I'm 12 days out from my 70.3 Half Ironman race and am officially in taper mode!
Tapers get a bad rap. Most people hate the taper and report that they feel antsy and increasingly agitated as the race draws closer but their activity level decreases. Although I can relate to some degree, I'm also really looking forward to a little rest and more time on my hands. I have a few projects I'm starting so it will be nice to have some time to organize my life and get things started. Plus, science literally tells us that I can move less and sleep more and I will perform better on race day... how can you argue with that? My focus is now shifting from improving my fitness to honing in on the fitness I have and making sure I'm in an optimal state to use it on race day. This means being well rested, well fed, mentally present and as stress free as possible.
This weekend I did my last big training day which consisted of a 90k bike ride followed by an 8km run. I decided to drive out to Huntsville to do a practice ride of the Muskoka Ironman course. I had heard rumours about how hilly and difficult the course was and because biking is my weakest discipline I was feeling really anxious and felt I needed to know what I was going to be up against for the race.
So Sunday morning I woke up bright and early and hopped in my little silver bug to drive up to Muskoka for the day. I arrived in Huntsville at around 9:30am and quickly set off to prepare for my ride. I had forgotten the TriMuskoka race was going on that day and so the area was packed with triathletes competing in various distance triathlons. Race energy was in the air as I hopped on my bike and started on my 90km ride - longest to date.
My goals for this training ride were to test out the course so I would have a better idea of how hard I could push on race day, to practice my race nutrition and hydration, and to see what a 90km bike ride felt like on my legs. As I set off biking along Brunel road, the first section of the course, cyclists competing in the tri-a-tri race were just heading back along that road towards transition. I was decked out in my tri suit and must have looked like a competitor because everyone who cycled by me was smiling and shouting encouraging comments. Even though I wasn't competing in the race I enjoyed the camaraderie and thanked everyone as they yelled "nice work" or "keep going". I clearly looked like the slow cyclist lagging behind all the others. Eventually I passed the race turn-around (although my 'race' was just beginning) and had the road to myself. About 10 minutes later a car pulls up next to me, and the window rolls down.
"Um, are you competing in the tri-a-tri race? Cause the turn-around was about 3 km's back".
I assured the race volunteer I was just out for a Sunday ride and thanked him for his worry. I chuckled to myself and continued on.
It was a beautiful day for a ride, although pouring rain in Toronto I managed to make it through the entire ride without a drop of rain in Huntsville. The cool air and overcast clouds contributed to what I would consider perfect riding weather. If only race day could be as good! All around I was very pleasantly surprised with how the bike portion went. The last few rides I had done I had really focussed on trying to get in some hills and it clearly had paid off. Compared to the long and endless climbs of Caledon, or the shorter and steeper killer hills of Haliburton county, Huntsville's hills didn't feel too bad. Don't get me wrong, it was NOT easy, but I had built it up in my head to be this unimaginably difficult course that I was actually pleasantly surprised. The hilliest section of the course is the beginning and end along Brunel Road where there are a few real killer hills in there but there are also some nice rolling hills where you can pick up speed on the downhill sections and then mostly coast the inclines with a bit of a push to the top.
I completed the full 90k course in less time than I anticipated and rearing to start my run. The run took me through and around downtown Huntsville and although I didn't follow the course exactly (I got a bit lost and didn't have my phone with me) I was able to get the lay of the land. The run is also a very hilly course with some gradual inclines and a few real steep MFs. All in all it was a huge success and I drove back to Toronto with a new found sense of confidence and excitement for the race.
Looking ahead at race weekend my main challenge now is going to be the HEAT. It's looking like race day is going to be a scorcher, with temperatures in the 30s. My last experience racing in the heat didn't go so well but looking back on it I really didn't prepare. I lacked adequate hydration and got burned badly on my run. BAD. This time around I am going to take the heat very seriously. I'll make sure I'm going into the race well hydrated, I will have more than enough water at transition and on my bike and I will make sure to keep myself cool using water and ice.
I'm getting super excited for race day and just trying to remember that I GOT THIS!