada course, starting on the sandy Tunnel Creek climb and then looping on to the fast Flume Trail and technical Tahoe Rim Trail, should be approached with patience and#8212; and the goal of the day to remain relaxed, composed and smooth. That said, what a treat to race on this world-class trail. It makes me grateful I do not live in Kansas.

and#8212; Julie Young is a Truckee resident and owner of o2fitness. She is a former U.S. National Team member and pro cyclist who currently competes in triathlons and trail runs. Contact her at o2fitness@sbcglobal.net.