From the desk of the late Dave Spense – former Two Oceans Marathon Virtual Coach.
In the Two Oceans 56 km ultra marathon programme the long run is the key ingredient. These runs are essential because they allow your body to adapt to the stresses of running the race distance. The actual covering of the distance is not the problem – most runners who can run 10 km in under 60 minutes should be able to walk/run a distance of 50 km – but it is a question of how much stress your body can take.
If you start off with a long run that is only moderately challenging and you gradually increase the time of the run, your body will adapt to running for longer and longer periods, while still being able to recover sufficiently for the next hard work out. The majority of marathon and ultra-marathon programmes measure long runs in distance covered. I prefer to specify the amount of time spent running. The body doesn’t know how far it’s running, but it understands effort for a given time.
The reason I don’t like running a known distance is because it encourages you to race a workout, either against your own standard or someone else. Nothing is more destructive than racing a long run. The pace to run is plus minutes 1 ½ minutes slower than your time trial race. You may check that occasionally. Resist the temptation to go faster. The main value of the long run in the Two Oceans training programme is to train your body to be more efficient at burning fat and sparing glycogen stores.
If you can teach your body to burn fat, rather than deplete glycogen stores to produce energy, you’re less likely to run out of fuel. But the faster you go on your long runs, the less likely it is that your body will learn to burn fat efficiently and the more likely it is that you will hit “the wall” come race day.
While it seems logical that your fast training should translate into fast races, it’s not true. Trust me on this one. Finally, by staying within the suggested pace for your long run, it will allow you adequate recovery for strength and speed sessions on Tuesdays and Thursdays. One other important consideration is to make sure water is available every 15-30 minutes. Also now is the time to experiment with your energy drinks so your body gets used to the product you will use on race day. You’ll need to drink at every aid station on race day to maximise performance.
Dave Spense’s 17 week programme for Two Oceans Ultra Marathon
Onwards to Comrades – the “high milage” season
During the following four weeks many a successful “Comrades” is made or lost. A good April usually means good Comrades. From early May, the training starts to wind down and the mental preparation starts, for the ordeal ahead.
So, for the following four weeks, I suggest that you:
1. Set your peak weekly mileage at a realistic level.
A rule of thumb is ow more than 90 kilometres per week for a bronze or Bill Rowan medal. Should you be looking t a silver medal, then the maximum would be 120 kilometres a week. Novices and “11 hour” runners should be especially aware of doing excessive weekly distances, as this is also the “high injury” season.
2. Concentrate of “L.S.D.”
The emphasis of training for bronze medal hopefuls should be shifted from time trials, “fartlek” sessions, hill repeats and track work to rather running “LSD” – Long Slow Distances. This type of training allows the body to adapt to spending longer and longer periods “on your feet”. Typically a long Sunday club run with plenty of time spent standing around chatting during water stops is most beneficial.