|And then the shark eats you (post race, 2009 Clearwater 70.3)|
I'm far from an expert on tapering for a half-ironman. It's the one race distance I rarely taper for because it's usually not an "A" race for me. Last year, I didn't take Clearwater seriously because I took a long non-swimming, non-biking vacation less than two months before the race. As a result, I didn't panic until the night before. There were two disasters that day: one was natural, the other was man-made.
The natural disaster was weather-related: high winds sent the swim into the harbor side of Clearwater and we were forced into a time-trial start with no warm-up. The man-made disaster was another one of my bathroom disasters during the run, most likely caused by lack of sleep (note the panic statement above). But, despite the lack of training and a so-so taper (I mean, can you really taper when you don't have much mileage to start with?), I still did my fastest half in seven years.
This year, I'm using my best judgment for taper mileage/yardage based on the three-week 75-50-25% rule that always works for marathons. And, I hate to say this out loud, but I have already made commitments to myself and there's at least one person (you know who you are) predicting outcomes, but I will not mention them here for fear of inviting the disaster gods to come down and thwack me good. All I will say is this: despite my attempts to sabotage myself in the water (i.e., swimming only two times a week), my swimming seems to have made some sort of breakthrough. With my luck, the reason for this is more likely that they've shortened my local pool.
I only have two things left to decide for race day: how fast to ride 56 miles and still have something left for the run and my all-important fashion statement.
I'll tackle the bike question first... Because it's cold in Cleveland at this time of year and Florida terrain is flat, I've been riding indoors and doing speed intervals (those max-effort things that you only read about) on my trainer for many weeks now. I'll know in eight days if my efforts pay off with increased speed in Clearwater. Last year, my bike time wasn't even in the top half for women even though it was my fastest 56-mile ride EVER. The thing I'm struggling with is how hard or fast to go out. The Clearwater bike course is as flat as can be, but I want to have something left in my quads for the run, because, despite also being very flat, the run course has four short bridge-hills. After you've torn up your quads on a fast bike course, this can be deadly.
I'd like to say my plan is to ride fast but relaxed and try to push the second 28 miles in hopes that many athletes make the mistake of pushing too hard the first 28. Could this be the one time I succeed in a race plan?
The second decision... what to wear... and it's not really about fashion, it's more about what will be most comfortable and fast during the race. I just bought a new TYR race top -- do I really want to debut it in my most important race of the year? I also need to decide which wetsuit to wear. Now that I have a new Quintana Roo wetsuit, it seems like a no-brainer because it has that breakaway zipper. But there's a reason I wear my old wetsuit, the two-piece DeSoto T1 -- it's FAST. I bought it because it doesn't bind my shoulders and it has very little drag. However, I always wonder if I cancel out the time I gained in the water with the time it takes to get it off. Thank heavens for wetsuit peelers. If I do wear the T1, I just hope they don't send me on a wild goose chase this year to retrieve the top.
One fashion statement decision has been made. If, by some miracle, I make it to the age-group podium, I will be wearing my Punk Rock Racing tri shirt. That's a sure thing. Stay tuned...