Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Taper time!

Dear Swimmers

There's been much talk about what you should be both doing physically and mentally now in the lead-up to the Rottnest Channel Swim on Saturday 23rd February. The key thing to remember to start with, is DON'T MAKE ANY DRASTIC CHANGES! Whatever's been working well for you in training and in all your longer swims and practice races, will stand you in good stead on race day. In the past I've been the King of Panic and changing things last minute ALWAYS detrimentally. Stick with what you know and do what you've now done many, many times over in practice, and all will be good come race day.

Now, from a physical perspective you can obviously follow the suggested program as intended here: - which for Solo swimmers recommends ~25km this week after a peak of about 37-40km last week and a total of about 11-12km in the final week (it shows 30km on the program, but that of course includes the 19.7km to Rottnest Island!). My key point here is to start to reduce the volume, but maintain some semblance of race-pace (or even slightly above) efforts leading into the event to avoid staleness. My own opinion of tapering has changed a lot over the last few years (in that I NOW take a lot LESS rest before an endurance event than I used to as I feel that if I rest up too much I start to lose too much feel / fitness) but each to their own...if this is your first Solo swim, my recommendation would be to start winding it down now so that you can be both physically and mentally rested / prepared for the swim.

And on that note of mental preparation, probably one of your biggest and best assets as an endurance triathlete is not your heart, legs or lungs, but your mind. Everyone can train this aspect of their race preparation (you do it sub-conciously with every session you motivate yourself to complete). Many of you racing this time around are doing so for the first time and will at this stage begin to potentially get quite nervous about the task ahead. This is perfectly normal. How we respond to this anxiety is what will determine what happens on race day. Like I mentioned last week we're also at that stage in the program (the "peak") where a lot of training has been completed and the body is now ready to rest and adapt leading into the event. This residual fatigue can play funny games with your mind and increase that feeling of apprehension and self-doubt. As we start to taper-down, this fatigue will start to diminish, but the anxiety may linger on. Here's my Top 10 Tips to beat those Taper-time "Blues" and look positively ahead to a good race:

  1. Have confidence in the training that you have completed so far. For many of you this will be more than you've ever done before, so give yourself a little pat on your back and appreciate your own efforts to have made it this far.
  2. Stay in the "now" - there's a great movie out now starring Nick Nolte called "The Peaceful Warrior" which I urge you to watch. It talks about staying in the "here and now" and not worrying about what has happened in the past or what will be the ultimate outcome of the race, but aim to give 110% at what you are currently doing...whether that be powering through the water, driving those legs through on the bike, or running as swift as a gazelle on the run! Give it a try, you'll find it works very, very well.
  3. Don't make any radical changes - we normally say this about nutrition, but the same applies to your mental focus. How often are you too nervous to do one of our hard Wednesday's or one of the longer continuous swims? Very rarely. How different are these race-specific sets to the race? Not very different at all. Our perceptions are that races are "big" and that we have to out-perform ourselves...but you've been out-performing yourself for the last 20 weeks, so why do anything different now!
  4. "PMA Paul - Postive Mental Attitude!" - thats what my Mum always used to say! Staying focussed and positive is your number 1 ally come race day. How do you do this? Even if you feel crap, tell yourself you feel good or that you'll soon start to feel good. Those who say this is "a load of old balogne" simply gave up on feeling good before they had chance to "come good". You won't feel great all day...the key is to focus on those positive times and use them to "ride through" the times when you feel less good.
  5. Break it down. Instead of being over-awed by having to swim 19.7km, think of it in chunks of 500m...I'm going to stop for fuel / drinks every 2000m, so 4 lots of 500m takes me to each brief pause and 10 stops takes me across to Rottnest! When you break it down like that, it's not too bad at all!
  6. Pace it out! If it feels "too hard" it probably is. This event is going to take you between 5h30 and 7h00+ - its not a sprint event, its a very aerobic one! Pushing too hard and then realising you've blown and in for a long day at "the office" can be devastating for even the strongest-willed athletes. There is no better feeling than hitting Phillip Rock knowing you've still got juice in the arms...but even then, don't blow it too soon!
  7. We all get "stressed" sometimes. Understand and accept that for training to have been effective we needed (need) to have periods of "over-load" followed by periods of rest and recovery. Its the recovery periods that allow your body to adapt and grow stronger...miss these crucial stages in your preparation and you're on a one-way road to "over-training's-ville". Don't forget that the stress your body goes through in any training program is not just "training stress", but work / family / social such, if you're having a tough time in any of those areas right now on top of what has been a heavy training period, you're going to really feel it! Thats OK, you just need to accept it and ease-off on the throttle a little.
  8. Remember that your number 1 reason to do this type of event is for fun and the sense of satisfaction it will give you to complete it. No one ever said it was going to be easy! You're in the minority of people who even have the gusto to take on such a challenge and therefore you can be proud in what you have a achieved and will achieve on race day. DO IT BECAUSE YOU LOVE IT...AND YES, YOU DO LOVE THAT "PAIN" EVEN IN A FUNNY WAY!
  9. Just getting to the start line is a huge effort in itself and this journey is something to be savoured. Know that all the hard work has pretty much been done already...if you've got this far, the race-part is easy (well, kind of!) and something that should be enjoyed - a bit like a fine wine!
  10. Don't under-estimate the power of support and encouragement! The last tip is the most important. We've trained as a group for this event and everyone has supported each other as we've gone along. That is a great atmosphere within which to train. Soak up the encouragement from your support boat and you'll know about it on race day! Your arms will feel like pistons and your heart will surge like electricity (just keep it at 75% mind!). Do not under-estimate the power of this support. All you now have to do is get yourself to that start-line willing and motivated to do your best - it really is that simple!

Remember guys "we're not racing for sheep stations" here...the only pressure that you feel is the pressure you put on yourself. I'm personally terrible for this - but in my old age I'm starting to realise and acknowledge this! After a bad race many people say that they felt uncomfortable with so many people watching and "expecting things from them" (especially friends, family and loved ones). If this were "Little League Baseball" then maybe fair enough, but its not, its all about you and your goal to make this race something special and something worth enjoying. All I expect from you is to give it your best shot and to have a smile on your face when you pass the finish line. All's you can do on race day, is all's you can do! The only thing anyone expects from you is to enjoy yourself and have fun, and if you think thats "a bit soft" then you totally under-estimate the power of enjoyment on your overall race approach!

Cheers and good luck with these last 9-10 days...


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