Training for the Deathride

Thanks, Bob - that’s exactly what I asked our club’s training guru. We (mostly they) do 60-110 mile rides with a good amount of climbing (near Mt. Rainier) every other Saturday. I have local hills that I can use to accumulate 5000-7000’ through repeats or circuits over 35-85 miles on the in-between weekends. I wasn’t sure if I could simply substitute those for the TR weekend ride… it sounds like I can (and should).

I just finished SSB Low, Vol 1, and was thinking of using the next 8 weeks to do Sustained Power Build Low - instead of more SSB - reasoning that I have a strong base and need sustained power for the DR. Taking your cue, I’d do Tue/Thu with a long ride/climb on the weekend. Since I crashed in February, I’ve done only rollers and then TR. I was skeptical that 3 workouts/week could get me in shape, but on my first 2019 club ride this past weekend, I was stronger than I’ve ever been at this time of year. Is there any reason to continue with SSB instead of Build?

Also FWIW, I’ve done (riding time) 11:20, 11:11 and then 10:24 over the last 3 DRs (my first, second and third centuries). The last was particularly gratifying since I had just turned 60. If I can keep getting faster as I get older, I’ll be a happy cyclist.


Over what distance and vertical?

Remember, the DR is a different beast than the shorter stuff. If the club ride you are referring to is one of the ones you mention above (60-110mi w/ 6k-10k feet), then great. But if much less, then it’s not enough of an indication at how well 129/15k will go.

That depends on your answer to the above question. Presuming the ride was shorter than the 60/110, with just just under 11 weeks to the DR, I would personally focus on a plan that more closely aligns with Base building. The VO2Max stuff in Build isn’t going to be that useful until you have a very wide base. I’m not sure if you are into data and use Training Peaks Premium (or WKO4) PMC chart, but I’d be focusing on building your CTL (while managing your TSB) such that your weekly TSS ~500 to 600+. Your long rides will give you plenty of bimodal training (endurance on the flats/rollers + threshold on the climbs) and your indoor SS sessions will fill the gap in the middle.

You and I are probably about the same age: I’ll be 62 in September. Without a doubt, we can get stronger and faster, particularly on the longer efforts. Literally, for every distance beyond PMax (max power for a single revolution of a pedal stroke), I have crushed every PR I set in my early 40s from 3-10min short steep suckers (15-25%), to sustained climbs (20mins to 90mins; 6-8%) to 10kft centuries.

FWIW: I put my power # (3.6WpKg) into Best Bike Split with a 65% intensity for the duration and should be able to do the DR in about 9hrs. With the same approach, I targeted Lake Tahoe (~72mi/4.5kft) in 4:30 (previous PR 5hrs) around and actually broke 4:00. So, depending on your goals and time available, you could get on to the same trajectory.

Just received an email stating the same:

It was 4200 ft over 60 miles; nothing epic, but we do mostly the same rides every year, at the same times of year, and I was much stronger this year than ever before, even on the 13-17% grades. So from a year-over-year standpoint, I feel like I’m starting off at a better level of fitness. Even if I only did what I normally do between now and DR, I’m confident I could finish. However, my experience with TR so far suggests I’ll finish faster if I stick with it.

Your subsequent explanation makes sense, so I’ll stick with SSB. If I want to increase the TSS, I assume that I’d just substitute the +1, etc., versions of the recommended Tue/Thu workouts. Is that right?

I’m completely new to power and structured training; looks like a have a few new acronyms to look up.

Pretty close. I’ve cycled my entire life but only got serious in 2015, when I decided to do the DR (retired with leg cramps after 92 miles). It’s a shame I waited so long; I spent summers at the family cabin near Echo Lake since I was a year old, so I’ve known about the DR since its inception. I always wanted to do it, but… [long list of excuses].

It’s great to know that we can continue to progress as we get older.

Thanks for taking the time to reply in such detail. I’ll start SSB vol 2 next week and hope to come in around 2.8 w/kg after the first test.


That’s all good news. I’d still stick with my same recommendation.

Yes! The key concept to learn is known as fatigue resistance. In lay terms, it’s how long you can hold your FTP. It is measured in minutes as TTE (Time to Exhaustion). When you typically set a new FTP level, it is likely that tested you could hold it for 30-35 mins (my experience). But through fatigue resistance training you can grow this (For examples: at the start of SSB MVI my FTP was at 3.2 and TTE was 32mins. I was at 63mins at the end of SSB MVI; I retested at 3.6 at the start of SSB MVII and it dropped to 35mins. I’m now back up to 64mins). It is fatigue resistance that is the critical determinate of success on long endurance rides, not just a decent FTP.

Fatigue resistance is achieved through progressively increasing the amount of time spent in each of the zones at threshold and below (sweet spot, threshold, over/under lactate clearing). It is measured as TiZ (time in zone). Even without fancy tools, you can use a spreadsheet to track this. For example, you could increase time in sweet spot from 4x12 to 5x20 over some # of sessions. There’s a great WKO4 video by Tim Cusick (WK04 product leader and elite coach) that you may find useful.

Note: I have approximately doubled the length of my base period in order to layer fatigue resistance training on top of TRs approach. Some sessions are +1, +2 or 2x; others are custom workouts I created to achieve progressive interval targets.

BTW: My role model has been my 67 year old friend. He’s the one that got me started doing the DR in '03. At 65, he did it in 8:37 :slight_smile:

Understanding the science and metrics of structured training has sort of been a hobby of mine the past few years. There’s a lot out there depending on your interest level. TR’s approach is to minimize the amount you need to understand to get faster by just following the plan. But, the more you understand, the greater the likelihood that you can improve your results through refinement/modification, particularly as your time allows (e.g. the ability to do long outdoor rides).

The concept is pretty simple, if you are going to do 1+ hour climbs then do longer and longer sweet spot intervals as I mentioned earlier. Here is an example of say picking a day (Tue or Thur or Sat) and progressing out the length of your intervals:

Or just go out and ride outside with longer climbs or sweet spot work. A good goal is to work up to an hour or more, to align with your projected climbing times. I was probably 2.8W/kg when doing the Death Ride, and my easy “aerobic endurance” climb-all-day-pace resulted in slow climbing times but loads of fun and no problem finishing: Monitor West 1:20 (1 hour 20 minutes); Monitor East 1:45; Ebbetts East 1:53; Ebbetts West 0:57; Carson 2:11 (those were all heart rate paced, and it really was a leisurely pace).

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Bob - sorry that I wasn’t clear: I meant to convey that I’d follow your recommendation to stick with (SS) base building:

Since that allows me to add duration/intensity to the recommended SSB workouts and add club rides, I think it’s a great approach.

That works for me… for now :grinning:

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I e-mailed the director; she said they’re waiting on approval from Cal Trans, Alpine County and the CHP to modify the route. It involves “course changes for a safer event”. Fair enough, bu I have an uneasy feeling that might take Carson pass out and put in Emigrant trail, Blue Lakes and/or Luther pass. Losing Carson would suck. They’ll announce as soon as approval is granted. Should be interesting!

Are you ever going to ride DR again?

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Thanks. I would think “safer event” changes imply taking Ebbetts / Hwy 4 out of the ride? There were one or two airlifts off Hwy 4 in 2016. I rode my brakes Ebbetts East, far too easy to go flying off the road. Also keep in mind Monitor (wide road and great road surface) and Ebbetts (east side is very sketchy) are closed to traffic, while Carson and Hwy 89 between 88 and 4 are the only parts of the ride open to cars. So I don’t see how they can close Carson, it is a remote state highway with no cycling restrictions. Did some googling and nothing turned up, thought some planning commission report might pop up.

Hoping to ride again, it falls on or around the birthdays of my wife and sister-in-law. Was somewhat of a miracle I did it in 2016 - it was my wife’s birthday.

I agree that it would be impossible to close Carson - otherwise they would - and that’s why I think they might eliminate it from the ride. My guess is that the safety issue is car related, not cyclist related, and since both Monitor and Ebbetts are already closed to cars they’d keep it that way and add some other closed roads (although to get to either Blue Lakes or Ebbetts you’d still have to go up Woodfords canyon).

By the way, they repaved much of Ebbetts after the winter of 2017 because of the snow damage. It didn’t open that year until June 30, and there was talk of rerouting the ride . It’s a much nicer, safer road now.

Woodfords Canyon is the problem IMHO, it was being repaved in 2016 but almost no shoulder IIRC. Once you get above Woodfords Canyon, from Picketts junction 88/89 to Carson summit there is a nice wide shoulder.

I agree. Minimal shoulder, short sight-lines and CHP does a poor job enforcing event speeds. The situation is particularly bad when the ride coincides with July 4th traffic because of all the RV and trailer traffic over the pass.

It is nice beyond Hope Valley except when you hit the road to Red Lake: Hwy 88 pitches to 9% just as the shoulder narrows and you’re squeezed against a guard rail. Worst part of the ride for me.

I did a TRP-Carson-TRP practice run in 2016 during the paving. As I was coming down to the top of Woodfords, the Caltrans flagger waved me through but forgot to tell anyone. As I got into the canyon, all uphill traffic was halted and the asphalt trucks were ordered to proceed up in the left lane. One of them pulled out right in front of me and forced me off the road; I almost laid it down in the gravel.

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yeah, I forgot about that sucky part.

Scary truck incident!

I have no special info. But the old timers say the numbers have been way down the last few. It’s a lot of roads to close and logistics to manage. I would assume they’re getting to a critical mass point where the existing course is not doable for the attendance. Alternate theory… with gravel getting so popular maybe it will go to a mixed surface event to boost popularity and limit the road closures.

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Yeah - I’ve seen it drop almost 50% over the past 4 years. I thought it was due to the late open on Ebbetts 2 years ago, but the decline has continued. From what I was told, it’s partly due to competition from other rides; that’s also why they’ve lost some of their sponsors. I was particularly bummed that Nature’s Bakery is gone. My friend also found that refreshments ran low last year.

They’re apparently waiting on Caltrans, CHP and county approvals for a route change intended to improve safety. As an alternate-alternate theory, I wonder if that means additional road closures rather than fewer. I asked last year about the drop in attendance and the future of the ride last year; the DR is too important a source of revenue to go away and will likely morph into a specialty event - maybe with higher costs (my guess) - part of that critical mass calculation.

Rider Stats here:

Summary for last 5 years:
2014 - 3500 registered, 2612 day of event
2015 - 3500 registered, 2468 day of event
2016 - 3290 registered, 2383 day of event
2017 - 2448 registered, 1728 day of event
2018 - 2443 registered, 1698 day of event

Nature’s Bakery seems to have undergone a shift in how they sponsor things overall. We had them as a strong sponsor of my bike club for the last number of years, and midway through last year they made a change and no longer are doing that same sort of support. Sounds like it applies to events as well.

Well. Y’all should be in your taper week about now. How did the training go? As for me I’m headed down to harbor freight to buy a couple brass bristle tooth brushes to clean speed plays and stocking up on chain lube and rags.

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New to TR, so I haven’t grasped the concept of tapering. I did Monitor, Ebbetts and Carson/Luther over the last 3 days, so now it’s time to relax and catch some of the fat rainbows that Todd plants in the East Carson and elsewhere.

The roads look good with the exception of the top of the back side of Monitor - it’s rougher than I recall. The front of Ebbetts had some holes above the switch backs, but they were being filled yesterday. Coming down the front side of Monitor Sunday, I saw a nasty set of skid marks that went straight off the road and across the pullout on a 90-degree right just above Leviathan Mine Rd. Someone hauling a trailer lost their brakes and went over the edge, but there were no fatalities.

Still no word on the changes to the route for next year. I hear the COC is meeting later this month to decide, but from what I hear, it sounds like Carson will be cut and they’ll either do 4 passes or double either Monitor or Ebbetts. They’re still paying to support a 3500 rider tour, but with far fewer registrations to support it. Have you heard anything?

See you in a few days - will you be on Ebbetts again?

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Taper = you should be going easy this week. About 1/2 your normal TSS more or less.

I’ll be there by the side of the road at the Ebbets summit.