The concept of a massive over-distance day is nothing new to endurance athletes and something many do during their overload block of training for their key race (Ironman, ultra-marathon run or ultra-distance bike race like The Dirty Kanza 200). Personally, as an athlete and as a coach I am a big fan of this for multiple reasons I’ll explain here. There’s both an equal part physical training stimulus and a mental fitness stimulus. If one has never done an extreme endurance activity it’s kind of its own rite of passage if you will – the endurance athlete’s rite of passage.
Let’s make no mistake – this is not something you can do regularly– the recovery costs are simply too high. However, if timed correctly 4-5 weeks out for run, 3-4 weeks out for bike you get a nice training stimulus that can contribute to a nice pop in fitness but more importantly it can provide a big and critical boost to mental fitness.
Why should you consider a workout like this? I would venture to say that for any endurance race lasting over 6 hours, many athletes will hit a low point at some point in the race where there is an intense sense of despair and they don’t know if they will even finish. How they handle this low point is critical. When an athlete hits this low point, they can reach into their back pocket and pull up the memory of getting through that massive day they did. These epic overload days in training force you to not only bump into how to handle getting pushed beyond your limit physically but also force you to deal with it mentally. Dealing with the despair of not knowing how you are even going to get through and finish it and then figuring out a way to get through it is invaluable practice for race day. This is EXACTLY what happens on race day in an ultra-distance endurance event. Having gone through it at least once or twice prior to your A race gives you a leg up in having dealt with it already mentally.
Discuss with your coach if/when this makes sense in your build up. If you are self-coached use the timing guidelines mentioned above and don’t get greedy with it. No more than two of these over-distance days in the final 4-5 weeks before the event.
Get outside and do something so hard that it makes it you question everything in your life. When you bump up into that extreme sense of despair and all you want to do is call your significant other to come pick you up, just deal with it, handle it however you need to, to get through it. I promise you it will help you mentally on race day (as long as you’re able to recover from it!).
This post was written by QT2 Level 3 Coach, John Spinney.