Twin Cities in Motion

Ask a Coach, with Dennis Barker

posted on Mon, Jun 30 2014 3:12 pm by TCM Staff

Ask a Coach, with Dennis Barker, is TCM’s way of helping you get the most out of your running and training. Barker, who coaches Team USA Minnesota’s professional athletes, answers your questions and offers helpful tips targeted at runners of all abilities. Today's topic: Preparing for the TC Ultra Loony Challenge.

Q: In the comments to an earlier blog post about how best to train for the TC Loony Challenge, a reader asked for advice about training for the TC Ultra Loony Challenge, the two-day, three race series that culminates with the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon.  "Anyone have any training suggestions for the Ultra Loony?? I downloaded a Dopey Challenge plan designed for the Disney Marathon, thinking of modifying it slightly and following that." - Chris via Facebook


Successfully running the TC Ultra Loony Challenge (the TC 10K and TC 5K on Saturday, October 4 followed by the marathon on Sunday) requires only one additional element to training for the marathon only. It's a training technique I use often to build strength in runners preparing for all distances - workouts on back-to-back days. Those workouts are often run at different paces and intensity in order to incorporate two different training effects. Fortunately, the summer is a great time to train for the TC Ultra Loony Challenge requirement of running a shorter, quicker race one day and a longer run the next. There are 5K and 10K races every Saturday. If you enjoy racing (which evidently you do, since you have signed up to run three races in two days), you can incorporate your favorite races into your training.       

Your training will cover the same time span (3-4 months), as if you were training for just the marathon. The only difference will be that you will be running more 5K and 10K races on Saturdays and following it up with a long run on Sunday. This has been a staple training technique of top runners for many years.  

On the Saturday of the TC Ultra Loony Challenge, the 10K is first at 7:30 a.m., followed by the 5K at 9:00 a.m. As your training progresses and you get in better shape, you can add a training element to the Saturdays that you race. If you are running a 10K, you can recover for 30-60 minutes, including getting some fluid replacement and nourishment, then add a 5K cool down. If you are racing a 5K, you can do a longer (10K) warm up. On Sundays you will gradually be building your long run up, or close, to the marathon distance.

Your training schedule may differ slightly from what you normally would do for a marathon in that you would only do one (or no) additional workouts during the week other than easy mileage. This will allow recovery from one weekend and insure your legs are fresh for the next. You don't need to race every weekend, but at least every other weekend will give you the training effect you need.   


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Dennis Barker has coached successful marathoners from beginners to U.S. Champions. He is the coach of the Team USA Minnesota Distance Training Center. For more information, visit his page on Team USA Minnesota's website or follow him on Twitter @dbinsaintpaul.

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