Ultra Running Training and How You Can Improve, by Frank Bozanich

by Frank Bozanich

First of all, let me pr­­eface this by saying that I am old school when it comes to training.  I started the ultra running part of my running career in 1974, when races were without many participation runners.  I am not against those who just want to participate, but I believe they must have proper training so they give themselves a better opportunity at success.  When I started, there were no mile marks, aid stations, gels, hydration packs or handhelds, or watches.  When the gun went off, we raced until the end and may the better man or woman win.

You do not improve or win the race during the event, you win it in the training done before you get to the starting line.

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Taken during the Senior Olympics Marathon in Irvine, California in June 1974. This was my 5th marathon and my first wining one in a time of 2 hr 28 min, also my first time under 2 hr 30 min.

I suggest that new runners and even experienced runners today take a look at how the older runners trained in the 70’s and 80’s.  You must understand, most the races back then were on the roads or tracks; the trails finally came into being in the late 80’s and 90’s.

We did not train on low miles per week and then jump into an ultra, we took the time to build up our miles so that we felt “comfortable”.  You must learn and remember that you do not improve or win the race during the event, you win it in the training done before you get to the starting line.  The work you do in training is what gives you the possibility of success in reaching your goals in the race.  I learned early that you need to lose first before you can become a winner or champion.  This also is true for beginners and those looking for certain goals.  Your goals should be reasonable so that you can have some chance of reaching them and as you continue to train and race you can adjust those goals as you move on.

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Frank at the 2017 Steep Canyon 50K in Hullabaloo.

I learned early in my career that it would take some high weekly miles to have some success and that this takes time to achieve. Once you have built up your weekly volume over time, then running and races become easier and personal successes come about.  The more miles you can do in the week the easier it is to recover after races and during training.  The biggest way to success is being consistent in your training and racing.  The other thing is the need for some faster runs in training. With speed work in your training, you learn to carry that speed longer and in the long races when you slow down some you can still be faster.  I was able to run low 6 min pace for 50 miles and 100k because I would also train at 5 min pace on some of my training runs so that the low 6 min pace felt comfortable.  When I started, I ran mostly roads and some tracks races as there no trail races.  I know many of you are trail runners but I would recommend that you also do some road and track workouts as they will help in your trail races.  Trails just are not conducive to running fast as they are by nature slow.  I do trail races also and had success in many of them because of my speed.

My weekly workouts and even today usually follow this schedule:

  • Monday is usually easy running with a short morning run and then another easy one in the afternoon.
  • Tuesday is easy morning run with a track or road interval training in the afternoon where I work on my speed.  I do the faster speed stuff on Tuesday.  I do anything from 200’s to mile repeats.  another good one is pyramids where you run 200/400/600/ 800/ 1000/ and then back down with the easy interval being 200 between.
  • Wednesday is easy am and easy afternoon
  • Thursday would be easy run in the am and then a good tempo run in the afternoon which can be anywhere from 3 miles to 10 miles.  This are run at your 5km pace plus 10 to 30 seconds per mile.  warmup with a couple miles and then do the tempo run and follow up with cooldown.
  • Friday is easy run both am and pm.
  • Saturday:  Race day or good training run.  I learned this one from the 100 mile world record holder back in 1978.  2 mile warm up then hard/easy with rest interval same as hard.  Do 1 min,2 min all the way to 6 min and then back down.  I do this on a rolling course and you go hard when the time says to.  You can do this one on trails especially now with gps watches.  You can also replace these with a shorter distance race.  I used to race a lot of 5km to marathon races just for the training.
  • Sunday would be a long run at a slower pace.  I didn’t believe in and still don’t in the long back to back weekend runs.  I also felt the faster runs at 22 miles were more beneficial  to me.

My total miles for the week would be in the area of 120 miles and more.  With this program I was able to be back to normal after 4 days of completing a 50 mile race and then be ready for another hard race effort in a month or sometimes less.

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Frank in peak racing shape.

I know that not everyone is ready for this nor may everyone even want to follow my training approach.  What I want you take away is that hard work and more miles will lead to success and you will feel better during and after your events.  Take the time to build up and become stronger.  This is not an overnight program and probably won’t work for those who want instant gratification but it will also give you a much better time and something you can do in your older years.

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