Multi-day mountain ultra

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    August next year, I have planned a 6 day, 50-70km per day, 2000m-4000m ascent per day over mountainous terrain.
    I have a 30 week training window, starting in the new year, with other events sprinkled throughout.
    I plan to use the 80/20 50mile/100km Level 0 plan to completion, 19 weeks and ends at a single day ultra event in May. I then have 11 weeks until the full 6 day challenge (August) detailed above. I’m currently thinking of completing the first plan, as above, do the single day ultra, take a weeks rest and then undertake weeks 10-19 of the same plan, building up the number of back to back training days.
    My questions are-
    Is this the right plan and have I combined them sensibly?
    Do you have any tips on adapting the plan to prepare for 6 mountainous ultra days back to back?
    (Currently preparing for a mountainous 55km, 4000m ascent event at Christmas, using the marathon L2 plan (80/20 subscription), second time through).
    Thanks in advance

    David Warden


    What a fun 2021 season you have planned!

    I agree with your plan, but I recommend that after the first May event, you switch to the 100 mile plan for the final 9 weeks. I don’t think that the 100K plan will prepare you enough for the challenge of the multi-day event. Your fitness level from the 100K plan will be more than enough to jump into the 100 Mile plan with 9 weeks left.

    While our plans are written for single-day events, there certainly is a “maximum effective dose” for running, meaning after 14 hours a week of running there is just not any more ROI. If you were training for a 1-day or a 7-day event it’s diminishing returns after 14 hours a week of running, but 25 hours a week of strength training, cycling, swimming etc is a cap for triathletes.

    For example, when I coached the Iron Cowboy to 50 Ironmen in 50 Days in 50 States (the 50-50-50) I didn’t increase his training by 50: I capped him out at 25-30 hours a week, which is about the most a body can take.

    You can also Level up to the Level 1, 2, or 3 100 Mile plan. The Level 3 caps out at 14 hours. It’s a beast, but will get you ready.

    Fortunately, the 100 Mile Level 3 plan does challenge you with multiple back-to-back days of 2.5+ hour runs.

    If I were to tweak the 100 Mile plan for a multi-day event, I would add a 3rd day in a row of 2+ hours and cut back by 2 hours on other mid-week runs. But, following the plan as-is, I think you’ll be fine.



    Hi David,
    Thank you for your prompt and rather detailed response. That sounds like great advice – just what I was hoping for.
    If you don’t mind, I have a follow-up question:
    I’m currently running up to 30/35km in my long run at the weekend, over some technical mountainous sections. These can require walking up and down sections due to technicality of the ground or gradient pushing heart rate too high to sustain. In the overall weekly totals you mention, would you exclude these sections from the maximum 14hours a week? For example, last weekend was 35km, 2500m of ascent and took 8 1/2 hours due to the terrain – at least a couple of hours longer than other mountainous routes of same distance. I could easily reach 14 hours with back to back runs of this nature. Any advice what to include/ exclude in the total weekly hours would be appreciated.

    David Warden

    Grommet, this is a bit outside my expertise, I don’t want to over-represent my abilities in this kind of multi-day running.

    But, certain universal principles apply to all endurance sports. One of which is the principle of specificity. You absolutely do want to do those mountainous runs, because that is specific to the event you want to do well at. Certainly, the first half of a pan can be more general (speed, force, power, VO2…) but as you get close to the event you need to do what you will do on race day.

    The 14 hour limit is not an absolute: it’s a point of diminishing returns. A professional runner who needs that extra 1% to win will run 20+ hours. Going over 14 hours is not a law, it’s just the threshold to ask yourself, “am I really willing to train 16 hours a week for an extra 0.3%?” Even for an age-grouper, the answer might be yes.

    I’m guessing that in your 8-hour days (which are great for specificity) about 1/4 of the time is spent walking, meaning you are running for 6, and that leaves 8 hours of running the rest of the week, which is right on with our plans total volume.

    So, do those extra long runs, but save them for the last 12 weeks of the plan, and it’s OK to go over 14 hours for sure because a) it’s not going to hurt you and b) a good portion of that will be walking.

    I hope that this has answered your questions!



    Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions. It sounds like great advice and reassuring as I start to ramp up the miles.

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