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ultra training

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ultra training

Post  John Kilpatrick on Mon Nov 07, 2011 2:40 pm

Talked to a local athlete (Josh Fix) this weekend that will be running the Hardrock 100 this year. They are letting him in without any 100 experience (they normally require it) because of his time at the North Face Endurance Challenge, a 50 mile race in Georgia. His longest race previous to this was a half marathon that he did in 1:21.

He finished only 15 minutes behind Hal Koerner, who has taken 3rd at the JFK 50,
won the Western States 100, and twice taken 2nd at the Leadville 100.

I was totally stunned talking with him - I asked him about his training (he is one of the nicest people you could ever meet and he was in Panama City supporting his wife who was competing in the Florida Ironman this weekend) and his answers were surprising and throw a monkey wrench into traditional thinking. He had never run an ultra prior to this and has never even ran a marathon. His longest training run that he has ever done is 20 miles. He lives in the same city that I do, which is extremely flat. His longest week of running was about 40 miles, but normally ranged between 20-30 mpw in training for his 50-miler.

He is a ... wait for it.... cyclist. That's basically it - and that is his "secret". He is obviously a very talented athlete and runner and a great cyclist, but his training was mostly all from cycling. He is a regular guy with a wife and kid, is a high school math teacher and teaches an online math class for a local college, but trains early and late, hitting it hard in the summers. We don't even have many hills around us, but he finds the few small ones that we have and did a lot of running repeats up and back down them (you would be hard pressed to find a gentle hill longer than 1/2 mile near us).

Another shocker to me is that his long run pace was usually in the 7:30-8:00 pace, very slow by McMillans standard for what he could run a 5K,etc. in.

I couldn't be happier for him and it is easy to root for one of the good guys. It is crazy how some people just have "it". We know he could be a Kona triathlete if he wanted to, but he hates swimming and wants no part of it. Anyway, it was interesting that primarily cycling training can translate to great running given the right person. Just amazing and way to go Josh!!!!!

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Re: ultra training

Post  T Miller on Tue Nov 08, 2011 7:46 am

Very interesting John, thanks for sharing.

One of my training buddies explains the cycling miles as equivalent to something like 1/3 the running miles. So for example if the guy is riding 100 miles a week and running 40 miles a week then that would be somewhat equivalent to 100/3 - 33 + 40 = 73 miles running. From my personal experience, I tend to believe it and it seems to be pretty accurate.
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Re: ultra training

Post  John Kilpatrick on Tue Nov 08, 2011 9:06 am

I've heard the same thing about cycling too. What amazes me is that someone can do basically minimal training for even a marathon, never run long distances, has very little racing experience (only one ever half marathon) never do any real trail running, never do any hill work, and do very few long runs and then go to a hilly 50 mile ultra and hang with one of the best ultra runners in the nation that has years of experience, taking second place by just minutes. Make no mistake, though, he is an awesome cyclist that works extremely hard at it...

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Re: ultra training

Post  fostever on Tue Nov 08, 2011 9:14 am

Many people overtrain and are even coached to overtrain, especially first time marathoners. The thinking can be, "gee I need to get my body used to punishment in training" and are spent by the time they reach the starting line. Then again some people thrive on massive training. We all need to find the sweet spot that works for us. Cross training can be great added aerobic conditioning at low impact.
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Re: ultra training

Post  Julie on Tue Nov 08, 2011 9:58 am

Yeah I can believe it. Biking would give your heart a good workout without giving the same muscles damage that you will do from running.

I found the reverse to be true as well when I did a week long bike ride across Nebraska after biking 24 miles the entire yr. I was in good enough shape from running that the biking exercise part didn't bother me (just don't ask about the saddle soreness).
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Re: ultra training

Post  Mike MacLellan on Tue Nov 08, 2011 12:25 pm

I would put a small sum of money down on the idea that cycling improves ultra-running more so than marathon running. Yes, both are helpful to maintain/build cardiovascular fitness as well as teach your body lactate tolerance and clearing, but the muscular gains from cycling, particularly up hills and doing sprint intervals, are much more beneficial when you hit a 15% wall on a trail run than when you get a small 2-3% rise during a marathon.

That said, yep, I'd heard the 1/3 conversion as well, and most trail runners I've talked to here just kind of gawked when I said I wasn't doing any cross-training.
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Re: ultra training

Post  pattyspangs on Sat Nov 12, 2011 9:00 am

Hey guys, I am new to the Board, but this is a great topic. Cycling has been a huge benefit to me personally as a heavier runner (210 lbs). The IM triathlete world will tell you that cycling benefits running significantly but the reverse is not really true. I raced IM Wisconsin last year, and during the course of training, did a lot of 100 mile bike rides. I was shocked by how much the long bike benefits the long run from an HR perspective. I would come off a long bike weekend and all of the sudden I could push my long run pace with ease for super long distances. For those that are really lean, injury free, and competitive at the marathon distance on down, I think cycling will help as cross but I agree with Mike that the benefit is probably significantly greater for ultra runners. Running more than 3 hours is really tough on the body for anyone. But, you can ride the bike for 6 hours and gain a ton of aerobic fitness without risking injury and have a very short recovery period. A lot of bike time will, however, compromise tempo and MP work at times, so it can be a trade-off for sub-3:30 runners in marathon training. But when you are talking about ultra training where injury risk is greater and speed takes a backseat to endurance, I think cycling could really improve performance particularly for those that use HR for pacing.

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