general ramblings from a wannabe triathlete, confirmed foodie, and nutrition nerd

Attack of the tapir! Or is that taper..?

on June 26, 2012

Something strange is happening.

My husband has been unpacking.

So? You may ask. What’s the problem with that?

The problem, I’ll tell you, is that it is completely out of the norm. We moved house five months ago and other than the kitchen the house is still full of boxes. Even the few that have been emptied are still littered about the place, devoid of contents.

My husband does not do unpacking (this is quite possibly an unfair comment. He does do unpacking. Just in a leisurely, slightly chaotic empty-the-contents-of-the-box-onto-the-floor-job-done! kind of way). Unless he’s routing through a box for a family-sized tub of Vaseline (if you’re a runner or cyclist, you’ll know…) or an elusive tri-belt (which are so frequently purchased and forgotten that we now have enough to supply the entire  field of Olympic triathletes with their very own) then the boxes remain as they were on the day we moved in. A decorative addition to the general ambience of can’t-be-arsedness.

So finding him knee deep in rubber swim caps, Asics goody-bags and spare inner-tubes was a little disconcerting.

And when he voluntarily started putting books onto the bookcase, well… I knew it had started.

The taper.

For the uninitiated, the taper – not to be confused with the tapir* – is an abomination. It turns reasonably sane (well, as sane as you can ever be if you’re in training for something that requires tapering) into twitchy, quivering wrecks.

Healthy people, full of vitality and determination, at the peak of their training, are suddenly forced to break away from their training schedule.

No more twenty mile runs at 5am, or hundred mile bike rides on Sunday afternoon. They must resist the urge to squeeze themselves into the wetsuit and go for a dip in the local canal (or safe open water swimming venue – for more details, see my previous rants posts), or sit for hours on the turbo, staring blankly into space as the monotony slowly crushes their soul.

The taper is an essential component of endurance training. Whilst it may seem counter-intuitive to ease back from a full on schedule of training, be it for a marathon (open the link to see the number one on my marathon to-do list 🙂 ) or an Ironman (or indeed any other sporting endeavour that has demanded hours, and hours of training), the taper actually allows your body to recover and improves your condition for race day.

The physical strain of training takes its toll. So easing back and allowing your body to rest and recover makes perfect sense.

Those microscopic muscle tears and depleted glycogen stores – even if you can’t feel it – will benefit from a bit of a rest. Taking the time to chill out, eat well and catch up on some sleep will make the world of difference when it comes to Race Day.


It does do strange things to a person’s head.

Have they done enough training? Have they got the right kit? What if it rains/is sunny? How many times should they clean their bike? Should they shave their legs? What about chest hair? Is it worth practising getting the wetsuit on/off just one more time? How many grams of carbohydrates should they eat the night before? Etc. etc.

Have you ever seen a goose?

Not hanging in a butchers window or the resplendent centrepiece of a Dickensian Christmas feast – a real, live goose?

The look innocent enough. Going about their business, ruffling their feathers and and lazily pecking at the ground.

But be warned – if you ever have the misfortune to piss off a goose, or even look at it the wrong way – be prepared to run.

People waste their time and money on Alsatians and German Shepherds – if you want an animal to protect your home and property, all you need is a goose.

They’re dangerous. Don’t ever make eye contact with a goose – in that split second it will see into the depths of your soul and know your weakness, and it will attack.

Why am I talking about geese?

Because they are the perfect analogy to the twitchy, irritable, ever-so-slightly volatile athlete during a taper.

So if your husband/wife/room mate happens to start doing strange things, just nod, smile (but not too much – you don’t want to set them off) and back away as slowly as you can.

You know it makes sense.

* The tapir is a mammal, not dissimilar to a pig (but more closely related to horses and rhinos), and come from South America and Southeast Asia. They have nothing to do with tapering, but here’s a couple of pictures of them anyway.

What you lookin’ at fool?!

Attack of the tapir!!!


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