Weekly training load manipulation for Ultra long-run planning

Good day,

I thought I read something about Athletica’s theory on Ultra training long runs in the previous forum, but I cannot seem to be able to find it again.

I have a general understanding of the Marathon training plan that the 50 km Athletica plan is built on (without reading the chapter in the HIIT science book :wink:) I recall the idea was that being able to complete a couple runs a week in the 2hour range is enough to prepare for the trial of a 50km race.

I appreciate the current race length is training for 50km at various fitness levels, but I am hoping to be able to use Atheltica to progress beyond the 50km model and prepare for 100km+ which will make adventures that much more enjoyable <100km.

This currently a goal that I am striving for; I have switched to the High Volume and everything looks optimistic through the load progression in the plan overall. I have some weeks that are presenting the potential for ~130km/wk including HIIT sessions, which is quite exciting.

I am trying to create weekly or bi-weekly long-run sessions without taking away from my overall weekly load. This will allow me to work on my mental durability, test hydration & nutrition plans and generally just be on my feet for longer durations. I have tried something similar a couple weeks prior by consolidating my session to create 21km run days with a day off between.

An issue is that it can be a bit challenging in January in Canada to get in the HIIT sessions as planned considering the weather; Intervals on potentially icy surfaces could be bad for injury prevention.
I have been monitoring the initial weekly load with the standard plan and then removing the two HIIT sessions (both mid volume for many weeks and high-volume plan recently).
Interestingly the initial load with the HIIT sessions do not get balanced out across the non-HIIT sessions once they are removed.

Original Week (Load 688)

HIIT sessions removed with small Tempo Run added for L3a training (Load 688) Perfect rebalance of load

Removal of Tempo run allowing for all L2 sessions (Load 691) Perfect rebalance

Change in Sunday long run to 2h49’ from 1h49’ to simulate a long run and more “time on feet in one session” (Load reduced to 615) overall reduction in weekly load of 76 ~12% .

Long run increased to 3h49’ and weekly load is showing 533 which is not the addition of each sessions load totalling 662. I think I broke the rebalance with the 3h49’ long run.

Return Sunday session to original 1h49’ and week is still not rebalancing back to the original (HIIT sessions removed) plan of 691, but at 667 which is a very acceptable rebalance.

I figured I had flipped too many switches for the week and thought I would just get into the week and come back to figuring out how I can get longer “long run sessions” as the training plan progressed.

As the system had reduced my daily sessions for this week and the previous week I started running at the upper end of my L2 to “maximize” the time in each session. My first session today for the week RPE was very good but my load was higher than the system wanted, but within acceptable thresholds. My week has now been reduced even further to a load of 576, which is the lowest so far.
I am quite sure this is related to my previous week’s planned load and achieved load differences of Dec18-24 load 646/723 & Dec 25-31 load 849/691 (big week I know, but good social holiday run club easy running; sometimes you gotta just throw the plan out and have some fun running with other people). :sunglasses:

My Performance Potential also is showing some higher-than-normal “recovery” before diving back in for the following weeks. This week may be broken from my poking around, so I will run a bit lighter this week to bring the system back into better balance.

Hoping not to be in a state of constantly working against Athletica to achieve one very long-run session every so often.

Through all of that, I have two questions:

Is it possible to create special sessions that don’t take the load away from the overall week or the following week?
If a custom user session is created and the week is run separately from Athletica’s recommendations can the impact on the load balancing be contained to that specific week?

I realize that the above post is very verbose, but I was trying to provide as much detail as possible regarding the system load balancing.

Update and TLDR:
I think I broke the system this week, by experimenting with a much longer session than the original on Sunday.

I have removed the long custom session and it has not returned the weekly load to a balanced level between the Dec 25-31 (Load 849/691) week and Jan 8-14 (Projected Load 955) reducing my weekly Load to 424 Jan 1-7th. I am now getting the high fitness warning for the week Jan 1-7th. :man_shrugging:
Going from a load of 424 to 955 is a recipe for trouble; I will draw back Jan 8-14 week and finish this week by feel increasing my load to around 700ish

I will come back to figuring out the longer sessions to work on nutrition, hydration and mind space training after things stabilize.

Posting a follow-up just in case there is something in the model that carries beyond a week or something I am failing to recognize that another community member can see :sunglasses: :crazy_face:

Onwards and Upwards!

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you could try run double sessions to get your legs used to running while still fatigued? Depending on how robust your musculoskeletal system is, you could also create aerobic training demand using bike sessions (long ones) and then running?

Just a couple of quick thoughts.

This is ultra cycling, which is different to ultra running as the bodily impact is not as severe.

I have some rules of thumb for my cycling.

If I’ve ridden 200km, I need a couple of days recovery after.
If I’ve ridden 300km, I need three days recovery
If I’ve ridden 400km, I need four days recovery
If I’ve ridden 600km I need about a week recovery.

You’ll get the idea, my rule of thumb is 1 day of recovery for every 100km of the above distances.

Because they require these extra days off, I don’t tend to do them very often in training, and I mostly set them as B or C events and let the AI put tapers and recovery weeks either side.

My rule of thumb is to allow two weeks between a 400km and 600km event. I have tried a week apart and I’m just not recovered enough to go well that long so soon. Though on my A events I’m doing around 300km a day for multiple days in a row.

My advice where you put your long runs in, or double days to practice pacing, hydration, nutrition, clothing, equipment strategies is to prioritise rest afterwards and schedule shorter easier stuff to recover to assess where you are at. Don’t be afraid to move or simply delete what the AI has put in those weeks.


@Phil @Marjaana
Thanks a bunch for your feedback! Really appreciate the consideration and responses.

Testing hydration/nutrition/kit/mental game is, in some cases, more important than the actual training load. Listening to the underpinnings of both your responses has helped me reframe what I am trying to achieve. Rather than try and “sneak” the system and maintain my daily training activities AND get in a really long run, I will need to refocus my week on one or the other and balance the week’s focus on smaller daily loads or a large multi-hour load with more post rest. I am sure I can work out the math with the system to still provide the weekly progress not to derail my program.
Typically I have about 4-4.5 hours of running across two days in the week that I can compress into one and do that every couple weeks and move them back to back on others. Tough to really stress test nutrition/hydration in a two-hour activity. I will post back here on how I have been able to balance everything and still achieve long runs of 40km+

This week has been a bit of a different change of mindset: Not being able to be outside and “remembering” how much I need to work on loving my treadmill; on the high side I do have a small window of training to simulate crossing the Arctic/Antarctic. Always good to shift gears based on what mother nature has planned. :cold_face: :disguised_face:

The temps are in Celsius.

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Goodness me. That’s a good collection of icicles there :joy:
Where are you? Just for motivation to run on a treadmill: I’ve logged in 22k in the morning and 10k in the evening on treadmill (no entertainment, no music, no podcast, no screens)- to prep for Ironman, just as part of physical and mental training. Anything after that was a piece of cake :joy:

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Just North of Calgary Alberta, Canada.
There is a Polar Vortex for the next few days and the cold has hit with a vengeance. It has been a mild winter other than this bout of cold.
Well done on the double run! I noticed you posted in the BIG thread aswell. It is always nice to see what everyone is up to now with the new forums.

I have to say that any amount of time on my treadmill is good mental training for me; it is always a good touchstone for my why.

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Your photo reminds me of a New Year trip we did a few years back. Most New Years we’d head into the mountains for a week in a bothy. A bothy is a basic un manned hut in a remote location. I mountaineer as well as my cycling.

One year it just would not stop snowing. We got some objectives in, but then the avalanche danger got too high . We set off on a smaller objective that should be safe. Gary in the photo was in the lead. The snow was deep and getting deeper. After about 800 m he asked if we should turn round. I, of course, was in the trench behind him, whilst he broke trail. The going wasn’t too bad for me. I then took over and after another 800m said we ought to turn round. Breaking a trail was really hot and hard work. By the time we got back to the bothy the snow was waist deep.


Guys!!! Here I am, sweating in 25c + and humid as hell in Houston Tx and you tease me with these epic snow :snowflake: pics. :roll_eyes: :joy: please keep them coming :smiling_face_with_three_hearts: