TR Workout to Prep for MTB Starts (Sea Otter)

Looking for a TR workout that simulates/preps one for that insanity that is the full gas race to the single track like at Sea Otter (XC/Gravel rush to the same place) where you have to go insanely hard to get a good position before the procession that is Fort Ord Single Track.

So something like sustained VO2Max for 10 minutes then a recovery, followed by threshold and some punchy intervals.

That up hill drag to the turn into the single track sucks for us bigger folks that can’t match the w/kg on that hill.

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How to train for the Sea Otter MTB cross country race:

If you are camping there… drink lots of beer and stay up late the night before your race prep workout. This is essential to the success of your workout.

For your race prep workout you should be slightly hung over. If you do a warm up, be sure to stand in the cold at least 15-30 min before the workout. Then, sprint all out for 3 min. I mean as hard as you can. During the interval, which should be done outside, find a sand pit to cut through. This will help practicing cutting the course on the first turn. Once you cut through sand be sure to end the interval with steep 30-45 second road hill.

For the next interval stand off your bike for 5-10 minutes. Absolutely no pedaling. Just standing. While standing there wondering what the point of this is, ponder why the race director dumps a mass start onto a singletrack right at the start. This will prepare you for the mental and physical challenges you will face during the bottleneck delay.

Interval #3: Then after the break ride a sandy downhill singletrack behind a 10 year old. This will prepare you to ride slow on the downhill without crashing into the person in front of you who is also stuck behind a long line of riders.

Interval #4: Now the fun part! Find a steep uphill single track and practice trying to pass gravel bikes and tandems. Best if you can find a place with tall knee high dead grass to pass off trail. Be sure to practice coming to a complete stop and unclipping.

This will prep you for the first few miles. No sense in training for the rest as it doesn’t matter at this point and all about the experience.



Sustained VO2max for 10min?! :scream: :skull_and_crossbones:.

Let’s break this one down:

Rather than a single workout, what you need is a plan that builds high aerobic capacity, a really good pacing plan, and the courage/diligence to stick to that plan on race day.

For the plan, the XCM plan is the best way to prep for Sea Otter, IMO. The vast majority of this race should be ridden at Tempo and Sweet Spot intensities, with time at threshold and above limited as much as possible.

For the pacing plan, unless you are going to be able to be in contention for a podium, it’s not a wise move to start the race like everybody else does. Start within yourself, trying not to go above threshold for the first climb. If people drop you, that’s okay! They’ll blow up soon and it’s a long race. If you get stuck behind somebody for a bit, rather than get frustrated, see it as a time to rest so you can hold your goal power with even more diligence later on!


As accurate as the advice from @Jolyzara is for Sea Otter in general, I think I may modify that day before and race day plan a little bit.

Sage advice from @Jonathan as I’m not into blowing up just so I’m not frustrated at the single track funnel. Probably won’t hurt to go out to Fort Ord and ride the course a couple of times between now and race day (benefit of being local) in mental preparation. Knowing that the first section of single track is going to be a rest zone and also the places where there is room to pass and how punchy I’ll need to be use any given opportunity zone.


Follow up on this. Last year the gravel race was one lap and if I recall a mass start of multiple age groups, so getting to the single track was critical least one get stuck behind someone riding the brakes on the down hill single track.

This year it’s two laps, so my “tuned for Unbound” motor will be able to stay right where I need it for the entire 65 miles. Bonus is staggered starts for age groups, so Men 50+,60+,70+ are all starting after the young’ns. Will there still be some guys that blow it out? yep. will there still be some trail boulders from earlier groups. No doubt. Will the women age 15-39 be yelling “On your LEFT!!!” about 20 minutes in? Likely yes. Even so I won’t need to blow up on start.

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Last year the gravel raced the same course, the same time as the MTB. I believe they are different races this year on different days?

A friend stood for over 8 minutes last year at the bottleneck. Unacceptable and I truly hope they improve.

Correct Gravel is on Friday with staggered starts. XC is on Saturday with staggered starts. There will still be some bottle neck, but not 8 minutes of waiting around hopefully.

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What do pointy end mtb racers do? Just go anaerobic in an effort to be the first to the funnel? Is Sea Otter just an oddity in that it includes about 600 or so meters from the start up the hill and to the funnel?

I agree that you need a plan overall to address this, but you can also do some specific intervals, particularly in the last month before your race. A lot of mtb plans include something they usually call race start intervals.

Begin at a complete stop, foot on ground, just like at the start of a race. Do a hard start with a practice clip in and go all out for 1-2 minutes, then straight into 8-10 minutes zone 4-5. Rest, rinse and repeat.


It would be nice if they used pavement going into the single track funnel instead of routing you into the sand after 100 yards. Should be better this year with the staggered starts…Sea Otter has always been a cluster…one year I got stuck behind a tandem that wouldnt let me by. Took me 5 minutes longer to climb that segment than it did on the preride when I just cruised up it.

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I agree with the coach that your most important prep is the general building of the engine, and with whoever upthread recommended standing starts. I know you asked about TR workouts but your best prep for those “icing on the cake” workouts will be outside, on the MTB, on a course you make up to at least somewhat replicate the conditions.

And yes the pointy end is definitely tapping anaerobic. It’s just like an attack during a crit or a road race except at the beginning and everyone is fresh. You go as hard as you need to go to get the spot you want

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