My experience with the BIg Vert plan

  • Creator
    Topic
  • #54086
    Rob L
    Participant

    I just finished Mike Foote’s Big Vert plan in preparation for a hilly ultra and wanted to leave this link here to a blog post I wrote on how it went in case anyone was interested: https://www.blog.roblunn.com/2021/04/my-experience-with-mike-footes-big-vert.html

    Overall, it went well. I felt strong in the ultra and had absolutely no muscular problems (cramping had affected me previously on flatter and shorter ultras).

    I found the plan a great introduction to the type of training outlined in Training for the Uphill Athlete.

    As this kind of training was new to me, I couldn’t do all the prescribed workouts (owing to niggles). But I trained consistently and at least got a taste of all the elements, which I will use more of on my next run-through of this plan for an ultra I have in October.

    The downside?

    I appear to have gotten slower on the flat as per an AeT drift test done on the same course: 6 or 7 bpm higher average for a slower average pace.

    I guess this was to be expected in my case given I went from running mainly on the flat to doing only recovery runs on the flat and then testing on the flat.

    Anyway, I might add in a flat Z2 run every now and then on my next run-through to see if I can get and stay efficient on the flat as well. I’ll also retest to see if I didn’t just have a bad day.

Posted In: Mountain Running

  • Participant
    Mark on #54093

    Hey Rob,

    Congratulations on the race and good luck for your ultra in October!

    Thank you for sharing your experience. I think your approach of managing what you can and can’t do is very reasonable. If I could share some unrequited but friendly feedback:

    1) Slowing of your flat run pace: probably not unexpected as you’ve identified, but noting that you only did two of the strength endurance sprint sessions. One of the benefits of these workouts (as per TFtUA) is that they improve running economy, so it might be worth revisiting this again in the future if you get a chance.
    2) Not doing the rest days: I’d tentatively suggest that there is a connection between not handling some parts of the training plan and not taking days off. The purpose of the rest days is to really take them off so that you can go hard when you need to.

    I’ve also found that as you get deeper into the intensity/build phase of the plan that replacing some of the Z1 workouts with even slower recovery runs (60-70% of AeT) has actually been really beneficial for recovery and enabled me to handle the more intense workouts.

    Congrats once again and wish you the best of luck for October!

    Participant
    Rob L on #54108

    Thanks, Mark! I appreciate the comments.

    It’s true that the missed out sprint workouts might have helped with flat running economy. I think I’ll get most of them in (and the Z3 workouts I didn’t do) this time around as I’m now much stronger and ready for this type of training. So I’ll see if they help.

    Either way, I’m going to add in two Z2 or one Z2 and one Z3 flat runs at least once every four weeks. I think just doing a bit will help.

    I don’t think it was missing the rest days that made the plan hard to handle (I actually find a very easy run on Mondays helps more than hinders; I’m better on Tuesdays if I do it).

    The not being able to handle the training had more to do with the elevation gain. I wasn’t used to it and so got niggles, mainly in my lower legs and feet. I’m more adapted now and am looking forward to getting more out of the plan this time through.

    Thanks again!

    Moderator
    Scott Semple on #54193

    @roblunnemail: Good job for backing off when it felt like it was too much. Many people make the opposite mistake and end up digging too big a hole to get out of. I suspect you’ll be able to do more of the plan the second time through.

    Whether or not to take a rest day varies a lot by person, but you may want to try it if it allows for more of the faster workouts. My impression from the Caveats section of your blog post is that you may have traded daily training for faster training. That could be related to losing speed on the flats.

    I’m the same way in that I feel a little sluggish after a rest day. However, for me those days are worth it for both physical and mental recovery. To compensate, I usually start a new week with an easy session to “wake up” again, then on Day Two, I’m usually good to go. Overall I find it more effective than never taking a rest day.

    I’ve coached several runners who are similar, and there’s no fits-all answer. I would experiment and find a balance that lets you get some of the speed work in.

    Participant
    Rob L on #54200

    Scott, I definitely do favour consistency over getting in the hard workouts. I think it helps me not get injured. But I also just really like getting out the door every day!

    However, it had to be the change in training (from mainly flat to mainly hilly) that caused the slowing rather than the lack of intensity as I never ran with much intensity prior to starting the plan.

    If left to my own devices (i.e. not following a plan and just running), I barely get out of zone 1, except perhaps on the long run.

    I will rethink the rest day, though. Perhaps doing something like you suggest, pushing everything a day back in the week.

    Thanks!

    Moderator
    Scott Semple on #54202

    If left to my own devices (i.e. not following a plan and just running), I barely get out of zone 1, except perhaps on the long run.

    That will serve you very well in the long term.

    I will rethink the rest day, though. Perhaps doing something like you suggest, pushing everything a day back in the week.

    If it doesn’t work, you can always go back to your current routine.

    Participant
    George on #54399

    @Scott Semple: I have the same experience since starting the training plan some 12 weeks ago. I lost speed on the flats, it just feels like leg turnover has taken a hit. I incorporated 6-8 15-20s strides once a week but that doesn’t seem to take care of the issue. It would be nice if you or one of the other coaches can elaborate on that phenomenon.

    Keymaster
    Scott Johnston on #54613

    @George:
    If you’ve been following the plans ME progression then you are no doubt carrying a good deal of fatigue and that will slow your leg turnover and you will see a speed drop on the flats. Bear in mind that the purpose of this program is to improve your legs’ fatigue resistance so that you do not slow dramatically on very hill courses. It is not to make you a faster runner. It is focused on fatigue resistance not speed. It is meant to make you faster at the end of a punishing race not to improve flat speed. For that you will need to do more fast running. This can be done with hill sprints and with pick ups/strides to improve running economy at speed.

    In these very long long and very hilly races it is not uncommon to see people whose legs give out slow by many minutes/mile. This plan will lessen and can even eliminate it when you’ve been through the ME cycle a few times in subsequent training years.

    I hope this makes sense.

    Scott

    Participant
    Rob L on #59674

    Just to follow up, my second cycle of the Big Vert plan and the race I used it for at the end of October went great. I did just about all the workouts on the plan and on race day felt strong throughout what is the longest and toughest event I’ve done.

    Here is a figures comparison of the two run throughs: https://www.blog.roblunn.com/2021/11/big-vert-comparsion-first-vs-second.html

    Scott (Semple), I religiously took Mondays off following your advice and didn’t have any problems getting started on the Tuesday. I felt pretty good throughout the training plan, too.

    As to the question of declining flat speed. I’m not sure about it now as I realised after writing the above post that some of my aerobic tests might have been flawed. However, it stands to reason that you’re not going to get better at something you don’t practice much. You probably will lose or at least not improve flat speed or economy when running mainly on the hills and hiking. But, as Scott Johnston hints at above, flat speed is not the point of this plan.

    Either way, I found the plan great for getting used to training with lots of elevation gain. It opened my eyes up to a different type of training.

    Going forward, in training for similar types of ultras, I’m going to use the Big Vert plan with a bit more variety in terrain and some other elements. Mainly because it was such a good plan that I want to make it one I can use more or less continually while still being able to develop all areas of my running.

    So thanks for the plan and the advice given here!

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