An Ironman taper for most athletes starts at least 3 weeks out from their event. Decreasing volume in each sport while keeping some slight intensity (with a much longer rest interval) to keep you from getting sluggish. Your plan does not include any really high intensity training (above zone 3) as this can really hurt you performance race day.
I encourage athletes to do some very low-key training each day the week leading up to the race (30 minutes ocean/lake swims, 30-60 bike and runs). Remember that you are just trying to keep the body ready and loose – no excessive training which will drain you prior to the start on race day.
As your training decreases you will have added time in your day during these three weeks to prep your gear and mind before departure. A few key points to remember:
1. Get your bike into the shop no closer than 2 weeks out for the final tune up.
2. Do not make any position or major equipment changes as that may cause some problems on race day.
3. Make a list of items that you may need on race day to avoid purchasing these items you have spent months training with. Make sure you have some essentials: mesh hat for the run, sun screen, sun glasses, skin lube, very light colored clothing for the run (this is so very important with the very strong heat and sun factor), race belt, socks for running shoes, and most of all reflective tape for your run clothing.
4. Make sure during your decrease in training your diet is clean and that you don’t eat anything that is new or your body isn’t used to. Drink plenty of electrolyte drink/water that you have become accustomed to so that you are hydrated, a few days before the race
5. The day before the race- your largest meal of the day should be around mid day. Then some light snacks for the rest of the day. This way you don’t wake up really hungry race morning.
6. Race morning allow plenty of time to wake up and get things in order. For your pre race meal- make sure it is something that you have tried out before in long training sessions.
7. Warm in at least 10 minutes before the swim start so you are relaxed, own your space.
8. t1 as you exit the swim don’t rush the transition – stay in control. Fasten helmet, socks? shoes, race belt
9. Start easy on the bike. The early pace should be similar to a training ride pace. Things will change the last 30 miles when you see all those athletes who went out too hard. If you have training zones all set up follow them all the way.
10. The race always comes down to the run. So many really suffer on the run due to: working too hard on the bike, not enough calories on the bike, starting the run leg too fast and not enough electrolytes. The last 10 miles of the run is when you really want to push the pace. It is around this time when athletes who went out too hard will really show the fatigue and lose large chunks of time. Also at this point is when the mental focus has to be really intense. You will have to really dig down deep mentally to focus and stay positive so that you can reach that finish line.
Be patient during the entire race day and if you follow your pre race plan you will enjoy every bit of your Ironman.
Once you have completed the day take some time to reflect on what you have done to get to that point and to thank those who have supported you on your long journey. Stick around to cheer on those who will cross the line well into the late night. I find that aspect of the race so rewarding.