Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Taper Time is coming up!

Dear Swimmers

It's about now that I start to get a flurry of questions asking how best to spend this final two and a bit weeks training-wise leading into the Rottnest Channel Swim on Saturday 21st February. Hopefully all of you who are racing managed to attend the briefing last night and were pumped-up by the inspirational video at the start and also the tale of John Muir, his advice to listen to your body, communicate with your crew at all times and of course the new course changes. The addition of buoys on the rhumb-line seemed to me like an excellent idea in particular I thought! This should help take care of some of the anxiety of what is the best course to follow.

Last year I pulled together the following compilation of thoughts on tapering for such an event including nutrition and change-over strategies for DUOs and TEAMs which is well worth a re-read here:

You will also find the "short-term strategies" at the bottom of very useful as you contemplate how best to get your mind set for the big event.

I'd like to add to that a few additional thoughts for your consideration this year:

  1. it's fair to say that in my nearly 30 years actively competing in this great sport that no one taper will be perfect for everyone - what causes a lot of anxiety is when you start curiously asking everyone around you what they are doing and then inadvertently panicking and starting to change your own processes to fit theirs. Big mistake. Have confidence in what has worked for you up to this point and aim to get yourself into a confident head-space leading into the swim.
  2. if you've been keeping a diary over the past 15 to 20 weeks of your training and racing, you should have a good idea already of what things work well for you. For instance, I personally hate to take the day before the race completely off - it makes my arms feel heavy and lethargic - and if I go too easy in the final week(s) I also start to feel too light and easy in my arms (as strange as that sounds!) and feel I start to suffer with a lack of feel for the water. Unfortunately I've been really quite sick in the last 3 weeks or so, have missed two of my key races and have been on a lot of antibiotics - I was stressed initially, but for me I've had my "down time" and am now picking back up to the race, so chances are I won't now back off too much before the race and I'm in the process of regaining form. You may or may not be in a similar position. Instead I'll take the day before the day before the race (Thursday) off - or at least very light - and then will do something on the Friday. I've actually found that I've performed quite well when I've had some degree of intensity (~CSS +2s/100) in the day before the race and over something like 8 x 200. Whilst this might not suit everyone's psyche - for me it works, and that's the main point here - look back at what you've been doing when you've swum well and try to replicate similar sessions / intensities but with perhaps only 50-70% of the volume given that this is the "Main Event".
  3. of course, contrary to this, I had one of my best races ever (triathlon) with a sub-1:50 Olympic Distance event in 2000. I had a blister on my foot become infected and had to take the last 4 or 5 days prior to the event out of the pool and also away from running - the only thing I could do is ride. I went into the event with very little expectations of myself and was totally shocked when I found myself in the select lead-group at the World Student Games and even rode off the front of the lead pack on the bike to establish a 15 second lead into T2. OK, so I didn't win (12th overall and 1st Brit) but the point here is that sometimes forced rest can be a good thing sometimes and the key (he says rather hypocritically!) is not to panic. Do what you can do given the situations that present themselves to you!
  4. lastly, try not to radically change anything in the lead-up to the event now. That includes new race suits (should have already been used a few times by now), new nutrition strategies and new general dietary habits. If you would ordinarily have a beer or a glass of wine the night before a race, have that drink!! (just perhaps wash down with an equal volume of straight water!). Even if this is your first time, you know your body better than I or anyone else or any dietary book etc, so stick with what you know!

Finally then, if you're keen to see a rough outline of what I will be personally doing (purely as a template for the types of sessions) read on - remembering though what I said about the fact that I've already had a good deal of rest and am still ramping things up. If you're feeling a little tired, lethargic and even a little "over it" right now you'll be best advised to start easing the volume back from after this weekend to ~20-24k next week and ~10-12k on race week (solo swimmers). Here's my plan:

  • Thursday 5th - solid 10k in the river (this will be my 16th hard 10k swim in as many weeks - consistency is key)
  • Friday 6th - 5k "Red Mist" session per Wed 4/2/15 5.30am squad
  • Saturday 7th - REST DAY
  • Sunday 8th - solid 12 to 14k in the river
  • Monday 9th - easy 3k technique session plus some flexibility work
  • Tuesday 10th - 10 x 400 reducing from 1:18s down to 1:15s
  • Wednesday 11th - CSS threshold set (4 to 5k total)
  • Thursday 12th - see how I'm going, but probably 6 to 10k solid in the river
  • Friday 13th - shorter 4k "Red Mist" session per Wed 4/2/15 5.30am squad
  • Saturday 14th - REST DAY
  • Sunday 15th - depending on how Thursday 12/2 goes I will swim up to a steady 8k in the river today
  • Monday 16th - easy 3k technique session plus some flexibility work
  • Tuesday 17th - 10 x 400 reducing from 1:21s down to 1:18s (backing off the intensity a fraction from previous weeks)
  • Wednesday 18th - shorter CSS +2 to 3s/100 set (3 to 4k total)
  • Thursday 19th - REST DAY or light swim of no more than 3 or 4k in the river
  • Friday 20th - swim in the ocean including 6 to 8 x 3 minute swims at what I perceive to be CSS +2 to 4s/100 (2 to 3k total)
  • Saturday 21st - race day!

NB. none of the above deviates too far from the routine I have been doing over the past 23 weeks (averaging 29k per week with my biggest week(s) being 36k - family and a very busy work schedule preventing me doing the types of volumes that the real contenders have been doing circa 60-80k), so it won't upset the apple cart - I highly encourage you to think along these same lines too!

Hope this all helps.



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