Watch an entire cycling road race on Eurosport. Something like a Spring Classic will hold your attention for 4-5 hours easily and it starts to get exciting as you start to fade near the end.
I’m with those that say you should stick at the long rides. Long-distance Triathlon is as much to do with mental toughness as it is ftp. You need to train your mental toughness too.
I use Rouvy for my long indoor rides and ride some of the real world IM/70.3 courses
For recovery rides I use Zwift (solo ride mode) and might have a youtube video up at the same time.
For aerobic endurance rides I use Zwift (solo or might join an appropriately paced group ride / fondo) and have a couple of motivating music playlists that I can cycle through or pick based on my mood. I will occasionally run a youtube video of a bike race at the same time, but don’t watch news or educational content like I will during a recovery ride.
For sweet spot intervals its pretty much the same as endurance rides except I do them in solo mode.
For threshold / over-unders / VO2 work I have a metal music mix that I play while using Zwift in solo mode.
I don’t expect this works for everyone. I started 15 years ago with movies and then moved to short TV shows like The Simpsons as they were more dynamic and kept my attention. After a couple of trainer rides where I watched the first Lord of the Rings movie and Blade I stopped the long trainer rides due to burnout. For 10+ years I watch race coverage and was really digging cyclocross races (go hard when they go hard, which is the whole race.). But duration was mostly 90 or under. It wasn’t till I started Zwift that I was engaged enough to stay on for longer. Doing long group rides and fondos (that are appropriately paced) really helped me with the long duration rides.
TSS does not describe the benefit from the workout, it is an attempt to describe the cost.
Two things that cost £100 are not the same simply because they cost the same. See ebay for variety
When you are racing for 10-17 hours aerobic endurance is king. Sweet spot and vo2 have their place, but you are training your body to go all day.
Can you finish without a training ride longer than 2 hours? Maybe.
Are you giving yourself your best chances? No.
I don’t disagree on the benefits of long steady aerobic rides and I don’t disagree that not all TSS is the same as different adaptations occur at different intensities.
What I disagree with is telling someone to be ‘mentally strong’ and attempt multiple 4+ hour trainer rides when they struggle with 2-2.5 hours. Do I think it is possible to slowly stretch what one can tolerate? Sure. But that is a huge jump.
I’d rather be 80-90% there and excited, motivated, and loving life than be unhappy and risking burnout doing super long trainer rides. Been there and done that. For most people cycling and triathlon are hobbies and done for our enjoyment. Preserving that enjoyment and excitement in our hobbies better ensures a lifetime of enjoyment. Success in endurance sports are not about 1 ride, or 1 month or 1 year of work. Success is built upon years of consistency and enjoyment. Why jeopardize that for a couple of long rides?
Sure, but the plan builds up slowly, so no one is suggesting they man up and jump into 4+hr rides.
Completely agree with the not all TSS is created equal comments, long endurance rides have a specific aim - to train in a specific zone that stimulates a particular set of adaptations. This isn’t to say that replacing that ride with something shorter and more intense doesn’t have a benefit, it’s more it doesn’t achieve the same result.
I do one long ride as part of my training plan. Usually 5 hours on a Saturday. If the weather is really rough I jump on a 160km Zwift group ride and that passes the time. The pace that puts me in endurance zone is 3.5w/kg but there’s loads of group rides of different power to weight ratios. When the weather is good it’s the perfect excuse to do a long rides outdoors and enjoy being on the bike cos that’s why we do it!
Another option to consider might be breaking up the long ride into two and do one in the morning and one in the afternoon / evening. Is 1x the same as 2x? I don’t think so, but it is a compromise to get the time in zone. When COVID started I tried a high volume training experiment and if I had to do 3 or 4 hrs during a weekday I would break it up because of my work schedule and other commitments (and I’m wasn’t getting up at 3am to ride 4 hours before work or riding until 9pm to do it after.)
You do need to be able to do a long ride though if only to learn to manage the mental journey as much as the physical one. It’s like you need to learn to become good company for yourself over the many hours on the bike. Boredom can really bring you down half way through an Ironman bike leg unless you are used to keeping yourself amused.
Maybe try building the duration up slowly as you progress?
I’m planning on doing SSBMV again this fall for my base, but instead of the 2-hr sweet spot, I’ve adjusted a progression of 2 up to 3 hour long Z2 rides for SSB1, then 3 up to 4 hour long rides on SSB2, adding 15 min each week, and then backing off for the recovery weeks (90 min and 2hrs). I am planning to do them all on the trainer to maximize the steady/constant pedaling workload that’s tougher to manage outdoors. I’ve done up to a 3:40 slog on the trainer, and it’s not easy, but it’s manageable. Before this season, I’d never done more than 2:00. Zwift has helped keep me engaged on some of those longer rides.
I saw some gains when I started doing longer Z2 rides in lieu of the 2-hour sweet spot sessions during my second modified base period when COVID started, so I’m hoping to see similar adaptations through base this time while building a stronger long-term aerobic base.
The Ptarmigan rides are good for this! Mostly Endurance with Ptarmigan +1 being a Tempo ride. My favourite endurance based series for 3hr efforts.
Have you considered purchasing a light? Not sure where you live but I ride outdoors year-round in the mid-atlantic region. We typical get one or two snow days, the rest is up to your clothing and lighting.