You definitely don’t need to do 9 hour rides. Maybe 4-5 hours max, 9 hour rides make it hard to recover to continue training. With that said one of those longer rides might be an option to work out what weaknesses you may have (triceps, lower back, neck etc).
The “couch” part is a bit clickbait-ish. David might have been new to cycling, but he was a very serious cross fit athlete for a long time prior. It’s still super impressive that he went from being a non-cyclist to a big buckle so quickly, but he had a great base to start from.
Maybe we should all drop our cycling intervals and start doing cross fit. Here’s another guy from the cross fit world getting a big buckle on his first try. As much as cross-fitters are sometimes the butt of jokes for their extreme workout attitudes, I’ve got big respect for what many of those folks can do.
The reality is many of us simply don’t have the time to do long rides that simulate the duration of such long races like Leadville, but that doesn’t mean we can’t do them.
I think it’s important to note that David isn’t the only example of this, and this isn’t something unique to TrainerRoad.
It’s key to remember the nature of the effort during the race and the things that will be performance limiters on the day.
Longer races, if paced judiciously, are almost entirely aerobic in nature. Although this is a simplification of a complex thing, remember that even up to 120% FTP is still technically predominantly aerobic work, meaning there are many ways to train your aerobic system. As long as the intensity and duration are well managed, you can bring about significant aerobic training adaptations with short sessions that will still prepare your aerobic system to do something like Leadville.
That said, no matter how aerobically fit you are, bad pacing on such a long day (and high elevation, in Leadville’s case) will be a serious threat to reaching your goal, or even just finishing. Same could be said for nutrition, basic strength to be able to hold proper positioning all day, and even equipment choices.
So the direct answer is, you can do a lot of quality aerobic training with 2hr workouts that will prepare you for long events like this.
Will you set the course record with just 2hr workouts? No. But it has allowed goal-achieving performances from plenty of athletes at many events.
Bad Pacing = You pacing too fast, and trying to go too fast for your abilities and training. The reality of Leadville is you need to take it easy early.
For example doing a LOT of volume and extended TTE Training will probably allow you to sustain a higher overall IF (% of FTP) than if you just did a lot of shorter workouts.
Real world translation. Let’s say your FTP is 300. With a lot of extended volume and TTE Training, you might be able to sustain an NP of 195 on the day. With only doing shorter workouts and a lower overall volume, you might only be good for 180-185. (Just rough examples, don’t take the numbers to heart)
Particularly at Leadville, too fast. The combination of the altitude and the duration of the event requires you to pace very low compared to what we’re used to. A good indication of proper pacing is that you will get passed by a lot of athletes early on St. Kevins and Sugarloaf, but you’ll start picking you way through the field after that, and by the time you get back to Powerline, you will be passing a lot of people.
Sharing my personal experience at Leadville: I reduced my FTP by 18% from what it would be at Sea Level, then shot to maintain about 70-75% of that on flats, and 75-80% of that on climbs. That was a lot slower than I was used to and it was hard to hold to that in the beginning because it felt too easy, then it was hard to hold onto it at the end due to fatigue.
You can see from the ride graph that I was too high in the beginning, and St. Kevins was steep enough to push me slightly over-pace, but I was disciplined up Sugarloaf. After descending Powerline I caught a group and they wanted to work together, but they were pushing way too hard for my pacing plan, so I let them go. Then just settled in up Columbine, tried to hold onto the pace on the way back toward Powerline, had an emergency up Powerline, then just tried to hold things together after that.
Because @Jonathan posted, I’ll post my experience as a comparison. I am 46 years old, I maxxed my volume at 18 hours weekly leading up to the event, had one 24 day stretch where I was on the bike every day, and did a metric s**t ton of SST, Tempo, and Endurance TTE Training. Focused on Extending Endurance as opposed to raising FTP. I was new to structured training in 2022, and this past year in 2023 leading up to Leadville was my first year really pushing Volume up.
18% FTP deduction at Altitude was about the same for me. I arrived in LV two weeks before the race. All numbers after that are based on that “reduced” FTP. My altitude adjusted IF for different segments of the course:
St Kevin’s Climb - 90% (Too Hot)
Mayqueen to Top of Sugarloaf/Powerline - 84%
Bottom of Powerline to Start of Columbine - 79%
Columbine Climb - 76% (Starting to be more conservative)
Bottom of Columbine to Start of Powerline - 71% (Lots of tucked in behind others, defniitely being more conservative, got Hot and Sunny Here too)
Powerline - 73% (Conservative, but also inexperience hoping I didn’t Blow Up)
Mayqueen Climb to St. Kevins, Down, Up to Finish (including the descents) - 85%
Boulevard Climb - 95%
NP for the entire race (as a % of reduced / Leadville FTP) was 77%
I finished with more in the tank, which you can see by how I paced at the end.
So, long story short, volume and TTE / Endurance training can help in how you “Express” your FTP over longer durations.
Counterpoint on pacing -
First of all, going out too hard is absolutely a common mistake, so don’t do that. That said, Leadville is not a time trial and drafting dynamics play a significant role. A truly steady pacing effort is not a common approach.
If you don’t have a lot of experience pacing long events at altitude and you don’t have a super aggressive time goal, by all means play it super conservative early and don’t risk a very bad day by blowing up.
But if you are going for your fastest time and have the fitness and experience, going out a little hot on the first couple big climbs can get you in front of traffic and also buy you significant time in faster paceline groups heading out to twin lakes. The data (pulled from strava from finishers with powermeters) supports this approach, at least for 8:30-9:00 finishers (the pace I was focused on). Of course we’d all be faster if people didn’t go out so hot and we just did a smoother TTT effort the entire day, but the race dynamics are what they are.
For what it’s worth, here is my pacing chart for a sub 9 finish from last year with target wattages for each climb (and also target NP throughout the day). My sea level FTP was around 305-310 on race day and weight ~167 for a 8:41 finish.