Now a few things I’ve never professed to have is 1.) the aerobic capacity 2.) the physiological staying power, and 3.) the skill or technique to complete an event that is by definition, a minimum of 6 hours in duration…6 HOURS NO LESS! What I do have is the mindset and determination to get through such an event, this I don’t lack, but in preparation for such competitions something always gives in before my head does (usually my calves)! Now this may be because my overall conditioning is up to scratch or just a general weakness in those areas, so how do ultra endurance athletes get all of these variables to work, and work at the same time without any of them failing!?
Long- term preparation
So let’s make it clear that ANY competition needs adequate preparation in order to be successful, the 100 metre sprint for example requires as much prep as a 100 mile cycle ride. Competition prep, especially at elite level requires the application of specially periodised training cycles called macro, meso and micro cycles. So both Olympic legend Usain Bolt and Iron Man champion Frederik Van Lierde would need a well structured periodisation plan to ensure they enter competition in optimal condition.
Macro, Meso and Micro cycles
Prior to commencing any training the coach should identify, collect and collate all information relevant to the athletes specific sport and season. Individuality is key, a training plan should be subjective so working to the athletes specific needs e.g. one athlete may respond better to dynamic, explosive moves in the final weeks tapering down to competition, whilst another may perform relatively light motions prior to an event because they feel better within themselves for doing so.
Macro cycles usually involve an athlete working over a prolonged period of time, the exact time period will depend on the sport and competition time. These can range from months to several months, whereas a Meso cycle is two to six weeks in duration. Meso cycles are basically sub- cycles of macro cycles whilst the Micro cycles are effectively sub-cycles of the meso cycles, which covers a time frame of maybe two to ten days. So for a micro cycle that was planned to last 1 week, consisting of 2 sessions within that week, a coach would have to devise these sessions whilst also planning the following weeks (meso cycle) and the impending months (macro cycles)…it’s a constant cycle (Robinson, P, E. 2010)!
It’s all in the application!
You can have the best laid plans in the world, the cleanest diet going, and the best coach there’s ever been…but if you can’t utilise all these ingredients and apply them to your training, especially an ultra endurance event, then it all counts for nothing!
Needless to say, ultra endurance events are some of the toughest events on the planet so you need to get everything right, there’s no hiding from a glycogen crash, it hits you like a steam train! Get your nutrition and training prep correct and you’ll give yourself a chance, optimise your supplements for pre, during and after the event and you’ll give yourself the BEST chance.
Supplements to consider
Pre- race supplements
- Isotonic beverage (500ml approx 30mins before)
- Beta- alanine (2 week load tapering down to race)
- Caffeine (Immediately before)
- Carbohydrate based energy and protein bar (30-40mins before)
Intra race supplements (during race)
- Energy & Caffeine gels AND/OR Isotonic energy gels (as the athlete feels fatigue)
- Isotonic beverage (sip every 10-15mins)
- Carb and protein bars (during a cycle section of the race when stomach is relatively still)
Post race supplements
- Protein & Carb beverage (within 30mins after)
- Isotonic and electrolyte replenishing supplement (effervescent tablets e.g. High 5 zero)
- Protein and Carb bar (approx 30-40mins after)
Robinson, P, E. (2010). Foundations of Sports Coaching. Periodisation. Retrieved 2nd December, 2013, from