Best training plans for Xterra / Off Road Triathlon

I just finished cyclocross season in Texas and am planning my 2019 season. USAT Off-Road National Championships is in Waco, TX on June 8th. I completed the Olympic Training Plan (Base, Build, Specialty) for the same event last year. The MTB portion of the event last year was 18 miles so it is more consistent with a Olympic MTB. On the tri plan last year, I did the the mid-volume selections for cycling and followed the low volume instructions for swim and run because of my time limitations with work and family life. I almost think I would be better off getting a swimming coach or do Masters swimming as I think technique pays off better than putting just hours in the training following the swim recommendations although they were helpful for a novice swimmer last year. Any thoughts? Any recommendations?

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XTERRA events, while similar in length to the Olympic Distance Triathlon, have specific demands that require a bit of deviation from the standard Olympic Plan. As a result, our XTERRA workout suggestion is a combination of the Olympic Triathlon Training Plan and the XC Olympic MTB training progression. Essentially, you will do the run and swim recommendations from the Tri plan, but you will drop in the rides from the MTB plan progression on the days you have rides. Here’s what that looks like:

Olympic Distance Base, option to substitute the rides from Sweet Spot Base II
Olympic Distance Build, but substitute the rides from General Build
Olympic Distance Specialty, but substitute the rides from XC Olympic MTB Specialty

Chad talks about recommended XTERRA training on our Ask a Cycling Coach Podcast here:
Podcast 071

I hope this helps!


I do agree with getting some swim coaching, whether it’s through masters or just some scattered swim lessons to work on learning good technique and skill building drills. Lots can be learned from various books but it’s hard to replace eyes on deck from an experienced swim coach to speed along the process. Wish you well.

I have been following this for the last two years. It is admittedly tough to do both interval sessions from the bike workouts in the build/specialty along with the running intervals prescribed in the oly plans. That is three very hard interval sessions, so if you want to hit up a drop ride or practice bike handling at race pace I have had to swap one of the bike interval sessions out.

I do short power build though as that was at the time the recommendation for off road athletes, and I will be sticking with that since I think it is a limiter for me personally and after looking at MTB power files, closer matches the type of trails we have here.

The Waco course is also more of a short power course, all climbs are 2 minutes and under but all very steep and high power, and a lot of them.

It was nice to hear that @chad was interested in doing an xterra focused plan, as I’ve been asking for one. With the calendar it is easier now to organize my run and swim workouts as opposed to always having to open the tri plan and open the details for the different weeks so I’m not quite as eager for it, but one major change I also need to make is around the taper. The low volume XCO plan is really only a 1 week taper and I try to get in a 2 week taper to start the race season or after a big block of training and only use 1 week during the season when the races are about a month apart.

And to answer one of the questions mentioned by @Nate_Pearson and @Jonathan in that old podcast you guys have the old national championship course in your own backyard. Xterra Nats were held in Incline Village when I first started up and by the time I was ready to make a run to go there, they moved it to Ogden outside salt Lake City. The Xterra Lake Tahoe course goes up the flume trail and around Marlotte lake and back down to Incline Village.

This is longer than an average course though, what would be considered a “Championship” level race with the pros finishing the whole thing in around 3 hours

@Bioteknik, @Umbach, @Bryce, Thank you for the replies! Listening to that old(er) podcast I probably didn’t know what Xterra was back then. I agree with the short power build over the general build though as my MTB power files are more on and off again than steady state. I haven’t plugged the workouts in yet, but the calendar sure should help for planning. Thanks again! Jason

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Yeah, the decision of your build will depend on a few factors. I’ve ridden in Texas a fair amount since i have relatives in Austin. Crazy to think they used to have a race at emma long. I know many western courses have more sustained climbs like the national champ course. But even my local area that has a net 1000 ft climb to the top it is broken up in to a bunch of mini climbs and descents much like you’d get at the revielle peak course near you.

My focus has been Xterra events. Unless you are coming from a swim background, getting help with the swim will really improve that portion of the event. A Masters swim with a coach on site will work well. That is what I am doing. I also have done private lessons to get over some major technique issues.

Might I suggest you listen to the Tower26 podcasts about tri-specific swimming?

This is what I found 2 years ago. My legs could not handle all the high intensity of bike and run. Just too much. Add that even the 5am workouts were in 90 degree heat and things were a challenge.

The saddest part of Xterra for me is Worlds is NOT a technical course. A long climb and fast descent. Roadie style course. Which leaves me going “Why GO to Maui when I qualify for that?”

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Have you done the Kapalua course? Or basing this off of other people’s opinions?

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@Bryce is there an easy way to do this substitution in the calendar? Or is there a way to only substitute only ONE of the rides?

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An additional question about plan modifications – since I am doing this for Xterra training, I thought I would keep them here: If doing 2 rides per week from something like Sustained Build, which of the weekday rides would you include (assuming the 90 minute ride is done as part of a brick session) – the one with higher intensity intervals or the longer interval workout? Or alternate between weeks?

Lastly, if the 75 minute workout IS included, what is the effect of only doing the 60 minute version (since these will be done at 5am and getting up earlier is nearly impossible – sleep is required and going to bed earlier is not usually an option).


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At this time it is not possible to pick and choose which parts of the plans you will add :pensive:. The easiest way to do this for now will be to add the Tri Plan to your calendar, manually delete all the rides, and then add the workouts from SSB, General Build, or XC Olympic.

Our developers are currently working on a way to make this easier by allowing you to add only the disciplines that you are interested in to the calendar. For example, duathletes could just add the runs and rides. This would then allow XTERRA athletes to add the runs and swims while sourcing the rides from a different plan.



I personally will be picking 2 days of intensity on the bike and 1 day of running intensity. Will reevaluate if an extra day of recovery is needed after significant trail miles since they have an extra muscular component even if you keep pace within check and hr from going too far out of target.

I have done -1 versions of the 75 minute weekday rides since i am also on an early morning schedule. I will be trying the 75 minute versions this year.

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This would be a dream. I was just thinking about training for an off-road triathlon and this thread has come in so handy.

Thanks for responding!

Happy to help!

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Just finished my base with the mid-volume SS base + low volume Olympic triathlon base combination. It went well. I have the XTERRA Bluebonnet coming up this weekend as my first race. Is anybody from this thread going to be there? Hope everybody’s training is going well!


Good luck out there! I did Bluebonnet a few years ago (now 7?!!) since I’ve got relatives in Texas. I had a bad day on the bike that day riding a borrowed bike instead of flying my own out there. Reveille is a fun place to ride, but that swim was a bit funky. When I did it there was a nice layer of growth on the surface of the lake/pond there, but still a fun place, a good early season race. I could tell most of those Texas riders were all in full season form and coming in from VA at the time I was not.

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