I am sure many triathletes (and other endurance athletes) can attest to how stressful tapering for a big event seems to be. I am not sure if it the changes in daily training where the body and mind are used to a greater load that induce the irritation, anxiety and sometimes nausiousnous. The big event itself can’t be to blame for the stress that invades my body in the weeks prior, as I have raced in more than a hundred and fifty events over the last 15 years. The stress of training changes, excess energy from said reduction in training, travel and logistics issues that pop up all seem to be the primary cause, but often there are others such as equipment dramas that unfold at the most unfortunate time, or even a head cold that arrives just a few days before the race.
How to minimise this stress? The first thing to do, is to ensure all equipment is in top order long before the taper period begins, as that is one area that can induce more than stress (think heart attack). What else can a type ‘A’ do to keep the mind and body from going into overdrive? For me, music is very helpful, and not super calm or relaxed music, but just great tunes that bring about other thoughts and emotions outside of the race and all its demands. I also try to simplify the days prior to a race so that there aren’t melt downs when one think goes awry and impacts several other things. Taper is not really the time to pack the schedule with non training or racing related things (even though there seems to all that extra time). I try to add only things that are fairly simple and not too time consuming or demanding (a bit of DIY or work around the flat, or more time catching up with friends, etc.).
For IM St. George, my taper was going fine with no bike issues, travel complexities (the volcano situation was quite tenuous for several days...) or other major problems sprouting. The one thing that got me this time, was a head cold that hit me 8 days before the race, and proceeded to stick around right up to and through the race. I spent those 8 days intensely speculating how I managed to get infected and could almost pinpoint the moments.
How insane is that kind of obsession??...oh the joys of tapering