New to ultra

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  • #80767

    Hi everyone. I’m a 30yo guy, living in Grenoble (french alps). I compete in triathlon, all distances from sprint to IM since 5 years. I train 3 Times swimming 2-4km, run 3-4 times (1 quality Z4 run, other runs easy with sole elevation), 3 bikes with always elevation from 500m in short rides to 3000m in long rides.
    I sometimes do short trail races (10-20km). During holidays, I like to do 2-3 days of hike/run (North of the gr20 in Corse was 90km 8000m éelevation in 2 days, tour des glaciers de la Vanoise 70k 3800d+ in 2 days, traversée de Chartreuse 75k 4500m élevation in 12h).

    All this presentation because I’m thinking about racing the local ultra, the Ut4m in july 24.
    Is it doable ?
    When do I have to stop tri or cross training (I practice xc ski during winter) to focus on trail running ?
    What volume will I have to aim for ? I have the Tftha Book, and the mileage table seems hardly doable. There is a lot of week at 130+ miles… If I do that in Grenoble, it will represent around 20-25h running. Is it what it takes ? If yes, I don’t think I could be ready for that…I know I could manage 100k weeks mostly on the flat if I don’t swim/bike, but 130 miles with elevation, not sure. Physically, mentaly, and with the work.

    Hope my english was not so Bad and you could have understood me ..
    Thanks a lot

Posted In: Mountain Running

  • Keymaster
    Jane Mackay on #80794

    Hi Ivan,
    Welcome to the forum!

    Short answer, no you don’t need to do 100k weeks.

    For a more nuanced answer, can you tell us what the ultra Ut4m entails? How many km, how much vertical +/-, what type of terrain?


    ivan2794 on #80806

    The race IS 170k with 10000m elevation.
    With run around Grenoble, doing the 4 moutains there is.
    So, it’s like 4 Big blocs, WE go up a mountain, then WE Come back in the Valley ans WE start the next one.
    The first and last are not very technical, but in the second and third there is a lot of rocks, included the downhill segments are very technical.

    I work as a physio and I see too many trail runners with injuries.
    I don’t know what it takes to do that in good conditions, and I want to be sure I Can manage the training load needed to enjoy the moment and wanting to do another..

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    hafjell on #80820

    Ivan, incredible course. In US terms, this equates to Hardrock 100 at a much lower elevation. I would approach this first year as a learning year, training and competing. Imo, you’ll want to budget more time for hiking up and running down. Flat training miles should be kept to a weekly minimum of 1 to 2x per week. The course will run much more up and down then you imagine in your “4 big blocs.” It will be constantly changing and you’ll want to train for the ascents, descents, and transitions. The dude who just came in 2nd at UTMB with a similar profile but higher elevation (if I read your profile correctly) said afterwards that he stopped worrying about mileage and started focusing on feet / meters of elevation gain and loss as his training goal. You don’t have his training base, but still, you can’t cheat the up and down. And forcing too many miles of running might not be healthy.

    Don’t over-train. That’s avoidable.
    If on the event day you start feeling unhealthy mechanically, stop. You can stop at 80k or 100k and still have had a massive day.
    “Enjoying the moment”…hmmm…good luck with “enjoying” your first 100mile race with 30,000 feet of climbing and descending. Bonne chance!

    ivan2794 on #80854

    Is there a table like in the Book to know what kind of mileage or elevation I need to aim at the end of the preparation ?
    It’s new for me, I never trained for the 2-3 days or 70k moutain runs I did because It was not in race ans I had the triathlon training base to do that in good conditions…
    I know there will be hard Times during such a race, but I want to go there having done the best I Can to be ready…
    And if Beeing ready means running 200k and 10000m elevation a week during training …I will not do those kind of races because my life doesnt allow me to do that and I will break ?

    Jane Mackay on #80858

    Ivan, you might find the 16-week advanced mountain running plan ( or Mike Foote’s big vert plan ( would give you the structure you need.

    With Mike Foote’s plan, you set the initial weekly distance that you run. The suggestion is 50% of your goal run (i.e. your race), and the plan then builds to 100% of your goal run, but since it sounds like you already have a pretty good aerobic base, you could start at a lower weekly mileage and build less. As hafjell noted, being able to deal with the up and down is probably going to be as important for you — including efficient technique and confidence on technical downhills.

    The 16-week plan is mainly designed for people who want to do a multi-day route, but it would also give good prep for the race at a weekly training volume that might be more feasible for you.

    You can extend either plan by repeating weeks — just make sure you keep the regular recovery week. That week is when the body actually makes the adaptations to the training, and it’s crucial, as you say, not to break yourself.


    Jane Mackay on #80859

    Another idea would be to use the intro to ultras plan ( and repeat the central 6-week block once or twice, maintaining the consistency of the progression.

    hafjell on #80867

    All you can do is train steadily, try to avoid injury and sickness so you don’t miss training volume, and see how your body recovers. IME, this will be the limiting factor. If you can recover well, you can keep pushing the mileage or hours. Your body will let you know within 24-36 hours if your biggest days are too much. I think you can responsibly train for this event with less than 200k / week. That’s more or less the distances covered by professional, sponsored athletes. How you handle the vertical gain and drop will be another issue. The problem with training for ultras is the extreme uncertainty. See Tom Evans’ UTMB. Terrific runner, impeccable training, with a lot of confidence…then on the event day, altitude, elevation, and some very fast competition changed his plans.
    Your big days in the mountains on foot will be as or more valuable than the triathlon training. IME, triathletes underestimate the difficulty of being on your feet for the entire event. But you do have the advantage of long training days. These are all serious efforts. I think you’ll be fine. “North of the gr20 in Corse was 90km 8000m éelevation in 2 days, tour des glaciers de la Vanoise 70k 3800d+ in 2 days, traversée de Chartreuse 75k 4500m élevation in 12h).

    ivan2794 on #80887

    Ok thanks a lot for the answers.
    I think I will keep training in the pool, run and bike (xc ski) during the winter. I’ll try to keep a long xc ski per week during winter (+3h), and up my run mileage to 70/80k at the end of winter.
    I’ll Aldo try to do one ME workout per week (indoor ua session or Hill z3 intervals).

    Then, if everything ok, start the Big foot plan 12-20w before the race and stop tri training

    Jane Mackay on #80914

    Instead of ME in the next months, you’d probably be better off doing progressive 1x/week strength training (gym), with a focus on single-leg strength and balance, e.g. single-leg straight-leg deadlift on a balance disc (also known as a Romanian deadlift), box step ups; and then transition to ME once you start the structured training plan (e.g. Mike Foote’s Big Vert).

    The single leg strength and improved balance and proprioception will be invaluable running through mountainous terrain, and a little muscular endurance goes a long way, so the ME that’s in the training plan will be plenty.

    rich.b on #80918

    Training advice has already been given, but there are also a couple other considerations. One is deciding to what extent you want to maintain your triathlon fitness, or whether you are thinking of going ‘all in’ on training for UT4M. Another way of thinking about that is to determine what your ambition level is. Even if ‘go all in’ is your aim, cross-training can be healthy. I have used cycling as my first recovery tool, for example the day after a downhill session (I don’t have local vertical of note available, so have had to drive somewhere to do isolated vertical days.) A second consideration is finding a late-spring race of intermediate distance to gain some experience of racing in the mountains. You already seem to have experience of long days in the mountains hiking, but it would be good to gain some experience racing in them. In a race I can sustain a much higher level of effort (and HR) than in training, and in such cases you gain some specific insights into fueling strategies in a race setting – food/fuel that works fine in training may not be what you want/like during a race – and how your legs might feel running long downhills at a race pace. It is hard to replicate some things in training. A race might also help you identify what your strengths/weakness are, which would allow you to adjust your training in the time before the main race focus. I imagine there are quite a few easily accessible races near to Grenoble.

    But mainly, just enjoy the process.

    Jane Mackay on #80930

    Rich makes very good points about fuelling. The latest episode of the UA podcast is a discussion with high-performance dietician Rebecca Dent about optimal race-fuelling strategies and nutrition for trail running:

    ivan2794 on #80938

    Thanks a lot, it’s really helpfull to have you answering here.

    So the plan for the next months will be enjoying tri training (it’s 3-5 run sessions keeping 1 speed workout, 3 swim 3-4k, and 2-3 bike or xc skiing per week).
    I’ll progress on the ME gym workout described in the book during winter.
    Then, 4-5 months before Ut4m i’ll cut tri training to focus mainly on the Mike foot’s plan, maybe some cross training to recover if needed. I’ll also try to plan a 40-50k trail race in march, and a 70-80 in april/may.

    If I understood well, the plan will Take me running around the same mileage as my A race for the big weeks ?

    Now, I know the road… Just have to do the work and enjoy.. thanks

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