To be a successful ultra runner you need to put in a lot of vertical, a lot of miles, and a lot of speed work, right? Well, kind of, but the answer is more complicated than a simple yes. Over the past few weeks, we’ve seen a couple articles mentions that ultra runners have three good years before things fall apart and their body has had enough. Honestly, that can be true if someone isn’t training or racing intelligently, but otherwise it’s something that can easily be avoided. There are a lot of runners that have already proved that they can make it at a very high level in ultra running for longer than three years.
The main reason why we’ve seen some ultra runners speed slip from them is because they tried to get in all the vertical, miles, and speed that they could all at once and may have tried to race too long and too frequently. Yes, there are a handful of superhuman runners that seem to get away with this, but most of us can’t and that’s okay. By understanding our limits in training, we can reach or even go past our perceived limits in racing.
So what’s the key to training for a successful ultra (especially one with a lot of vertical) and staying healthy in the long term?
Don’t do too much of everything all at once!
Maybe you’re training for the Speedgoat 50k or Grindstone 100, both races with a lot of vertical. To get ready, you’re trying to do some weeks with a lot of vertical. Well, maybe for those weeks you put in one key speed workout since your body will already be working hard from all the climbing. (Also, let’s face it, you can’t count running up a mountain as a recovery run.) Still, maybe you do really want to get in some quality hill repeats and other speedwork as well. Then you could have weeks where you focus a little bit more on quality and put in less vertical and/or total miles. To sum it up, it can be beneficial to have weeks where your focus is changed so you don’t become exhausted and overtrained from trying to do everything at once. Don’t forget to take proper time off after racing (i.e. several weeks or even a month!) and to have time in the year where you cut back your training and mainly run easy miles. Most importantly, listen to your body. Your body will always let you know if you’re doing too much, but you have to be willing to listen.
We hope to see you racing strong for years to come!
Train Smart, Run Faster,
Coach Sandi & Sage