One of the questions that we get asked a lot is
‘What should my longest run be in the build up to race day?’
We figured now is a good time to answer that question.
Unlike training for a half-marathon or marathon, athletes need not gradually extend their Weekly Long Run (WLR) until it reaches a peak distance, something within sight of the ultra distance event itself.
We encourage weekly long runs, they’ve VERY important, but they won’t actually be the longest runs you do.
Your WLR should be the longest run you can comfortably recover from and return to regular daily training within the next 48hrs.
For most of our athletes, 2-2.5hrs is fine for a WLR.
Now let’s draw a line between this Weekly Long Run and introduce the concept of the ‘Super Sunday’.
The ‘Super Sunday’ is the big conditioning exercise that we do only once every 6-8 weeks and obviously replaces the WLR on those weeks.
The Super Sunday is a planned ‘adventure’ where you get to test out your fueling, gear, fitness, and mindset. These are ones that we put in our ‘running CV’ to remind us of what we are capable of when those little voices startup close to race day.
Really the question you should be asking is “what should my Super Sundays look like?”
The Super Sunday is longer than your WLR but the upper limit on time/distance is relative to you, your fitness and your target event.
Athletes taking on the Tarawera21 are likely newer to trail running coming from a road running background. Your Super Sunday should help prepare you for some trail time. Try out some trail shoes (Hoka Zinal), ensure you know about your mandatory gear requirements (thermals and a jacket) and test out a long trail run carrying them all in a good running pack.
If you’re new to the distance, a walk/run ‘Super Sunday’ of 15km would be a good target but keep it within 1.5x of you WLR. A reminder that trail runnings dirty little secret is it’s okay to walk (sshhh don’t tell anyone).
The popular distance for the endurance athletes that haven’t yet lost their marbles.
This is the distance we know well and perhaps the one that looks most like a marathon in terms of training. The Super Sundays should be along the lines of 50-70% race distance. Best if you can replicate Tarawera terrain which is easy enough for those with access to a decent block of commercial forest like Riverhead.
We’re getting into the real meat-and-three-veg of ultra distance now. The 100km classic from Kawerau to Rotorua is a real mix of fast runnable surfaces, twisty single track, grunty climbs and endless rollers to the Lake Domain.
We need to be careful about how far that Super Sunday gets now and there is a real risk of putting in too much stress too close to race day so importantly make your last SS no later than the first week of January.
40-60% race distance or time, whichever comes first.
The SS is getting pretty long now so fuel is essential and it’s big enough that perhaps it’s worth travelling to get some time on course. Things like out-and-back on Western Okataina walkway or perhaps a drop-off at Tarawera falls and a run back to Okareka, Tikitapu or possibly even further…
Quite the departure from the previous distances we’re not just dialing up distance and time now. The Super Sunday needs to carefully consider the modalities of the miler. More walking means hiking becomes a useful training tool and no longer do we look to ‘cookie cutter’ a % of distance and time. A good Super Sunday might actually be a weekend hike over two days with a full pack. Poles feature here and your proficiency of use refined by hours spent on the trails tapping away. Miler athletes aren’t building a long run Super Sunday as much as they are conditioning their body to a serious prolonged stress so ‘time on feet’ is king.
Of all the programmes, this one looks the LEAST like the standard marathon plan and the weekend conditioning exercise are easily the most important intervention. Dial the frequency of Super Sundays right up to once a month and include a variety of ‘race-like’ considerations.
For our SQUADRUN athletes ensure they have at least one “run the night away” Super Sunday which see’s a run start at midnight and end at dawn.
Think about what the miler might mean for you and break it down to 6-8hr conditioning sessions and plan them out now.