How can my body endure such high mileage without injury?

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This post is for Rachel, Rachel asked how can my body endure such high mileage without injury? High mileage is relative, I think my mileage lies somewhere in the middle compared to others ultra-runners.

Let me first outline my training that I have used the last couple years.

My principal race the last four years has been in June and consisted of a mildly hilly 50 Mile (80 km) or 100 km race (or both). I also try to run a fast marathon at the end of August.

I have a base building period, usually from January to March where I build from around 35 miles a week (4 runs/week) to 65-70 miles (5 runs/week). During this time I usually use sandwich training, whereas I run X miles on Saturday and X-minus-3 miles on Sunday - these runs are "sandwiched" between two rest days on Friday and Monday. This year I have also added two swim nights, usually Tuesday and Thursday.

From April to the end of May I run at least on hilly long run a week and start cycling.

In June I taper, race, and recover. This year I will be doing more swimming and cycling in preparation for my first sprint tri on July 11.

During July and August I run an average of about 45-50 miles a week (including one long hill run) and try to bike as often as I can, usually 3-4 times a week. This seems to work in preparing me for a fast marathon.

In September I start cutting back on the mileage. From October to mid-November I rest, reducing mileage to 15-30 miles a week. Mid-November to December I gradually build up for January's training.

So back to your question, here is a list of thoughts I have on why I can endure such high mileage:

  • I follow the 10% rule, I try not to increase my total mileage or long run by more than 10% a week.
  • I run my long run distance for two weeks before increasing it, for example 16 miles for two weeks, then 18 miles. I think this allows the body to adapt more easily to the increased mileage.
  • I don't do any speed training while training for my June ultra race(s).
  • I vary my pace based on how I feel on a given day. Since I am training for a 100K race where my average pace is 11:25/mile, even a 9:30/mile pace is speed training ;-)
  • I warm-up with military style callisthenics (jumping jacks, push-ups, sit-ups, etc.) before a run and stretch afterward. I also run the first mile at a warm-up pace.
  • For long runs beyond two hours I eat and drink like I would during a marathon.
  • I watch my diet, take a daily vitamin, use calcium/magnesium tablets (reduce cramps) and try to get adequate sleep (hard to do).
  • I vary my running surface as often as possible: trail, asphalt, hills, gravel/dirt.
  • I don't race every race, last year I ran 7 marathons and 3 ultras last year, but only 3 at a competitive pace.
  • I make sure that I have one rest day a week where I really rest.

The most important consideration for me is the PACE. Speed training is really hard on my 50 year old legs, since I have replaced speed training with hill training I have no trouble maintaining high mileage, and my race times have improved significantly.

Will this work for you? If you speed train and have significant injuries you might want to try cutting the speed training back and start running hills. It has been my experience that running a long run at a reduced pace (1-2 min./mile) on a demanding hilly trail is at least as good as running a flat long run at marathon pace - and I recovery more quickly.

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This page contains a single entry by Jack published on February 3, 2010 8:53 AM.

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