Do Specific Speed Training
Bruce’s speed sessions include hill training (which he hates but believes to be absolutely vital), time trials of 8 to 10 km, cross-country races of up to 12 km, and track intervals. For hill training he runs a 400-m hill in 90 seconds and repeats it 5 to 8 times for the last 4 to 5 weeks before the race. Done any more frequently, this hill training causes fatigue the next day, which Bruce considers to be a bad sign. For the first session he will run six to eight hills at a slow pace; in the last two sessions he will run fewer hills but at a faster pace.
Interval sessions on the track are six 800-m intervals run at 2:15 to 2:00/800 m, four 1-mile intervals run at 4:45 to 4:50/mile, or a combination of intervals from 800 to 1,200 m. Combined with track sessions and time trials, his typical training week during the 6 to 8 weeks of heavy training is as shown in Exercises 8.28.
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In the 8-week period he averages between 11 and 14 hard training sessions on Tuesdays and Thursdays and runs two cross-country races of 12 km. Bruce summarizes his ideas in these words:
Choose quality rather than quantity when training. Train for speed not distance. Speed is the killer . The idea is not to be able to sprint fast, after all most ultramarathons are decided long before the final meters are run, but to be able to raise cruising speed. I know that if I can race 10 kilometers in under 30 minutes, I am going to find 3-1/2 minute kilometers fairly easy. (Fordyce, 1989, p. 32).
He considers that his training is not very different from that of the standard-marathon runners, such as Rob de Castella (see Exercises 8.18), with the exception that Fordyce believes the ultramarathoner needs to run more very long runs than do those who concentrate purely on the standard marathon (Aitken, 1983).
After his fifth Comrades victory in 1985, Bruce went through a period in which his running enthusiasm waned. His answer was to start racing on the track between November and March. His specific track training resulted in his achieving the following personal-best times: 1,500 m, 3:59 (altitude); 1 mile (road), 4:10; 3,000 m, 8:36 (altitude); 5,000 m, 14:28; and 10,000 m, 30:28. The result has been that his “cruising speed’ ’ in the latter stages of the ultramarathon has increased.