MTB Race Type Transition

I am trying to optimize my training for an upcoming race. I just completed a 50 mile race on technical trail that took me over 10 hours to ride. For that race, my training was focused on endurance riding and spending long hours in the saddle. I have a race in one month that is a 28 mile race that is fast and not technical and I am shooting for around 2 hours to complete. With the short window to train, I want to make the most of my time. My gut is telling me that it would be very helpful to focus on sweet spot and incorporate a lot of over/under workouts to get used to pushing it hard. Thoughts?

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My guess is you are coming off Marji and heading into Iceman? Do a lot of sustained high end sweet spot/threshold and above work. Over/under’s, like you said, are a great addition as well. If it is Iceman. The course this year is shaping up to be a good one. Get ready for some extra climbing at the end. It’s not an exaggeration to say that with the added section 25% of the climbing is going to be in the last 4 miles.


Welcome to the forum! As Socia mentioned above, it sounds like you just finished up Marji (hats off on that! what an adventure!) and have iceman coming up on november 2nd. Good news is that you have 30 days to tune up your top end.

I’ll provide what I do leading up to iceman, from last year and this year, and you can take it for what it’s worth.

For the past month, I’ve been taking it easy, no true structured training, just getting in easy endurance miles, as I’ve been racing all year. With about 6 weeks prior to Iceman, I’ll start adding intensity in through TR workouts, specifically 105-110% intervals, 30/30’s, and Over/Unders. I try to do 2-3 structured workouts per week, two if I plan on racing on the weekend. I also try to get up to Traverse City a few times before the big dance, to check out the course and see what has changed since the year prior. Luckily, that new “Headwaters” section that is added in, isn’t nearly as steep as I thought it was going to be. Hilly yes, but gradual.

If you can, try to make it to Peak to Peak to race, as that is a great tuneup race before Iceman. I wouldn’t focus much on sweet spot, but more-so workouts that really go over your threshold. With how the course is, you’re almost always jamming on the pedals, and still need the power to punch it over the steep and short hills. This is where Over/Unders pay off.

Good luck this year, and hope to see you in Traverse City. If you can, come cheer me on during the Pro race :smile:


Thanks for the suggestions! You both nailed it as I am going from Marji 50 (DNF btw, bonked 3 miles in to the last leg), to Iceman.

Side bar question- what tires are you going to run? I have Maxxis Ardent 2.4 Front and Ardent Race 2.35 Rear. I think it is too much tire for the race and was leaning towards the Aspen. I ride up that way quite a bit and know it is a sandy surface but I am not knowledgeable enough to know what tires work best in such conditions. Thanks in advance!

@NickZambeck is on the money. (And he’s a hell of a rider.). For instance my first 2 workouts this week were 2 sets of 3x3 VO2Max on Monday and then today I did 2x10 where each interval starts at 97% and ends at 110%.

Tires. I like Schwalbe. I think the ThunderBurt’s are the perfect Iceman tire. Ask 18 more people and you are sure to get 18 different answers. :grinning:


I’m a Schwalbe fan. I’ve been on Rocket Ron’s 2.25 Speed Grip Front and Rear for the past year, and I just switched over to the new Racing Ray/New Ralph combo as my Ron’s were toast. If you’re a Maxxis guy, Aspen in 2.25 or Rekon Race in 2.25 will be perfect for Iceman.
I tried to like thunder burts, I really did. The less rolling resistance never made up for the lack of confidence on singletrack and traction. YMMV


Good effort at Marji, I finished the MG :100: and the conditions made it extra brutal this year. Aside from all the good training advice above, where are you mentally? How deep did you push on the MG 50? If you were like me I was mentally smoked post Marji. Assess if you need any time off the bike before you ramp it back up for Iceman.

If you’re good mentally look at the XCM Specialty weeks. The last 2 weeks of XCM Specialty have a built in taper, so you’d just need to add another 1-2 weeks to that. There are a good mix of workouts that would set you up nicely for Iceman.


+100 on tackling the Marji. It eats, chews up and spits out many very tough riders every year.

I did the iceman in 2015 as my third race after breaking my collarbone in June. Unlike my teammate @NickZambeck I was definitely not in the pro category. Regardless it was a blast especially since I was on a fat bike and I it was fantastic surfing through the sand and climbed really well in wet leaves.

The iceman is a whole different experience than Marji. It is fast and flowing and it will done before you know it. The headwaters trail notwithstanding.

So enjoy your training and the race. The advice given by the others will get you there.

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Congrats on the 100! That is quite an accomplishment especially given the elements of this year.

Mentally, I am in great shape. Candidly, an hour into leaving Jackson Park for the final time my GPS only read that I traveled a mile and that sucked the life out of me, thinking I had 14+ more miles to go and I had 10 hours on the trail at that point. Once I got home and trued-up my distance I realized i had gone farther than expected. Would that have kept my mind in it to keep going? Hard to say, but I was demoralized after only seeing 1 mile of progress. Mentally I am good and in a positive place. I did a quick ride this week (Torn Shirt at Brighton Rec for you downstate folks) and had a blast and was excited to get back into pushing it.

I appreciate the suggestions.

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Thanks and #unfinishedbuisness. Torn Shirt is one of my favorite SE MI trails. Sounds like you’re ready to crush Iceman, good luck!

Fascat Coaching does a weekly podcast. They did a podcast recently all on Iceman and talked a fair amount about training for it and some race strategy discussion. It’s just under an hour long, and a very enjoyable listen. I would definitely recommend checking it out.

As far as tires. Agree with above posters in the fact that everyone will have an opinion and their favorite set up. I’ve used Racing Ralph’s, Thunderburts, and Rocket Ron’s. I currently run Rocket Ron’s and really like them. If you look up rolling resistance and compare them, there is a minimal watt penalty to get increased traction. Racing Ralph’s are also great. I don’t trust Thunderburt’s as I’ve seen too many people get flats with them.

Enjoy Iceman, it’s a great race and overall experience.


My week in review.

Got my VO2 Max work in. Nailed it.
Did my 2x10 MTB Starts. Felt really good that day.
Did a openers workout on Friday for a “gravel” race on Saturday.
Got my “gravel” race in. Ended up being a lot of sand and mud so while a great workout missed some top end intensity. In other words the sand and mud made great Iceman training. :smile:
Got my threshold intensity work in on my hour ride on Sunday.

Looking forward to this week. If anyone is near Traverse City there is an out and back scheduled for Sunday morning at 9:00.

That is something to consider with Schwalbe. No matter which model you run always, always buy the Snakeskin version. I’ve always had great luck with them but now that @JCrockett has jinxed my Thunderburt’s I’ll probably switch them up. :smile: I normally run a Racing Ralph front and Thunderburt rear but I know my wife really likes her Ralph and Ray combo.


Yes. The key is sustained sub-threshold, threshold, and supra-threshold intervals. Over/unders, VO2 Max, any thing anaerobic is the icing. Historically I’ve been too focused on the specialty phase workouts (XCO in particular) and I would have been better served working on longer threshold efforts. Of course, sustained power is a weakness for me in comparison to my short burst power.

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