Twice a Day & Interval Runs


Experience From - Wesley Best , Jeff Riddle , George Parrott , Shawn McDonald , Jeff Riddle#2 , Robert Youngren , Rich Schick , Rod Hammons , Claude Sinclair ,

Wesley Best

Just curious as to everyone's thoughts on:

  1. Two-a-day runs. I've thought about it, but have yet to find a compelling reason that I should.

  2. What kind of intervals to get ready for 50k's and 50 milers? Standard marathon training, with more repeats, or longer intervals? I know it's best to mix it up, but I'm wondering what some favorites are from those more experienced than myself.

Jeff Riddle

The only reason I've ever run 2-a-days is to get more miles in easier, but mainly because I LOVE TO RUN. Many days now I run with a friend at 5am 10 miler then run 3-4 miles later at 5pm with my son and his jr. high school xc runners. We could and have debated the 1 per day vs 2 per day runs but to me it all boils down to physical and mental enjoyment. I'd say if you can not find a compelling reason to do it do not.

Intervals, etc. Years past I've always done faster repeats, 200, 400 with a few 1000m and miles but I've found it hard to run the miles I need to run ultra's and do the real hard speedwork so this year I'm doing only 4-8 x 100 meter strides with my son 2-3 times a week and 1- 6-9 mile tempo type run at 8-9 min. pace with a shorter races at 7:30-8:30 pace. Currently, I'm a 9:14 50 miler with a goal of 5 hours for 50K.

George Parrott

There ARE some very good reasons for doing doubles...and intervals.

Workouts should mimic, as training, as much of the demands of later "racing" as possible. Training is SPECIFIC, so designing your overall workout "program" to develop ALL aspects of what will be needed later in your "goal racing" is important.

There are thus, many types of GOAL RACING for ultra runners:

While each of these GOALS are overlapping at times with the others, they do seem to require a bit of special planning in the preparation, to wit:

  • Training "To Finish"

    With this goal, the (ultra) runner is focused on getting through the event and thus the demands of DISTANCE and terrain are the most important to design preparation around. Getting in many LONGER training runs, getting extended TOF (Time On Feet) in training, and getting used to the demands of particular terrain (rocky trails or harder roads, e.g. WS100 vs Comrades or Lake Saroma) are THE elements of important preparation.

    Here doing doubles gets the body even more prepared for extended efforts with at least some recovery breaks, but in the later stages of the training doing LONG training runs of 50-70% of the total final "test stage" in ONE session will be helpful.

    For a road or trail ultra, doing some SPEED WORK is often an advantage, for it helps with "running efficiency." This is particularly IMPORTANT for a road ultra (e.g. Comrades or Lake Saroma, etc.), but it is also helpful even for trail challenges as it helps with your pushoff energyeven on those rough surfaces. Within the CHIPS here in Sacramento, most of our top "trail runners" have done regular speed work of one form or another, even as they prepped for demands like the WS100. Our top male WS100 runners, those who have actually WON the event (Tom Johnson, Jim Howard, Mark ?) ALL regularly did speed work sessions with the club in the buildup to their better races. Rich Hanna, one of our top 100kmrunners and twice national champion regularly did speed work.

    In summary for the "to finish" runner some "doubles" in the early and middle stages of total endurance buildup are good/helpful, and some speedwork, perhaps ONCE/week, is ALWAYS helpful to maintain running efficiency. However the really IMPORTANT training elements for the "to finish" runner is the "total time/distance LONG runs" and doing combinations of these, e.g. Saturday + Sunday totals that come to within 90% (or even 100%) of the total planned race challenge distance, but done over the TWO days. Training is specific.

  • For the "to PR" runner....

    Doing solid long run combinations (again the Saturday + Sunday) 90%+ of distance totals is very important as is doing 4-5 50% distance "races" in the the 4-5 months before the target event. For a goal 50 miler this would mean doing 4-5 marathons run decently hard or trail 50ks if the goal was a trail race.

    For the PR goal runner, the important PLAN should be to look back at "the weakest aspects of the previous PR" and work on developing THAT ELEMENT better for this next "attack on new territory."

    If cramps or stomach problems were the weak point, then experiment around with longer training/harder training runs (for cramps) or even more calcium or potassium (again for cramps) in your pre-race and early stage race calorie intake. For stomach problems try different foods, even those that others think are "wrong." One of our friends, from Japan, uses MILK during his ultras--it works for HIM. Another top early 80's WS100 female (winner actually) stopped midcourse for strawberry crepes!

    For the PR GOAL runner, the plan MUST include also improvement in running efficiency, and thus "speed work is VERY important." Racing shorter events even 10ks on the roads will help your overall running performance. Doing repeat MILES is always a good workout, be your goal a 10k pr or a 100k pr. The top COMRADES runners are RACERS. They are doing quality workouts AND doing volume training. The ONLY American to ever really "compete" at Comrades was/is Alberto Salazar, and NOBODY thinks he doesn't do intervals and speedwork. Tom Johnson has run very well at Comrades, and I can assure you Tom....does speed.

    For the "racing" oriented ULTRA runner, you hopefully KNOW what "it takes," but for the others of us, we can reflect on what it might be like to be in the "heat of the battle up front."

    Racing is another level of both physical and MENTAL intensity. The RACING oriented ultra runner must be doing all the things the PR oriented ULTRA runner works on, but further MUST additionally learn to play their own "best mental game plan" and sometimes even PLAY THE MENTAL STRINGS of their opponents."

    Racing is also not just a challenge to the PR, but also to win over others. You must be "in the hunt" to "win the race" for even long races are often not "served up to the victor," but actually very carefully "snatched by that totally successful planner." Of course modesty and humility demand that the "victor" later just make claims that "it was tough, I ran hard, and I was "lucky" to win." But luck usually has little to do with such "racing victory."

  • Racing

    Hence for the RACING ultra runner, speedwork is crucial, for it will be a race AND an endurance challenge. Learning to run HARD when tired is very important, and there doing doubles with a pattern of 25-30 miles in the morning followed by a later afternoon/evening session of 10-14 miles actually run HARD is very good "event specific" training. Many top marathoners run slightly smaller versions of such "intensity doubles." Brian Maxwell (of PowerBar Company ownership) was a top Candadian marathoner (2:13) and he often did 20+ miles in the morning and then another hard workout in the late afternoon. The Italian who won the Olympic gold in the marathon and then won Boston also regularly did hard morning 30k runs followed by afternoon 20-25km runs at 5:00 pace (Giolindo Bordin). KNOWING you can run hard when tired and KNOWING youhave trained "harder than the others" gives you both a mental and a physical strength to push...and "break" your competition.

    Further the MENTAL SIDE of the ultra is important for the racer. Staying focused and not "giving up." Giving it "your all" is so crucial to getting the MOST out of your body on that day. Mike Caitlin (twice WS100 winner) was so INTENSE on the course that he often "tried to drop his pacer!" He wanted the absolute biggest gap of the next runner possible, and he "unconsciously found himself RACING his own pacer" over the last 20 miles of his two victories at Western." Sally Edwards, another WS100 winner would "cruise through aid stations" looking her absolute best and "freshest" and then...get her own aid from her own crew another 1/2 mile or so down the course. This was, in part, so that "her competition behind got the word, "Sally is looking REALLY STRONG..."" Sally was playing on the mental side of her competition to give them "the view she wanted of total strength...impossible to run down..." To push them to "give up the HOPE of beating her." Sally also did intervals with the CHIPS in those days, btw.

    And another ICON of trail ULTRAS, Bill Finkbeiner, the first 10 time finisher and often top 10 finisher at Leadville, and many time finisher of the WS100, in all of his best "performance years," was a Tuesday night regular at the CHIPS Tuesday speed sessions.

    And while I have NEVER run really well "on the trails," I have broken 6 hours at 50 miles, and there my last 5 miles was at 6:50 pace, and I have also broken 7 hours at the American River 50 with the last 3 miles of that brutal uphill climb done with EVERY STEP of running. Both of those "achievements" came with double workouts on both of my "speed days" each week and a regular program of such "efficiency training."

    Shawn McDonald

    I will echo many of George's comments, in saying that doing some form of quality workout once a week can be of great benefit in preparing for ultras. Just like building up in mileage, start with a small amount of quality and add a bit each week. Working out with a group for these runs can be a good way to start, if you can find others of similar ability and fitness.

    Some of my favorite workouts are not done on a track for speed days. We have a paved loop around a lake here that I run my intervals on, its marked each 1/4 mile. For leg speed, I like 4-8 by 1/2 mile at 5k pace with 1/4 mile recovery jogs. For a cruising effort, try 3 by a mile at 10k pace with 1/2 mile recovery jogs. I do a warmup of about 3 miles and a cooldown of 3-4 miles EASY. Another of my favorite speed workouts is to head to a local canyon where there is a dirt road with fairly good surface. I do a tempo run, of maybe 25-30 minutes of quick running (maybe at about 10 mile - half marathon pace). The tempo segment is sandwiched with 3-4 miles of easy running as a warmup and cooldown. In preparing for mountainous trail race, I like hill repeats, where I find a dirt road or trail hill about 1/4-1/2 mile long and run several (maybe 10 for the 1/4 mile hill, 6 for the half mile hill) hard repeats up (at about 10k effort) and then jog down for recoveries. This works both the heart/circulatory system and builds some very good strength, which can help in long climbs and in later stages of rugged trail races.

    Some of our top runners here in San Diego do regular quality (speed) runs. On Tues. they head to a track for intervals ranging from 1/4 mile to 1.5 miles, and on Thurs. they do a tempo run, where the first 5 miles is easy pace, the 2nd five is at about 10 mile race pace. The folks who do this include Tom Nielsen, Ben Hian, Jeff Hines, Oscar Diago, and Dave Robinson. On a personal note, I set my 100 mile pr (17:26 at Vermont in 1992) on a program of quality runs and moderate mileage (avg. 50/wk). I did 7 long runs of 20-25 miles in the three months before the race, along with once a week interval/tempo sessions on a track with a group of road racers. In the 6 months before VT, I ran several shorter road and track races (from a mile to 10 miles) along with a marathon and 2 shorter trail races (10k,15k) plus two trail ultra races (50k and 60k).

    For more on my thoughts on speed training in ultras, see the web pages: and

    Jeff Riddle #2

    An increasing favorite workout combines a long run distance with an faster type pace. My long term goal is to run as many sub 12 min miles as possible for as long as possible with a goal of 100 miles in 24 hours. Here's what I do:

    My course is marked each mile (bike path and grass trails)

    Run 20 miles, running to each mile marker on my course then walking the time left till 12 mins. In other words if I run the first mile in 10 mins I continue walking till 12 mins then run to the 2 mile mark then walk to the 24 min. mark on my watch then run to the 3rd mile mark and walk till the 36 mins on my watch etc thru the end of the run. Usually I break up the 20 miles by doing 6 miles on bike path, 4 miles on trails etc, starting over with the 12 mins interval each time so I'm not walking too much for a workout.

    My walking time increases as I go while my run time is less but my pace is faster because I run less of each mile.

    This method keeps me from going out too fast and the run speed can be faster knowing I will have a long walk coming. It's been a easier way to do a 20 miler. I've not done a 30 miler yet may try this at Howl at the Moon in August.

    Robert Youngren

    I've found that not only including some sort of speed training (faster than typical training pace) in my Ultrarunning regimen but also running short road races has improved my running all around. If you don't like doing temp runs or track workouts then I suggest the following which my fiancee and I do quite regularly.

    Incorporate a local 5 or 10km into your long run. Typically we'll get to the race site early and run the course 1 or more times, at normal training pace, then race the event and then "cool down" by running the course 1 or more times (usually in reverse) to get 18 to 20 miles in. Then go out the next day for your usual long training run. I feel that this puts a good quality workout on your legs and helps overall with one's endurance and speed. Racing when your tired is tough!

    I've found this sort of training has made me a faster ultrarunner (6:38 for 50mi Gibson Ranch, 17:49 for 100 at OD 1997, 3:45 50km Croom Trail), plus its much easier to get a long run / speed work in when there are others out there to suffer with! Plus racing makes you work a bit more than you would alone, you know you get those competitive juices flowing!

    And ultrarunning has helped my short game as well. Since I've been putting more mileage in, running 100 milers and 50 mile races, my road racing times have dropped; something 4 years of collegiate running never helped with! I did all the speed work in college and my times never truly improved, but once out of college and when I started running longer, my 5km through 10km times have dropped dramatically, and probably would more if I actually tapered for these races!

    Anyways, take the short races seriously too, they are fun and a welcome diversion to all the long running we do!

    Rich Schick

    One thing I don't think I saw anyone mention yet is that doubles can also be a way of getting your miles in when it gets really hot and you just can't keep up with fluids. When we have our heat waves here in Georgia with upper 90's and low 100's with high humidity I will split my long runs to AM/PM runs that give me the same total to avoid getting totally trashed by dehydration and electrolyte imbalances.

    Rod Hammons

    The company I work for installed a locker facility in November 1998. When that happened I started running to work (7.5 miles) in the morning and then ran home after work. While I run the same route to work I vary the route going home (7.5, 8.0, or 12.5 miles). Even though I had considered myself in pretty decent shape at the time, I was surprised to see how this wore on me as the week went by. On Mondays, both to work and home, felt pretty good. Tuesday morning was a little rough but going home was OK. Then by Wednesday I was pretty beat going in both directions. I found out I needed an extra day of rest. So instead of taking one day off a week, I was now taking off two. Over time I began to handle it better and better. While I have conflicts that keep me from running to work/home 5 days a week, I can now easily handle 4 days a week even at a faster speed.

    I personally have seen a big improvement in my ultra running that I believe has been due to doubles. But based on my experience I'd say be careful and just don't jump into it like I thought I could. You can easily add mileage and add it too fast with this method. For me the indication was just getting wore out and feeling like crap. I didn't want to start working into an injury so I backed off and then eased into it.

    Claude Sinclair

    My best running came (and all my PR's) when I started training twice a day 3 or 4 times a week. Also I was doing 10 X 400's with a slow recovery run between each one. When I got bored with the track I went out on the road and ran measured quarters. Several times a month I would do 5 X one mile with a goal of a sub 6 minute mile. I now go back to my training logs and wonder how in the hell did I do all that speed work while doing 80+ miles a week!

    For my track and cross country runners I would just do intervals twice a week with two long runs and it worked for them. But on the schedule I was on I could go out on a Saturday and run 25 miles at a 7 to 7:30 pace with no problems. I stopped the speed work and high mileage and my VO'2 max has dropped from 67 to 43 and my marathon times have went from the sub 3 hr to the 4-5 hour range. Instead of speed work I called it speed play, because it was fun. Several things in my personal life stopped all of that a while back plus a few non-running operations. These post are giving me the motivation to get my butt back out there and try it again. Thanks.