How to scale Big Vert plan for shorter races

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  • #35065

    I’ll be starting Mike Foote’s Big Vert plan in about a week, targeting a mountain race in early June. The catch is the race distance; it’s short: only about 11 miles/3000 feet of elevation (or ~18km/900m).

    The Big Vert plan gives suggestions for scaling distance/elevation based on the race distance—but its shortest guidance is for a 50km race, and the numbers seem to break down below that threshold.

    For example: the 50km plan suggests 80% of the race distance for week 1, progressing to 150% in week 17. So that’s 40km in week 1, and 75km in week 17. Totally reasonable.

    However, applying that formula to my 18km race, I would be running only 15km in week 1, then peaking at only 27km in week 17. That seems like way too little mileage, even for my humble race. Do the increased vertical and ME workouts add enough intensity so that short mileage is sufficient?

    I charted the plan’s mileage suggestions for various race distances to see if I could suss out a formula, but it wasn’t especially helpful. The charts are attached in case they can provide some insight (recovery and taper weeks are excluded).

    So has anyone else attempted to scale the Big Vert plan down for a shorter race? I’d love some ideas for the best way to approach this. I know the exact numbers aren’t critical, and I can probably guess at a training volume that feels appropriate, but it would be great to aim as close to the target as possible.


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    Rob Sterling on #35069

    Hi Zac, I’m on the same plan, 4 weeks out from a 15 mile, 5,000ft race. I came into the plan halfway through, although was adhering to the UA principals before committing to the plan.

    In the latter stages, you are doing 150-180% of the total, I always go for the top end and round it up a bit too, but when you add in the vert, it is still very taxing.

    I have been pretty religious to the plan, and in the last 6 weeks my performance is unrecognisable to previous fitness levels, so I can only suggest you stick with it, as ‘easy’ as it may seem from the outset.

    I hope that helps, regards from NZ.


    Anonymous on #35100


    You’re correct that the plan was not designed to scale down to shorter races. It was a big challenge to create a plan that was scalable from 30 to 100 miles already.

    Clearly you have to do more weekly running volume than the race distance when in you get into these shorter races. You’ve done a good job of showing that in your charts. The 30mile race uses a higher percentage of race distance than do the longer races.

    So, how much volume is best for a 15mile race? Here is how I would try to dial that in.

    1) MOST IMPORTANT What volume (either distance or time) are you comfortable with now? If less than 15miles/week then you need to step back and just build base volume till you are comfortable with at least 2x race distance/week before diving into this plan. Once you are comfy with 25-30 mile/week use that as your starting point.

    NOTE: Be guided by the general rule that more volume is almost always better as you are handling it well and recovering day to day and it is not impacting the quality work you need to be doing. That is to say that if you follow these guidelines 50mi/wk will give a better result than 30mi/wk.

    2) Once you establish that starting point I would begin to ramp up training volume using either the guidelines(not the specific race charts) explained in chapter 11 of Training for the Uphill Athlete or the guidelines in your training plan. These two will give a range of volumes with the books guidelines being on the high end and the plans ramping being on the low end.

    3)No plan can tell you the right volume of training. That will depend on too many factors: genetics and years of experience being this two most important. My suggestion would be to use the more conservative volume ranges unless you have a good reason to deviate from that and feel really confident that you can handle, say 30-50 mile/wk no problem.

    I hope this helps.


    nullkru on #35166

    Hi Zac,

    where did you find the guideline how to scale this plan?

    just found it:

    For single day events calculate the total vertical gain and loss as well as the distance of your target event. 
    For multi day event run in stages, with rest between stages, calculate the biggest single stage's gain/loss and distance. 
    For multiday continuous, mega long, events like the Tor des Geant or Tor des Glacier use the biggest single day you expect to encounter.
    You will use these numbers to progress your training load over the course of the program.  
    For events from 100km to over 100miles in length with over 5000m in total elevation this week should contain about 50%(for 100miles) up to 60%(for 100km) of the event's vertical and distance in your targeted event.
    For events around 50miles to 100km in length and around 3-5000m in elevation this week should contain about 60-70% of the event's vertical and distance.
    For events around 50km and shorter in length with about 3000m in elevation, this week should contain about 80% of the event's total elevation and distance.

    Thanks in advance — mirko

    Zac on #35171

    @mike-faulkner5335 thanks for sharing your experience! That sounds like a good target for me too, and it’s reassuring to hear from others who’ve had to solve this problem.

    Zac on #35174

    @scott THANK YOU! This is an amazingly helpful response, I appreciate the effort and detail.

    I’ve been roughly following the Transition Period guidelines from TftUA for a few months, and am comfortable with about 25 easy miles a week right now. So I think I’m ready to dive in to the plan, but will back off and reassess if I feel like my base volume isn’t sufficient. I’ll re-review Chapter 11 to get a better sense of exactly how to structure the volume progression.

    At this point in my life—a week shy of my 40th birthday—I’ve realized that durability and longevity are more important than specific race goals, so I’ll take your advice to err on the conservative side of the volume ranges. (I’ve been running off and on since high school xc, but not seriously until a few years ago. I didn’t truly understand the importance of an aerobic base until finding your book last year. As for genetics, let’s just say I was never picked first in gym class!)

    Thanks again for the reply. You’ve built an excellent resource here, and I can’t recommend your books and website enough!

    Zac on #35175

    @nullkru Cool, glad you found it! There’s a bit of a learning curve to managing these plans with Training Peaks, but totally worth the effort.

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