Tempo Run For 100km Trail Race

Build your speed for a 100km running race. It might be easier than you thought. Including a tempo run for 100km training can give impressive results.

Working on your base endurance will get you most of the way for a 100km race. But we want to get all the way there.

What Is A Tempo Run?

The definition of a Tempo Run has varied a lot. Many treat it as a run around the anaerobic threshold. Even the definition of the anaerobic threshold is up for debate.

When training for an ultra marathon we take a different approach to the tempo run. It is not a set intensity. Instead it is more a feel that progresses over the training plan.

How Fast Should Your Tempo Run Be?

The intensity is under what most call the anaerobic threshold, and higher than your normal easy pace. Extra guides is it may be close to your marathon race pace. Erring on the slower side at the start.

For those of you using heart rate, we would choose around 80% of HR max if your anaerobic threshold is between 85-90% HR max. For those who use the Phil Maffetone formula we will take it as between 15 bpm below MAF heart rate up to MAF heart rate.

How Long For A Tempo Run?

It should approximately one hour to cover the course. Add a warm up and cool down on either side of the tempo effort.

What Terrain Is Best For A Tempo Run?

Pick a mostly flat to undulating course. You want to be to keep a constant effort. No big climbs or anything too technical that create a variation in effort.

Pick a course you can repeat each week. This is a good session to help mark progress.

How To Start Tempo Runs

In your first couple of tempo runs pick a pace that is only little faster than you standard easy running pace. It should feel sustainable for the full distance. You want to feel comfortable that it will only take some extra concentration to get through. Aim to maintain the same speed from start to finish, or just a very small increase over the full run.

If you finish the run like you didn’t quite do enough. You got it right.

This is the perfect run to practice good technique for an extended period of time. Keep your posture in check. Aim to find fluidity in your stride.

How To Progress The Tempo Run

Over the weeks the pace of the run should gradually increase. This should be from two reasons:

  1. Improved efficiency, where your pace is faster for the same effort level.
  2. Increase in effort level. As your body becomes conditioned, we should increase slightly the intensity we run the tempo run.

Try to run on feel. Record all the data you usually do. But don’t look at it during the run. Use it to compare how you felt with the results. Doing this over a few weeks will help hone your sense of pace. An important skill for race day.

Tempo Run Example

My own tempo run is as follows.

From my house I take a 3km easy warm up to the starting point of the tempo section.

The tempo course is almost flat, with a couple of very small and mild undulations. It is a mix of bitumen and concrete with nothing technical.

It follows an out and back course of 7km. Which I cover for two laps bringing the total to 14km. Which is about an hour or so of running. Two laps makes it easy to analyse how I ran after the run. I can easily see if I ran evenly or had negative or positive split.

The return home is the same 3km back home.

Surprise Yourself

This approach is a bit different from most recommendations. It is effective. You keep progressing without burning out. Take this approach during your base building. Repeat for a few weeks. You will surprise yourself how much better you can handle your next level of training.

Base Training For 100km Trail Race

How do we get maximum benefit from base training for 100km? What is the Base of training?

This is the most important phase of training.

Here we complement the post Training For 100km Trail Race: 16 Week Overview by diving into the details of the 8 week base phase.

What is Base Training?

The point of Base training is to develop a well balanced athlete capable of optimally responding to the stress of competition specific training.

All peak training is dependant on the quality of base training.

Base training is where the majority of fitness gains are made. These gains are dependant on a consistent and progressive workload. This training may not be the coolest type of running. Without it we gives ourselves a higher chance of failure.

Consistency and Progression

If I could pick one element to focus on it would be maintaining consistency.

Doing what it takes to keep up a solid work load each week is paramount. I will back anyone who can put in moderate running every week over someone with a few big sessions but gaps in between.

The biggest killer to consistency is intensity. Beware pushing the pace. Err on the side of too easy and cover the distance. Allow your body to back up training days. Pushing on your limits forces more down time.

Progression in training should come from gradually extending out the running volume over the weeks. Nothing crazy, but keep running further.

Over time your normal running pace is likely to get faster for the same effort level. Let it do so, but make sure it is the same effort level. We shouldn’t be forcing the speed higher.

What About Speed In Base Training?

Speed is an extra in a 100km race.

Too much emphasis on speed work or high intensity running will take away from the race. Especially during base training for a 100km trail race.

We still need condition the fast twitch muscle fibres and connective tissues.

A good approach is incorporating a few strides in 2 easy runs a week. Run for about 10 seconds building to a moderate and comfortable sprint 2 to 6 times.

Strength training should form part of base training.

Lifting some heavy weights will stimulate the tendons and fast twitch muscles. While giving the body reprieve from the high impact of high intensity running.

Keep it to 2-3 sets of 4-12 repetitions. Avoid going for lots of repetitions (20+). Aim to address the main muscle groups and any area that you are lacking in.

Strength training doesn’t have to be complicated. I have more detail in Basic Strength Training For Runnering.

Base Training For 100km Example

The plan versus reality doesn’t always match.

For me the structure of a base training week would look like this:

MondayTuesdayWednesdayThursdayFridaySaturdaySunday
Long Run 30-42kmEasy 40-90minTerrain Run 3 hoursEasy 40-90minTempo Run 14kmEasy 40-90minEasy 40-90min
WeightsWeights

If you are using this as an example to follow you may want to change around the days. For me each week will vary because I do rotating shift work and don’t follow a normal weekly pattern.

I try to avoid scheduling the bigger runs on weekends as my kids have their sport on these days. There is an element of creativity that goes into finding ways to fit it all in. That is worth a post all on it’s own.

See you in the next post as I break apart more of my training.

Training For 100km Trail Race: 16 Week Overview

16 weeks training for a 100km trail race. How do we structure running to be race ready? What does it take to prepare for a 100km running race?

This is a simple guiding structure to training.

There are pros and cons to the different ways of training. The approach presented here works well. It takes you beyond completing the distance. We want to run 100km fast.

What You Need To Train For 100km

To get the most from this program we need to have some base fitness. At least a year of running, preferably two.

My background spans many years, but over the last year, I’ve hardly run further than 25km in single a run. My weekly volume has varied between 20-80km. It has been fairly inconsistent.

The recommended running prerequisites:

  • 2+ years running
  • Able to run 25-30km long run
  • Averaging 50km/week over last 6 weeks
  • Injury free

More important than physical prerequisites come the mental traits. We need:

  • Discipline
  • Patience
  • Consistency

16 Week Overview

The 16 weeks is broken into 3 distinct phases:

  1. Base (8 weeks)
  2. Peak (4 weeks)
  3. Taper (4 weeks)

Each week will have 3 key workouts supported by easy runs and strength training. The key workouts will vary according to the phase of training.

Base Phase

This is the most important phase of training.

It sets up the ability to cover the distance. A proper base phase will have a direct effect on the Peak phase. We are better off to continue the base phase up to the Taper if we skimped on base training.

Base training is to develop a well balanced athlete capable of optimally responding to the stress of competition specific training.

The most important trait needed is patience. We keep most runs at easy paces. It is more important to cover the distance. Better to run further each week than to smash out some fast runs.

A Tempo run is listed once a week. This should be over one or two set courses. Begin with a pace just a little bit faster than your usual running pace. Aim to be a little faster each week. This should never be a lung searing, leg destroying effort.

Base running is supported by a good dose of strength training. Using the weight room to build improve the connective tissue, and give some stimulus to fast twitch muscle fibres. This should spare the body some of the impact that faster running brings.

The 3 key runs:

  1. Long run of 30-42km
  2. 3 hour run on technical and steep terrain
  3. Tempo

Peak Phase

4 weeks of hard training. We need to be fit, healthy and injury free.

This is where we push the envelope. Where our performance will go up and down. The training will challenge our ability not to quit.

The distance of the long runs will be pushed further. Combined with a few intervals of moderately faster running towards the end. Some fast intervals will also be introduced.

The 3 key runs:

  1. Long run of 46-50km with some intervals 10-20 minutes
  2. 4 hours run on technical and steep terrain
  3. VO2 intervals 4-6 x 1000m

Taper Phase

Time to absorb all the hard work.

The Taper phase has 3 objectives:

  1. Adapt to the previous training
  2. Eliminate fatigue
  3. Dial in race pace

To achieve this we will reduce the volume of the most runs by 75% each week. Intervals will be pushed hard up to 3 weeks out from the race. Fatigue will gradually lift. It is normal to feel sluggish as the body adapt throughout the taper.

Resist the urge to push out a long, hard test of fitness. Save this for race day.

16 Week Training For 100km Example

The following table outlines my progression of the key runs week by week. Which day each runs falls on will vary due to my changing roster and life commitments. In between all running should be easy and the will typically vary between 40-90 minutes.

Remember the following is a personal example and a guideline only. Everyone is different. My own circumstances may vary this plan.

This is my plan for the Surf Coast Century.

WeekPhaseLong RunTerrain RunSpeed
1Base30km3hrTempo 8km
2Base32km3hrTempo 14km
3Base34km3hrTempo 14km
4Base36km3hrTempo 14km
5Base36km3hrTempo 14km
6Base38km3hrTempo 14km
7Base40km3hrTempo 14km
8Base42km3hrTempo 14km
9Peak46-50km4hr4x1000m
10Peak46-50km4hr5x1000m
11Peak46-50km4hr6x1000m
12Peak46-50km4hr6x1000m
13Taper38km3hr7x1000m
14Taper29km2hr15m8x1000m
15Taper22km1hr40m6x1000m
16Taper17km-6-10x200m

Over To You

What do you think about this plan?

Do you have any questions?

Let me know