Some thoughts on TAPER (from Mark Fitzgerald):
"The period of relative rest that precedes a race is called a taper. A well-executed taper increases your blood volume, maximizes carbohydrate fuel storage, increases aerobic enzymes, and enhances tissue repair, thereby rendering you better prepared for a peak performance.
"For short races, your taper period can last four days to a week. For somewhat longer events, a week to two weeks of tapering is typical when a peak performance is sought. For long-distance events, the taper can last two or three weeks.
Reduce your training volume by 30 to 40 percent per week of tapering. For example, if you're tapering two weeks for a peak half-Ironman triathlon and you did 20 hours of training in the last heavy week before the taper, you might do about 13 hours of training in the first week of tapering and about 8 hours in the final seven days before the race."
My three thoughts on tapering:
1. You've trained -- no amount of training you will add this last week will improve your performance;
2. Don't do a "drop dead taper" -- using this as an excuse to stop training altogether -- you want to grade your taper (gradually reduce training intensity and length) to zero by the day before;
3. Get plenty of rest (sleep) on race week…and hydrate well (small amounts of fluid regularly throughout the day) -- these two things are probably worth as much as any training you will do during this week.
Basically, if you have been eating reasonably well, there is no need to do anything different the week before the race. Two nights before the race, get a well-balanced meal (protein, plenty of vegetables and fruit, complex (low-glycemic index) carbohydrates) – this will create the stored energy you will need for the race. Get to bed early.
The night before, eat early and eat light – you want this meal to get through your system before the race starts – you don’t need something heavy sitting in your stomach all night while you are trying to sleep. Make sure you get breakfast in the morning before the race.