How To Use Triathlon To Cross Train For Ultra Running
And sharing plan details from Louie Ruvolo's 100 mile ultra course record
In this write up, I’m going to share the training philosophy and plan details behind Louie Ruvolo’s 100 mile ultra success.
Louie is 58 years old and has been a core athlete within Tribal Training for nearly 2 years.
I’m pulling back the curtain on his 100 mile ultra plan for 3 reasons:
to expand your thinking of what effective training can be
to give you training tips that will help you stay healthy and injury free
to help you see what’s possible when you consistently swim, bike and run
What Is Cross Training?
Cross training is using consistent training in sports/activities that differ from an athlete’s primary sport.
It’s used to limit fatigue and improve athleticism while continuing to develop overall fitness.
There are a few additional benefits that I’ll touch on later in the post.
2 Examples of Cross Training:
Powerlifters using consistent cycling to help with recovery and aerobic development
Triathletes using consistent hiking in the winter to develop lower body/core strength, build fitness and take a mental break from typical training
Louie’s Goals & Our Intention
Louie had 3 main events on the calendar in 2023:
100 mile ultra in June
Ironman 70.3 in September
Full distance Ironman in November
With long-distance triathlons looming late in the year, it was important to include swim and bike training in his plan early.
In February and March, Louie’s plan was an even balance of swim, bike and run.
As we moved into the 12 week block ahead of his 100 miler, we adjusted swim and bike sessions to prioritize keeping his body healthy while ramping up his running.
After Louie successfully ran his first 100 mile ultra (and set a course record for his age group), we have good proof our plan worked.
So let’s share the knowledge.
Cross Training Benefits Of Swimming & Biking
The #1 benefit of swimming is that it builds fitness without lower body impact.
There’s minimal stress on bones and joints and it’s a great tool for movement, blood flow and recovery.
As we ramped Louie’s run distance, swimming became a huge aid for keeping his body mobile and pain free.
The bike is the #1 place to build fitness.
My friend Gordo Byrn has a great write up that details why.
The 2 key reasons are heart rate control and low-risk load.
Biking develops fitness and lower body strength/durability without adding nearly as much fatigue as running.
Other Keys To Cross Training
Cross training helps athletes become more well-rounded and adaptable.
Consistently practicing different movements across multiple sports improves balance, stability and coordination.
Plus, the variety can lighten the mental load of single-sport training.
Eric Kenney says going on a weekend ski trip is not cross training. You just went skiing!!
I laughed and I agree.
It only counts as cross training if it’s consistent in your training plan.
100 Mile Training Block Overview
Here’s a snapshot of weekly swim, bike and run duration during the 13 week build through race day.
Avg. weekly swim time: 1:14
Avg. weekly bike time: 1:46
Avg. total weekly training time: 9:31
Swim, Bike and Run Specifics
Avg. 2 swims per week
1 swim was recovery session
1 swim rotated between endurance effort and speed work
Example Recovery Session:
Example 2nd Swim:
Doing speed work in the pool helped add necessary variety in Louie’s training without unnecessary fatigue from too much high intensity running.
Avg. 2 rides per week for first 6 weeks
Dropped to 1 ride per week for final 6 weeks
Most rides were Recovery or Endurance sessions
Some rides early in plan included higher intensity intervals
Example Recovery Ride:
Example Higher Intensity Ride:
All rides were Recovery Rides for the final 6 weeks of the plan.
Avg. 2 runs per week in weeks 1-3
Avg. 3-4 runs per week in weeks 4-12
weekday runs ranged from 30 to 75 minutes and included recovery, endurance, hills and higher intensity interval efforts
weekend runs focused on “Time On Feet” and extended throughout the build
We slowly ramped run frequency and duration over the first 6 weeks, normalized 8+ hours of running per week for 4 weeks before tapering down leading into race day.
Trust The Process
Louie’s first 50 mile ultra was a success, but it was a huge mental grind for him.
We started working together just 7 weeks before the race and scrambled a little to make it happen.
After a full year of commitment to training, recovery and nutrition, the 100 miler went MORE smoothly than the 50 miler.
And using the 3 sports of triathlon to cross train was a huge key to Louie’s race day success.
Aside from the training plan, Louie does an excellent job of committing to our 4 Keys To Recovery.
It’s a good idea to including swimming and biking as cross training toward your run goals.
It will help you develop your fitness, stay healthy and become a more well rounded athlete.
You don’t need to be doing ultra running to benefit from consistent swimming and biking.
Do you need a more well rounded approach to fitness?
The athletes within the Tribal Training community are doing everything from 5Ks to Ironmans and 100 mile ultramarathons.
Click here for more info on how you can become a part of our Tribe.