taper time: gluten and other misdemeanors

Six days from now I’ll be sitting on a beach in Mexico, finished (hopefully!) my second full Ironman. Time for a week-until-go-time check-in.

On Thursday I put down some thoughts about one of the hardest parts of the Ironman taper: food. When you’re training 18-20 hours a week, you and food get pretty tight. In fact, I like to believe that Ironman training has been good for a not-always-peachy relationship with the stuff.

And then the taper comes in and calls the whole happy union into question. Training hours and intensity sneak out the back door, and guilt and excess calories show up on the scene like uninvited guests. You find yourself having to entertain them, when you’d really rather just be enjoying a burger.


New discovery. Verdict? Not bad.

Despite being mocked for my little pre-race gluten-free experiment (by those less coerced by fads than I—see the cheeky photos texted to me below), I’m going to stick with it. (One slip-up did occur on Saturday: Naan bread – 1, Jen – 0). I think the potential good outweighs the bad. I even discovered a palatable gluten-free beer, should I decide that this experiment warrants a longer-term commitment: Omission Pale Ale. Wee Review: Though it lacks complexity and has a slightly disappointing finish, it’s better than a host of “normal” beers I can name off the top of my head.

photo (1)


Basically, I’m just thinking way too much about food and weight. Finding a body composition note on my phone from last spring that had a list of weights in the 134-138 range didn’t help much either. To try to combat my obsession, on Saturday, I officially quit using MyFitnessPal, after three and half months of dedicated food logging. But more on that later.

As for the training, surprisingly, the reduced workload hasn’t been as hard for me as I expected. Many triathletes report feelings of sluggishness and cases of the blues, but after four consecutive “big” weeks (17-19 hours) and a few nagging aches and pains, I embraced last week’s drop to 14 hours. The extra sleep has made me feel a bit lazy, but that’s the only negative effect I’ve noticed so far.


Taper ride with the ladies

With this extra time in my day, I’ve had the chance to think and read a little more about the hallowed taper. There are as many opinions and tips out there for the taper as there are for training plans, from stretching, to hydration, to mental prep. For me, the most memorable advice comes from those around me, like a frequent Ironman finisher friend who advises “bourbon and sleep.” My coach’s simple advice, “You’re well prepared, strong and READY, keep things simple…” This week, the mantra “to each her own” is especially relevant. You have to strike a balance between what feels right for you, and trusting those who know better than you do.

Throughout taper week, I have to constantly remind myself that the money’s in the bank. I can’t do anything more over the next six days to increase my strength or endurance. This week is all about workouts that keep the blood flowing, with a few little bursts of speed thrown in so the muscles don’t forget how to work. It’s about allowing my body to shed months of accumulated fatigue by scaling the Saturday five-hour ride down to three, and the Sunday hill repeats from eight down to four.

On the mental front, I’m hoping that packing, writing my nutrition/pacing plan, and getting the keys to our new place will be enough to distract me from the pathetic little workouts on my schedule this week.

And if not, there’s always life, which has an annoying habit of interrupting when you have an Ironman to attend to.