Full Triathlon Plan for Ultracycling Events?

Has anyone ever considered using the Full Triathlon plan for an ultracycling event (6-12 hours) as opposed to using the sustained base (build)/century (specialty) plans that seem to be typically recommended? Generally, the full triathlon plan is higher TSS, but what caught my attention is that the weekend rides for the full triathlon plan are much longer than the sustained build/century plan—for example, at the specialty phase, the full triathlon weekend rides are 3-4:45 hours, whereas for the century plan are only 1.5 to 2 hours.

Seems like the full triathlon plan may better prepare one for a long and over 100 mile ride/race, but had not seen this brought up before.

I was looking at the full distance tri plan last week. You are correct, IMO…ultracycling is better suited to that plan vs any other, I think.

Never really thought to look at the tri plans until I started mixing in longer endurance rides like gasherbrum and longfellow. You can look at those two workouts and see they are included in the full distance tri plan. Once you look at the mid vol full distance tri plan it probably makes more sense for a 12 hour ultracycling event.

I’m not sure we’ve had any feedback on results but I can recall a few people asking about the century and FD tri plans for ultra distance cycling events.

Maybe @bbarrera or @mountainrunner could chip in, I think they have experience in those events.

I suspect cross training and general endurance would figure into any plan, as there is only so much cycling one can do.

I’ve never looked at full triathlon plan. Guess I would focus build and specialty on the “right plan” for the energy systems required to support the event. And then add long rides on the weekend. All of the TR plans have comments like this from Century specialty overview - “The option for an increasingly long, weekend Endurance ride is included in the ‘Week Tips’ if you prefer a long, low-intensity approach on the weekend.”

A lot of my pre-TR training for a double century looked like sweet spot base, general build, and climbing road race. Back then I was averaging 7 hours/week for roughly 26 weeks (corresponding to full base/build/specialty, but without the same structure as TR). So I’d either go with mid-volume plan or low-volume plus additional workouts/rides.

For an ultra event I would suggest scheduling a long 5-9 hour ride every 4 weeks starting in January. As an example these club rides are on my calendar for 2020:

  • 103.8 miles, and 3261’ climbing with two key climbs between mile 55 and 80
  • 101 miles, and 5155’ climbing with two big climbs between mile 60 and 80
  • 98.6 miles, and 5,412’ climbing with three big climbs at miles 22, 42, and 62
  • 97.4 miles, and 8,061’ of roller coaster climbing from sea level to elevation 3100’ at the mile 50 turn around, and then enough climbing on return to melt legs
  • 98 miles, and 7781’ climbing starting at 6000’ elevation with 3 major climbs summiting at miles 12, 52, and 85
  • 99.8 miles, and 10,622’ climbing starting at 3500’ with a 28 mile continuous climb. Ride above 7000’ for 60 miles

Those rides in my opinion are crucial, and I’m thankful our club sponsors them to support training for ultra events. All of those rides involve developing mental toughness, and force you to work out fueling/hydration/comfort issues in advance of the big event. Bonus points for doing longer 3-5 hour low/tempo intensity rides on other weekends.

You also need to develop upper body and core. For convenience I have weights and resistance bands in my office and do core work throughout the day.


Makes sense, the full triathlon plan is basically setting you up to do a ~5+ hour ride and still be fresh enough to run a marathon afterwards. Which isn’t all that different from riding for ~5 hours and then carrying on for another 5!

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Yup. Put another way its emphasis is on developing a strong aerobic base using long endurance and tempo rides. Setting you up to ride the 112 mile bike segment at endurance to tempo pace (65-80% FTP).

What you don’t get is anaerobic capacity/power development, and I’ve needed that to combat decline of vo2max and push FTP up higher.

This is the basic weekly breakdown of workouts in full distance triathlon plans (high volume):

  • Base is 3 days of structure and then 1 long ride (1.5 - 5 hours)
  • Build is 2 days of structure and 1 long ride (2-5 hours) plus 60-min endurance ride
  • Specialty is 2 days of structure and 1 long ride (4-6 hours) plus 90-min endurance ride

The structure is mostly 60-90 minutes plus some 120 minute stuff. Structure in full distance plan is mostly tempo, sweet spot, and threshold. There is 11 weeks of vo2max work starting in week 5 of base and continuing into early build.

If you simply want to follow a plan that looks like a great way to develop and maintain/grow a large aerobic base and ride long hours at tempo. The flip side is you do that at the expense of your vo2 and anaerobic system, and some riders may need that vo2/anaerobic intensity.

The other way I would suggest is to use low volume road plans, do the 3 structured rides during the week, and use the weekends for long rides. Maybe throw in extra mid-week endurance ride, something like Pettit (60-min) or Carter (45-min) or Volunteer (30-min). And grow your sweet spot intervals out from 3x15 to 2x25 to an hour or more.

In either case, do the long rides!!!

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Sorry for the late reply. I’ll leave specific plan recommendations to @bbarrera (which I concur with 100%) and just pile on.

As far as the “ultra” of the event, I would look at the course. Is it 6-12hrs (an enormous range) because its climbs or simply its distance? A 160km (99mi) event w 5094m (16.7k’) of climbing is one thing, but training for a 264km (164mi) w 6831m (22.4k’) of climbing is another level. (These are from a local annual event.) Just like training for a marathon is one thing, a 50miler (or 100miler) is something else. You’ll need to be looking more at compounding the workouts (back to back days, etc) to (smartly) build stress on stress.

As @bbarrera gets at, I’m not sure the Full Tri plan is a best fit. Preparing to run 4-5hrs after a 5hr 112mi bike is not specific prep to sit in the saddle for 10hrs.

Also, you need to know your course. Up means down, even if just rollers, which likely means some kind of rest and recovery, which doesn’t happen much with a flat ride (or on turbo/rollers).

The mental toughness/fortitude/patience required should not underestimated.