My Journey back to UTMB — Building a training plan
This is the second blog post on my journey back to the UTMB. Each month I’ll be focusing on a specific aspect of how I’m preparing, as well as a look back at the previous months training. You can read the first blog here
This month I’m going to be focusing on how I’m planning to train for the race throughout the next 8 months. I’ll describe my ideas around training and what I’ll be using to try to gauge whether I’m on track. But first
Previous Month recap (Jan 2020)
I came into January having been a bit lax in my training for several months. A combination of lack of focus, work and just winter had left me under training and overeating. So I decided to just get some regular running under my belt, build some consistency, and perhaps drop a little weight.*
My basic plan for January was
- Run everyday
- Minimum 5km
- Run further when I wanted to
- Run mostly slow but fast if I wanted to
Here’s how it went (elevation on the left, distance on the right)
I ran every day for a total of 241.5mn (150 miles) with a total elevation of 4195m
Building a training plan
Now there are lots of training plans out there for 5km, 10km and marathons. What there are very few of are training plans for ultra trail marathons with serious elevation. So I need to create one.
The fundamentals of the plan will be following a pyramidal training intensity distribution — (you can read why this is a good idea here) with a good mix of terrain and elevation specific focus.
There are three main wide groupings of training intensity for endurance running.
- VO2 Max
My training plan needs to include phases which focus on each of these intensity levels. So what is a pyramidal training intensity distribution? In simple terms this means doing the most amount of Endurance training, some of tempo and a little bit of VO2Max. I’ll also be do the intensity level least like my race (VO2Max), furthest away from the race.
What does a VO2Max run look like?
The best VO2Max runs I’ve ever done are max effort intervals with short rests. In practice this looks like 2 mins as fast as you can go (and maintain to the end) with 2 min easy jog. Then repeat this 4 or 5 times. Bolt on a 15 min warm up and 15 min cool down jog. You don’t need to do much VO2Max to make a big difference.
What does a Tempo run look like?
A tempo run looks something like a fast 10k. Not full out racing, but quick. Or it can look like 10 min fast effort, 5 min jog, repeat for 45–50 mins.
What does an endurance run look like?
Long and slow. The distance of these will vary, and will build over the next 8 months. Something like 15 miles up to 25 miles. Occasionally more, but not often.
Picking A (and B & C) races.
It’s important with any training plan to schedule in when the main focus of my year is….my A race, and work backwards. This allows me to build in the right phases. I also need to take account of any other races or events I plan to do….my B and C races. My schedule looks like this.
- A race — UTMB — End of August
- B race — Bob Graham Round — June
- C Race — Lakes Mountain 42 — April
Now for those that know about trail running you may be thinking, why on earth is he putting a bob round as a B race. And you would be right. At last count, more people have climbed everest than have ran a bob (2610). Well, I’m going to do it, and aim for sub 24 hours, but I’m not going to lay it all on the line. If I make it sub 24 it will be amazing, but I will be finishing.
Building “mountain fitness” is super important for me. I need to be able to go up and down big mountains for 100 miles. So I need to build strength in both the climbs and the descents. One way I’ll be doing this is to include lots of elevation in my running. For my A race I will be gaining 67m per km (or roughly 350 feet per mile) so I need to be mindful of getting that type of elevation into my training over a consistent period.
How will I measure progress?
Ok, so I’ve got the basic elements of my plan, but how will I know I making progress? And how will I know I not over stretching?
I’ll be using my garmin watch on runs to track metrics such as distance, elevation, training stress and pace. My Garmin also gives an estimation of my VO2max, which although isn’t anywhere near perfect, is (i think!) relative to me. I’ll also be going off feel for some of it….do I feel stronger?
I’ll also be tracking things like my ‘fitness’ levels in strava and training peaks to see if they improve (they will) and also be tracking my weight. This isn’t about weight loss for me, but it is about physics. I have a lot of hills to go up and down, more weight means more energy and more stress on the body. My ideal running weight is somewhere around 75kg.
Trying to make it automatic and reactive — making an app
I’m attempting to use my brain now, to give myself a rest when training gets really hard. Using my Garmin to measure my runs, I’ve built an Airtable base with an API to pull through all my stats for each run automatically. Within the base I also have training activities for each of the intensities and an integration with my calendar. This means, Airtable will send me a training activity for the following day to my Gmail calendar (which is on my phone). This will detail what run I need to do the next day, or in the case of a rest day, a rest day.
But I also want my training plan to be reactive. There are times when I may just cut loose, train harder than I should on a particular run because I’m on an awesome fucking ridge and I can’t help myself. I know this will happen. So I want my airtable base to adjust. This is where I will be using some training stress measures to attempt to either move a run automatically or suggest a lighter run. I’ve no doubt this will take some tweaking, but who better as a tester for a product than yourself!
I’m excited to try the basic app out now and get into some structured training. First up is VO2max training for the next 5 weeks.