It’s a new year. Resolutions have been made, tears have been shed over entry lotteries won and lost, and it’s time to make a plan. Most would start with “building” a base, a term coined by Arthur Lydiard, who even had his dominant middle-distance stars logging 100-mile weeks to get ready for the upcoming season. The difficulty is deciding how this works for you as an ultrarunner. First of all there are many misconceptions on how to implement Lydiard’s methods, even his books seem to contradict each other in some of the details of the base-building phase. Secondly, how do these concepts apply to someone whose running is often 10 minute miles-even when competing (think 100 mile race)?
Maybe the most importantly overlooked facet of Lydiard’s base training is that he didn’t believe that there was a cookie-cutter program that would work for every athlete. There are, however, ways you can work on your weaknesses and solidify your strengths. The goal is to work on building your aerobic system without neglecting the other systems used in running.
Implementing “quality work” into training doesn’t need to be gut wrenching and a few little tweaks can give big dividends. For my high school athletes I used to try to fit three macro-cycles in per year. We would run base miles in the summer with one up-tempo workout on Wednesday night and then work toward a peak for late October for the state meet. After post-season XC we would then try to work track speed on the icy Western Wyoming roads to peak for the state indoor meet and then start all over for the outdoor track season. It wasn’t until we combined the entire track season into one big season that times started to plummet. Now when it is cold (really cold), icy and miserable, we focus on building strength both in the weight room and on the snowy hills around the valley.
How does this apply to ultra running? For most of us, bit goal races are in the summer or the fall. This is the time of year to safely build mileage while staying injury free. The type of quality work will vary greatly by athlete depending on current fitness, race schedule, and injury history. One of my current athletes is coming off a foot injury and has a goal 100 in September. She is building her mileage carefully and implementing gym work and yoga to strengthen imbalances. Another athlete I am working with has years of ultrarunning experience and ended 2015 with back-to-back 40-mile training runs. With her we are focusing on hills and long intervals to work on VO2max and speed-strength. Both athletes are implementing strides and long runs to their schedules.
This is the time of year that is brimming with possibility and excitement. Variety and sound principles of running will keep running fresh and fun-which is why all of us started this in the first place. Spending a little time to “build base” and work on weakness and solidify strengths will get you to the starting-and finish line healthy and happy which will make your family and Lydiard proud.
(Photo credit: Lori Burlison)