Panic training for a January Event - which workouts to replace with MTB rides?

Hi Folks

I’m a newbie to Trainerroad and, to be honest, have done very little structured training in my past, and the last time was years ago.

I’ve been a Trainerroad user since the end of September as I was on a waiting list for a 24 hr race in January (I am UK based so it’s a toughie with the weather). I was already ‘training’ at this point - as in, going out to ride longer, hilly miles alongside social stuff and did an 8hr B race just about the time the Wahoo Kickr arrived. I didn’t have a break after the B race and got sick not that long after. Now I am feeling pretty good aerobically, albeit with really tired legs but I am not sure for how long.

My questions really stem around what indoor rides to replace with external mountain bike rides. I understand that structure needs to take priority to a point, but there are massive training benefits to being outside on the mountainbike.

  1. Riding position adaption (the mountainbike is not going on the wahoo - I don’t have time for the faff of changing bikes over so the roadie is on there at the moment)
  2. Equipment checks/testing
  3. Remaining part of the mountainbike community
  4. Most importantly, maintenance of technical skills, especially on the shorter travel bike with scary XC tyres

Initially I started on a mid volume plan but didn’t know what to swap out, then I went to a low volume plan that I am now on, and I am doing that alongside my usually very intense (way more intense than anything the TR software has given me so far) Wednesday evening ride (varies between 1.5 and 3 hrs of tough hills and tough descents) and a social weekend ride - varies a lot with intensity but is normally around 3 to 4 hours.

As I was only on the waiting list for the event, and didn’t think I’d get in, I just thought stuff it, I’ll see what level of stress I can handle and if I start to blow, I’ll back off, have a break and restart base for a big event in the summer next year. So far I have been handling it, but I am not sure how long for or whether I would benefit from more rest, My FTP was underestimated initially by the ramp I think too - first time on a kickr with no fan was probably not the best test but Adapative Training has just bumped it up a little.

More importantly…I got an invite to the event so now I am committed and there is no room for error as it’s only a few months away. I need to focus on sustained power and will be pacing slow and then slower. My goal for this one is a solid 24 hrs of riding - I have unfinished business there.

My concerns are

  1. I am not really doing any Z2/endurance kind of stuff, other than what the plan has in for me on the recovery week next week
  2. Which workouts do I swap out to make sure I don’t get overtrained/blow up. I can rejig the calendar, but the build phase coming up has Vo2 stuff, threshold, sweetspot etc - do I just pick a different one each week to replace? The next block is mid volume - should I drop it down again to low volume and continue trying to cram everything in/use alternatives, or leave as mid volume and just swap out workouts for outside stuff?

Like 99% of us, I have very little time to train and both my job and homelife are very active physically so resting is a rare treat. As the training ramps up with the FTP increase and moving to the build phase, I think something will have to give, I just don’t know what!

EDIT: Oh and I’m also a 46 yr old female well past my prime and have the joys of untameable hormones to cope with.

I’m hoping all you highly experienced and super fit people can give me some pointers :slight_smile:

If your event is a 24hr endurance event and you are doing little/no endurance training, I would suggest you should change that asap.

Doing as much Z2 as possible would be my suggestion, whether inside on the trainer or outside. Make sure you get used to the bike you’ll be riding for the event is critical but can be done nearer the time.

Good luck :slight_smile: 24hrs on a bike doesn’t sound like an easy event.

I’m pretty bad at mountain biking so I understand your concern about maintaining technical skills, but I find that I can keep feeling comfortable on the MTB with quite short focused sessions.

If you want to build fitness and maintain skills It sounds like you could drop the intense Weds night ride (which sounds like an utter smash-fest and is probably fatiguing you a lot for the rest of the week). Replace it with a targeted endurance /Z2 workout and try to do a weekly skills session - if you have something like a fireroad climb and singletrack descent then you can easily spend half an hour or so taking it easy up the climb and really concentrating on skills on the singletrack.

Also, you don’t say what type of plan you selected, or how technical the race is going to be. A few people on this thread suggested Gran Fondo (but more for road events I think) Cycling Planning, Training, & Analytics - TrainerRoad

Hey there @JoPage,

This is a really great question and one that quite a few of our athletes ask.

It can be tricky balancing all of the different types of riding that we like to do with a structured training plan and real life on top of it all. My answer to this question usually depends heavily on the athlete’s particular goals at the time.


It sounds like you’re all in on this 24-hour race right now, which means that your goal is to be as physically prepared as possible in terms of both fitness as well as technical skill. Right away, this tells me that you should ditch any of the really hard, unstructured riding you’re doing for the time being. It won’t necessarily make or break your readiness if you hop on that long group ride every now and then, but just know that it’s likely your time and energy could be spent better elsewhere.

Again, this is about goals. If you want to gain fitness quickly, saving your energy for productive structured training is going to yield the best results. The same goes for your Wednesday night rides, though I wouldn’t say that you need to get rid of these altogether because I agree with you when you say that this type of riding is crucial for the maintenance of technical skills. @timb34 has some great advice in relation to this. It’s probably better to use these rides to get some easier Endurance work in while still having the opportunity to build your technical skills.

It’s really easy to go way too hard on these solo efforts and end up deep in a hole by the end of the week that will take time to recover from. I’d recommend using a power meter or heart rate monitor to keep an eye on your effort to stay in zone 2 or below for these rides. You’ll likely be spending a lot of time in this zone during your event, so strengthening these systems is important!

Moving forward, it’s really important to honestly recognize how much training you can sustainably fit into your life each week. You mentioned that you have very little time to train and have very physically active home and work lifestyles. This is a sign that you’re going to have to really carefully balance your time on the bike with everything else that’s going on in life to ensure that you’re progressing at a sustainable rate.

Honing in on Volume

In these types of situations, I typically recommend that athletes start small and add in volume/TSS slowly to ensure that they are able to experience how their body is reacting to the physical stress before making any big changes to their training schedule. The key to sustainably getting faster is consistently putting in the work over time and giving time for recovery along the way.

Right now, you’re in the Base phase and have three rides/week (VO2 Max, Sweet Spot, & Threshold). If you count your Wednesday night (Endurance) outside rides, that’s four rides a week. If this works for you, great, but if you find that you need to dial things back a bit, I’d recommend dropping the Thursday Sweet Spot workout. Again, starting small is important. Once you get to the Build phase in a few weeks, you’ll have a good idea of what works for you and what you can handle in that phase leading up to your event.

A Happy Person is a Healthy Person

I wouldn’t stress about this too much, and do your best to enjoy the journey. It’s supposed to be fun! You have a good chunk of time between now and your event, and consistency is key. Make sure to listen closely to your body each day and night, and don’t be afraid to tone things down a bit or even skip a workout if you’re feeling fatigued. Doing so is likely to only make you faster in the end, as you’ll avoid becoming too fatigued to continue and needing more time off to rest. The fitness will come! Enjoy the process!

Feel free to reach out if you have any questions along the way. We’re here to help! :slightly_smiling_face:

Thank you for your input everyone - much appreciated.

@Thomas_Rigden thanks - you are right. I think I will start adding more solo Z2 stuff at a weekend rather than always heading out with a group ride. I’ll try and fit a couple of audaxes in between now and January too.

@timb34 you are so right, I don’t really know why I was worried about the technical aspect - a few short sessions will keep my eye in. Descending is probably my strongest point anyway. If I am being honest with myself, I think I was more worried about getting out of the loop on our awfully technical trails at home than the event itself. I just need to focus on what’s important for a couple of months. It’s reasonably technical, and they can throw in surprises, but nothing too challenging. The biggest problem will be if it’s sheet ice or snow (anything can happen in the north of Scotland in January!) but I have stud tyres to deal with that. Plan is sweetspot base, sustained power build, cross country marathon speciality. I am not sure about the speciality tbh, maybe a Gran Fondo would be better. The course is so up and down though, like most MTB events, even when I am absolutely shattered, I’ll have to find power from somewhere to make the climbs.

@eddiegrinwald - thank you. I think you have definitely told me what I needed to hear - now is the time to focus for a few months. I am writing this, on a very wet Wednesday, with my feet up on the sofa. Part of me feels guilty for shying away from riding this evening as heading out in awful weather is such good mental training, but if I am honest, I know deep down I need to catch up a bit with recovery. I will also cut down dramatically on the hard unstructured riding, although not give it up completely - if I do head out on a Wednesday smash-fest, and I am very busy with site work, I’ll drop that Thursday Sweetspot session.

I am lucky to have a few steadier friends who I will easily be able to maintain endurance power with, so I can still get some social time in with these folk. I have a couple of uplifts booked so I’ll keep those in for tech practice too.

Thanks everyone :slight_smile:

Do NOT add a really intense Wednesday evening ride on top of the intensity that a LV plan will already give you. If you’re doing an intense outdoor ride, that has to take the place of one of your workouts, not in addition to it. The LV plan gives you a good amount of intensity on it’s own.

If it were me my focus would be adding as much Z2 / Endurance volume as possible at low FTP% so it doesn’t impact your workouts. A 24 hour race will be Endurance / Tempo and you should be avoiding going above threshold wherever possible.

As for plan, I’d think Gran Fondo would be the one you should choose for your event, not XCM, and let plan builder handle it.

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Is it this event?

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You ride audax, and this may be obvious, but get out in rubbish weather (if you have the time when it turns up) and test your clothing and equipment choices when you can. Then when you ride the event, you’ll be ready for the worst it can throw at you.

Yeah that’s the event :slight_smile:

I definitely need to HTFU and get out in the bad weather more. I am soft as a soft thing at the moment :rofl:

Thank you - I am making changes in like with your suggestions

Out of interest, why would you say Gran Fondo rather than XCM?

The main reason is that Gran Fondo has been recommended here by TR Staff for similar races (e.g. Leadville) as the best plan.

If you think about it, I actually think that Base and Sustained Power Build are the most important, adding as much low endurance volume as you can take. Looking at the profile of your event, you’re going to be in Endurance and Tempo Zones and trying to avoid any efforts over threshold.

Get out for some LONG, easier weekend rides and time in the saddle, it’ll help.