Off road triathlon training plan

Hello All,

I have been training for a full distance triathlon for the last two years. I completed Ironman Wisconsin earlier this year, finishing in the top 25% of competitors (top third or so in my age group), which was a huge accomplishment for me. After the race I took a month to try some cyclocross races, not performing particularly well in any of them but enjoying them nonetheless.

My question is regarding training for an xterra next year. My goal is to do Xterra Northern Indiana in mid July, along with a road sprint or olympic tri or two as B or C races during the year. I also may do a couple of XC races to do a gut check of how my bike handling is progressing. I put the two tri races that I plan on doing into planbuilder and figured I would add anything else that I want to do later on as C races. Plan builder gave me mid volume olympic triathlon Base, Build, and Specialty (roughly 20 weeks of training total) and I am supposed to cycle through it twice. Essentially I would do a build block in February and a specialty block in March, even though I have no event planned for the next three to four months. Then I would start another base, build and specialty cycle peaking at my A race. This seems odd to me, wouldn’t it be more appropriate to do a longer base and build phase, and not do any specialty phase until I am ready to actually peak for an event?

I also looked back at other forum posts and podcasts and it sounds as though the TR team recommends substituting the XC olympic specialty block in for the Olympic triathlon specialty block bike rides (this recommendation preceded planbuilder and was made on their podcast in 2016 and obviously the plans have changed since then). Wonder if anyone else has done this recommendation in the past, and whether or not this recommendation still stands and just wasn’t built into plan builder (as I guess this is a rather uncommon occurrence), or if there is another way to go about training for this event. If it matters to anyone, I will be following a different program for swim workouts and working in different track workouts than the recommended workouts, but roughly following the volume and intensity recommendations from the planed workouts. I plan. on following the mid volume plan and adding on additional bike ride a week in the spring and summer to work specifically on bike handling.


Very much an n=1, but when I trained for Cross Duathlon (including european champs) a couple years ago I used SSB1/2 + Short Power Build + XCO speciality combo. This worked pretty well and I tied it up with a separate running training plan. You may want to temper your bike input depending on your other swim/run commitments.

So you basically never did a triathlon training program. That is interesting. I haven’t done any of the other programs other than the long distance triathlon programs and and about 6 weeks of the cyclocross program. I suppose I should look into SSB, short power build and XCO. I wonder how those bike workouts differ from what is found in the triathlon programs.

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Main difference is workouts per week, most of the tri plans have 2. I used the low volume plans so did 3 per week.

Short power build has more high power and short burst intervals generally - it’s not exactly an ‘easy’ build plan but it may be better with adaptive training now. But it is very very effective at making you fast for XCO.

The standard base-build-speciality progression takes 28 weeks. In the context of tri, if you have more time than this, rather than doing just more base tri plans, you may be better off using this extra time doing a block focussing on your weakest discipline.

Doesn’t plan builder have an “off-road triathlon” choice, or has that gone now?

I was training for a shorter offroad triathlon at the start of the year (eventually cancelled due to covid) and I set that up, then changed to the sprint plan as it was clearly designed for the kind of distances that you do in full distance Xterra - which in terms of time is pretty much equivalent to Olympic distance (road) triathlon. If the current plan puts in workouts that are more focused on the kind of short bursts of high power that offroad racing requires rather than the long threshold efforts that road tris need then it should be good, however I’ve had a quick look at the strava segments around there and it does look pretty flat and fast : like this 15.0 mi Mountain Bike Ride on July 24, 2021 by Steve B. on Strava

I think your idea of doing some XC races is good - personally I don’t have much in the way of MTB skills and if I don’t regularly ride then I feel it. But if you haven’t done offroad triathlon before then it’s quite a different experience to XC races, as there isn’t the mass start where if goes off like a bomb as everyone sprints for the singletrack. This could be different if you’re in the first group out of the water, but I’m back to middle of the group and everyone’s spread out enough to make for a really fun ride.

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There never was one

I think the premise is that the body responds better to long training cycles that have peaks and “down time” so like annually we have off season then base, if your race is next summer, personally I would take time off now, ride regular but unstructured until it gets too cold then have plan builder line you up. But yes, you can do base/build cycles if you prefer.

As you have long course experience, if you’re anything like me you’ll enjoy the short/sharp olympic training as I did this year.

Check out the short course tri thread as you may get more responses there:

I haven’t done XC tris but I’ve seen people use the TR tri plans for them - it’s different to road but it’s still all about aerobic endurance 🏊‍♂️🚴‍♀️🏃🏻‍♂️

I meant this


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I don’t recall an off-road triathlon training plan, but my A event is listed as an off-road tri so if there was a plan I imagine TR would use it. As of now it is just listed as the Olympic tri plans in plan builder.

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Hi thanks for the long response. It’s already basically too cold to do any real riding outside in Michigan hahaha. I’ve done well with doing base/build cycles starting around this time in the past, but I’ve never done a specialty phase approximately 4 months out from my race, I just did base to build back to base, build and then specialty.

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Way back before tr, I used to think of the bike leg being closer to xcm than xco in terms of pacing since even though the actual bike leg is about an hour, the whole race is 2+. So if you went to a non tri plan for the bike, I’m now in favor of general build with xcm specialty.

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