I have 80/20 (and several other of Matt’s books) and, as an ultramarathon runner, am having a hard time with the idea of staying out of the “moderate” zone. Is it more for racers of 1 mile up to marathon? I used your Zone Calculator and McMillan’s and calculated that for me, (assuming marathon in 3:03), factoring in Zones X and Y, it seems like I’m being asked to stay out of pace ranges from roughly 40 mile race pace (7:27) down to 7.5 mile race pace (6:21). This range is between MP + 7% through MP – 10%, where a ton of Renato Canova training is based. I know that your Zone Calculator addresses that “some” training can be done in this “dead zone,” but for those ultrarunners among your followers who race mostly from 50k-100 miles, what do you advise? A bread and butter hard run is, for example, 12 miles alternating 400m at MP + 5% with MP – 5%: completely within the dead zone. Progression runs: same problem. I’ve read the 80/20 research and tones of Seiler and etc., but it just seems like too “race-useful” of a pace range for us. Thank you for any leeway/suggestions!
The 80/20 principle applies universally across all endurance disciplines and distance specializations, ultramarathons included. You should be spending 80 percent of your training time at low intensity, full stop. Yes, it’s good to spend time practicing in your race zone, but more than 10-15 percent? Absolutely not. The below study on Ironman triathletes (similar duration to 100K ultras) shows why. Even though racing was done primarily at moderate intensity, athletes who spent the most time training at low intensity performed the best:
The endurance runs in our new ultramarathon plans allow for the inevitability of some time in Zone X. Additionally, you’re spending some time at moderate intensity every week within the week in tempo runs, steady state runs, etc.
Be careful what you take away from online reading about elite coaches and athletes. I can assure you Canova’s runners train 80/20 too. It is simply impossible to be competitive at the highest level of any endurance sport training any other way.