Training For a 24 Hour Race

Hey guys I want to share my experience using TrainerRoad to train for Sebring 24. This is a road cycling event and I did the Race Across America qualification event, meaning it was non-drafting. If you can cover 400 miles or more in 24 hours you earn the qualification.

Some facts about my background:

  • I just turned 55 years old
  • I have decades of experience racing a road bike (Pro, 1, 2)
  • I have raced Leadville twice finishing in 12:10 and 12:37
  • I had never attempted to do a 24 hour race.
  • The race was in Sebring, FL.
  • I’m 6’ 2" and 210 pounds.
  • I’m a married father of 3 and own multiple businesses.
  • I’ve been on TrainerRoad since 2019
  • I live in North Carolina and only rode my Kickr from October until the race.
  • I rode my borrowed time trial bike for 5 days, with the 5th day being the race.

The end result:

  • I covered 401.5 miles in 23 hours and 28 minutes
  • The Training Peaks link for the details are right here.

When I started training for this race quality training info was really hard to come by and the stuff I found didn’t fit into my reality - I don’t have time to ride 30 hours a week! So what I did was using the training plan builder, plugged in my race date and then chose time trial as the discipline. About half way through the program when I was doing 3 VO2 max sessions a week I felt like I was working way too hard. I ended reading an article on the TR blog and changed the plan midstream to the same plan I did for Leadville - Rolling Road Race or Fondo (?) I stayed true to the program 100% of the time but deviated in a very important way 6 weeks out.

I blew off all TR programming and did Banderia - this is a 6 hour endurance ride. And I focused on keeping my heart rate at 130 or less during the ride. Also did this workout back to back on Saturday and Sunday.

2 Saturdays from the race I went back to the TR workouts.

The last week I traded all trainer rides for real rides outside on the tt bike to see how it would handle in the wind. (One small stat was in the last 12 hours I rode 188 miles in 25 mph winds in 49 degrees) Obviously the bike handling prep came in handy.

I hope you ultra guys find this handy, if you have any specific questions, I’d be happy to answer them.

btw my strava is Strava Cyclist Profile | Zahid Buttar

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Top effort! I bet you have a great sense of achievement :ok_hand:t2:

What did you eat during it? And how many days after it before you started eating normally again?

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Would love to hear your nutrition plan!

For me, the biggest bang for the buck for these types events have been LONG sweet spot intervals. I pushed up against running 2hrs at 90% before my last ultra and it paid massive dividends.

Congrats on the Qualification! I have my own coming up this year(zero intention of doing RAAM though)

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I ate a combination of Wolf Gels and Awesome sauce made by Spring. Also SIS Beta fuel. Camelback with water only. Tailwind in the water bottles. Around mile 330 or so I had 2 peanut butter sandwiches and a small bottle of coke. I had my timer set to beep me every 20 minutes to eat.

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I ate normal within 30 minutes of finishing. eggs, potatoes and cranberry bread and butter at the hotel.

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my favorite workout for ultra is Pendleton but I found that to keep my HR below 130 I need to do workouts at endurance or lower. In my limited experience having your HR ceiling and sticking to it is vital to finish.

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Awesome, nice job!

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Amazing job, but serious question. How did you come to pick an HR of 130 as your targeted max? Does this correlate to anything?

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Congratulations on qualifying - that’s an incedible achievement in itself. Thanks for sharing your preparation and best of luck for RAAM.

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Amazing job!!

@Jonathan successful athletes podcast episode right here!!

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good question @iceaxe In 2020 when Leadville got cancelled I picked another RAAM qualifier called Mid Atlantic 24. Then I paid an ultra coach for a 6 hours of time to guide my training and provide feedback. His name was Jeremy Howard and he had coached a bunch of ultra triathletes and had been a collegiate swimmer (which I was also.). The point is I trusted him.

He gave me 2 important pieces of info:

  • He taught me to race easy all day, for me 130 bpm is tempo hr. His point to me was in a 24 hour race heart rate metabolites are a deciding factor and so to prevent my heart rate from “wearing out” his counsel was to go slow.
  • After sundown give myself 2 hours for my skin to cool down, then increase speed if I felt up to it.

BTW the weekend before Mid Atlantic they cancelled that race also.

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I’m not doing RAAM brother… way too much fear for that.

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Interesting - when I was training for a 12hr TT, I too watched both power AND HR. And i had an expectation of both. I found a sensible this led to two insights

  1. one race my HR rose, 5-7 bpm, but with out power increasing, until I realised that I needed a pee! :slight_smile:
  2. In the 12 my HR dropped around 10 bpm in the last hour of the 12 and would not rise despite my power being consistent as I emptied the tank. Decided not to worry about it, just watch it. Took it as a sign if tiredness.

I did a lot of training around 65-75% ftp and monitored HR so I knew what was normal. In the race I used both as a guide. There was a good (older) guide to doing a 12hr based on HR that I read. It made sense since I used to race on HR when I was doing Ironman back in the late 1990s, early 2000s.

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I am very interested in what you actually ate.

Oh, also: amazing. I crewed for a RAAM rider and just could not believe the mental toughness required.

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Hi Zahid. I too live in NC (WNC), a USAC coach, RAAM relay finisher, crew chief for the RAAM soloist who won Sebring 24 this year, director of WUCA, and long-time TR user/beta-tester. Been doing 6/12/24 TT’s for six years, with several national championships in the bag. All that said, I still struggle with how to blend structured training in TR with the road miles needed to prep for a 12 or 24hr event. Would love to see TR add a structured plan for ultra-distance training, but we may be too small of a target audience for that to happen. Short of that, it would be interesting to hear Coach Chad’s (or others’) input on how to pick a plan and add mega road miles into it for the necessary endurance to do these types of events. Contact me at marc@highcove.com and perhaps we can conspire to prompt coverage of this in TR’s podcast or articles.

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Congrats! Great job riding into that wind! #theStruggleIsReal :joy:

Last weekend I did a club century and a couple of climbers rolled up with pained looks and commented ‘all you flatlanders know how to ride into the wind’ as the group failed to echelon at 22-24mph into a relatively tame wind LOL. So we had a long conga line of 20-24 riders with our own ‘Tim the Tractor’ doing a hero pull. Good times.

To my eyes the cycling portion of the TR Full Distance Triathlon plan looks like a better fit, at least for me, to build out fitness for long events. The Base HV of that base plan progresses endurance rides out to 5 or 6 hours. TR road plans at mid and high volume appear to push hard on aerobic power (top-end) at the expense of aerobic endurance, which didn’t work well for me but does for some. On the other hand I’ve seen really good results from the CTS/Strava Gran Fondo plan, and FasCat 16 weeks of Sweet Spot. More endurance and fewer intervals. Also FWIW I’m a handful of years older with only six years of road cycling targeting gran fondo events.

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Buried in the notes to the Traditional Base plans is the advice “Intermediate riders along with ultra-endurance riders and riders recovering from injury should consider extending this phase by an extra 2 weeks for a total of 6 weeks.” This applies to each of the 3x4 week TB phases, so an extra 6 weeks of base.

I also find the Polarized Plans a good way to work in much longer weekend rides.

I remember talking to the coach about a 12 hour ride plan, he looked at me and said “you have no clue. At 12 hours, you still have 12 hours to go. And on top of that you need go over over 400 miles. My plan is better.” That’s when I became a believer!

Hi Marc, you were on Joe Barr’s crew? This was my first attempt at a 24 hour race and my limiters are time and the weather up here so doing the normal TR workouts made sense. But I defer to you my friend!! Sounds to me like you know exactly what needs to be done to prepare.