Michelle Mehnert is a triathlete and University of Illinois swimmer who is currently training for the Short Course Triathlon World Championships in Budapest, Hungary, in September. In her third guest blog for The Starting Line, she writes about competing recently in a triathlon in Ludington, Mich., and starting to taper for the big race.
It’s been a busy two weeks! I’m all moved into my apartment here at the University and my classes have started (along with homework). Training has also transitioned as well, and I’m getting more info by the day about my race.
First off, my uniform came in! The ITU (International Triathlon Union) has all sorts of rules about name, country and other logos on the uniforms of competing athletes, so it was a relief that mine came in this early (and perfect, I might add). I’ve included a picture below.
Secondly, I had a great time racing in Ludington, MI! It was an Olympic distance race with a short swim, but fun, nonetheless. I clocked my fastest 10K Run time ever (41:17), which was very good to see before heading to Budapest. It was a smaller race for me (only ~450 people between the Duathlon and Sprint and Olympic Triathlons), but it was a great “tune up” race to see how I was feeling. The course was beautiful (Ludington is Michigan’s #2 tourist destination), and I got to celebrate my dad’s birthday with a win, always fun.
Since my last race is done before the big event, I’m officially on taper now! Taper you ask? Taper is that magical time where your workouts get shorter and you get more recovery workouts. This allows your body to recover from all the stress you’ve put it through all season, and hopefully peak at the correct time. It’s essentially an optimization of rest and hard training. It’s a little weird for me because I’m not sore all the time, but great because I’m also feeling stronger and faster each day.
The only potentially negative aspect of taper is that I now have to keep an even closer watch on my diet. Not that I eat a lot of junk food anyway, but during this time I have to be very careful about portion control because of the decrease in training volume. Hydration has also become extremely important. Since school has started and I’m darting all over campus during the day, it is twice as hard for me to get all the fluids I need. Rebuilding muscle takes a lot of water, and I have to account for that with the changes in my day. Sleep is another vital aspect of the tapering process. Thanks to the frat boys across the street who like to blast loud music, my earplugs/classical music playlists have gotten a lot of use.
So for these last couple of weeks before the race, I’m trying to keep to my routines as much as possible and to not get too stressed out. Stress is not particularly a good thing, especially when you’re tapering. Most of my concern right now if focused on having good training sessions and trying to work ahead on all my schoolwork, since I will be missing a whole week for the race.
You’ll hear from me again soon! Lots to say as the race draws near!
Photos below: Michelle and her dad, Ed Mehnert, in Ludington, Mich., and her official USA triathlon gear.