Become a Member

Get access to more than 30 brands, premium video, exclusive content, events, mapping, and more.

Already have an account? Sign In

Become a Member

Get access to more than 30 brands, premium video, exclusive content, events, mapping, and more.

Already have an account? Sign In


Race Tips

Make The Most Of Your Half-Ironman Taper

The key is to taper smart and remember that no matter what you do, you’re not going to gain any fitness in the last week.

Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.

If you’re headed to San Diego for Ironman 70.3 Oceanside, race week is almost here! Doing a half-iron race in the near future? Keep this advice in mind for when the big week arrives. The key is to taper smart and remember that you’re not going to gain any fitness over the next week, so avoid “panic training” with workouts that will deplete your glycogen stores and leave you feeling flat on race day. Sit back, try to relax and start getting into the racing mindset with this five-day countdown.

Day 5 (Monday for Oceanside): Keep up with your normal but scaled-back workouts, dropping volume by about 50 percent compared to the previous week. “The purpose of race week is to stay loose and to remind your body it is in race mode. So keeping workouts short with only a few minutes of interval pickups on the run, bike and swim are needed,” says USAT coach Diane Stokes of FitBricks in Northboro, Mass.

Two-time Xterra world champion Lesley Paterson, who has finished second in Oceanside, prefers to do most of her intensity in the water during race week “so I’m not damaging tissues as much,” she says. Five days out, she does a short run and 30–40 minute swim that includes 5×200 race-pace efforts.

Do a bike check to make sure everything’s in working order. If not, get to a bike shop pronto.

RELATED: Setting Time Goals For A Half-Ironman

Day 4 (Tuesday for Oceanside): Go through your checklist, using a site like to help you remember any last-minute items. Buy backups of small things such as sunscreen, bike tubes, Body Glide, nutrition. etc. Now is the day to start heading to bed early. This is the night to start focusing on quality sleep, as you may be too nervous in the next few days to get optimal sleep,” says USAT coach Jessica Herschberg of FTP Coaching in Nashville, Tenn.

Paterson does a 60–90-minute bike ride that includes 5×3 minutes at race pace and 10×30 second sprints at 100+ RPM to “get the muscles firing.”

Day 3 (Wednesday for Oceanside): This should be the last day of any hard workouts. Do another swim/run day that includes 10×50 in the pool as odds fast, evens easy, and a 30-minute run with 10×200 meters at 85–95% effort with one-minute jog recovery. “Get full recovery, as this is more about leg turnover and less about heart rate,” Paterson says.

If you’re traveling today, combat plane and car pitfalls (dry air, confined muscles in a seated position) by hydrating, stretching and foam rolling.

Day 2 (Thursday for Oceanside): Paterson takes this and the prior Sunday completely off to focus on all the elements of recovery: Get in and out of the expo, throw on your compression socks, stretch, take an Epsom salt or ice bath and stay off your feet. Depending on your prior couple days, you could alternatively jump in for a mellow open-water swim in the San Diego area or drive or spin a portion of the course you’re unfamiliar with.

If you’re cooking dinner for your pre-race meal, make sure you have all your ingredients. If you’re going out, scout out a Plan A and Plan B restaurant.

RELATED: How To Approach Your Early-Season Half Ironman

Day 1 (Friday for Oceanside): Do brief workouts of each sport to check equipment, and include some short intensity within each. Paterson does a 20-minute swim with 10×25 pickups and 200 at race pace effort (in open water if possible), a 30–60 minute easy spin with 8×1 min at race pace and a 20-minute run that includes 8×100-meter strides with full recovery.

Lay out everything you’ll need for the morning, and get your breakfast plan in order.

Race Day (Saturday for Oceanside): Eat breakfast and keep sipping water or a sports drink until race start. If you are allowed to take your bike out of transition, Paterson recommends a 10–15 minute ride with 10×30-second race pace efforts followed by a 10-minute run with a few strides. If you can get in the water, do so, but if not, do some arm mobility work in your wetsuit or use stretch chords for a five-minute warm-up. No chords? She says even some pushups will help blood flow before the start. Hershberg recommends setting up your transition area thoroughly, then leaving to find a quiet spot away from all the other nervous athletes. “Visualize your entire race from beginning to end, seeing yourself execute a solid performance feeling strong and confident.” she says.


RELATED: Simple Half-Ironman Nutrition Advice