Stage Race Training Plan For a Multi-Day Ultramarathon

Chas Training 4 Comments

Update Feb, 2013: Looks like instead of doing this stage race, I will be doing Seattle’s Quadzilla which is 4 marathons in 4 days. That training plan can be found here.

In 2012, I will have completed 2 Half Ironmans, 2 Marathons, 2 Half marathons, 1 Ultramarathon, 1 Ironman, and one 12k. Now what?

My dear friend Natasha, who is as crazy as her Russian background might make you believe, has suggested that we run a 3-Stage Ultramarathon in Portugal. The Euro Ultra, as it is called, will take place in September of 2013.

This same Natasha also finished second in a marathon in the Swiss Alps. There are two Russian twins who win the Comrades Marathon every year, also. So when Russian-Born Natasha suggests something like this as “Hey, this should be fun” (in her light Russian-accent), she always makes it sound like no big deal.

But here’s the real deal: This three stage race is a marathon (40km) on day one, an ultra-marathon on day two (66km), and a ½ marathon (21km) on day three. Marathon not tough enough for you? Let’s run a marathon, ultra-marathon, and a 1/2-marathon back to back to back (127km in 3 days).

As you might imagine, there aren’t a lot of people who do this, and those that do probably are too crazy to think about “training plans” because they are robots or something anyway, and automatically know what they are doing. Consequently, finding a “training plan” for something dubbed “Beyond the Ultimate [Tough]” isn’t exactly easy to do.

So I’ve decided to develop my own training plan. I also plan to make it available on Trainingpeaks.com if anyone else wants to be dumb enough to use it.

Only time and the race will tell if it will be successful. If it is, I’ll probably charge something for the plan – so if this sounds like something of interest to you, grab it off of trainingpeaks.com while it’s still free but use at your own risk. If it turns you into the beginnings of the zombie apocalypse, it’s not my fault.

In any case, there is no sense in re-inventing the wheel when I can steal the basics from somewhere else. In my search, I found a training plan for running a 100 mile race:

All distances are in miles.

Week Number M Tu W Th F Sa Su Total

2

4

6

4

16

10

40

3

4

6

4

18

10

42

4

4

6

4

20

10

44

5

2

4

6

10

8

30

6

4

8

6

20

12

50

7

4

8

6

22

12

52

8

4

8

6

22

12

52

9

2

4

6

10

8

30

10

4

10

6

25

13

58

11

4

10

6

25

13

58

12

4

10

6

25

13

58

13

4

8

6

10

8

36

14

4

12

6

28

15

65

15

4

12

6

28

15

65

16

4

12

6

28

15

65

17

4

8

6

10

8

36

18

4

15

6

30

15

70

19

4

15

6

30

15

70

20

4

15

6

30

20

75

21

4

8

6

10

8

36

22

4

15

6

30

20

75

23

4

15

6

30

20

75

24

4

10

6

10

10

40

25

4

6

10

20

 

This plan is a great starting point, but I’m a firm believer (and it appears that others who run stage races also feel this way) in time instead of distance. Also, along with Don Fink and his Be Ironfit book, I feel that training should be time and heart rate, with 10% of the training in speedwork. Unlike Don Fink, though, in planning for this race I feel that Crosstraining will be critical to improve core strength. Additionally, hiking and running with a full pack (because, oh ya, this is a self-supported stage-race where you have to bring all your food with you) is critical, and determining what works, where weight can be saved, and what feels “right” is important to a successful finish along with keeping my toenails intact.

So I modified the program to include additional elements I consider important, such as a Strength training day, a Crosstraining day, and Yoga (stretching/core/strength!). Additionally, I made sure the “long” or “tough” runs were 3 days in a row. The key was the 3 day long runs in a row just like the race.

I focused on keeping 2 rest days a week. Although my Ironman training plans are often 6 days a week, recent studies have shown that additional rest is important in improvement and honestly I’m just tired of not having two days off a week from training for something other than swimming, biking or running. Believe it or not I have other interests.

Additionally, keeping the “extra” rest day allows me a little flexibility if needed, although I strongly believe that there should be a rest day before and after the long 3-day runs.

So my plan pulls from three influences (since the #3 is so prominent in this whole thing). P90x and “muscle confusion”, Don Fink and HR/time, and the 10% rule (don’t increase anything by more than 10%).

For those that are convinced that mileage is everything, here is my intermediate stepped plan, based on mileage. It was from here that I converted everything to time, based on my average planned speed during the race (5mph).

 

Week Number M Tu W Th F Sa Su Total
 

1

4

Xt

8

14

6

32

2

St

4

10

16

6

36

3

6

Xt

10

18T

6

40

4

4

5+St

10

20

6

45

5

2

Xt

8

10

4

24

6

4+Xt

8

12

20

8

52

7

4+St

8

12

22T

10

56

8

4+Xt

8

12T

22

8

54

9

2+Xt

4+St

8

10

4

28

10

4H

10+St

13

25

10

62

11

4I+St

10

13

25T

12

64

12

4H/I

10

10T

26.2M

13(H)

63.2

13

2+St

6+Xt

8

10

8

34

14

4H

9+St

15

28

12

68

15

4I+St

10

17T

28T

10T

69

16

4H+Xt

10

19

28

11

72

17

4

8

8

10

8

38

18

4H+St

8

20T

30

13

74

19

4I

8+St

22

50km

HalfM

79

20

4+St

8+Xt

20T

35

13T

68

21

4+Xt

8

8

10

8

38

22

4

8

22T

32T

12T

78

23

St

15

20

30

12

76

24

4+St

10+Xt

13

10T

8

45

25

4

St

6

10

20

26

6

40km

66km

21km

137km

Key: St = 1 hour of Strength Training, Xt = 1 Hour of Crosstraining, T=Trail Run (With Pack!)

So how does that work for time? Well, doing the math @ 12 minute miles, the peak time is at less than that for an Ironman, at only 16 hours in the week of running, plus 2 hours of Xt/Strength, giving a total of 18 hours. Many Ironman plans are at 20 hours during the peak, so this doesn’t sound too unreasonable. In the table below, all runs are in HR Z2 (65-84% of Vo2Max) unless stated otherwise. Once I converted distance to time, I then cleaned up the time to be easier to plan (there isn’t much difference in running 96 minutes versus 95 minutes). Xtraining, Yoga, and St workouts are 1hour each, and I looked for a goal of maxing at about 80-90% of actual race times. I kept the 4th week as a recovery week.

Before beginning this plan, I would recommend anyone attempting this complete at least Hal Higon’s Novice Marathon plan, or if not that at least an Intermediate ½ Marathon plan.

 WARNING: I AM NOT AN EXPERT. USE AT YOUR OWN RISK

Week Number M Tu W Th F Sa Su Total
 

1

45

Yoga

1h30

2h45

1h15

6h15

2

St

45

2h

3h15

1h15T

6h15

3

1h15

Yoga

2h

3h30

1h15

8h

4

45

1h+St

2h

4h

1h15T

10h

5

30

Yoga

1h15

2h

45

4h30

6

45+Xt

1h15

2h30

4h

1h15T

10h45m

7

45+St

1h15

2h30

4h30T

2h

12h

8

45+Yoga

1h15

2h30

4h15

1h15T

11h

9

30+Yoga

45+St

1h30

2h

45

7h15

10

45H

2h+St

2h45

5h

2hT

13h15

11

45I+Yoga

2h

2h45

5hT

2h15

13h30

12

45H/I+Yoga

2h

2hT

26.2M-5h

13(H)-2h30

12h15

13

30+Yoga

1h15+Xt

1h30

2hT

1h15

8h30

14

45H

1h30+St

3h

5h15

1h30T

13h45

15

45I+St

2h

3h15T

5h30T

2hT

14h30

16

45H+Yoga

2h

3h45

5h30

2h15T

15h15

17

45+Yoga

1h30

1h15

2h

1h15

7h45

18

45H+S

1h30

4h

6hT

2h30

15h45

19

45I

1h30+St

4h15

50km-7hT

HalfM-2h30

17h

20

45+Yoga

1hr30+Xt

4hT

8hT

2h45T

18h

21

45+Yoga

1h30

1h15

2hT

1h15

8h15

22

45+Yoga

1h30+St

4h15T

7hT

2h15T

16h45

23

Yoga

3h

4h

6hT

2h15

15h15

24

45+St

2h+Xt

2h45

2hT

1h15

9h45

25

45+Yoga

St

1h15

2h

6h

26

Yoga

1h15

40km

66km

21km

137km

Key: H=Hill Repeats, I=Interval (HR Z4), T=Trail Run (With Pack!), St=1hr Strength Training, Xt=1 hour Crosstraining

This is just the basics. On top of this, those “T” runs should be run with full pack, at a minimum, and should include camping out between Sat/Sun runs to get used to sleeping on the ground and packing your food. I tried to keep the trail runs limited to just Sat/Sun, but there are a few weeks with trail runs on all three days – to simulate more accurately the race. However, if trails are too far away or Friday’s aren’t good for trails, that’s okay, too. There are a lot of things to consider in this plan, and this is just the start!

For those of you with M-F, 8-5 jobs, the Friday runs could be split into two runs – One in the morning, one in the evening, as long as the total time equals the plan. Remember, this plan is based on the “The Euro Ultra” and may not be appropriate for 5-stage races. However, it could probably be modified to more closely match the distances in any stage race. I do believe in “train as you will race, race as you trained”  to be a good philosophy, if for no other reason than confidence building, but I don’t think the training needs to go above 80% of race distance/time as a general rule.

WARNING: USE AT YOUR OWN RISK. I AM NOT AN EXPERT.

 

Comments 4

  1. Hi Chris,

    Having run the Tahoe Triple (3 marathons in 3 days) twice, as well as several 100’s, one thing that really helped me was three successive long days, essentially building up to 26-26-26. The decreased recovery time is really important to train, and will help if you want to move into ultras in the future.

    Hope that helps, and have a great race!

    Best,

    Claire Dorotik
    Run With It Racing
    http://www.runwithitracing.com

    1. Post
      Author

      Hi Claire! Thanks for your insight! It’s always appreciated from those who have tread before on the long roads… There isn’t much out there I don’t think, since there are so few who do them… But that’s changing!

    2. Hi Claire,
      I’m considering the Tahoe Triple. Do you have any resources for helping train? I find very little on the net. I’ve run marathons and half marathons and rollerbladed marathons But of course back-to-back is a challenge (as are the hills and elevation of Tahoe). If you can point me to a good training resource, that would be much appreciated!

  2. Pingback: Stage Race Training Plan (Quadzilla) - captainchas

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