Countdown to an Ironman: Dave Scott's 21-day Tapering Plan

Tips for Using the 21-day Plan

Every individual taper is unique. Your age, preparation and organization of your previous tapers should all play into the final formulation. I have included a range for the key sets. This includes the variables of intensity, distance and recovery.

The range indicates the minimal and maximal levels. This covers the first-timer who may have three sessions per discipline per week to the seasoned veteran who trains six sessions per discipline per week. The intensity of the efforts should fall within this framework:

  • Swim sets or repeats at slightly faster than Ironman (IM) race speed.
  • Bike and run repeats at IM race pace.
  • The Rest Interval (RI) is five to 20 seconds between repeats for the swim sets and 10 to 40 seconds between the bike and run intervals, unless specified differently in the program.
  • Cruise efforts should be done at a smooth, "conversation" pace and recovery sets or days are very easy.
  • The volume for each day should be reduced by the amount listed in key factor No. 1. Design your total volume reduction per weekly session based on these recommendations.
  • Warm-ups and cool-downs are not included below.

The Plan

*B=bike, R=run, S=swim

Three Weeks to Race Day

Tip: Use your breakfasts to practice your pre-race meal. On long sessions, practice your drinking and eating plan.

Days 18 to 21: Include either your final long brick and/or final long run and long bike. The following are some options. Run and bike workouts are in miles and swims are in meters.

  • Long Brick (12-13-12 ratio): Range= R 7 miles/B 35/R 4 to R 12/B 75/R 6
  • Long Run (12-13-12): Range= R 11 to 16-20 miles
  • Long Bike (12-13-12): Range= B 55 to 85 to 105 miles
  • Long Swim (12-13-12): Range= 10x200 or 2,000 straight to 12x300 or 3,400 to 4,000 meters

Days 21 to 15: Include three running sessions of 20 minutes each at a comfortable aerobic pace. One of these sessions is obviously included in your long day. On other days, for example, a second run of the day will be a 15-minute warm-up plus 20 minutes of aerobic running plus five minutes of cool-down.

  • RUN: One interval set or tempo at IM pace. For tempo, keep the range between 40 and 70 minutes. For intervals, perform between 8x5 minutes to 10x8 minutes, all at IM race pace.
  • BIKE: Include:
    a) sessions of 3x30 minutes at aerobic effort (again, one of these sessions will be within your long day)
    b) An interval or tempo session (This could be on the same day as the aerobic effort) Range= 60 minutes to two hours at IM race pace (steady, but can be a combination of hills and flats)
  • SWIM: Include two higher intensity sets (faster than IM pace). Range= 1,200m to 2,800m (for example: 12x100 to 14x200)

Note: If you normally swim three times per week, then week three would include your long day, plus two other days that would incorporate the faster pace sets mentioned above. The total length of the workout would be based on your reduction of work-week percentages.

For Swim-Bike-Run, all other "time" during the workouts is at cruise pace. Maintain your normal routine. If you usually do a hilly course on Wednesday's, this should not change—only the intensity or length.

Two Weeks Before

Tip: Add an hour of sleep per night.

Longer day (on day 14, 13 or 12), either a brick or long run and long bike. Here are some options:

  • Brick — Range= R 6 miles/B 25/R 2 to R 8/B 55 R 4
  • Long Run — Range= R 7-9 to 9-13
  • Long Bike — Range= B 35-45 to 45-65
  • Long Swim — Range= S 8x200 meters or 16x100 or 1,600 straight to 8x300 or 28x100 or 2,500 straight

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