Hitting 100 Again

home made marthon splits
One of the best part of training: the views!
(Parka Mesa Overlook, photo by Dom)

Two week-ends ago, while running up the slope of Winter Creek, Dom and I were chatting about one of our favorite running topic: Training. Of course, high mileage training was one of the subject we discussed, and I though I might share my very recent experience of progressively (smartly?) building a high mileage training program.

I developed a knee injury after Chimera 100M later last year, and I had to quit running for 5 weeks. I knew that coming back to running would imply some changes in my training habits and that I could not go right away into the mileage range I was used to before. So I went to the drawing board and designed a progressive training plan with some important principles.

#1 – The 10% rule

It might sound obvious, but you cannot just jump right away into a high mileage weekly regime. A lot of injuries develop because of too much stress put too soon on your body. The rule of thumb is to not increase your mileage more than 10% from a week to the next. You might want to adjust to what you feel is better for you, some of you won’t tolerate more than a 2-4% increase. Listen to your body and do not rush!

#2 – Mix the strategies to increase your mileage

Increasing your mileage can be done by two principal mechanisms:

  • running longer
  • running more often

Note that for the same distance ran, you’ll probably recover faster if you do a double day (2 shorter runs), compared to running the same distance in just one shot. Of course you can combine/mix the two strategies for the different phases of your training plan.

#3 – Avoid the technical stuffs at the beginning

This might be hard to accept for all the hardcore mountain runners out there, but running some roads is OK, especially if you’re coming back from injury. Running technical terrain is more demanding on your joints/muscles, so be patient at the beginning and just enjoy the act of running (without your favorite mountainous scenery). Once you feel that your body is used to run consistently again, incorporate progressively some technical running and elevation in your routine.

#4 – Do not forget speedwork

This is probably one of the most overlooked component of ultrarunning training, but speed is also important, so wake up the racehorse that lives in you and throw down some good speedworks into your training plan.

#5 – Recovery is an important component of the training

Running hard all the time is not easy (and not recommended). Know when to step back and run easy or you’ll pay a high price tag later.

Personnal example

As an example of the different points discussed above, below is a detailed log of how I have structured my training program since my knee injury.

DISCLAIMER: I do not say that you should do what I describe below, this is just what
worked for me. The goal was to be back in a 'good enough shape' to be able to run
a 100km race 13 weeks later (Gorge Waterfalls 100k).
Use this information at your own risk!

home made marthon splits
Blue: weekly mileage (exact mileage in Black); White: longest weekly run; Green: step-back week

  • Phase 1: Building an endurance base:

My 4 first weeks were basically a lot of easy/slow running on easy terrain (= a lot of flat roads). I was mostly increasing my mileage by running longer, especially during my back to back week-ends runs. In addition, I made sure to have at least 1 day of total rest (= zero running) per week. My back-to-back long runs were increased from a 12/15.6mi to a 20.5/22.1mi duo (note that I took 2 days off during the week leading to the 20.5/22.1mi runs). From this training cycle, I (re)developped a good endurance base to work with.

home made marthon splits

  • Phase 2: Running more, more often and stepping back:

After this first phase of training, the next 2 weeks consisted of running a little bit longer during my monday-friday runs, so I could still increase my weekly mileage without having to go crazy during the week-ends (my combined week-end mileage was actually smaller during those 2 weeks than at the end of the first cycle of training). The idea was to get my body used to run more often for longer. I also started to incorporate some structured speed work (interval training) at least once a week as well as some more climbing and technical terrain.

After that I did an easy step-back week, with almost no elevation gain.

home made marthon splits

  • Phase 3: Going big during the week-ends again:

The third phase of my training program was just a combination of everything I had done before:

— more running days (in fact just 1 day off during this 4 weeks bloc)

— longer monday-friday runs

— speed work and tempo run at least once a week

— bigger and bigger week end runs

Because I barely took any day off running during this training cycle, my recovery was achieved by balancing off the hard runs with some slow/easy recovery runs. I also did double runs days more often.

home made marthon splits

We are now 2 weeks away from Gorge Waterfalls 100km, and I am pretty happy with how I structured my coming back to running, slowly but surely ramping up my weekly mileage to finally run two >100mi weeks. We’ll see how it goes ;)

The details of all the runs can be found on my Strava profile.