Low volume plans for big events

My questions is this:
I’ve been following the LV Climbing Road Race plan for my ‘A’ event which was scheduled for 7 June. Obviously this is now cancelled but I decided to stick with the training plan - not something I’ve done with great discipline in the past, but the progress and gains were really motivating.

The LV plan is the most I could really do, and means 4 hours training/riding a week. Not a huge TSS as a result but enough to keep my FTP on an upward curve and a respectable level of fitness. However, the event in question was a bit of a brute - 220Km of riding and 3500m or so of climbing which probably would have meant a 9 hour day (or more) in the saddle. Recently it’s dawned on me that there’s a massive deficit between my weekly TSS, and the TSS of the event (approx 600) as well as how long I am conditioned to sit in the saddle having not done any outdoor riding for a while. How could I have overcome this deficit, or more the point, does it matter? Was I over reaching with my ‘goal event’ and just setting myself up for an absolute shoeing come the event? Was Low Volume too little?

As a foot note, I’ve listened to recent podcasts about the perils of adding in extra volume, but I did it anyway because of this deficit to see what would happen. Result - I’ve not been me able to complete all of the VO2 sessions when I’ve come back to the plan (still trying to complete the last bits of the speciality phase). The reason why is not so mind boggling in terms of self prescribed extra TSS, but if I couldn’t cope with this top up, I can’t help but think I would have been massively under prepared for my event. To rub salt in the wound my Garmin is telling me I’m losing condition. Let’s assume there’s no other external forces at work - I’m sleeping well, eating & hydrating etc, no external stresses out of the norm (or the new ‘mid pandemic’ norm).

I think it depends on what your goal was for the event. The LV plan would probably get you by with enough fitness to complete your event if that’s all your goal was (albeit it’ll be a tough day). The MV or HV plans are much more capable of getting you prepared for an event like that and IMO you should have at least one 4+hr ride a week. However, its not necessary for your chronic training load (CTL) to be similar to the acute load from your event in order to complete it. A few years ago I did an event that sounds similar to yours which brought 800 TSS but at the time my CTL was 400 TSS.

Was this event really a race? Or was it a Gran Fondo? I ask because you mention following the climbing race plan and not being able to complete VO2 sessions. It seems like the wrong type of plan for a 220km/3500m event. Something like the sustained power or century plans seems more suited to this event.

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I’d urge you to take a look at Chris Carmichael’s book “The Time Crunched Cyclist”. He offers some really great advice for time crunched individuals training for ultra endurance events. But even his plan recommends at least 7 hours a week.

Unfortunately there’s only so far that a low volume training plan can take you. If four hours is all that you can find in a week to train, then you would be better off targeting events that are 3 hours or less. Think cyclocross, criteriums, xco mtb, etc.


Thanks for the thoughts on this. You’re right, it’s not a race but a GF (The Dragon Ride) but I harboured lofty ideas of riding it aggressively rather than just surviving, perhaps on reflection this is where the goals and reality weren’t quite aligned. I looked at the other plans you mention and just came down on the side of the CRR plan - the description seemed to fit. Nothing more than a coin toss in end I guess. I had been going great guns with the VO2 sessions - until I added in the extra volume where I rode quite hard (error!). I agree with what you say about a longer ride though which I why I did the extra albeit like a bit of an excited puppy with a new toy i.e. being fitter.

Thanks for the recommendation & feedback - I’ll look that book up

To echo the thoughts above, you can absolutely complete something like the Dragon Ride on a low volume plan. You can even do pretty well. It’s obviously not optimal though, and you need higher volume to really fulfil your potential for those long events.

Would definitely incorporate some long rides though if at all possible. Doesn’t need to be every week. Even 1 per month is better than nothing and will help a lot to be better prepared. Partly in terms of fitness, but just as much in terms of nutrition, getting used to spending that long in the saddle, identifying any issues like lower back pain, etc.

I’ve had some pretty good results on low volume. E.g. I did Etape Caledonia (81 mile GF) at a time when our first child was 11 months old, my longest ride in the previous year was 45 miles, my second longest ride was 19 miles! Though short on volume, I’d incorporated plenty of intensity in my training, and I ended up having a great day and far surpassing what I thought I was capable of at the time. But before those 12 months I was doing centuries pretty regularly, so at least I knew my position was likely to hold up fairly well, my chamois wasn’t going to give me saddle sores, I knew how to fuel, etc. And also that course is pretty fast without too much climbing, which meant plenty of decent sized groups. So I could ride it quite punchily - work hard enough to get in and stay in a good group, which then meant plenty of easy speed sitting in the draft. Perfect for “faking it” to a decent finish time with good short power and not a lot of endurance. Haven’t done the Dragon ride, but it’s both longer and has a lot more climbing, which I’m guessing means a lot more time just grinding away at tempo, either on your own or in groups small or slow enough that there’s not much draft. That’s a lot harder to do on low volume.


While not quite as intense, I was able to “easily” finish RvV sportive (178km ~2000m climb) with only low volume indoors and a few outdoor rides. If you lower your IF to account for the difference in distance, yes, it’s absolutely doable.


How are you coming up with a 900 TSS?

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That looks more like a 400 tss day max

So, when I put the details in to Plan Builder, I’m pretty sure it asks how long you think you’ll be riding and at what intensity and that generates/estimates the event TSS

Thanks for the feedback. Some useful takeaways there. I think it basically boils down to - Low Volume is fine, but don’t expect miracles.

Not trying to argue but I just put a 10 hr gran fondo at 10 “all out” (not possible) and tss was 695. In reality it will be more like a .6 IF which lands you in the 400 tss range

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I’ve made a big mistake there, what a prat :roll_eyes:. My plan even says it, 535 TSS. I don’t know why/how I made that mistake other than relying on a bad memory. I think I must have been focusing on the time expected to complete the event (being 9 hours) and somehow extrapolated that to 900 TSS. Like I said, I feel like a bit of a prat for getting that so wrong. That said the training time/riding time deficit is still a bit daunting. Where to go from here?

This is a flaw in the setup of events. I feel TR needs to fix the intensity setup. As mentioned, people assume they will ‘race’ events like this and pick a high intensity. It’s a mistake and should be viewed more like RPE / Zone relation.

Most people will roll a long event like that at a 5 or 6, 7 if you are really prepared to hit it hard. As such, you will get a far better TSS estimate.

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