Training for ultra-distance

You might go the route of either designing your own VO2 progression or using the new TrainNow feature (and later, the progression levels) to select VO2 workouts that are appropriate for you.

I think the built in plans, while good for road racing, crits, MTB, etc., aren’t well suited for ultracyclists and that’s OK (surely isn’t a huge percentage of users here). The events I do aren’t quite “ultra” (6/12hr TTs and non-drafting double centuries), but have similar physiological goals in that I need lots of muscular endurance and ability to ride in Z2 all day long. I’ve ended up designing my own pseudo-plan based on info on this forum (see the Sweet Spot thread for example). For a build phase and especially if you’ve got the time to hammer out a bunch of long distance rides on other days, I think you could use some of the library VO2max workouts successfully. I’m not sure the built in plans will give you an ideal progression if you just want 2 intensity sessions per week.

1 Like

Have you been through James Hayden’s thoughts?

Here’s Kristof’s blog

Kristoff put the traditional long base miles in. James is of the short faster paced school of training. Kristoff unbeatable whilst he did ultra distance. James unbeatable in later years of TCR.

I do ultra distance events but I’m old school. Simply putting the miles in with a touch of intensity once or twice a week. I usually have a 100km ride every week. A 200km ride once a month. This is year round. Then a series of 300km, 400km, and 600km events through Spring. I’m then ready for the 1,000km plus events.

I don’t aim to be at the front of the events. Just complete them comfortably. For 2,000km plus events that usually settles down to around 300km every 24 hours.

As others have said once you’re used to the longer distances. You don’t need to ride them all the time. A 400km or 600km event without stopping is good for testing out your setup and reminding stuff you’ve forgotten like how cold it gets at night even in summer.

To be at the front of the events you need to be averaging about 400km every 24 hours.

Good luck.


So it seems that my ideas where not too far off.

If Tue is VO2max and Wed a Z2 ride, the question is what should be Thu? VO2max or threshold (as the plans say it should be)?

I fear that only one day/week of VO2max might not me enough, and that a threshold workout on Thu would drain me as much as a VO2max one without providing so much gain…

I don’t aim to be at the front of the events. Just complete them comfortably. For 2,000km plus events that usually settles down to around 300km every 24 hours.

I registed for a 2500 event on July. I would love to do it in less than 8 days (cutoff is 10 days), so it means riding 320km/day. For me it seems A LOT, especially considering the first part of the route is far from flat (it goes up the Ventoux and other alpine passes). I also need a lot of sleep (I usually sleep 9h) so it might be difficult but I’ve signed up to see how good I can become.

320km day after day is fine even if hilly. I treat a hilly 320km as being the same as rolling 400km in terms of how long it takes to cover the distance.

In terms of sleep I have found a minimum of 3 hours is about right to maintain my pace over a number of days. But if you need longer don’t be afraid to take it. There is also the micro sleep if you’re just trying to get somewhere before a longer stop.

As with all things you need to find what dose of VO2 max works for you. I found last year that once a week can be enough if you have enough low intensity volume. So you can flex based on how much low intensity you are doing week to week. I usually pencil in VO2 max for Monday with Sunday my rest day. Then a second VO2 max on a Thu. Then the longest ride of the week on the Sat. But I’m not religious about that. With a big mileage week I’ll drop the vo2 max to one session or just drop it that week.

If you want to do two sessions you can also consider doing them on same day. One in the morning and one in the evening. Freeing up other days for low intensity endurance work.

Seems sensible to stay on this topic instead of starting something new.

Next year I plan to try and enter the Trans Devon so that gives me plenty of time to work everything out. I’m happy with my TR plan of base then build repititions (short power atm since I still want to play on the MTB and weekend world champs).

My current questions are how do people build-up to the mega distances? I’m perfectly happy with a metric century solo but how to get further? Just find a nice cafe 70-80km away and ride there back or go mad and ride 200km of the bat? I’m guessing a few 160km rides then building up to 200km and plus. Also for the build up are people using power meters to keep an eye on TSS.

Since I started cycling as a mean to travel (not really as a sport per se), I continue to plan my outside rides to explore as much as I can. I’m only making my days either longer or harder (elevation wise), or both. Maybe it’s unnecessary, but I don’t think it’s detrimental. On the contrary, as mental is very important for this kind of event I think that training myself on that aspect to discover my limits and push them is a good thing. I’m also becoming very efficient on non-riding stuff (for example I can set up my camp and be in bed in less than 20 minutes, and in the morning I need 15 minutes to be ready and leave).

But I won’t lie, I mostly do like this because I like this. I usually try to ride at least 2 days and camp in the woods. I mostly have 2 kinds of “big week-ends”: either I just want to go somewhere (so I pick a flat-ish and faster route), or there’s an area I’d like to explore and then I look for nice roads and lots of elevation.

I honestly don’t care much about the shorter training rides, and I might even not have the courage to get on my bike if it’s only for half a day. My love for cycling comes from exploring new places and/or going further; but I think you need to find what’s motivating you. I’ve done a 300km day, so now I’m planning a 400km day; I’ve done a 4500m of elevation day, so now I’m planing an everesting. Those are the challenges I like and I train for and with those rides.

Here is what I rode since I’ve gotten my Garmin computer last november (so with winter and 2 lockdowns in the way):

As you can see it’s mostly longer rides, with some shorts around where I live but not so much. But I guess this is very personal: some would say to do only one 200km before your event, and only to validate your gear list.

If you don’t mind road rides then you could enter some audaxes. Visit Calendar Events| Audax UK - The Long Distance Cyclists' Association and look at events near you.

For instance there’s this 300km event in Devon this weekend. Old Roads 300 Event Details| Audax UK - The Long Distance Cyclists' Association. It full but of plenty of other events throughout the year.

Audax UK events go all the way up to 1400km this year and are all self sufficient and involve checkpoints and brevet cards.

You could start with a 100,150km event to get used to the format. Then select some 200km events to up your distance.

Most of us jump straight from 200km to 300km. Once you’ve worked out your setup for 200km, the leap to 300km isn’t so much. You just need to think a bit more about the wider range of temperatures and that you may need to do some riding in the dark.

There’s also RRTY where you need to ride a minimum of 200km in 12 consecutive months right through winter. Harder than it sounds.

I tend to do the RRTY 200km min a month to keep my fitness and motivation going year round.


So what did you finally settle on for a training plan? How did you incorporate TR plans and Plan Builder…I’m very interested.