Get back to training after an ultramarathon race

I recently had a déja vu, when Kilian Jornet said during the Floris Gierman Extramilest podcast, that actually your preparation to a race is, what determines the necessary recovery type and period needed afterwards the race. That is what I have been saying to all my coaching clients, since the beginning of my coaching. When day ask me, how come this and this person, can get back to training so fast after a race and race well again in a short period of time, I have one single answer to this. For people who are not really into physiology, coaching, nutrition, lifestyle and most importantly periodization, the first answer is often, surely they are genetic freaks, surely they are doping or cheating. What they don’t do, is they don’t look at their 450 hours of training a year, while those others have been training 1500h+ for more than a decade. Some might say it is a lot, but it is only 4h and 6min a day, what is for a cyclist especially, happens in a blink of an eye. If we counted extracurricular training, that total can be even more. Then there is the current preceding training. The volume of it and the specificity of it and the percentage of specificity of that volume and the % and quality of race specific intensity.

For instance an athlete preparing for a 50km race, running all of his training on technical trails, just like the race, doing his repeats and high intensity sets on the ups / flats and downs will be very much race ready for his event and will be recovering also brutally fast. However, to arrive to this level, you need years and years of training, so the answer is not to copy this idea. You add little steps to each training block and each training year, so every time you prepare for an event, you’ll be able to put in more and more specific work. Look at Remi Bonnet and the quantity of training and intensity he does uphill and the angle of that slope too !

So simply, step one of the great recovery, is a great training plan. At the beginning, when somebody is starting out, flat volume should be pushed and aerobic development should be forced. Then a race should be correctly chosen, so the athlete’s current physiology could be handling the specific future training and the racing too. For instance an athlete who can complete 100km weeks of flat/rolling base training, could be choosing a 10mile race, with 400m of elevation gain, to make his training work for his strengths. This will ensure proper specific preparation and perfect race execution. Guess what, if he chose a marathon distance, no matter that he would be successful or not, his recovery after the 10 mile race would be only 3 days, before getting back the training. However after the trail marathon, this would be at least 3 weeks. When looking at the year, running 3 trail marathons would mean, practically 9 weeks of recovery out of 52 ! Because of muscle damage and other physiological fatigue factors, he must be retraining his aerobic system, rebuild his muscles and restart building his total volume from very low. This would mean too big and too deep waves in the periodization with a very slight degree in the development. On the other hand in case of the 10 mile race, this athlete could be back in total base training mode, simply the week after the race, adding already more mileage to his base volume. Shortly he would be running 120km weeks and after a while, if followed a great schedule like this, he would arrive to real marathon fitness, with less compromising after effects.

Then second déja vu was during an interview with Zack Bitter. He said: for me it doesn’t worth to become aerobically unfit at any part of the year. I move around 90 to 95% fitness all the time.
When you are aerobically that fit, actually your low heart rate, low intensity fitness, is already like way faster, than the sharp end of anybody. What you do is simply do sharpening training for 4 to 10 weeks before an event. I say event as he is not running anymore against guys, but against time and records.
His words simply mean, that yes, he is not taking like a month totally off after a 100mile race. He recovers. Gets rid of inflammation and gets back to aerobic development.

We talked about nutritional strategies in the previous article. Periodization and preparation in this one. We will discuss the real type of training ideas in the next one. See ya !

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