how to taper well before a race

I need some help on tapering. I'm doing my first 3km in 7 weeks time. I'm not worried about the distance but my shoulders have been really tired lately and I amd worried I don't arrive at swim feeling great. I know I need to rest and maybe get a massage but I also don't want to stop swimming completely. 7 weeks is still plenty of time so I'll keep going until at least 2 weeks before and then take it easier, drop the intensity and keep doing the distance. Any advise / thoughts on how to taper off well.


  • ssthomasssthomas DenverCharter Member
    "so I'll keep going until at least 2 weeks before and then take it easier, drop the intensity and keep doing the distance."

    I think 2 weeks is good, but I'd flip what you suggested: drop the distance, but up the intensity. I like to take a few extra days off- it helps me mentally. But, others work well swimming every day to stay loose. And I like a massage at the start of the taper, so I have time to work all the kinks out.
  • ForeverSwimForeverSwim Pittsburgh, PennsylvaniaCharter Member
    @mongoose, the basic rule I follow is hitting at least twice the distance of your event for a three-week period prior to tapering down. For example, the English Channel is around 31,500 meters (34,650 yards) in distance, and I would recommend training 63,000 meters (69,300 yards) for a three-week period prior to a 2.5 week taper. After those three weeks (climax) I recommend tapering down 50% each week until the event. If you hit 63,000 meters (69,300 yards) as your peak levels of training, then your first week of taper should be 31,500 meters (34,650 yards), second week 15,750 meters (17,325 yards) and the final days with plenty of rest, and only 0:30-0:45 segments with rest being the biggest factor.
    One of the biggest mistakes are over-training (because you feel you "aren't doing enough") for an event, which causes you to become run-down and tired. It sounds to me by your post that you might be over-training due to the fact you do not want to slow down for a massage - get a massage, and take a day or two off!
    The final week, or two is all mental at that point. Remind yourself that you cannot do anymore at that point other than relying on the training you have done! I know from experience that worrying, stress and other things can make you 'tight and tired' - STAY POSITIVE AND KNOW YOU GOT THIS!! Good Luck- Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania U.S.A.

  • timsroottimsroot Spring, TXCharter Member

    the basic rule I follow is hitting at least twice the distance of your event for a three-week period prior to tapering down.

    How firm is that rule? I'm training toward a 26 mile swim, but I don't have the time in a week to get to nearly 100km/week. I'm trying to get to 50 km per week for about a 4 week period prior to tapering for the swim.
  • ssthomasssthomas DenverCharter Member
    @timsroot: We covered that one before, too. I think @foreverswim's numbers are a little high, but that's why he's a beast! :-)

  • timsroottimsroot Spring, TXCharter Member
    Thanks, @ssthomas

    What was your rough weekly yardage for your two massive swims?
  • ssthomasssthomas DenverCharter Member
    @timsroot: Not as high as I had hoped/planned, which is why I think I need to revise my mindset about what is considered "overtraining".

    Catalina, 2010- I built up to 6 weeks at 60,000/week
    - Most pain I've felt to date from a marathon swim

    MIMS, 2011- I only managed 5 weeks at 60,000/week
    -Finished with a lot left and asking Morty if I could go around again.

    Tampa Bay, 2012- I made it to 6 weeks at 60,000/week, but my build up was shorter before I hit that 60k
    -Pulled due to thunderstorms after 6.5 hours, but was starting to get a little creaky

    English Channel, 2012- I spent 8 weeks at 60,000/week (plus the base from Tampa)
    -Essentially had to hold a taper for about 6 weeks from planned swim to actual swim. Had no problems at all during the swim and minimal soreness the following day.

    SCAR, 2013- I only got to 4 weeks at about 55,000/week at my top.
    -I think this was high for SCAR, but I was using it as a base for Tahoe. Turns out that was a good idea.

    Tahoe, 2013- This is where it gets tricky. I had planned about 4 weeks of 70,000/week, but I only ended up with about 2.
    -We moved up our date by about a month earlier than we had originally planned because of Craig's last minute commitment to the Bering Strait relay. SCAR was the first week of May. I only maintained about 30,000/week between SCAR and the week of June 17. Week of June 17, I hit 60,000/week. Weeks of June 24 and July 1, I went just over 70,000. I went hard the early part of the week of July 8, but drop tapered starting July 10 and didn't swim much (maybe 25,000) for the week before the swim. I was PETRIFIED that this wasn't enough. Clearly, it was fine.

    Memphre, 2012- Never broke 60,000/week leading up to it.
    -I spent about 3 solid weeks recovering from Tahoe. I think I swam maybe 2-3 times/week those first two weeks after Tahoe. At this point, I hadn't considered a double Memphre yet, so I was taking it pretty easy. Week 3 was when Phil approached me about a double, so I upped that week to 40,000. Week 4, I went about 50,000. Week 5 and Week 6 I got close to 60,000, but not quite. Week 7 was a rest week. During this time, since I wasn't getting the yardage I wanted (all the local pools were closing for annual maintenance!), I really focused on intensity. I did one 6 hour swim in week 5 and one 5 hour swim in week 6. Again, not ideal, but I think the intensity was really imporant.

    So, I guess what I think I've learned is that base is more important than hitting high levels of yardage for a certain time leading up to a swim. If I can do the English Channel on essentially the same amount of yardage as a double Tahoe.... well, that says something for how much less yardage I could have gotten by on for my previous swims. I didn't hit high yardage numbers for Tahoe and Memphre, but I've been swimming A LOT since about February, with some good peaks and valleys in the training that allowed for strength building and recovery. I've had the least amount of shoulder trouble this season than in my other three years before this.

    Past experience also counts for quite a bit- I really relied on that for Tahoe and again for Memphre. I do think the more you train the less it hurts though! Sure was great to finish the English Channel and barely feel sore the next day! I know people who have comfortably finished Catalina, MIMS, and the English Channel on 45,000/week.

    Does that help? :-)
  • ForeverSwimForeverSwim Pittsburgh, PennsylvaniaCharter Member
    edited September 2013
    @timsroot I think we both can agree that @ssthomas is twice the 'beast' I will ever be!

    My post is simply what has worked for me, and has allowed me to 'have energy left in the tank' after each of these swims. One thing I learned from this sport is that you have to have enough left near the end in case you have to sprint for hours to outrun some tides (not fun) or if suddenly you find yourself out there for a lot longer than expected. In the words of the warrior @david_barra, "Anything worth doing, is worth overdoing!"

    There isn't a Golden Rule to how to train, but I wanted to put out there how I do it, and what has worked for me. Any questions, I'd be glad to help anytime! Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania U.S.A.

  • timsroottimsroot Spring, TXCharter Member
    @ssthomas @foreverswim - Thanks for the reference points. I still need to build up a bit more, but your answers are helpful. Given the amount of time I have to train and the schedule I have to train with, 50-60km/week seems like a good number. I'll have a few really long swims (~8 hours) this year, which will help. Still have work to do, but I'm feeling better about my high level plan.

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