Training Plan Into 2013

This is a long post. Yet, is probably as short as I can be when explaining how I am putting together my training.

My aim is to strive for continual improvement. A system that builds upon current fitness and from race to race. There are a lot of elements common between 10km to ultramarathon and I aim to improve my abilities across this wide range. Of course that will require times of specific focus. I'll just always keep in touch with the other abilities required at the different distances.

My race plans at this stage include:

  • Two Bays Trail 28km - January
  • Emergency Services Games - April
  • Surfcoast Century - September

There will be a number of races in between. I just haven't worked out which ones yet.

To give myself an objective guide the basis of my training will be aimed at working towards a sub-2:45 marathon. Even if I don't race a standard marathon next year it should give me the basis I need to then adjust focus for my other events. For a 2:45 marathon the pace is 3:54/km. With that as a hypothetical end point I've put together a list of key runs to work through that should bring me to this goal. This list doesn't cover every single run I perform to get there. Not even every hard run either. While it would be nice to work from one key run to the next one on the list weekly I know that will not always be possible. What this list does is give a clear step by step progression and a good guide as to exactly how far along I am.

One category is 'Long Run'. This starts with purely a duration goal. Exactly how far or fast I don't care too much about, as long as it feels comfortably steady. The duration progresses as 2:00, 2:15, 2:30, 2:45, 3:00. The goal moves to defining the pace and length of run, which will now have a warm up and cool down period surrounding the so-called main set. Initially this will be defined as 5:04/km progressing from 2 to 3 hours. The progression will be repeated for 4:40/km and then looking towards holding 4:17/km for 2-2.5 hours. The long run is probably the most important run. In the forms above it is about developing fatigue resistance and enhancing substrate utilisation and storage. By pushing the pace and distance up in a controlled way and challenging the glycogen stores adaption for better use of lipids and lactate along with optimising the storage of glycogen should take place. While essential, these long runs aren't completely specific for the ultramarathon and marathon racing. Heading into races more specific training should take place.

The next category I have labelled 'Aerobic -> Threshold'. Here I build up what I've termed my Aerobic pace. It is about 80-90% of the marathon race pace (4:40-4:17/km). Renato Canova has called it Fundamental. For me it should provide the basics of aerobic conditioning. Initially the build up is as a key run progressing from 45 to 90 minutes. This build up should provide a relatively safe way to build tolerance to workload and mileage. Once at 90min, runs at similar pacing will creep into the easier days as fitness improves. Plus as the long run pacing comes down to 4:40/km or faster the benefits of the Aerobic runs is now achieved in the long runs along with plenty of other benefits. This is a clear evolution in the training. Once 90min is reached the key session will now shift towards specifically enhancing the anaerobic threshold. Starting with a pace that's about 5% faster than marathon race pace (3:42/km) I'll aim to hit 20, 30 and 40min. It is important that the effort required isn't a completely flat out, searing, lactic acid bath, but is generally around what should be anaerobic threshold. To adapt to these speeds, intervals are very likely to be incorporated. Once 40min at 3:42/km is achieved, the aim is to then improve the pace down to 3:30/km.

Recovery and super-compensation to training is where improvement truly happens. The key sessions provide the stimulus, but it is what happens afterwards that determines how much of the potential benefit we actually get. So I place a very strong focus on this. That doesn't mean no training. There is still a good amount of training that can occur, but it usually has to be easy. So I am comfortable to take 1,2,3 or more days easy to ensure I get the most out of my training. As a result my training will be mapped out, but if it turns out my legs are not properly ready for a hard session, then I'll take the extra time required. Generally I'll get in two key runs out of every 8 days. The remaining 6 days won't always be easy/recovery runs. There is still room for some moderate loading such as technique work, sprints, hill drills or short aerobic runs that don't have much of a recovery requirement. These easy to moderate days will still follow a rough schedule, but will be about adapting to previous training and being ready for the next key run.

Volume is quite important when combined with the other elements of training. As an isolated variable it won't make a huge difference. However consistent good training volume supports the ability to perform and absorb future harder sessions. For me I won't be relying on total weekly or monthly kilometre goals. Instead the volume will take care of itself by progressing the distance of key runs coupled with running at least 7 out of every 8 days and covering as many kilometres as possible without sacrificing quality. To me good volume over extended time (> one month) is a byproduct of getting the rest of training right. When loading is incorrect, either too little and in particular, too much through either intensity or short term excessive volume, then time away from training is forced through illness, injury or the inability to properly complete the key runs.

What else? Speed, power and strength need to be addressed. All the previous sessions generally address the endurance abilities and the key sessions become much more race specific closer to key races. More is still needed. The are many benefits to developing speed and technique. Not just for a final kick at the end of races. Plus the fast twitch fibers need to be properly developed. They are called into action in the closing stages of races, but tend to be under developed with only endurance, threshold and long interval training. The plan here is hills, sprints and drills. The main session is 6-15 sprints of 8-10 seconds up a very steep hill with 3 or even longer recoveries. Each sprint must be maximal with an emphasis on full leg drive and push off. This session will tend to alternate with more of a technique and plyometric session. The latter will consist of some mild bounding and skipping drills uphill followed by a few explosive hill springing repeats with long recoveries. Ending with 4-6 40-60m high cadence run throughs. Early these sessions are tough and I can tend to feel some tightness two days later in the tendons, but if repeated reasonably often tend to not only show no residual recovery requirements, they tend to eleviate the tightness and low grade aches that go hand in hand with the longer distance work.

In the midst of all this I am open to throwing in a random race or any other type of exercise purely for the sake of variety and fun. One last element that I include is a small amount of strength training. A mixture of core and fundamental movement work plus some straight weightlifting. I don't believe it contributes directly to running faster for me after so many years of training. What it does do is keep me strong for other areas of life and help prevent imbalances that occur from focussing so much on running.

What I haven't addressed is exactly how this training becomes race specific. Obviously those details depend on the race itself and exactly how far along I have progressed through the base program so won't be covered in this post.

Hopefully some sense can be made out what I have written. I'm happy to answers questions. Just ask in the comments. To help put all of the above together I have tabled below some sample weeks (8 day periods) of how I see the training progressing.


  • Easy 60min @ 6:00/km
  • Easy 75min @ 6:00/km
  • Aerobic 60min @ 4:30/km + wu/cd
  • Easy 60min @ 6:30/km + Weights
  • Very easy 45min @ 6:30/km or day off
  • Hill Sprints 8x10sec + wu/cd
  • Long 2:30 (comfortable, varied terrain)
  • Easy 60min @ 6:15/km
+ 2 months
  • Easy 60min @ 5:45/km
  • Hill drills, springing, run throughs 30min + wu/cd
  • Threshold 6x1000m @ 3:42/km w/ 1000m @ 5:00/km rec +wu/cd
  • Easy 60min 5:45/km
  • Very easy 60min @ 6:15/km or day off
  • Moderate 60min @ 4:35/km + wu/cd
  • Hill Sprints 10x10sec + wu/cd
  • Long 2:30 @ 5:04/km
+ 4 months

  • Easy 60min @ 5:30/km
  • Easy 75min @ 5:15/km w/ some hill springing
  • Threshold 40min @ 3:42/km + wu/cd
  • Easy 60min @ 5:00/km
  • Day off
  • Hill Sprints 12x10sec + wu/cd
  • Moderate 60min @ 4:25/km + wu/cd
  • Long 2:30 @ 4:40/km + wu/cd


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