Hello Ironman TAPER!
Taper is a beautiful thing. You reduce the volume before a race and maintain the intensity and see the fruits of your labor begin to ripen. Your life becomes a bit more normal as you find yourself with a bit more time on your hands....but for those who don't get "it", you have trouble with your new normal as you aren't quite sure what to do with your extra time. Clean, chores, errands, watching TV....not as fun as a 5+ hour workout.
Over the past few years, Karel and I have really spent a lot of time understanding tapering for endurance athletes. Between Karel and myself, cyclist and triathlete, we have both learned how to nail a taper and it is great when it pays off.
One of the best things about taper is going into it without needing it. No fear-based training the last week before taper, no worries about gaining weight by reducing volume and no hoping that an injury or burnout will go away in 10-14 days.
It's really neat to see the body change throughout training for an event in terms of getting faster, stronger and smarter. But let's never forget that with training for an event, there comes plenty of ups and downs to overcome to get to the starting line.
When I train for an event, I love putting in the work. I love staying focused for a few months at a time and learning how to keep things balanced while dreaming big. The way I race the best is by remembering all the great, positive moments in training (and in life) instead of dwelling on any bad or down moments.
I find for many athletes, the "bad" or off workouts weigh heavy on the mind and thus, athletes struggle with not feeling "ready" for an event due to thinking about those off workouts. Well, I hope that for every bad or off workout, there is at least a dozen or so great workouts that can bring you confidence for race day. And on top of it all, an appreciation that racing in endurance events (or any event) is a gift that should not be taken for granted.
As I go into my 6th Ironman, my mind is filled with happy thoughts and I'd love to share some of those with you in hopes that you do not waste too much energy on the moments when you feel "off" but instead, remember that in life, you will be the happiest when you think happy thoughts. Although I have many great memories in my 31 years on this earth, here are a few of my favorite recent "sport" related memories.
Riding 112 miles behind Karel's wheel. It's been an amazing journey over the past 7 years since I first got a triathlon bike as it was super scary to clip in and ride with aero bars. I'm so grateful for a supportive hubby who is a talented cat 1 cyclist. He has been so incredibly helpful and patient with my cycling skills and fitness. Thank you Karel for challenging me on the bike and for always believing in me. It's been a pleasure looking at your butt for many long bike rides over the past few months. :)
Winning 2012 Iron Girl Clearwater Half Marathon and having my dad there to see me win my first big win. My dad was attending an optometry continuing ed conference in downtown Clearwater and left the conference to watch me finish. Neither one of us expected me to win so it was a great surprise for both of us. Thank you Dad for being my #1 photographer and supporter (with mom).
Karel getting a call-up and finishing the Athens Twilight Crit two years in a row. Don't get me wrong, I love sharing a triathlon journey with Karel. But I LOVED watching Karel race in crits. The adrenaline pumping just as loud as the music and the energy was contagious. I met Karel on the bike in 2006, when he was a cat 3 cyclist and it has been amazing to see how Karel improved with cycling over the years to race Cat 1, alongside top level cyclists who race as full-time pros (not TDF pros but still pros who race for their day-job). Karel loves to suffer and push himself on the bike and he did just that at USA Crit Speed Week for three years in a row. I absolutely loved sharing those races with him.
Riding from Znojmo Czech Republic to Retz Austria. It's easy to think that traveling will disrupt fitness, especially while training for an Ironman. Karel and I think otherwise as we rarely travel for a vaca not related to a race but when we do, we love to stay active and deviate from the "normal routine". I believe that everyone needs a break from the normal routine and structure and there are so many ways to do just that. Riding road bikes in Europe will stay with me forever and I will remember the switchbacks, the cobblestones, the espresso's mid-ride and the beautiful sights from Europe whenever I am riding my bike...even in flat Jacksonville, Florida. Thank you Karel for showing me your beautiful home country and for living such an active life with me!
Oakley Women trip to Utah! I love the sun, the water and the heat. But I'm ok with changing things up for some winter sports. I really enjoyed my recent winter trips to Iowa and Utah and allowing myself to step outside of my comfort zone. I love seeing what my body can do and the only way I can do that is by trying new things. I'm not good at everything but that's OK....life is short, not perfect.
Pittsburgh Half Marathon. Part of being an athlete is knowing how to be a great sherpa. My brother was graduating from Carnegie Mellon business school and as my parents supported my brother at his graduation, we first had to cheer him on for his 3rd half marathon. 1:31...not too shabby for a Big Ten High Bar Champion from University of Michigan. All-around Division 1 gymnast turned runner....so proud of my brother and all of his accomplishments! Next up...he is getting married in Sept in Pitt to his amazing fiance Dana!
I still remember my first Ironman (IMFL 2006) like it was yesterday. Winning the 18-24 age group was a dream that came true with a lot of hard work, determination, passion and excitement. Here I am with Ironman #6 in 14 days and I still have the same motivation, excitement and passion for what I choose to do with my body on a daily basis. It never becomes boring, not-fun or something I have to do. I stay competitive to the point where I am driven by the ability to improve but I try to stay balanced so that triathlons are not my life, but instead my lifestyle and something that I want to do because it makes me happy and healthy.
Since Campy came into our life 5 years ago, my life hasn't been the same. Since we rescued Campy from a foster family, I have found myself seeking ways to fill my life with as many opportunities as possible to create memories for us. Knowing that Campy does not get the pleasure of living a life that lasts more than 20 years, I am constantly looking for ways to maintain a healthy and active lifestyle with my furry BFF by my side. We travel together, run together, sleep together and love life together. Whenever I have a low moment in a race, all I need to do is see a furry friend to bring a smile to my face. Cow, horse, bird, dog, squirrel, cat....anything will do as I have a soft spot in my heart for all animals. Campy just happens to be the lucky one as his life is truly a lottery-winning life and I'm lucky that I can give him the best life ever. Campy always reminds me that it is possible to never have a bad day.