Don’t Do Too Many Very Long Runs
Bruce does very few long runs during the ultramarathon buildup (one 56- to 70km run, eight 42- to 56-km runs, three 32- to 42-km runs, and six 32-km runs) and has never yet finished his club’s 70-km pre-Comrades training run. He told me that after 5-1/2 hours on his feet he has had enough and just “gets into the nearest car.”
When in Doubt, Rest
My training advice is going to be different from a lot of advice you will be given. This is because I place my emphasis on rest and recovery. I do believe in hard training, but there is only so much hard training that the body can take, and the timing and duration of any hard training phase is very important.
During the hard training phase never be afraid to take a day off. If your legs are feeling unduly stiff and sore, rest; if you are at all sluggish, rest; in fact, if in doubt, rest. (Fordyce, 1981, pp. 4-5)
Do Not Run an All-Out Marathon or Longer Race in the Last 10 to 12 Weeks Before the Ultramarathon
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Another vital lesson that Bruce has taught us is the need to select races very carefully:
If you want to do well on the day that really matters, don’t try to do well on the days that aren’t as important . Enter as many marathons as you like, but treat them as training runsdon’t race! I enter a lot of local marathons as I find them an extremely pleasant way to run a weekend 26-mile training run. I probably only race hard once (over the full marathon distance in the five months) before Comrades. (Fordyce, 1981, p. 5)
As discussed in post 10, it seems that this specialization is necessary because of the muscle damage caused by ultramarathon racing and because of the muscles’ slow recovery. So the runner who races too often and trains too much will be running on muscles that are continually damaged and cannot perform optimally. Thus a hard ultramarathon race in April destroys April’s training, the very month that is the most important for the Comrades.
Bruce and I discussed his slightly poorer run in the 1985 Comrades Marathon. We considered the possibility that his more hectic lifestyle, his many commitments, his increasing age, and the years of heavy training and competition could explain why he performed less well than he had in 1983 on an identical training program and racing buildup (see Exercisess 8.26 and 8.27). Our tentative conclusion was that he should race only one ultramarathon every year and should be more circumspect about any races he enters during his Comrades Marathon buildup.