"A" Event Tapers Schemes
I've done some thinking and testing over the past 5 or so years to find the optimal taper scheme. When I first started racing I would taper based on exactly what I was reading in magazines and books at the time. This typically involved a linear taper starting about 4 weeks out from race day. Over the years I found that this type of taper was not working for me. I think this was mainly because my peak volume at the time was around 10 hours (4 weeks out from race day). Doing a 4 week taper from a peak volume of only 10 hours, I was not doing much training during the last couple of weeks of the taper. I think this approach lacked race specificity and volume during the final weeks before the race. Using this approach, I'd go into races without enough fitness or "race like" memory in my legs. What I have come to realize is that this type of taper works much better if your volume is in the 20-30 hour range for long distance events because during the final two weeks you're still cranking out decent miles (enough to keep race feel and specificity). Based on this basic realization, I have developed the following taper protocols for my athletes and myself:
The 100% rows represent your final build week. This week should be about 20% higher than your sustainable weekly volume prior to beginning the final two week build. The 90% week is typically a run focus week with the total run volume being about 20% greater than normal. The 100% week is typically a bike focus week with the total bike volume being about 25% greater than normal. These weeks should also contain your longest run and bike workouts respectively. The 55% week following the two week build is a recovery week and should be approached with the flexibility to skip workouts if required to achieve a solid recovery. For the "A" taper scheme, the 80% and 55% weeks (1 and 2 weeks out) are typically spent freshening up for the race by completing higher intensity steady workouts that are race specific. Ideally, the final long ride and run 1 week out should be completed on the race course using your race bike, nutrition and position. Generally, after the 100% week your long rides and runs should continue to reduce while your other workouts stay as they were during the final build. Your final best effort sessions (bike and run) should be kept at least 10 days from race day. Race week workouts should be kept short and sweet with short pickups to race pace.
To build a deep base of aerobic endurance I usually like to precede each of these build/ tapers with a 4 week build and 1 week recovery that focuses on frequency and steady state volume. Intensity during this period should be carefully placed at 1 key workout per week on the bike and run.
The goal of these build/taper schemes is to make the best of the final weeks before your race. The taper itself (following the two week build) should be designed to keep your fitness up (and race feel) while not causing deep fatigue.