Preventing the Emergence of the Dreaded Taper Monster

Our super serious list of taper dos and don'ts.

Photo: Susan Lacke

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The taper.

No phrase in the world of triathlon incites more joy and more dread. On one hand, we’re getting closer to the race, our training volume is down, and we start to distance ourselves from the precarious “red line” that threatens to burn us out. On the other hand, we start to loosen the shackles of one of the most dangerous and unpredictable demons on the planet…

The Taper Monster.

We all know the Taper Monster. It is the beast that emerges two weeks from race day and terrorizes everyone within earshot until the day after the race. Like a professional soccer player trying to provoke a yellow card, this monster overreacts to the smallest of offenses with such skill that few are safe. It worries and obsesses with such ferocity that even the most composed of people begin to question their sanity. 

In short, this monster will not hesitate to lay waste to any and all peace and serenity around it.

Fortunately, there are some simple ways to subdue or prevent the wrath of the Taper Monster and get to your next race safe and sane (with all of your family relationships still intact). We’ve compiled a few dos and don’ts you’ll want to follow as you enter those critical few weeks.

For advice that’s a little more scientific and backed in actual research, check out: Triathlete’s Expert Guide on How to Taper

Do: Send your family on a much needed vacation before the race. They will certainly appreciate the gesture, and they will be out of the line of fire of the Monster.

Don’t: Hold your family hostage with no-win situations by telling them that this is the time when you need them most, and also telling them to leave you alone so that they don’t distract you from your “race week vibe.”

Do: Maintain healthy eating habits.

Don’t: Go into inconsolable mourning over the loss of a piece of protein you drop on the floor. Your 2 oz. portion of tempeh does not need a Viking funeral.

Do: Prepare for possible variations to your race strategy.

Don’t: Search Google for obscure questions related to the race, such as “Does seaweed cause skin rashes?” or “If I swallow seawater does that count as electrolytes?”

Do: Meditate to maintain a calm mind.

Don’t: Yell obscenities at the coffee table for nearly tripping you and causing irreparable damage to your shin before the most important race of your life.

Do: Continue to avoid sickness through healthy hygiene practices. 

Don’t: Wrap yourself in bubble wrap and assume that every sneeze is a resurgence of the bubonic plague. 

Do: Get a massage during race week to work out the knots and tension in your muscles.

Don’t: Get into a bar brawl during race week because you think it will better prepare you for the chaos of the swim start.

Do: Maintain fitness by following taper workouts prescribed by your coach.

Don’t: Give into the urge to do an epic 140.6-mile training day “just to make sure you can cover the distance” after you missed two-thirds of the workouts on your training plan.

Do: Continue to practice with your race nutrition.

Don’t: Start eating prunes on the bike because somebody in the Slowtwitch forums said it gave them run superpowers (trust me, you don’t want those superpowers).

Do: Perform sensible research on the conditions of the race.

Don’t: Send multiple emails to your local meteorologist, Sunny Skyes, asking for inside information on race day weather, and bribing her with $20 if there’s “anything she can do” to bring calm winds and sunshine to the race.

Do: Start to tackle some of those maintenance items around the house.

Don’t: Take a sledgehammer to the front porch so you can start work on your dream of building a replica of a sixteenth century British castle. Now is not the time.

Do: Relax and rest by watching TV with your kids.

Don’t: Get inappropriately emotional to the point of hysterical tears after watching a very special episode of “Peppa Pig.”

Do: Visualize a successful race

Don’t: Visualize the obscene, gluttonous food binge you will participate in post-race, as you eat your way through all the junk food within a one-mile radius of the race finish line.

… OK, that last one you can actually do.

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