This training plan is the one I developed and used for the Killington Ultra Beast. I raced all year and really wanted to make my way up to Killington to tackle the founder’s race with authority.
A bit of my story
Unfortunately, I had some huge unexpected/unplanned bills hit me in the beginning of the year. I let my reasonable side get the better of me and I scratched Killington off my list. It was not until the stars aligned and I was able to mix in a work trip to help subsidize things to make the cost of the trip a bit more palatable.
Outside of getting in some long runs that I would do normally do to stay Beast length race ready, my Killington Prep time was less than 3 weeks.
First, this article isn’t meant to show off or say how great I am (because I’m not). Instead it’s meaning is more along the lines of demonstrating that if you are regularly training already and are willing to put the work into it; anyone can complete an Ultra Beast, from a physical standpoint. Of course, if you have decided to make this your first race, I would probably recommend 6-12 months of training beforehand for a solid performance. I would also say that you’re my kind of people.
The Ultra Beast
When I started this plan, I thought about what makes up the characteristics of an Ultra Beast. Typically, it means it is 100% EffNorm, or at least significantly Norm influenced. Meaning? The terrain is going to be brutal, then Norm is going to find a way to find a brutally draining obstacle or task to slap on top of that terrain.
You need to focus on three things: your grip, your climbs and your carries. This may have you doing some things people are just not used to seeing in the gym.
Now what it listed here is what I had to work with in boring flat and 110 degree East Texas. If you have some real life on the trail options, it is good to mix those in for mental variety and give your body a slightly different take on a similar movement.
I am not going to dive into Diet/Nutrition; everyone has different views and physique goals. However, if you are interested in some insight, I’m always willing to talk at a race or on-line. I am going to go through my training regimen from a Strength and Cardio aspect and I’ll explain why I did what I did. Your gym may not have the same gear, or there may slightly different ways you want to attack your race, and that is totally fine.
During the season, to keep my upper body as fresh as I can, I lift twice a week for about 60 minutes a session. First strength training session of the week is my Push/Pull Day. I start off with a quick lap around the gym which is a quarter-mile and then so some dynamic and static stretching. I then grab two 45lb plates and proceed to do 2 laps around my gym in an effort to start pre-frying my grip before I start my routine. When done, I am back in the gym with as little of a break as possible. Then I movie into the routine.
Pull-Up/Push Up Split:
- 20 Pull Ups (Chin Over the bar) then 20 Push Ups, Then 20 Pull Ups and a 10 second break then repeat. The goal is to get 80 pull-ups in and the blood pumping in my chest.
- 4 Sets on the incline bench, 20-15-12-10 rep scheme increasing the weight and slowing my tempo each set going from explosive movement to really feeling the squeeze in my chest.
- 5 sets of seated rows, 20-15-15-12-12. Increasing as I go or 15 by 5 steady weight
- 5 set of flat bench, or dumbbell, 15-15-12-12-10 (if I felt like going heavy then it was 10-8-6-6-4)
- 5 sets of lat pull downs, 15-12-12-10-10 (very tempo focused feel the squeeze, burn out the back)
- 5 sets of chest fly, 15-12-12-10-10 (very tempo focused feel the squeeze, burn out the chest)
- 100 Back extensions, Plank as long a possible (typically 90+ seconds by the end of a workout)
- 30 Body-weight Dips to Parallel
- Lap around parking lot with a pair of 45s
- Dumbbell Shoulder Presses, 20-15-12-12-10 Increasing weight
- Shrugs, 5 sets of 15 or 2 sets of As long as I could hold on with a minute break in between
- Arnold Press, 15-12-12-10-10
- Delt Flys, 15-12-12-10-10
- Lateral/Front Raise Superset, 15 & 15 by 5
In-between each set of exercises, go to a pull up station/bar and dead hang with a goal of 60 seconds (the first 2 and sometimes 3 were easy but by 4 and 5 I typically want to die. If you do this day right you should leave the gym every time with a pump in your forearms that is unbelievable.
I do have a real leg day where I aim to make myself puke, I am a big fan of 200 reps of 225 challenge and adding 100 calf raises after, but for the Ultra Beast I mixed it up.
- Half Mile Jog Dynamic and Static stretching
- Lunges (started with just body weight but moved to a 25KG Kettle bell held in the goblet position) 150
- Squats 2 sets of 20 A2G of a lighter than normal weight (I’d aim to get to your bodyweight on the bar)
- 100 Calf Raises (Full Stretch)
- The Devil’s Staircase (Stairmaster or 30 Degree Incline Trainer) 40-60 minutes non-stop at the fastest pace you can maintain.
To mix it up I would use a wreckbag, vest and/or ruck to really put the strain on my legs. If you have real hills where you live this is a great alternative but one advantage of the Stairmaster is you can fix your speed and not have to think about it. You can just focus on the next step; this paid dividends for me at Killington.
Excluding the Leg Day Death March, my goal was to be running in some form at least 4-6 days a week… depending on life’s schedule and how my legs felt. If you feel really dead take a day off, you’ll come back stronger. Here’s the break down:
- 1 long run 10-15 miles, 75% pace
- 1 5k-3.5 miler, fastest pace possible
- 2+ 5.5-7 milers, 85% pace (mixing in an Elliptical especially post death match day is a great way to get work in but help your legs actively recover.)
Conditioning Day: (Typically once or twice a month)
- Murph Challenge plus 100 Burpees or 8-Count Bodybuilders
- Farmers/Plate Carries: Log Carry, Bucket Brigade and Grip
- Pull Ups: Grip and Walls, Tyrolean Traverse, Tarzan Swing
- Rows: Hercules Hoist, Rope Climb, Grip, Tyrolean Traverse, Tire Drag
- Push Ups, Bench: Tire Flip, Burpees and Crawls
- Presses: Burpees, Carries and Spear Throw
- Delt Flys: Hoist, Spear Throw
- Super Sets: Everything
- Leg Day: Death March, Bucket Brigade and Log Carry
This should give you the base skills and help to build the primary physical abilities required to complete an Ultra Beast. It really doesn’t matter if you don’t prepare yourself mentally for what you are attempting to accomplish it. People can offer guarantees, maybe that will give you the mental confidence you need, but your mind is the key part of the equation for a race like this.
Most of what I have seen about preparing for an Ultra Beast is coming from people who have DNF’d. The general theme is; ‘I should have brought this,’ or ‘eaten that,’ or ‘this was messed up by XYZ’. The reality of it is; if you are not prepared mentality to endure what you are going to put your body through, then you are not going to do it. It isn’t because you can’t do it physically, but because somewhere on the course you say to yourself that you can’t; and then you hear someone else say they can’t, all the sudden there is a pity party raging somewhere on the mountain.
You are capable of anything you put your mind to, you just need to tell the self-preservation side of yourself, and the fear, to STFU. You do not stop when you are tired, you stop when you are done. Your body, no matter your condition, is capable of so much more than we give it credit for. I finished the Killington Ultra Beast with a busted knee, walking 2/3rds of my second lap, because I will not quit. They are going to have to tranquilize and cart me to get me off that mountain; and I did it before the sun went down. If you really want it, you will make it happen. Just know at some point you are going to say “What the Hell did I get myself into?”, “I only have a lap in me today” and “Can I really finish this?” The answers to these questions are “The Time of my life”, ‘Nah I am here for 2” and “Bet your ass I can”.
It is critical to have this conversation with yourself before you get to the course; and have it multiple times. Enjoy a few push to failure days at the gym to feel really exhausted. On the 5.5-7 miler days, I recommend running depleted/fasted (i.e. First thing in the AM) so your body becomes accustomed to that feeling. No matter how much you fuel yourself, mid race your body it going to feel like that. When all of this hits you, just remember why you started and where you are going, you’ll know at the finish line. AROO!