Gravel Ultra Training - Seems Wrong

I did the TrainerRoad plan builder to prepare a plan for my 2022 season - my “A” race is the Coast to Coast (210 miles) on June 25, yet the plan doesn’t ever build up past a 2 hour ride the entire time. Am I missing something or is this just not set up for ultra distance training - I was expecting to see a few 100 plus mile efforts prior to the race.

2 Likes

@Bliedmar from strictly a physiologic perspective it is possible to complete a 210 mile ride without ever doing anything more than a 2 hour ride. As a matter of maximizing your chances of success at your A event, this is not the best approach. If for no other reason than shaking down your nutrition plan and equipment you should do some century rides.

For my first 200 mile gravel race I did an 80 mile, a 109 mile, and a 146 mile gravel race beforehand. I don’t think you need to go that far, but you definitely need to get out on the gravel for 100 miles. Make your nutrition and hydration mistakes in training. Fix them. Find a formula that works & work it. Get comfortable with it. Remove any and all mystery from pacing, eating, drinking.

Make sure that on race day all you have to do is perform. You shouldn’t have to figure out things on race day. This is my advice.

2 Likes

@Brennus has already hit on some of the reason why this is a bad idea.

But at the end of the day, you need to have some specificity in your training….if you have a long endurance A event, you need to train for long endurance. Can it be done by doing shorter, more intense training? Sure. Is it optimal? Not IMO.

Also worth remembering that TR plans are built around trainer work….and they know they have to substitute shorter rides for longer rides to get better compliance. Most people just aren’t gonna bang out 5+ hour rides on the trainer.

Personally, if I was doing C2C, I would have multiple 100 mile gravel rides in and likely a couple of 150 rides, too….but I am also a volume responder and need it for me to reach my peak for an endurance event.

1 Like

Like has been said, You will want to get a few longer rides in.

TR is built for mainly indoor work, I’ve learned there is almost zero reason to ride inside for more than 2 hours in a single go. I can gain similar or better physical adaptations in 2 hours on the trainer than I can on a 6 hour outdoor ride. What I can’t get from the indoor work is testing nutrition, fit, comfort, etc.

I also wouldn’t fret about getting anything long in until about April, and at that point, I wouldn’t go anything more than 6 or 7 hours.

that’s a loooong stretch (excuse the pun). My rule of thumb is (outside ride-freewheeling time)*0.95
I multiply with 0.95 because my reasoning is, gaps in the effort takes away from the overall load.

2 Likes

Are you sure you’re doing it right?

2 Likes

Thanks for the feedback. Having done 200+ mile gravel races I agree with a lot of what was said. Just find it odd that TR has 4-5 hr training blocks but doesnt incorporate them into an ultra training plan. I get that most people don’t ride indoors for over two hours, but most people also arent training for a 200 mile race. I was hoping this could give me a cheap option that factors in periodization for multiple B races around my two A races, but I’ll stick with my old plan I guess. Thanks again.

You are training completely different aerobic systems in those two options…they are not equitable or comparable.

Different? Maybe but not by much. SS is still aerobic work, just like endurance. Work up the muscular tolerance to hit 90% for 90 minutes and you’ll actually be able to turn it up at the end of those 6 hour rides. For me atleast. Long rides still have their place for sure, but for time efficiency, I will take 2 hours of SS work.

Pretty sure. Did 340 miles in April of this year. I think I maybe had 1 or 2 rides over 5 hours prior to that.

I’m doing coast to coast this year and have similar concerns.

I did an Ironman a few years ago and in those plans there was significant volume in the plan. I did about half of these inside and half outside.

When I saw that there is very little volume in the road plans, I was considering following the Ironman plan (minus the run and swim) to prepare for coast to coast. I know I’d want to swap in longer rides as I get closer to the race if I followed a cycling plan. But I like having it already on my plan at the outset.

Im not decided on this approach but am leaning this way. I’m interested to hear feedback on this as well.

1 Like

Here is how I would look at it….C2C is gonna be 12+ hours for most athletes. 2 hour rides, no matter the intensity, ain’t gonna cut it.

You simply aren’t going to get enough volume.

When I did Plan Builder for The Rift this year, there was a similar lack of volume….I just subbed the weekend rides for long Zwift rides (winter / early Spring) and then long gravel rides once it warmed up. I was regularly doing 4-5 hour rides, which increased to ~6+ hour rides, including one ride which roughly simulated the time and distance for The Rift.

I was arguably the fittest I had ever been….

3 Likes

My experience is the same as yours. TR plans don’t have enough long rides to train for longer road events. There are a few ways around this.

You can do the various high-volume full distance triathlon phases (just the bike parts), though you may want more volume than this. The high-volume polarized plans also build up to ~5h long rides and are most similar in structure to how I train in the summer. You could also do the SSB phases, and do a long ride instead of the TSS filler rides on the Sundays. You could also focus on the plan you’ve got for now, but start adding in weekly long rides closer to spring.

My in-season riding is one 200k+ ride every week or two, with maybe two VO2 or threshold rides a week, plus commuting and fun rides. Main events are 8-30+ hours.

Without knowing your experience doing rides of the length of this event, I would suggest doing a long ride once every week or two, with the goal of at least one ride the duration of your event, two weeks or more beforehand.

As you’ve identified, no rides longer than 2h is inadequate for long duration events. Doing the long training rides is important to both build fatigue endurance (you’re not going to be doing 10min of threshold at the end of your 10h race if you’ve never ridden more than 4h at a time before), as well as figure out things like bike fit, nutrition, etc.

2 Likes

I wouldn’t say 2 hours indoors are equivalent 6 hours outdoors, but 3–4 is definitely possible. On a recent outdoor Z2 endurance ride, I was pedaling for 2 hours and stopped for about 50 minutes or so even though I only took one 3-minute pee break. It was just waiting at traffic lights, etc. (The route wasn’t optimal, but I wanted to try something new that day.) I don’t know that that physiologically equals to, whether it is 3:30 hours or 3 hours, but I think the fact that indoor trainer rides are significantly more taxing.

1 Like

Agreed on the first part, not on the second…at least for an event as long as C2C. But at least one ride in the 130-150 miles would be advisable.

1 Like

Try riding in flatland, I can push for 2-4 hours and only see 2-4% with zero cadence (a traffic light or two).

1 Like

Agree - depends on how competitive you want to do it.

Definitely don’t need to do a ride of same length before hand; however, doing so gives you more experience with both how you feel surviving those last few hours (saddle sores, neck getting tired? Too nauseous to eat the food you brought?), and some more physical experience with riding that length, rather than being in completely uncharted territory.

1 Like

Good stuff. And helpful. Confirms what I was thinking but really helpful to hear some reinforcement.

I have the impression that most TR plans are designed around the assumption that people only have a limited amount of time to train in one piece. And I think anything beyond 3 hours on a trainer is quite hard (at least for me).

I’d just replace the Sunday workout with a long outdoor Z2 ride. But I don’t think @Bliedmar needs to do 210 mile-rides or anything close to that. Like others have said, you totally can do a 210 mile ride/race without ever getting close to that distance in training. However, I think if you have never done such a long distance, I’d use outdoor rides to try out pacing strategies and figure out your nutrition.

1 Like

I love TrainerRoad but would agree that none of the plans are optimal for ultra distances races (over 7/8 hours). @Nate_Pearson did Leadville purely on TR plans (high volume I think) to show that it can be done. But agree with what has been said. Add some distance rides to your weekends. Target getting up to 50-75% of the race distance. I finished Unbound 200 in 2019 and my longest ride was about 120 miles. Dialing in nutrition and mental tenacity (getting your brain wrapped around 100 miles to go when you already done 100) are important.

2 Likes