Sunday 6 September 2009

Peaking and Tapering, Part I

Yesterday I had an enlightening moment reading Joe Friel's blog about Projecting Race Readiness. I had known that my IMLP taper wasn't right, that I had tapered too much and lost too much fitness, resulting in a less-than-ideal race performance, but hadn't really crunched the numbers to see how. I had followed the protocol of 70% of usual volume in the first week of taper, 50% in the second week, 30% in the third week. Still, I felt flat and underpowered on race day and terrible compared to last year at Ironman Germany where I had tapered so carefully and hit race day feeling great.

Two things stood out for me in particular from Joe's post:
1. Training Stress Balance (TSB, or CTL minus ATL) should be about +20 by race day.
2. Total loss of Chronic Training Load (CTL, aka fitness) should be kept to about 10%.

I had a look at my own Performance Management Chart from WKO+ and checked out the numbers. Sure enough, between my taper start date of July 5 and race date of July 26, my CTL (blue line) had gone from 133 to 112, a 15% drop. And my TSB (yellow line) was over 30, way too high! Ironically, being more "rested" through a lower ATL (red line, aka fatigue) and higher TSB is the very thing that helped me feel slow and tired and flat during the race.

Tapering is certainly part art, part science, and there are a lot of factors that could have affected my race day readiness in Lake Placid. But from studying my data below, I can see clearly now how my drastically reduced training load -- too much too soon -- nearly blew my race though a poorly-executed peak period and taper.

How not to peak/taper

In Part II I'll take a stab at describing what my peak period and taper for Kona should look like, and what I'll do differently to achieve it (and in doing so, hopefully achieve a better race day freshness than I did at Lake Placid).

If you're not familiar with WKO+ and all the terms I've used, here's a basic crash course.


Debi Bernardes said...

Or you need one more week of taper. I find that keeping the same schedule, but cut back on distance, shorten the higher intensity workouts each week makes for a great race. Sometimes you hit that point where your body is 'flat' and this is a good indication that maybe 3-5 more days were needed.

maryka said...

I actually think my problems started when I did a 3/4 length Ironman on June 21 following a big week of several 5+ hour rides. I should have listened better to my friend Jacomina and recovered from that race for longer afterward.

Not sure an extra week of taper would have helped, though I probably could have starting cutting back more gently on the volume after the June race. Instead I think what happened is my body saw the quick drastic taper starting in early July as a recovery period starting and just went to sleep on race day. Longer taper would only have worked if I had cut back more gently on volume until race week.

Again, an art and a science... this is the first race I've tapered badly for, and I chalk it up to my increased volume this year and not knowing my body as well. Oh well, live and learn.

Groover said...

There was a really good article on Joe Friel's blog about peaking in early August as well:

Alberto also struggled with getting the last two weeks right for his upcoming 229km road race so I did a lot of research for him on the topic in the past two weeks. The key is to reduce intensity but not frequency of training. I haven't managed to get it perfectly right, yet, either and I guess it's a learning process.

Good luck for Kona.

Anonymous said...

love this concept. I think Ive rested too much for past under achieveing IMs. Ive been +25 for bike and +10 on run. Felt rested but not sharp. What did you find out about testing this for Kona?