This is a tricky one. Many folks go into their races either over rested or over worked. To hit it just right takes a detailed approach that’s really like walking a tight rope. My thoughts here don’t address the whole race taper but rather just a piece of it…..the last week. They also address the short-term recovery period.
1) For any A or B race where you’d really like to do well, you should not have any intense or overly long workouts within 10 days before the event (especially running). The definition of long is relative to your particular training volume and typical sustainable weekly volume. Its also relative to the race distance you are doing. If you’ve been turning over 6 hour rides every weekend for the past 10 weeks, than another one of these one week out from a sprint (up to half iron) is no problem. For iron, you don’t want to take any chances and should therefore cut this ride back.
2) For any race, you always want to do as much race specific training as you can the week of the race, without going into the race too fatigued. As you can see, this is why I emphasize good rest and nutrition on race week so you can train more without becoming fatigued. For short race distances, you should do much more volume on race week (relative to long races) in order to stay sharp. That is, its okay to show up at the starting line a bit fatigued since you will get more benefit from the sharpness you’ve gained from training more closer to the race. It’s all about sport specific feel right when the gun goes off. For longer distances, it’s more important to be 100% rested than it is to be sharp. Any edge that’s lost from not being sharp is easily gained from being rested with a long day ahead. Typically for half and iron distance racing, this means the day before the race is totally off (more important to be rested than sharp). For sprint and olympic racing, this typically means two days before the race is off and then the day before is 30-60 min of light workouts in all three sports (more important to be sharp than 100% rested).
3) Be as race specific as possible on race week. That is, all bike and run workouts should be bricks with rides completed in the aero position. Again, it’s all about race and sport specificity the closer you get to race day. This applies to your overall season periodization plan as well as at the micro level here on race week.
4) A pretty good rule of thumb for a very important race is to do nothing within X days before your race that you wouldn’t do X days after your race. Race week completed backwards (as a general concept) after your race isn’t a bad recovery technique either as long as race week was approached properly. In terms of a race recovery, a good rule of thumb is to not do any intense or overly long draining workouts within one day for each hour spent racing triathlon. For running races, I like to use 5 days for each hour spent running since the damage is much more with higher velocities and more impact.
I hope these help you arrive prepared this race season. Stay tuned to the QT2 website homepage where I’ll soon have a comprehensive race spacing and recovery tip.