The week (or weeks) leading up to a race can be the most difficult of a training program to get right. All of the hard work has been done in the months leading up to this point and no further fitness can be gained this close to an event. The focus now shifts to tapering so that you are in the best possible physical and mental condition for the race. But with nothing to be gained there is much to lost to the detriment of your race day performance. For further information on tampering see advice from Training Peaks.
Getting your taper right is hard enough as you fight your emotions and constantly question if you’ve done enough; will an extra session help, am I losing fitness? Having type 1 diabetes makes these weeks even more challenging as you try to keep your BGLs stable whilst changing pretty much everything that has worked for you during the previous months of training. I find that stable BGLs are the most important factor for me to perform at my best and this is particularly the case leading into and during a race. Some of the major challenges for a T1D during a tapering period can include:
- Reducing training volume and intensity changes insulin requirements (Basal and Bolus)
- Carb-loading would require an increase in Bolus insulin doses
- Changes in activity and sleep patterns can change Basal insulin requirements
- Physiological adaptations often change insulin requirements
- Mental and emotional states including stress may introduce unexpected rises and falls in BGLs
Essentially during a taper we are changing what are bodies have been used to (training and eating) and we are stressing about many things (BGLs, race performance, tapering/training, etc.), and this is a high risk cocktail for a T1D trying to maintain stable BGLs.
So for one of the most important weeks in my training program, that is also one of the most challenging and stressful, what do I do to keep things on track:
- I don’t have an extended taper prior to a race and keep this to Monday to race day (Sunday) generally (one week).
- Maintain a similar training schedule; I continue with my morning training sessions as these seem to have the biggest impact on my daily diabetes requirements and drop/alter may afternoon sessions.
- As with a normal taper I keep some intensity in all of my sessions to remain sharp (neuromuscular) but also to keep BGLs similarly stable to previous weeks with the session excursion.
- When focusing on recovery I like to complete active recovery sessions which also help stabilise BGLs (through the exercise).
- I really focus on my diet and try to consume the highest quality nutrient dense foods so that I do not need to increase my carbohydrate intake too much and I still get the full benefits of tampering. By not changing my diet too much it minimises the risk of changes to my insulin requirements and possible hypos/high BGLs.
- If I do consume more carbs then I monitor this closely and increase my bolus insulin accordingly. In most cases I find it easier to add small amounts of extra carbs throughout the day rather than load up during main meals.
- Keep track of your BGLs; as important as ever, I keep track of my BGLs constantly throughout the week so that I know exactly where they are at.
Finally, two really important things which I always work on are; control the things that I can, and don’t stress. Things out of my control will happen but if I am on top of everything which I can be then these uncontrollable events will be much easier to manage – control the controllable. It is difficult not to stress during taper week but remember that you have gotten this far, have controlled your diabetes to this point and you are ready to race. I try to stay calm and work through any issues knowing that this will result in the best outcome for me.
Managing diabetes is never simple but by really focussing on yourself and your control during the taper week you can get great results from it and feel fantastic on race day.
There are big events on in Port Macquarie and Busselton this coming weekend so good luck to everyone who is racing and I hope that any T1D’s are tracking well for their events and I wish them all the best for race day.