Pacing to survive The Whiskey 50 MTB Race

Hi TR people. I’m new to structured training. I just started 8 weeks ago. I’m about 1/2 through SSB2 low volume. This training is for The Whiskey 50 in 3 weeks. My question is about pacing for this event. I was going to try to use best bike split but the folks at BBS said it really won’t work for MTB. What pacing technique should I use? Any advice would be appreciated. I have a Stages left side on order for my XC bike so power pacing of some sort is available to me. AV % of FTP, IF, etc. My goal is to ride well, and try to finish under 5 hours, maybe 4.5 hours. No delusions of a podium or anything like that. I have 20+ years of technical MTB skill so no worries on that end of things.

Please feel free to look at my history if that helps. (James Conaway)

Side note… Although I have been pretty spot on in keeping to the plan today I skipped my 1.5 hr session and did the local 46mi group road ride. I crushed it (for me). 24 PR’s and pretty much everything else was a 2nd place. I used many of the pacing techniques you discuss in the podcast such as sitting on in the group and conserving energy for the hard climbs. Hard up, easy down. etc.

This product is LEGIT. Cannot believe how well it works. Thank you SO MUCH for changing my cycling after 20 years of just riding for fun. It is MUCH more fun to kick some butt. 35 stars all around. Oh, and it was awesome meeting Jonathan at Bonelli a couple weeks ago.

50 miles on a MTB is long day in the saddle especially when it starts with a 10 mile climb. Keep your initial efforts under control and don’t get swept up in the excitement. Fatigue slows you down on descents so if you stay within yourself on the climbs you’ll be faster and safer on the long descents. Good luck and be sure to fuel during the ride.


If you have a lot of experience on the MTB and haven’t been running a power meter before, I’m tempted to say don’t try to over think it and just pace by feel and use the power data to learn after the fact.

5 hours is a long day on the bike. Looking at the course map, I’d pace conservatively until the bottom of the Skull Valley climb and then pick it up slightly there if you’re feeling up for it. If you don’t calculate quite correctly, you still have a while but you’re net downhill after. When you get to the top of that climb you should be tired and needing a bit of recovery but not so taxed you wonder how you’re going to do the rest.

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Thanks to both of you. This helps a lot.

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You’re welcome and have fun and a race report.

Marathon xc races are brutal. Especially if you start out too hard and slack on the nutrition end of things. Awesome job on the PRs with the group ride, but I would be doing 4-5 hour mtb rides if you can, working on nutrition, pacing, with minimal stopping about five weeks or so out.
I don’t run power on my mtb, I go off of feel and HR.
Good luck!


This really depends on the level of rider you are. I’m a Cat 2 MTB racer, Cat 3 CX racer in Colorado (probably higher categories in other states due to the competition here). I paced the 50 miler at SST up the first long climb and then stayed in Tempo the rest of the race unless forced to ride higher. That should get you through the race pretty well. You just can’t climb at LT for 3 hours so you have to be really careful or you’re going to be screwed in the last 2 hours of the race.

A pro level rider is racing for 3-4 hours vs 4-6 hours for amateurs. They can handle riding at SST and LT for much longer stretches than we can unless you are a pretty high level Cat 1 rider. If that is the case you may be able to ride in the higher zones for longer stretches.

Below are the stats from the last two years of races. In 2017 I cramped like a mother f’er coming up from Skull Valley. In 2018 I had more long rides in my legs and was able to ride it without cramping and was like 10 minutes faster up the climb. Skull Valley isn’t in the race fully this year but this will give you an idea of pacing for an amateur rider. I was on track for FTP of 300 this year until I separated my shoulder a few weeks ago and have surgery tomorrow so I have to skip it in 2019. Will be back in 2020 ready to rip it.

edit: For giggles I added the 2017 Steamboat Stinger 50 mile race too. The 2018 version I had a mechanical and only got one lap in.

2018 Race - FTP ~265w - Placed 112 of 174 in Men’s Open

2017 Race - FTP ~265w - Placed 121 of 200 in Men’s Open

2017 Steamboat Stinger 50 - FTP ~265 - Placed 36 of 105 in Citizen Men’s

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Thanks for sharing the data. Intriguing to see the power & weight info there to map back to a time. I’m around the same FTP so an interesting baseline for comparison.

Again. Thanks to everyone who has offered advice. This is fantastic.

This is awesome. Thanks for the help

I would ignore power for pacing unless you are on a flat or a consistent fire road climb and can toggle over to a screen with power to ensure you do not go over tempo/SS. I did my first MTB 100 with 10,000 ft of climbing training exclusively for Cat 2 XCO in 2018. I went on one 4-5 hour ride about 5 weeks out to test my nutrition and hydration plan, which will be key to get right.

I paced my 9 hour event on feel/RPE (mideful of HR) and just kept a steady sustainable pace making sure to never burn any matches. My race consisted of 3 laps of 33 miles-ish and I was able to do all three laps within a few minutes of 3 hours each. Remember to not start off too fast, always be eating and drinking (nothing new on race day) and if you have a lot left in the tank towards the end (but you won’t), you can always let loose in the last 5 miles.