Training for Longer MTB Races

Sorry if this topic has been sorted out already; I didn’t see it immediately in the search…

I’ve signed up for the High Cascades 100 in July. I’ll obviously follow the training plan riding indoors, but I know that long mountain bike races also have a large component of just being used to riding singletrack for long stretches, and getting used to the (different from road) physical toll these races have on your body.

I’m wondering how to get both experiences (indoor trainer road and outdoor mountain biking) at the same time. Multi-hour rides outdoors are doable, but I’m guessing they shouldn’t come at the expense of the training plan. But I also don’t want to be unprepared for being bone tired and still having to focus at mile 90 of 100.

If you have encountered this in the past in your training, how have you handled it? Any suggestions are welcome - thanks!

My main focus is on long distance MTB ITTs (Individual Time Trials), these start at 100 miles and go up to things like the Tour Divide at 4000+Km.

I do the Low Volume plans with the workouts planned for the weekdays then leave the weekends for whatever I fancy or the weather allows.

Away from the trainer, work on your nutrition for the event, it will have just has much an effect as the training.

Edit: Just remembered (I’m well sozzled!) - there’s a deep dive on this via this link:


Having done the Tahoe Trail 100K a few times I second that nutrition is everything on a race that long. I tried to build my race distances up leading up to the races with doing some 30 mile + races and rides. As you will probably discover there is only one thing that trains you to be on a mtb more than 60 miles and that is being on a mtb for more than 60 miles.


:point_up: This worked pretty well for me in 2019. I only wish I’d been more consistent with the weekday TR workouts and not thrashed myself on the weekends.

You don’t need to do the full distance prior to a race. Although, it sure does help to know you can comfortably complete a hard MTB ride 1/2 to 2/3 of the required race time.

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I’d recommend doing the workouts outside if you have suitable terrain close by. E.g. ride up a forest road climb, or suitable singletrack, for intervals, and then descend on singletrack. This allows you to do structured workouts, while also training your body to take the rigors of MTB.


How do you coordinate the intervals for outdoor workouts? Are you using RPE or power?
I really struggle with the outdoor workouts. It’s so hard to find terrain that matches the power requirements.

Happy New Year from 2:50pm 1/1/2021. Much the same as yesterday.

I think capturing the spirit of the workout is key to this.
So if the workout is 5 x 6min at 110%, then go out for a ride and when you get to a hill of decent length then ride it a little above threshold either until you get to the top or until you hit 6 mins. Repeat throughout the ride.
Use your indoors riding to help calibrate how this should feel.
It’s not perfect but does that really matter. The workout prescription forced you to climb slightly out of your comfort zone. If you were just riding then you would probably have self selected something around sweet spot power.


@Rosscopeco - this:

And I use RPE to pace, and HR as a check.

If the workout is a sweetspot workout, I’ll ride a long climb at SS pace. If the workout is a threshold workout, I’ll ride it slightly harder. 40-50 minute climbs. I usually just do one lap, but on a weekend, I might double up.

For VO2max, I could do intervals on a longer climb, but I have a local shorter climb that takes about 7-8 mins and allows me to do a few laps with a sweet single track descent.

It helps living in the mountains. On flatter lands, look for gravel (ideally) or bike paths close to the MTB trails and do intervals on those before jumping into the Singletrack.

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I used MV TR plans to train for a MTB 7 day stage race in 2019, it was very sucessful.

I spent most of the winter on TR (longest ride was 2hr 15) and became very fit
2 months before the event I substituted 2 TR rides for outdoor rides

  • 1 long ride (4hrs) per week on a Sunday
  • 1 short midweek “skills” ride inplace of the Wednesday TR ride

This worked very sucessfully (for me)