Ironwoman Wednesday: The Taper

Welcome back to Ironwoman Wednesday with Jamie at From Couch to Ironwoman, Michelle at IronwomanStrong and me! We’re all training for Ironman Louisville, and are coming together every Wednesday to share our journeys and talk triathlon with all you other half and full Ironmen and women!

With 18 days left to race day, it’s officially taper time, so today we’re talking taper. The taper is a dreaded part of training for many triathletes.

lazy-taperI have to say I don’t hate the taper itself. It’s kind of nice to have easier workouts, have more time to spend with friends, sit on the couch and read books and refocus some of my time to my Behavior Basics expansion plans, and it was definitely nice to know, as I tackled all those miles this past weekend, that it was the last big effort!

The part of the taper I hate, is the mental part. No matter how ready you feel, no matter how well you have prepared, the taper is when your mind starts going into dark places.

doubtYou realize you’ve done all the physical training you are going to do and then you find yourself wondering if you could have done more…I know I did enough to finish, I feel ready, I even adjusted my time goal down from 15 1/2 hours to under 15 hours, but the questions still linger…Could I have pushed myself harder? Would not skipping or cutting those workouts short have made me stronger? Why didn’t I focus more on getting faster? Whether you’re a first-timer or a pro, at one point these questions pop up…and it is likely that they’ll pop up during your taper.

I’ve also found myself being a bit of an emotional wreck since we started the taper on Monday. It’s probably in part because our dog Kyle is 14 and has some health issues, and I am very worried about him, but in general I am on an emotional roller coaster; nervous, excited, scared, happy, stressed, proud, worried, inspired, (h)angry, ecstatic…I am constantly cycling through these emotions, sometimes feeling them all at the same time….and I still have 18 days to go!

Taper Roller Coaster

The thing is, I know by the time we head to Louisville, things will calm down. The second we get in the car and start driving I’ll feel nothing but excitement because I can’t wait to get there and experience every second from the drive, to packet pick-up, to meeting my awesome Ironwoman Wednesday co-hosts, to the practice swim in the Ohio River and bike check in, to seeing my parents and in-laws and of course race day. It’s all going to be amazing and I can’t wait….

But first I have to survive these next 2 weeks of taper….

I don’t think I’ve spoken much about this, but I’m a licensed behavior analyst and a soon-to-be licensed counselor. My areas of expertise are Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), aka looking at human behaviors and using the science of learning to systematically improve/reduce/change behaviors, and ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy), a behavioral therapy that focuses on helping people identify their core values and using those values to guide, motivate and inspire behavioral change.

Why am I telling you this?

Well, I don’t just use these interventions in my professional life, I also apply them to myself. I’ve used the principles of ABA, like training in small systematic steps, using data to adjust my training (think HR zones, training peaks data and food tracking) during our Ironman training and ACT has played an important role in my mental training. As I mentioned, ACT, is about helping people identify their core values. You work on setting goals, accept what is out of your control and commit to take actions  to meet your goals.

Choosing a goal

I won’t get all counselor on you, but basically 140.6 is my goal, now that I have reached the taper I cannot change anything that was done during training. I must accept my emotions as they ebb and flow and recognize they are there because 140.6 is a gigantic event and I’m supposed to feel all the things I feel.

Most importantly, I have to always remember that I chose this, that I want this and that it is in my control to make every second amazing. I have a plan. Our workouts are scheduled, I’ve trained my brain, the Athlete Guide is printed and the race plan is in the making (check back in 2 weeks when we talk Race Plan for more details). Instead of fighting the emotional-taper-roller-coaster, I’m going to embrace it!

This is my only FIRST Ironman and I plan on enjoying every second!


How do you deal with the taper? Share you taper stories in the comments or on your own blog and link-up with us below!

  1. First off, I,too, am sorry to hear about your doggy. But maybe it is best that you can spend some time in your taper to get in some extra cuddles with him.
    Secondly, I thought that the benefit of marathon training was spending less time with people–the fact that taper gives you time back in your day to be social is….harumpf
    Third, I love that you brought your training into this–it is a special part of your approach, and I think a huge part of why your training has been so successful. I wrote a post a while back about dealing with taper ( and I think that, other than bodyglide, one of the most important lessons of the taper is just what you said–training is behind you, you can’t do anything more about it, so TRUST YOUR TRAINING.
    SQUEEE 18 days!

  2. Sorry I missed Ironwoman Weds yesterday! I enjoyed reading about your taper because I am also beginning to taper! I actually have had a full week of training next week and my taper doesn’t start until Sunday. Next week will be full taper maddness for me! I am 10 days away from my race and my head is spinning like crazy… I am so worried and excited at the same time! I know I need to trust my training, but it’s so scary! Oh and I you are right… you only have your FIRST Ironman once!

    • It’s okay! I posted mine late yesterday! Our first week of taper doesn’t feel like a real taper, still working out more than we did for our half IM! Although I took 2 rest days instead of 1 this week bc I was such a wreck with Kyle…

  3. I thought I had no social life while half-iron training, lol! You’re amazing and have put in so much hard work. I love reading about your journey and it fuels my fire to sign up for a full soon! I completely agree with using the taper as a time to mentally prepare yourself for the race. I find that tapering always feels like a shock at first. I totally agree with SuzLyfe “trust your training”! You’re going to do so great and I can’t wait to read all about it.

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