A fabulous five-lettered word: Taper
Taper. It’s a lovely word and in the sporting world it comes after many months of hard graft. With less than a week to go before my somewhat daunting Virgin London Olympic Triathlon 2011 I am very happy to be enjoying a little tapering. (Yes, I know, that’s eight letters!) The reason for a taper is to ensure that your body and mind are fully ready to take on the challenge of an event. If you were running a 10k, or doing a marathon, your longest and hardest run would be weeks prior to your event.
During a training schedule there is a build up, some maximum effort, threshold training, top-end sessions – and, finally, a taper. And it’s the same with triathlon.
The problem is that while I’m enjoying the shorter training sessions and the less frequent need to get out on my bike, into the pool or on the running trail I somehow feel that I’m not doing enough. I have become familiar with longer training sessions and I’m finding it a little difficult (but not impossible!) to ease up.
But there really is no benefit to keeping the training at maximum effort now that the triathlon is so close. All the hard work in previous months is what I will need to rely on and a long, hard training session just now will only cause fatigue. This is the theory and I totally trust my coach, the Mighty Vickster, but it is still quite difficult to take the foot off the training pedal.
I keep wondering if I could have done more running, cycling or swimming in the run up to the event. Of course, I probably could have done much more but given my circumstances with a busy work life, a daughter, a dog and a house to run, as well as all those weddings to attend this year, I have made the best use of my spare time as possible. I have aimed to stick to the Mighty Vickster’s training programme where possible and I do think my fitness and stamina has improved across all three disciplines. Now is the time to relax a little, enjoy some shorter training sessions and prepare for the big day.
I have even had a wee breakthrough with the open water swimming. As anyone who reads this blog will know I have a huge fear of open water swimming. I have forced myself into the scary and chilly waters of Loch Lomond twice. I still hated it. I swan in a salt water lake in the South West of France and squealed as great clumps of weed “attacked” my hands and feet.
Then, last week, someone suggested a trip to Loch Ard, near Aberfoyle. It was a beautiful still and sunny evening and a group of five triathlon pals headed out from the shores to complete a circuit of an island. At the start I had no intention of swimming so far but as the session progressed I gained a bit of confidence and just went for it. I think I even enjoyed a few metres of the swim although I am still afraid of looking too deeply underwater, I have major problems with goggle fog and I just wish I could see further than 20 metres ahead. At one point I had to ask Wonderwomen Wendy where the isalnd was. It is quite a big island and we were only about 50 metres from it so you can imagine how confused she looked!
My problem is that I wear prescription goggles. They are quite good but they are not my exact blind-as-a-bat prescription and so I can only see an approximation of things in front of me. This is fine for swimming pools but not ideal for open water swimming. I have now decided to try contact lenses and ordinary goggles instead and will give them a test outing this evening on my final trip to Loch Ard before the triathlon itself. If it doesn’t work out this evening then the swim – and swim-to-bike transition – on Sunday is going to be a nightmare.
I also found myself warm in the water for the first time. Thanks to Discover Swimming for loaning me a fab wetsuit.
So this is likely to be my last blog before I head for London on Friday. I am nervous but I know I’ve done all the training I could have managed. Hopefully my time will be good for age (and circumstances). Wish me luck and cheer me on if you’re there.
* I have raised more than my hoped-for target of £500 for Breakthrough Breast Cancer. Thanks to everyone who has given so generously. If you’d still like to donate to my fundraising cause please do.