Modern Training and Racing Methods for the Long Ultramarathons
The fact that Don Ritchie, whose training methods are not dissimilar to those of Bruce Fordyce, has achieved success in races of up to 200 km suggests that these methods would likely be optimum for races lasting up to 24 hours. Whether that approach is also optimum for distances up to 1,000 km or more is not known largely because few of the athletes competing at those distances have yet recorded how they train. One who has is Dave Cooper (1986), who has completed fifteen 24-hour races and is recognized as one of the world’s most consistent performers in that event.
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Cooper suggests that the preparation for a long ultramarathon should take about 16 weeks; the athlete increases training distance successively every second week from a base of 96 km/week to 112, 132, 148, and finally 160 km after 8 weeks. The athlete then runs 160 km/week for 6 weeks before tapering for the last 2 weeks before the competition. Cooper feels it is not necessary to train more than 160 km/week for these races, which suggests that the Fordyce/Ritchie approach for the short ultramarathon races is also appropriate for the long ultramarathons.
The racing strategy Cooper follows is the following:
Break the 24-hour race into three 8-hour periods and plan to run hardest in the last 8 hours. Break the 8-hour periods into hourly segments and walk for 100 to 200 m every 20 minutes. Drink and eat during these walking breaks. After 2 hours, start taking some solid food. (Cooper’s favorite foods are chocolate bars, biscuits, sausage rolls, pork pies, and bananas, eaten frequently in small amounts.)
During a 48-hour race, eat a large meal after every 8-hour stretch, then sleep for about an hour.
During a 6-day race, run for the first 16 hours with the usual 20-minute walking breaks; then eat a large meal and sleep for about 2 hours. Break every day at noon and midnight for a short break and a light meal; break at 4:00 p.m. and 4:00 a.m. for a larger meal and a 2-hour sleep.
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