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


Days 14 to 8: Include two run sessions of 20 minutes at aerobic pace, plus:

  • Run one interval or tempo set. Range= 30 to 60 minutes steady or 6x5 minutes to 10x6 minutes
  • Bike 2x30 minutes at an aerobic intensity level session in "race" bike position
  • Bike one interval session holding a bigger gear over the final 25 percent. Range= 50 minutes to 1 hour, 40 minutes
  • Swim two interval or higher-intensity sets. Range= 800 meters or 8x100 to 2,000 or 20x100

As you reduce your volume, continue to maintain the same proportion of your normal activity. In other words: kicking in your swim workouts, standing on the steeper hills on your bike rides, running downhill. Do not eliminate the variable training loads or tools during week two.

Additionally, be careful that you maintain your body weight. Except for the intensity sessions listed above, the rest of your training is either at a cruise or recovery effort. If you are fatigued from the longer sessions for more than one day, then drop down to a very easy effort.

One Week Before

Day 7
Run - Range= 40-50 minutes to 50-70 minutes (60 percent is IM pace)
Swim easy - Range= 1,000 to 2,000 meters
Bike - off

Day 6
Bike - Range= 25 to 45 miles (70 percent at IM pace)
Swim - Range= 1,000m to 2,500m (70 percent or higher pace)*
Run - off
*If you swim three to four sessions per week, take Day 6 swim session off

Day 5
Run - final tempo session at IM pace! Range= 20 to 40 minutes (does not include warm-up/cool-down) or 4x5 minutes to 6x6 minutes
Swim - Range= 600m to 1,200m at IM pace
Bike - off

Day 4
Bike - final tempo session. Range= 45 to 75 minutes or 8x6 minutes to 8x10 minutes (slightly slower than IM pace)
Swim - easy or off
Run - easy or off

Day 3
Off on all three discipline.
Shift eating pattern for dinner. Finish dinner by 6:30 p.m.
Do not overdo it with electrolyte drinks. If you have a high sweat rate, consume an additional 300 to 600 mg of sodium and 200 to 400 mg of potassium at night.

Day 2
Swim - include 6-12x50m at faster than race pace. Rest interval (RI) is 30 seconds
Bike - include 4x90 seconds at IM pace. RI= 45 seconds. Plus, 20 minutes ride at aerobic pace at the end of your workout for a total of 35 minutes
Run - IM pace for ten minutes for a total of 25 minutes

Day Before Race
Do all three very lightly: Swim - 10 to 20 minutes; Bike - 20 to 30 minutes; Run - 10 minutes

The Final Countdown

Stick to your plan during the taper. Be confident that your body will rejuvenate and respond to resting. If you are seemingly heavy or fatigued for three-to-four days during the final three weeks, then immediately take two days off and pick up your program where you left off.

Having faith will elicit the highest possible outcome on race day. You can do it! Good luck.

Six-time Ironman World Champion Dave Scott lives in Boulder, Colo., and maintains a busy schedule running his own business as fitness and nutrition consultant, product marketing consultant and nationally recognized speaker. He also organizes or is the main keynote for fitness camps, clinics and races and is a regular columnist for many print and online sources. As an Active Expert, Dave utilizes his years of experience by offering unique and creative training plans for athletes of all abilities. Contact him at

Related Articles:

      • The Art of the Ironman Taper

      • Bouncing Back From Ironman

      • A Typical Ironman Training Week

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