Training Plan for Colorado Trail?

I’m planning a Colorado Trail attempt later this summer (tour, not race) and am reconsidering my training plan. I’ve been using the midvolume “Marathon MTB” program over the winter and have completed Sweet Spot 1 and 2. Results have been very positive so far and now I’m in build. As the weather changes and I start riding outside more, I’m thinking about changing to low volume so I can still get a few good structured workouts in each week, but I’m also wondering: is there a program better suited towards this sort of riding? And how do people input these multi-day events on their calendars? (I’ll also be doing some shorter trips this summer in preparation–should I just put in three long “B” events instead?)


For plan builder I’ve put it in as a X day stage race (with X being your goal time), with that said…I don’t necessarily like the xc marathon specialty plan for the CTR. I think it accentuates short/high power too much, and the sessions aren’t long enough. It’ll certainly make you fit and you’d probably still complete it fine so it might be splitting hairs, but I think something that focuses more on extended endurance/aerobic efforts would be better. That would be Road Century specialty, or even the Full Distance triathlete specialty. Both those have a lot more extended endurance/tempo work. Or the other option if you like the intensity is to do the low volume marathon plan and then make basically ALL your outside rides very focused on being Z2/endurance/long, so effectively something very polarized. Not sure what build your on now, but sustained power build or one of the triathlon builds is probably better than the short/general builds, for the same reasons above.

Not sure if you’ve ridden in CO before, or any parts of the CTR, but the climbs are big. Like hours and hours and hours long, particularly on a loaded bike at altitude. You have to get good at plugging away at a pretty low pace for an entire morning basically, and then stopping for a bite to eat and then pushing your bike for an entire afternoon with little spurts of riding here and there.

The other advice I’d offer from now until then is to try to do something 6 days a week. Overall fitness and mental toughness trumps bike fitness on the CTR, in my opinion. Doesn’t matter how small your front chainring is or how good a technically rider you are, you’re gonna spend hours walking and pushing and lugging your bike up crazy stuff at 10-13k feet. That takes more than pedal fitness or some arbitrary high vo2 max power. I’d try to work regular fast hiking (with a loaded pack, even) or trail running into your routine, as well as weight lifting. If you can commute by bike, do that as much as feasible. Just try to be active with everything you do, every day so that when you have to be on your feet and moving for 16hrs a day for a week straight, it’s not as far out of the ordinary.


Timon, thanks so much for taking the time to reply. I live in Denver, so I’ve ridden a few portions of the CT and am familiar with the long, slow grind, but the hike-a-bike does have me nervous!

The length and short/high power pieces you mention are exactly what I’ve been wondering about. I just started sustained powerbuild this week, then it looks like the plan TR made for me has going back to another base phase. I won’t be into “speciality” until July (planning to leave in late August). I’ll have to see how things shake out with work/life/family responsibilities, but I’m thinking something very much like what you mentioned: doing the higher intensity intervals a couple of days a week inside then going for longer rides (road and mountain) 2-3 other days with weightlifting, dogwalking, and hopefully some hiking sprinkled in. I’m also planning a shakedown on the Vapor Trail. I’m also reminded myself that my goal is not fast, it’s finished. (And I fully expect to be out there 3 to 4 times as long as you were last time!)

One more question: from someone very new to structured training: if I were to add extra days indoors, should I be adding more long sweet spot stuff?

Thanks again for the reply. Really enjoyed your interview on, and congrats on the AT win!

PS: I don’t see an option for multi-day stage race. What am I missing?

In the desktop app when you add your ‘event type’ in plan builder it’s at the very bottom of the list. Then it should let you select what type of ‘discipline’ the stage race is, and enter the number of stages. I’ve done it on the website too, probably at the bottom of the list as well. I don’t know how much a stage race manipulates the training plan suggestions though, I don’t think much at all. However maybe with the new AT it’ll have an effect.

I would take the added sweet spot stuff week by week. If your legs feel up for it, I think it’s absolutely beneficial. If you’re getting cooked, that extra sweet spot workout might put you over the top and might be a bad idea. I’d also say if you have a 3-4hr indoor endurance ride on the schedule that you’re dreading, it’s better to do a 1.5 or 2hr sweet spot workout and stay happy about biking than be miserable and bored for 4hrs or put it off and do nothing at all. Better to stay consistent day to day and week to week than ride waves of overdoing it and burnout or feeling like it’s your job.

Which direction are you going?

I have the 3rd week of August off, so will probably be out there at some point. Definitely with a 35* bag this time. :laughing:

Still trying to decide on direction. Had figured Denver start since it starts me out on more familiar (and easier) terrain and potentially gives me a bail out for my wife to come pick me up, but the thought of arriving in Durango by myself feels kind of anticlimactic, too. (And it occurred to me it might be easier to get a ride there on a set date) Lots of logistical sorting to do yet. Is there a good forum/online group where people chat about this stuff?

My departure window is sometime between Aug 9 and 18 (Depending on some family stuff, but leaning towards later). If you’re around then and there’s anyway I can help you out, let me know.

And I’m taking a 20 degree bag. But I plan to be sleeping a lot more than you!

Great advice above. I’ll just reiterate the point of including some regular weighted hiking or hike-a-bike efforts in your training as that taxes the legs/body in a completely different way. If you don’t have regular access to do so then doing stairs (office building multiple floors) can supplement. I used to work on the 15th floor and I’d always use the stairs instead of the elevator just for that reason.

I avoid FB at all costs, but there’s a CTR group there with plenty of good info.

I’d recommend going eastbound for a couple reasons. I don’t think it’s any faster/slower that way, but I think the more difficult and rewarding biking is near Durango, and it’s better to hit that when you still have some life in you. If you do it when you’re super tired, it’s probably not going to be quite as enjoyable. Whereas buff creek and the terryall detour is kinda meh anyways and easier to keep moving there when you’re super fatigued. I think it’s also logistically easier to end near your home. It’s a pain in the ass to get to Durango and get a hotel and then have to drive 5-6hrs back home to the front range the next day. It’d be way cool to finish and have your wife/family there and drive an hour home and go take a shower and sleep in your own bed. Also gives you LESS of a bail-out option early on. Just gotta do it.

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