Training for ultra-distance

Hello every one

I’ve just started Trainerroad, and so far I’m loving it. I’m on my last week on SSB1 mid-volume, done mostly on my home trainer but with some outdoor week-ends ride. My FTP at the begining of the plan was 281W.

I do not consider myself to be a cyclist, as I’ve always ridden as a mean of travel. I have 10kg to lose, I’m painstakingly slow during the climbs, but I can ride 100+km every day (I have been traveling for 5 months on my bike before covid hit).

I’ve decided to try ultra-distance cycling. Next July I’ll ride the Race Across France : 2500km, 10 days max (I’m lucky France is smaller than the US, because I don’t think I’m ready for the RAAM). Solo, bikepacking on road…

Of course I need to get ready for the event, but I also need to:

  • lose some weight: 281W of FTP is not so bad (I was expecting less), but it’s only 3.1W/kg. If I was loosing some weight, I could ride with all my gear and basically carry as much as I do today without it.
  • get better at climbing: I can climb everything (I’ve done climbs with 2000+m of elevation), but I’m not going faster than 10km/h (and that for the good days)
  • train myself on the saddle: home-trainer is good, but in spring I will definitely go ride outdoor. When I do that, I like to leave for 2 or 3 days with all my gear, ride all day and camp at night: for me it’s the best way to enjoy cycling, but it doesn’t seem to fit so well with structured training
  • in spring (May?), I’d like to take one month to travel across Europe(~150km a day)

Now is the question: how do I train for that? At first I was considering SSB2, but now I’m thinking about Trad Base (mid or high volume): even though it seems boring to death, it could be great for me as I really need to shed some weight.

Any suggestions (or feedback) would be very welcome.


Related threads worth review (if you haven’t seen them already):

Not an exact match, but related to super long stuff:

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I had already read most of those topics, but I don’t find them very instructive. The events that are discussed are either the RAAM with a team or things like Leadville, which are not the same as what I’m planning to do. Even randonneuring is different as it’s a bit shorter.

I’m more interested about plan suggestions adapted to my goals and time frame, if anyone has any idea…


Long distance mountain bike multi-day bikepacking events are my main focus so …

Don’t worry about FTP, I’ve been (well) below 3W/kg for most of those I’ve done, currently a tiny bit lower in both FTP and weight than yourself. What you really need is time in the saddle and the ability to just keep going.

Treat indoor training as an activity in itself, pick a plan or sequence of plans you like the look of and that lets you work on something you’d like to improve. There’ll be some crossover/benefit from pretty well any of them. Maybe even a Low Volume plan and do long weekend rides (assuming that’s legal in your current jurisdiction) with a bivy.

Is 10km/h your average speed or just up hills? Hopefully the latter. Assume 20km/h that means 13hrs on the move per day for your event which isn’t much, I reckon on 16-18hrs to give plenty of rest (comparatively, reduced sleep is expected on events like this).


Doesn’t matter what “plan” you do on TR. Any of the base / builder repeats will be perfectly fine. Seriously. You’ll likely be off the plan all Spring as you build up your endurance anyway.

In my humble opinion, you need to work on the mental training if you’re jumping into multi-day events. In the Spring, go out and do a really long and hard ass ride. Sleep less than five hours and repeat the hard ass ride. Nothing teaches you how to do that more than experience.

Find a riding club this Winter that does stuff like this. Doesn’t matter whether it’s an ultra, bikepacking, or Audax club. Build up till your ready for a multi-day really long event. Then go do it. Failure is just as educational as success. Nothing wrong with getting knocked down a peg or two and then learning from the folks that were successful. Has worked for me a time or three. :slight_smile:


Interested as well and agree with you that this is different from 8 hour racing. I have been working on my own 12-24 hour plan over the last 3-4 years using TR (podcast, forum, training app) and now this year going to use social media to watch some of my local 24 hour guys train. One wins these events.

I can ride for 8 hours just on 5 days a week of a TR plan of just 1-2 hour rides. Amazing. Seriously. Bravo TR. But the body needs more to go beyond. Long endurance/tempo rides. But those long endurance/tempo rides can’t also bury me for a hard TR planned ride; thats the key I currently stick to.

What I am doing this year.

  • Recommended by TR and I think is great as a baseline SSB1/SSB2/Sustained Power Build/Century Plan (5 TR planned rides a week M-F)
  • Weekend Long Ride progression 5,6,7 hours.
  • (New to me this year) closer to the event i will do a few double days. like heading into a rest week, 7 hours morning and 1 hour endurance evening on Saturday or Sunday. Or 1 hour endurance the evening of hard TR mid week ride. This I call train the body and mind for abuse.

I have yet to finish a 24 hour race, so don’t take my word for it. :joy: Again, following this thread. A few of these 24 hour Pros are on social media now, and like I said, I’m following close. though i don’t have time for 4 hour Tempo rides Tuesday and Thursday like they do.

Whats your plan?

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So I’ve registered to another race. This one will be early may, 1200km / 16000m of elevation gain of hard gravel / easy MTB. No crazy long climbs, but lots of short, punchy climbs. The finishing time is 7.5 days, but I hope I can do it in about 6 days.

Whats your plan?

I’ve done SSB1 MV and I’m currently on the last week of Trad Base 1 HV (since my country was on lockdown and I’m working from home I figured that it was the best way to spend my time). Now I was considering:

  • Trad Base 2 HV (with a one week break between christmas and new year, when I will not be home and be less serious about my diet)
  • SSB2 HV to start 2021
  • Sustain Power Build HV until 1 week before my first event
  • One week with slightly less TSS (or less time on the bike and more swimming / running) and then the event starting on Sunday, May 2nd

I will also have a 2 weeks holidays in February, so I’ll probably go and ride looking for the sun. I’ll mess my training plan but if I don’t use my paid leave days I’ll lose them so…

In 2021 my country should not be on lockdown anymore so I plan to go and ride quite a lot on the week-ends. Basically I will probably use the week days workouts for VO2max and stuff like that and do endurance training the week-ends with 10+ hours rides and nights in the wild (for training, but also because I love and need that).

I also need to shed 10kg so I’ll continue monitoring my food intake and add some easy workouts during the weeks (running and/or swimming).

My three fears / points of attention :

  • overtraining : I consider myself fairly sporty, but I’m usually the all-or-nothing kind (like no sport for 6 months and then thru-hiking for 6 months). It’s the first time I follow structured planning and I don’t want to burn myself out (physically or mentally)
  • saddle sores and bike positioning: trainerroad will not help that much for that, so I need those week-ends to try and make things reliable. I’ve already done a 300km day, but the following day I could barely sit on the saddle…
  • recuperation: I need to train those legs to do long days back to back. This is what trainerroad is made for!

Do you think this is a good plan? Are there some specific stuff I should pay more attention?

Note: I have listened a lot of the trainerroad podcasts and I find them very instructive. Nonetheless, I’m quite disappointed there isn’t that many podcasts about ultra-endurance bikepacking events and how to prepare for them (like RAAM, Tour Divide, Trans Am, TCR…). When they talk about ultra-endurance it’s more like Dirty Kansas or Cape Epic, which are differents and I don’t feel I can transpose the information they give.

Does anyone knows good resources about all that (trainerroad podcast or other stuff)?

It sounds like you are jumping into this at the deep end and going “tell me what I need to know”, I’m sure that some with a similar tale/attitude have done the RAAM, etc. but most have worked their way up from shorter events and dealing with problems (and learning from them) along the way. Not many people can shortcut that experience.

A few points.

Weight: unless you are seriously overweight, don’t worry about it, a bit of on-board fuel isn’t that much of a problem. Many multi-day riders start several kg “overweight” as they know that no matter what they do they’ll run a calorie deficit so they’ve got something in the bank as it were.

Saddle sores/bike fit: this is one you’ve just to work out for yourself. When I started doing long distance events I’d be fine up to 8/10hrs then at about 12hrs I’d start to get nerve damage in my fingers. It took eighteen months of adjusting one thing then going for a long ride, wait a month for the feeling to come back, try something else before I got things sorted.

recuperation: ultimately you’ve just got to do long days in the saddle at a pace that you think you can maintain for the duration of the event. Use TR to work on those areas you are weak, usually for long distance riders this is VO2max. There’s no real “magic sauce”, time in the saddle is king but once you know you can do three or maybe four days of 200km or 15hrs a day then there’s nothing much to be gained from doing more since it will only grind you down. Mike Hall did very little long distance rides away from the events for that very reason.

The podcasts: ultra distance stuff is way beyond what the core audience is interested in, an athletics analogy would be the podcast being about the 100m and 200m rather than the marathon. There are takeaways that apply to all distances but it’s one of those things that you almost need to know what you need to takeaway, it’s not flagged as such. Plus of course there’s no reason to repeat what other podcasts are doing. The successful athletes podcast includes some long/ultra distance riders so try those, the recent one (28) is about someone doing a multi-day ride based on just a LV plan. Away from TR there’s the podcast that interviews people like Lael Wilcox, Sofiane Sehili and Josh Kato but it’s not “you need to do X” howto .

There’s three basic rules:

  1. Look after yourself
  2. Look after your bike
  3. Look after yourself

In general ultra-distance is very niche - if I turn up to an ITT event here in the UK I know at least half the riders, a couple of years ago when I went over to France for the French Divide, I knew quite a few of the Brits plus a few of the French. It’s a small world.

While some things seem common, it’s often the case that we’ve got there individually. For example quilts from the Polish company Cumulus are very popular in the UK ITT community, no-one has gone: “these are the best” we’ve just ended up with them for our own reasons.

Preparation for the longer events is really just minor adjustments to the preparation for shorter ones. You need that experience to know what works for you - it doesn’t matter what other riders do. No problem in using their setup as a starting point but it’s just that, a starting point. My kit list now is nothing like what it was a few years ago both in what I take and how I distribute it around the bike.

You also have to know yourself - I’m not exactly young and there’s no way I can keep up with the likes of Lael Wilcox so there’s no point in even trying. On the French Divide we had a lead out car for the start - we were doing 50km/h on the flat on loaded mountain bikes! Turned off the road and I pulled up and took a photo of the lead group heading off. I’d have lasted half an hour if I’d tried to keep up with them.


There’s a fat bike race in Alaska called the ITI - Iditarod Trail Invitational race. The full race is over 1000 miles long (1600km) in winter. To be able to enter it you have to have finished the shorter 350 mile version. Both races start at the same time so that means at least one year between doing the short race and the long one. To be able to enter the ITI 350 you have to have done a number of shorter qualifying events, since entries take place in December that means at least another year or two. It’s quite possible that if you decided to do the full ITI now it would be four or five years before you were on the start line.

In the case of the ITI, it’s a safety thing - being out in the wilds of Alaska when it’s -40 you need to be able to deal with a lot.


Mark Beaumont has a new podcast out called “Endurance”.

I haven’t listened to it much. His style kind of grates with me. However I think it is a series of fairly deep dives/interviews with the people he went to when putting the GCN book together.

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I feel like there has been some misconception. I already have a lot of experience: I’ve hiked more than 10’000km, with some very long hikes (Continental Divide Trail, 5 months, 4500km) or some very harsh (Jordan and Iceland thru-hikes, winter hikes in the Alps). I know myself quite well, and I definitely know my kit very well (and, incidentally, I’ve use a Cumulus quilt for more than 250 nights). I’ve also traveled by bike for 5 months in Patagonia (and I was planning to go all the way to Alaska but Covid19 made me come home). Since I’ve come home, I’ve done several multi-days cycling trips (up to 2 weeks) with a minimal bikepacking kit.

My setup for a 2-weeks easy MTB trip with camping gear and 3 days worth of food

My questions were only on the cycling preparation side of things. Of course, I’m always interested if you have some experiences to share, but I feel quite prepared kit and experience wise.

Weight: unless you are seriously overweight, don’t worry about it, a bit of on-board fuel isn’t that much of a problem. Many multi-day riders start several kg “overweight” as they know that no matter what they do they’ll run a calorie deficit so they’ve got something in the bank as it were.

While I would not say I’m seriously overweight (my ego would not like that), my BMI is 28.5 so I definitely need to lose some weight and not only for the sake of being faster on the bike. Loosing 10kg would make my BMI 25, which is more healthy anyway.

I’ve always had troubles monitoring what I eat, and I’ve found that having this kind of challenges (registering for cycling events) helped tremendously.

I think I can already manage 3 days of 200km if the elevation gain is moderate. But elevation is quite my nemesis: I’ve done 3 days of 150km / 3000m of elevation multiple times and the 4rth day I always toasted.

I get that ultra-endurance is niche, but I would argue it is less and less so. Even so, how many people are interested in ultra-endurance / travel by bike? If you compare with people actually engaging in crit, I don’t think the numbers would be too far, and yet the trainerroad podcast talks about crit almost every episode.

I definitely don’t want to compete with those guys. I want to do this for me, to have a goal and help me becoming better as a cyclist and healthier in general.

No problem, without you laying out your whole history there’s always going to be holes in our understanding. That’s just the way text based conversations are.

BMI is one of those simple metrics that gets taken out of context - it’s meant as an index for a sedentary (not-active) population not people doing sports. My BMI is 26.5 but my wife keeps calling me skinny! How does your weight respond to your multi-day adventures?

I think ultra-endurance is still niche in that it hasn’t become commercialised in the way that something like triathlon is. Maybe the TR podcasts talk about crits a lot because that is the competitive thing they do? Chad shudders when people talk about riding for ten/twelve hours a day!

It looks like your weak spot is climbing, maybe pacing on climbs. Obviously extra weight here has a disadvantage. Do you push hard on the climbs or ease up to the point where you can talk? (assuming there’s someone to talk to of course) Strength training and/or VO2max will help as will getting out and doing hill reps. I’ve done things like enter the Strava monthly climbing challenges to get me out and actually working on them. Does depend where you live of course - I’m lucky :hot_face: in that I can do a 30km loop not going more than 5km from the house with 1100m of ascent.

A friend did the Tour Divide last year and he did an FTP improvement plan which was mostly VO2max work. He’d already got decent distance legs, he just worked on the top end. He did it in 21 days so not worrying the pointy end but certainly not just touring. A lot of the TDR is at altitude so anything that improves oxygen uptake is a good thing.

I think you’ve identified your weak points so it’s really a question of how best to deal with them. I’d look at the Low Volume plans, do the workouts as a block on Tuesday, Wednesday & Thursday then do your long rides at the weekend. Monday and Friday are rest days. If after a couple of months you feel that you need more then add some Z2 work on the end of one or maybe two workouts.

I’m also thinking about doing a Super Randonneur in 2021 (600kms, >10000m+ in less than 60 hours), I’m a total newbie in this matter and I really liked this podcast on ultra-cycling and long events:

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Email the perm owner for guidance on the specific route you want to follow. Most were created when the time limit was 50 hours and have a single overnight sleep spot. If riding with a closer to 60 hour goal, two short sleep spots might serve you better.

An SR600 is hard. Period. Unless you’re a killer climber.

I’d suggest doing a full series: 200K => 300K => 400K => 600K and then doing the SR600K two or three weeks after the “normal” 600K if you’re still feeling it…

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Not to pick on the only thing I don’t agree with. You definitely have good points outside of this statement. Doing low volume T/W/Th may work in SSB, but i would fail workouts in build phase for sure doing this. Common recommendation is M-W-F for 3 low vol rides and long ride on Saturday. If you can keep from failing those m/w/f rides and add in endurance t/th then do that. This is what i do. On occasion, mostly during build, i will cancel a thursday ride when i just know i’m getting fatigued. Like week 2 or 3 of build.

I know 80% of the route, the farthest point of the route is just ~60kms from my city. I’m doing a BR200 in January with the organiser of the SR600 that I want to to so I’ll ask some people that might have already done it. I wish I could do the full series before, there’s one every month in my region but I work some weekends and the the first one of 200J in January is the only one that I can attend to :frowning:

I am used to do long rides(around 100km each) with tons of elevation on consecutive days but I do acknowledge that a SR600 is a whole different deal: carrying bags, many more hours at slow speed, bad sleep quality… But, hey, that’s what challenges are made of and with most of the Gran Fondos being cancelled due to Covid-19 I just need a different challenge to keep me riding in winter.

Jesse Carlsson and Sarah Hammond wrote on ebook on it called: Touring with a sense of urgency, many tips and tricks like preparation (spoiler alert: nothing fancy). Well worth a read:

Since I’ve started Trainerroad 4 months ago, my FTP went from 281W to 310W, which I guess is not too bad. In the same time I’ve lost about 8kg, so it’s pretty cool even though I still want to lose 7kg in order to get my BMI to 25 (and, incidentally, if my FTP doesn’t move I would also get to 4W/kg).

During February I did not really use TR as I did two bike trips (800km of road and then 600km of easy MTB) and a couple big rides in-between. As I couldn’t start a new plan I could not bring myself on the HT as I lacked the motivation of a structured plan.

Now I’m back on the HT and on TR, but I struggle to find the right plan for me. I’d like to use TR only on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday as I like to go on long, Z2 rides on the week-ends (Monday is rest day and Friday is easy day and I often go running instead of cycling). My week-end rides are pretty substantial: next week-end I plan a bikepacking trip of 390km/5500m of elevation, and I often do this kind of rides (ok this one is particularly intense but you get the idea) . Of course it’s mostly easy, endurance ride but sometimes it gets a bit harder, whether it’s because I’m trying to be a bit faster or I meet a gruelling climb, so I also do a bit of threshold.

Thus I feel like I should concentrate on VO2max workouts as I get plenty enough of Z2 rides in the week-end. It seems that I should pick either SSB2 LV or sustained power build LV, but I feel like they are too hard to do them in 3 consecutive days and that they are not enough VO2max oriented. They usually have only one workout a week in this zone and then it’s mostly threshold.

In order to do a polarized training following the 80/20 principle (which seems to me to be the best way to improve for ultra-distance events), I feel like I should do like this:

  • Monday: rest
  • Tuesday: VO2max
  • Wednesday: recovery ride
  • Thursday: VO2max
  • Friday: easy run
  • Saturday: long endurance ride
  • Sunday: long endurance ride

But there isn’t any plan looking like this, so I might be completely in the wrong.

What do you think?

I’m a Randonneur / Audax rider and my season started last week. I’ve pretty much got a 200km or longer ride scheduled every weekend from now till September. So I understand your dilemma.

Just follow a full plan at low volume. Start with SSB1, SSB2, any build, and then pick Century specialty. Put Tues/Thur as your mid-week hard days and Sat as your weekend hard day. What you’ll be doing is swapping out the Sat ride for a long endurance ride every weekend which is something the plans definitely mention.

You can always add a tempo or sweet spot ride to your schedule on Wed. The one thing I find is that quite frequently I can’t do the Tuesday hard ride if the weekend was a particularly long event. That is 100% okay and rest is your friend. When I do a 400K, I definitely need a full week of rest and longer rides than that require even more recovery time.

The TR plans are meant to be done in the off season for strength growth. But it’s definitely worth doing some VO2 and threshold work during the long ultra season to keep your high end high. (IMHO)

I usually take some interesting plan (SSBHV, TBHV, SusPBHV), keep two hardest workouts (usually Tue/Sat, move Sat → Thu to keep Sat free for long Z2) and substitute rest with Z2 as much as time permits or able to recover.

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