Many runners know Michael Irrgang as official of the Deutsche Ultramarathon-Vereinigung (DUV). His seminars are experience and broadening of one’s horizon in terms of ultra marathon training all in one – as were the training days in 2014 at the DUV advance bases. He is an ultra runner out of passion who enjoys sharing his knowledge and experiences. We talked to Michael, of course especially with respect to the Wall Race preparation.

Michael, the Wall Runners mainly know you as „100Meilen-Coach“. In 2013 you coached three participants during their training and counseled them for half a year. What has become of those Wall Runners?

mirrgAt first I must not forget to point out that already during the preparation phase we became a team beyond the common hobby and the common experience „Wall Race 2013“. We keep in touch with each other on a regular basis and exchange experiences and plans. Fabian planned on a new try this year after this „abort due to hiccup“ in 2013. Unfortunately he met this fate once more – this is bitter, especially since till now no physician was able to find the cause of this uncommon discomfort. Eventually he wants to conquer the Wall Trail, but running a marathon in less than 3 hours is also one of his medium-term goals. Kerstin developed sensationally and was part of the „Talent National Team“ in September in Winschoten already. However she was unlucky to have a severe, not self-inflicted bicycle accident that prevents her from training up to today. As a Berliner she was very proud to run a part of the Wall Race in a relay in 2014. Meanwhile she is a member of the Wall Runners and will eventually return to the competition course. Thomas, the third member of our team, returned to the Race in 2014 and succeeded in getting the back-to-back medal. His running abilities are not quiet on the level of Fabian’s and Kerstin’s, but he turned out to be the master of the running tactics composition and meanwhile helps other runners to reach their apparently utopian goals. For the summer he plans on taking the challenge of the K78 in Davos.

A basic question: Is it in general possible to train specifically for a 100 miles race?

Of course, it is even recommended. Training is more than running. It covers specific weight training or the trial and error of nutrition strategies and as well of the materials, like shoes and socks. Every critical component of the competition is recommended to be given a trial in an early phase. For the running training a solid preparation is required including night runs and load weeks with 160km. By the correct combination of 2 or 3 training units and the right nutrition prior, during and after the training, the time efficiency can be increased. Everyone precarious how to design the running units can resort to the 24h training schedules which are found on the DUV website.

Which rule of thumb is recommended to the participants during the preparation and what is to be avoided?

The design of the preparation phase of course relies on the current capabilities, the gained experience and the objective. Maybe even on the readiness to assume a risk. Particularly ultra runners who have never run more than 100km should not underestimate the distance. It does not only take twice the time of a 100km run, but one has to run at the night and small problems can easily turn into big ones. It is very important to stretch the distance of the training units continuously. During the preparation two 100km runs are feasible. The kilometer volume is important, but the athletic training is not to be neglected, because reaching the finish line after 20 or 24h without injuries requires a decent body posture, thus particularly strong back and foot muscles. Most important is a healthy and optimistic start, so please do not try to cover the omissions of the past months in the last two training weeks.

What amount of kilometers is recommended per week?

Even if many people with a marathon training of 40 to 60km per week are at the start and reach the finish, I believe more to be feasible. For a finishing „without walking units“ – which results in a finishing time of 20 to 24h depending on the pace – the requirements of the training are quite high. Two competitions of 100km or 12h during the preparation should ideally be planned. During training I suggest to add one long run every two weeks and stretch the distance from 40km to 80km. Speed units, either as speed endurance runs or repetitions runs, or mountain runs can easily be integrated into the training. At these training elements further training stimulus can be introduced at low expenditure of time. Most runners will probably get along with a training scope of 100km during the load weeks and 50km during the regeneration weeks. However I suggest to have a „coverage week“ once a month and run 100 miles in total.  Five or six weeks prior to the run this distance can be compressed to one weekend, i.e. run in three days. If this comes smoothly, a positive feeling about running the complete distance in one unit will arise. „In three days“ means for instance to run 30km on Friday, 80km on Saturday and 50km on Sunday.

Training is one part of the preparation, another one is as generally known the mental aspect. What proportion does the „head“ take on during the „Mission Wall Race“?

That is a very difficult question. Let’s first focus on our understanding. “Mental training” generally means simulating the competition situation in one’s mind. If I am aware to be insecure in the dark and thus run slower or how much I need to eat or how my feet will feel after 140km, I can design my running tactics or nutrition plan according to this. The better I can imagine possible negative scenarios, the better I can think of how to avoid these situations or ease the damage. If I assume to run slower in the second part of the race or walking units are required, I will be less surprised or disappointed when it actually happens. But of course there are other mental aspects and capabilities like motivation, volition, self-perspective, or attention. This particularly refers to the race, but all those points can be practiced during training. My advice is quite simple: Choose the right bicycle crew. There is nothing worse than feeling lonely in phases of misery. A friend at your side can be helpful in many aspects: supplying, entertaining, distracting, motivating, showing the direction, and many more. For me the planning of the competition and the generation of tension and anticipation are important mental aspects. With the decision to start and the registration, everything starts, followed by the design of tactics, the equipment and the support. Different aspects can be given a trial during the training. This generates confidence how to personally design the perfect race. With this in mind I wish you the perfect preparation for a great challenge on the 15/16 August.

Michael Irrgang was interviewed by Alexander von Uleniecki.