For many of us, this is a great time of year because the hard and long training is behind us and we are resting and focusing on recovery and time with family. For others whose major events are in the fall, this is a time of anticipation. For me personally, the journey to Leadville, thus far, has been fantastic and now my mind has shifted from more miles and hard intervals to proper nutrition, sleeping a ton and enjoying the taper process. Of course, Leadville is not the only thing going on here at VQ. We have many athletes doing triathlons, centuries, marathons, etc. I am sure there is a similarity experienced amongst all training groups during these times.
This is the point when many athletes stress about the event and waste energy and happiness worrying that everything is not perfect; they start to second-guess everything. I tell my athletes that “the hay is in the barn at this point” and the mind should be calm if you prepared the best you can. Nobody prepares perfectly. Nobody. Not even the best pros in the world do everything they can. Do not let thoughts of the event overtake your mind. Of course it’s important to focus on the race from time to time, but it should not consume you!
For the VQ crew working toward Leadville, the process has been one full of learning: as much from each other as from the experts! I am so proud of all the VQers that contributed information and time to help ensure everyone’s improvement. It more than excites me when I see so many VQ athletes becoming closer friends as they make their way toward their goals. For the Leadville crew as well as the other VQ groups who are completing events together, going through this process creates a bond. Any time a group of people suffers and trains for this long, a mutual respect among the members is certain to grow. Many great friendships are made and strengthened in the process.
So much can be learned about a person when riding (suffering!) alongside one another for long periods of time. We come to realize that although we are very different, we do have a lot in common. As the training gets tougher, we learn just how much we need one another for support. This often happens without even a word passing between us. The group knows that tough times will happen for all of us at some point in training and on race day and the tighter the team, the better the chance for survival. The support of the group is one of the best feelings you can have when going into an event that pushes you so far out of your comfort zone.
Your training partners are key to race day success. The funny thing is: you do not even have to see them that day! Just knowing they’re out there on the same course, suffering like you did together so many times during training, is comforting.
Many of you have come to the taper part of your season now, but a reduction of training load is not the only component of a taper. Quality and quantity of sleep, improved nutrition and a reduction in your day-to-day stress are the keys to a successful taper. Keep in mind that stressing about the event or the lack of short-term training is not productive. As I said, the hay is in the barn at this point, so enjoy the reduced workload and mentally relax. Although you’re putting less hours of exercise in, your body is working very hard to grow and recover from all the training you have done. You should be hungry and a bit anxious/nervous at times. This is normal and should be embraced.
From experience, I can tell you that everyone is nervous during the taper period and the feeling tends to increase as the event comes closer. This nervousness is normal and can be controlled by being prepared for the event and doing some mental exercises to focus your energy on productive positive thoughts about the event. This may take some practice. Writing out a race plan helps ease some of those nerves. The plan should be specific and include your pacing strategy, nutrition and hydration strategies and notes which include each challenge of the course and your solution for it. Also note the two to three things you want to focus on throughout the event and rehearse them in your head. These thoughts will replace negative thoughts that are likely to enter your mind at some point during the race. Remember the taper period is not idle time. It’s your body’s time to grow…let it do its job!
Best of luck in all your events this month!