Training plan modifications for MTB stage race

Happy New Year!

I’ve signed up for the Trans-Sylvania MTB Epic in May 2022! :star_struck: It’s quite a lofty goal for me as I’ve just gotten a MTB (i.e I am a beginner) and it’s a 5-day stage race…both of which push what I’m currently capable of.

I’m trying to figure out how to modify a training plan that lets me learn how to Mountain Bike in the same timeframe, which means needing to add in a bunch of time on the MTB in unstructured riding. (I don’t have a power meter on my MTB, but at my level, I can’t imagine trying to hold a power target over technical terrain either, much less being able to look down at the Garmin to see what my power is…)

What I am thinking is that I’ll have dedicated structured training days for fitness (~3/wk?) and the other days will go out and “learn/play” on the MTB. I’m wondering whether to:

  • Take a Low Volume plan and add the outdoor MTB days
  • Take a High Volume plan and replace workouts with the outdoor MTB

I can see benefits to both approaches, and there’s some consideration to how long the workouts are on the weekdays. 1 hour tends to feel to little to me, but I don’t have time for 2 hour workouts.

I also wonder if there’s benefit/harm to doing a workout and then also going out to practice some skills on the MTB? at my level, I’m planning for each stage taking me 5-6 hours (for ~30-35miles), so figure getting my body used to a few hours on the bike is helpful.

One particular concern I have is getting in enough VO2/Anaerobic . I tend to be a rather punchy/sporadic (can’t think of the right word) rider. For the shorter/steeper/technical sections, I find I need to put in some hard/maximal power efforts in order to make it through. I’m working on trying to ride some of the longer uphill sections at a lower power, but there will be times that I will need to . I’m worried that over a 5 hour day, I’ll end up over-doing it if I haven’t had some training/experience pushing my legs at VO2/Anaerobic power levels.

Looking at the plans, it seems like the General Build has some VO2 & Anaerobic, but the Anaerobic disappears for the Cross-Country Marathon or Century Specialty plans. I was wondering - do all the gains in the Anaerobic disappears through the Specialty phase?

For background:
I’ve been quite active through my life - used to do a lot of running, hiking (up mountains), trail running, cycling, soccer, basketball, climbing, “bootcamp”. I had about 5-6 year period of low level fitness/inactivity due to knee injury/surgery and overwhelming work needs. I’ve been cycling for about 18 years, and my first ~10 years I spent riding as fast as I could on the local rail trail (no power meter, HR monitor, or bike computer).

I’ve been using TR for the past 2 years to help regain some fitness and consistency, and now the majority of my exercise is on the bike. I have decent success when I follow the plans through base and build, but seem to burn myself out over the summer adding in longer days in the saddle. I also like to race Cyclocross for fun but find that I lost a lot of fitness when I switch over to the Cyclocross specialty plan my first year. I do much better at SweetSpot and Threshold vs VO2/Anaerobic. (Love that Adaptive training allows separate progressions in these).

oh, and I’ve already gone through SSB MV1, I’ve had some illness/travel over the past few weeks, so will likely restart a second base plan soon.

Any thoughts on how to approach this training is welcome!

If it was me, my approach would depend on the type of MTB rides I was likely to be doing. For example, I have a local trail centre that I use for my training, but the climbs are such that it’s almost impossible to stay in zone 2.

As such, doing 3 TR workouts per week plus an MTB session above zone 2 would probably dig me in to a bit of a fatigue hole after a while. In this instance I would probably do 2 TR workouts per week and 1 outdoor MTB ride (plus other z2 rides if required).

If you can find a way, however, of practising MTB skills without the intensity then I would do TR low volume plans and top those up with MTB skills and zone 2 rides where possible.

If this were me, and full disclaimer I’m far from an expert, I’d run a plan similar:

  • Low volume plans weekdays (Mon, Tue, Thurs)
  • Saturday an MTB ride without pushing hard on fitness (ie not hammering climbs) to get my skills up to point plus having the fun ride at the end of the week will keep motivation up
  • Some weight training Weds + 1 other day. It’s surprising just how physical MTB is and all my close crash calls recently haven’t been when pushing my skills, more towards the end of the ride when I’m tired and not muscling the bike about as smoothly.

When it gets warmer/more pleasant I’d prob also look at adding an extra MTB ride in even at the loss of a TR session. Since you’ve come from climbing you’ll understand that skills can get you much further than fitness.

I’m doing breck epic this year, so similar type of race.

Go with the easier plan, and add in the outdoor rides on top of it.

Also, don’t forget you also need to be strength training. As @Jonathan called it your bodies “durability” could be a major limiter if you aren’t well rounded, so don’t just focus on your TR plan plus the local outdoor trail center.

@Dialed_Health has an XC plan that could help. Also look for some skills coaching since you said you are new to MTB.

I spent 2 hours with Lee MCormick and I’ve never handled my bike better or taken turns faster.

There’s no harm in that. Also, ride off road as part of your endurance training, you don’t always need to be in the ‘zone’ to achieve the benefits.

Thanks. The weight training is a good thing to add in too. I didn’t even get to asking about including that in.

Oooh, that’s another factor I didn’t think about…being tired towards the end of the ride. I find that MTB is extremely mentally tiring for me also. All the focus and concentration takes a lot of energy. I guess much more reason to get the strength, fitness and skills all in line. Being tired at the end of a long road or gravel ride is very different than at the end of a MTB ride.

Sweet! Good luck with it! My husband rode it a few years ago and it looked absolutely amazing. I was ready to become a mountain biker just being out there cheering him on at that race. :joy:

Yeah, this is something else I’m trying to figure out how to work into the schedule. I guess that’s more reason to do the LV plan.

I had picked up Lee’s book on MTB skills, and have been thinking about his online course. I’m sure some in-person instruction would be very useful as well. Right now there’s just overcoming the fear to really to commit to a lot of the techniques.

Yeah, there’s not really much way for me to stay in zone 2 while MTBing. It’s a good point to monitor the fatigue as I go along and adjust as necessary. I can easily way overdo things.

True. I guess I also don’t need to keep to the technical trails either while on the MTB, and non-technical off-road rides for the endurance rides would be beneficial.