Just had my first gravel race last Saturday. Raced the 50 mile course and placed 7/148 overall and 2/24 in category 41-49. Ended up being 52 miles and over 7300 feet of climbing with some brutal singletrack and unimproved trails.
Winner finished in 4:01, I finished 9 minutes later at 4:10.
Started strong and kept with the main group on the first half of the race, but I fell off pace on a big climb. After that I just tried to hold what I had but I could tell I was only running at about 80%. I’ll link the activity so you can see, but dont pay attention to the power after the first hour or so, my garmin pedals started acting up and reporting super low numbers (Like climbing at 50-100 watts, etc. Totally demoralizing when I was trying to pace that second big climb). Even with the power malfunction, not sure I could have done too much more pace wise.
I did ok on nutrition, maybe I could have drank a bit more water. I finished 2 liters of home made maltodextrin/fructose mix with electrolyte powder, so probably about 800 calories there and then probably 500 calories in gels. I drank half a liter of water. I never bonked, I just slowly lost power.
What is the best way to train to be able to maintain that original power as closely as possible? Threshold? Sweet spot? Just raising FTP? Should I just start increasing volume if I want to be competitive at these types of races? I’m on AT at the moment in specialty. Doing the MTB marathon plan, which now turned into a sweet spot base plan to accommodate my upcoming races.
I typically do at least 5 days a week on the trainer, long ride on saturday if I have no race. So approximately 12 hours a week?
What does the group think? Basically, how do I train and prepare for these longer than usual races?
This is why it is so important to train without such heavy dependence on a head unit. It is bound to crash at the worst possible time so it is best to get used to that in training. Still a solid result I would say!
12hrs of training is already pretty solid. Building a higher FTP is always good but this is not a linear process. You would probably benefit most from adding (at least) one more long session per week. Or if this is not possible 2-a-days perhaps.
Take a look at your race files, unfortunately here your powermeter malfunctioned. This is one of my races, XCM, similar duration:
Given our ages (same AG) and my history it is unlikely that I can build my FTP further. Hence, I work on building total time in the grey marked zone. 2-a-days. Back-to-back days. Whatever. This is for build phase. Never dismiss the long steady session.
One has also to accept that differences in non-pro racing are huge. Some had luck with their parents, others not. No training in the world will beat the genetically gifted competition. Here I race against former TdF pros. And others are simply 15kg lighter. The field is simply much wider in AG racing.
Thanks! Yes I had a good result, but it wasn’t nice to be topped out and see people slowly get away from me. 9 minutes over 4 hours isn’t bad, especially since i’ve only been training for a year and a half, but I want more and feel I have the potential to win these races if I adapt my training. I have the time for it, but I don’t want to break myself at the same time.
You’re right and I thought about that while riding. Again, not sure I would have done better had it worked properly, but maybe I could have been a little more efficient instead of trying to chase numbers and burning matches.
Thanks for the reply. Yes, I was thinking I need to add more Z2 stuff to my week. I have the ability to commute to work. I was thinking about doing my typical TR workouts in the early morning, showering, then doing an easy 50 min Z2 commute to work (about 20km). this would give me almost two hours of low Z2 stuff a few days a week.
Whatever brings your volume up given your circumstances. Flexibilty with the schedule is key:
While the study confuses things a bit by using arbitrary load units, it’s easy to get some ‘real world’ context by looking at the weekend. Every long course athlete goes long on the weekend – Front o’ packers, Back o’ packers. Nothing special there. The thing that separates the experts from the non is what happens during the week. If we assume that the peak day of 120 u is ~a 6hr day, that would bring the BOPers in at just over an hour a day for their mid-week sessions, while the FOPers are getting a lot of 3-4 hr days in during the week. These numbers line up well with the actual logs that I pulled from my own FOPers above.