Building an Ultra-Strong Base - Page 2
Phase 2: King of the Hills
The second phase entails building strength with a four- to six-week cycle that includes hill running. Hill training improves lactate tolerance, leg strength, increases your stride length and frequency on the flats, drives your VO2 max sky high, further improves your running economy and—perhaps most important for trail runners—gives you confidence when you are facing a daunting uphill slog in the middle of a race.
"Hill training is a very important component of ultra training and becomes exponentially more important the hillier your target race course is," says Morrison. "When I'm in peak training mode, I'll run two ascents up a four-mile climb at threshold heart rate. However, I find as much benefit to running the four-mile descent hard too; these long descents really build your quad strength."
"Hill repeats allow me to get in quality fitness work without the pounding on the flats or downhills," says Lint. "I do everything from short, one- to five-minute hill repeats on a gradual grade to four-mile repeats with lots of elevation gain. These workouts also help me stay injury free."
Eleven-year-ultra and road-racing veteran, Howard Nippert, of Blacksburg, Virginia, winter of the 2005 JFK 50-Miler, in 5:51:42, and the Rattlesnake 50K in 1998, plans his hill to suit upcoming races. Says Nippert, "I try to set up runs similar to the terrain and profile I'll race on, or even exaggerate them, that is, climb and descend more than necessary."
Go Long or Go Home
Your weekly schedule should include at least one long run of 1.5 to 2.5 hours or longer. This is your conditioning bedrock. You'll also need one medium-distance run of 1.2 to 1.5 hours; and three or four shorter recovery runs or cross-training workouts of 30 to 45 minutes each. Every third or fourth week, cut back your running by 30 to 40 percent for a recovery week.
Nippert's long run will be up to five hours during his conditioning/base-building phase, backed up by a medium-long run or an interval/tempo/stamina workout. He'll run seven days per week, often twice daily. He chooses two or three key races throughout the year and, "depending on when they may be located through the year, I may be in a training phase at any time. If it's 10 to 15 weeks before a race, I am in a conditioning phase."
Some runners adapt to two or three long runs each week, while others struggle to do just one. Lint clearly belongs in the former category, running up to four long runs per week and it's not unusual for him to do a 50-miler for his long run. On the other hand, Morrison averages 50 to 60 miles a week during his winter conditioning, including a long run of 14 to 16 miles. Both Morrison and Lint hit the trails twice a week throughout the winter.