Step number one. You must be brutally 100% honest with yourself, before you start out and during the entire process of training too. Self Honesty !
You must understand where you’re at right now, to comprehend with the necessary work to do. When I write out a 4 months training plan, this means that in 4 months you will be able to complete or compete in a 100 miler. However to arrive to that 4 months, you must have a base beforehand. If you were obese and just recently quit smoking, you might first want to buy a bike to create regular joint friendly exercise routine, change your lifestyle habits and plan to run a 100miler 5 years out. If you were a marathon runner with 100mile weeks where 50% of your training is already on trails, possibly 2 to 4 weeks of base training will be enough.
Check out deeply your training hours in the past six months. See what it tells. There are some strict minimums to prepare your body and not send it to shock, neither in training nor in racing. That is around 15hours / week, what can include running, self-care and some correctional strength and conditioning. I am being honest here. If you don’t have freely available 15hours weekly and you won’t either, you’d better prepare for a shorter race. Imagine that you had only 9hours. The obligatory long run and the mid week medium distance long run might take up 7 hours together. So what ? You’ll spare the 2 hours left for 5 days ? That is not how training works. Unless you will go very slowly, but we talk about the good combination of health and max personal potential here.
If you had only 9 hours freely, you’d be better off prepping for a mountain marathon and regular shorter sky running events for instance. You would be more competitive and would be enjoying the efforts way more naturally.
Be honest to determine where you’re at ! If you don’t know, here are some statistical coaching ideas, that can serve as a very good guide.
At the end of the base training, you should be comfortably running half of your distance and half of the elevation gain in a week. If you used Strava, G-Connect, Training Peaks, Golden Cheetah, Suunto, Coros APP, you should see your training load flattening out and entering into a maintenance phase. I say this to understand, that this rule is not about running 10minute a week and squeezing out a big effort on the final week of the base. No ! You base train yourself up to a level, where half the race distance and half the race elevation gain will be kind of ‘easy’ to complete in a week.
This idea will make you understand where you’re at ! Some can already do it easily and enter the training phase, others must refocus their objectives and dedicate 2 months or 3 years to base. I feel like that is actually kind of strict minimum. 2 months. Together with the 4 months of training, that will create a natural 6 months rhythm. You’ll have enough time to develop your long run, your tempo runs, try out gear and nutrition, understand and correct weaknesses, do a tune up race or self supported “race like efforts” and so on.
A 6 months training plan, in addition to the obligatory off-season downtime will let an athlete very successfully race 3x 100 milers in a 2 years period. I think that stays very well in-between the borders of health and high performance.
Planning your race pace
So, you plan out your “A” race overall pace first. This is why you must know yourself and understand – “sort of” – training principles, race dynamics and the equilibrium between effort, pace, elevation gain and so on.
A race what is constantly up and down with 5000m of elevation gain is different, than one with 5000m of gain and loss in the first half of the race, then you’ve got 50 miles on flat rolling terrain. Due to difficulty the overall race times might be the same, except, that the up and down hilly race has a 7:00 min/km average pace overall, while the other race has 50miles @ 9:30/km + 50miles @ 4:30/km. The preparation for the two events will be significantly different !
You must calculate a ton of stuff in. Number of aid stations, heat, cold, wind, obligatory equipement, nutrition, crew, altitude, gear and so on.
If your goal was a sub 24h 100miler, we talked about an 8:56/km pace, what is actually not slow, especially in case of UTMB or Diagonal des Fous, where you would need to be quite a world class runner to achieve this, you should focus on this pace. Especially during your long run and medium long run.
The point here is that in reality, this pace, an 8:56/km pace is dauntingly slow. Anyways, you want to cut some slack for yourself, so your objective will be 8:35/km, giving you 23h of running time with 1h to spare.
Your long runs, your medium long runs, should be both ran in a pace range that stimulates this 8:35/km pace. If you determined your fitness level well for this pace, you’ll understand that running 6:30/km pace for your long runs will do nothing good for you and probably you can do it due to inappropriate terrain choice. It might also feel easy, but as the run progresses in the session and in the training period, you’ll accumulate too much fatigue and it will compromise your training and might halt your preparation. A 7:30 to 8:25/km average pace range will be more useful for you.
This is of course true only if the terrain specificity for your long runs, correspond to the race ! If you had a 10km time of 35min, what is 3:30/km pace, you would be quite fit. If you chose to do a flat long run of 35km, than for sure to run at 7:30 pace would be a pain, when you could run in 4:30/km while staying in low Zone 2.
We talk a lot about your long run as that is the most specific to ultra running.
Determine your race pace to create an optimal long run pace range ! Use always specific terrain for your long run ! Use and test your equipements ! Try mimicking environmental circumstances.
Try detaching from judgement and social media. Do not get “strava-ashamed”. I am not a fast runner, I must say. When I am in great 10k shape, I can do 10 x 400 @ 1:10, that is 2:55/km pace. Yesterday I was out on a long run at 7:33/km pace. It was hot. I chose a cushioned road shoe for trail running. I was wearing a slightly charged back pack. It was a pain in the ass. Nothing felt right. I wanted to do 2000m of elevation gain, I finished off with 1200m. I enjoyed every moment of it. I do not and should not care about what others say. I like strava, more and more as the training load / freshness and fitness / road planning / flyby features are all getting more and more accurate. Nothing to do with social media.DOROGI Levente
I chose the UTMB by Nice 100mile race on the 22th of September. However, in case of anything happens, I have 2 back-up plans, what are not really back-up plans, as anyways at one point I want to do these races. One is the 100 mile Sud de France 7th October and the other is the 140km Ultra trail del Lago d’Orta 14th of October.
I function this way, due to lottery issues, race cancelling, possible health problems. In Europe, we have the privilege, that races do not sell out too fast. If I wanted to modify my objective, I can cancel one event, get a refund and sign up for another one.
Secondly, I love cross country running. I will have around 3 months time afterwards to gain speed and leg freshness with 3-4 off-circuit races. Then the real qualifying races start.