The Model

Ultra Success: the Formula!

I’ve been working on creating a simple training success formula - by identify the fundamental building blocks of ultras
  • I’ve been working on creating a simple training success formula – by identify the fundamental building blocks of ultras
  • The three baseline training objectives I’ve identified are “going long”, “staying strong”, and “getting fast.”  Good news – there are easy ways to adapt your training to achieve each one
  • By focusing on those areas, my hypothesis is that you’ll end up with a more fun, productive, and rewarding ultra running experience

When I started running ultras, I had no clue what to do. I looked over some basic training plans, but ultimately I just figured I’d do more or the same: just lace up my shoes and run more.

The 100-mile distance finally woke me up.

Although I clawed my way through my first 100, I realized that to do it the right way – to feel good, to enjoy the run, and to hit my objectives – I needed a better ultra strategy.  So I dug into the research and started to look for common fundamental principles that work.

Two caveats:  first, training for endurance events seems to be an evolving science – there are new breakthroughs all of the time.  Experts sometimes change their recommendations, making it confusing to know what’s right.  Second, you’re an “n” of one.  What ultimately works for you is going to be dependent on you.  My recommendation is that you think of yourself as a little physics and chemistry experiment.  Test something – if it works, keep it.  If not, try to figure out why and then try something else!

My ultra success formula is the summation of three key objectives:

  • Going Long – building the physical and chemical systems to endure long distances
  • Staying Strong – maintain your “up” time, both physically and mentally
  • Getting Fast – increasing your body’s efficiency – the ability to carry your body (mass) and long way (distance) in less time, less effort


Going Long.  The ultimate objective here is to turn your body into a finely tuned endurance machine.  This is the area that most people focus on during their training – by simply turning up the miles.   However, there’s more to it than that.  Having a body trained to go long requires building up the mechanical systems through distance and specificity, but it also requires creating a strong fuel and energy delivery system as well.  Don’t ignore the chemistry.


Staying strong.  This area is about keeping you in the game.  There’s nothing more frustrating than having your training derailed by injuries.  In addition to physical durability, top ultra performance requires mental strength as well – when you need to dig deep to prioritize your training AND for keeping going when things go sideways during a race.

Getting fast.  Although a lot of ultra runners tend to focus on distance (“I just want to finish”), I think measuring speed is just as important.  Speed is a great indicator of efficiency – how good your system is at carrying your body weight over a specified distance.  Maintaining the optimal racing weight and being able to do more with less (i.e., higher velocity at a lower heart rate) are key components of getting faster.


I’ll go into more depth on each of these training components in separate posts.  And as I figure stuff out – either through discovering something new and important or personal experimentation – I’ll keep everyone updated.  And if you see that something I’m suggesting is wrong or you know a better way, please let me know!

So let’s get started – figuring out the optimal training to have our best ultras!


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