Ultra-Endurance MTB on mid-volume

I’m sorry, I know this is probably here 100 times, but I’m really looking for some reassurance. I’ve got 2 ultra endurance mtb races, and a handful of 3+ hr mtb races on my calendar. The 2 ultras (Sea otter and Leadville) are both marked “A” races in plan builder. It’s got me on a mid-volume plan. Running up to roughly 480 TSS/week. I don’t have any rides over 2 hours, and that makes me a bit nervous. Am I losing it or should I just listen to the plan and shut up?

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This is a topic that elicits differing opinions. When it comes to ultra events (say anything over 8 hours), you tend to have two camps. One that says you don’t need to do any rides of similar duration in preparation, and one that says you do.

I do road, and no MTB. My personal take for what thats worth here is that you certainly can do long events with no specificity training beforehand (no rides of similar duration), but you will not do as well as if you include regular rides of similar duration into your training. The downside of this approach is that regular long rides are tiring until your body is used to them (which may take over a year), and recovery from them may interfere with other training sessions that could have been productive to your event performance, if you are not used to doing long rides already.

If you are not used to doing 8-12h rides, there is at the very least utility in doing one or two test rides well before your event or similar duration, to make sure you have your fit and nutrition games down.

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Returns are diminishing after 5-6hrs, so there’s little reason to do long long rides besides getting your ass callused enough, experimenting with nutrition, or if you simply love riding your bike for an entire day.

TR doesn’t prescribe them, because if you give people on a mid volume plan a 4+hr ride inside…chances are they won’t do it, and most cyclists with races on the calendar are probably doing long weekend rides anyways.

The easy solution is to do the TR plans as recommended, then either sub out one of the longer sweet spot workouts for a long z2 outside or do it in addition to, if you can handle the volume increase.


I did Leadville last year and worked in 4-6 hr z1/z2 rides throughout year. The only time it bit me is when I decided to go for KOM towards the end of one. When I kept it low, I didn’t find those interfere w training blocks. I personally got a ton of benefit from knowing I could handle significant time on a bike, eating, and moving. I just knew that if I could do 6 hrs, 9 was really not much more with all the adrenaline. 2 hrs to 9 hrs to me is a stretch, but it might work for many more experienced racers (I’m not). I think I’ve heard that some nice adaptation happens on rides between 4-6 hrs, maybe one of Dylan’s videos🤷‍♂️


What @timon says!

You can get away with no long rides fitness-wise. I would refer you to the podcast where Nate talks about his Leadville experience.

But if you have the time, subbing in a couple 4-6 hour rides (before tapering of course) is not a bad idea, especially if you haven’t experienced many all day type of races. It’s more about testing and dialing in nutrition, hydration, gear and pacing.

Beyond 6 hours is not necessary and too fatiguing, especially on mtb.

And don’t forget strength and mobility!


While I personally have had success at Leadville using low and mid volume plans, I still think people have a fundamental misconception of how Plan Builder works.

Plan Builder is not building you a customized plan to ensure preparedness for a specific event. It is attempting to optimize within the constraints you provide it. You could put your A race as Unbound XL on a low volume plan and it will let you. That doesn’t mean you can do Unbound XL on a low volume plan, it means that your plan is going to try and make you as prepared as it can within the constraints you provided it. That may or may not end up being sufficient.

On a recent podcast, I think @Jonathan (or maybe one of the other hosts) made some remarks of changes coming to Plan Builder that will allow you to further customize your plan for constraints like I can only do the equivalent of low or mid volume on weekdays but I can do longer rides on weekends.

Until that feature is rolled out you need to employ some self-coaching judgement and consider making alterations to your plan to address more specific demands of your event, including selectively adding volume where appropriate.

I don’t want to freak you out because I firmly do not believe you have to do 10 hour rides to have a good Leadville. At least not as a rule. Personally, I find diminishing returns much beyond ~3.5 hour quality rides in training on any kind of regular basis, but I do like to have 1-2 longer 5+ hour rides to practice pacing and nutrition. I typically do those exclusively in the form of prep events but of course you could just do a long training ride too.

The nutrition angle of this is the most important thing IMO and is really dependent on your experience level at ultra endurance events. If you know how to pace and fuel for an all day event then I think you could come in with really consistent but not long-duration efforts and be fine. If you’ve never successfully fueled a 9+ hour event and show up after only having done a ton of 2 hour rides in training you are likely to have a poor outcome.


I don’t think you need to train longer than 2 hours to finish those races and do well in them. If you were to attempt long 5–6 hour rides, you’d accumulate a lot of TSS that will negatively impact your training. Even when you stick to Z2, anything above 4 hours can lead to a surprising amount of fatigue.

However, you should have enough experience with pacing and know exactly how hard you can go. Training with a power meter has helped me here, because I can connect sensations (how hard an effort feels after how many hours) with a power output. Especially in the beginning you should hold yourself back. But if you don’t want to leave too much on the table, you have to play by ear later on. Admittedly, this is where having spent long days in the saddle comes in handy. But training-wise, I don’t it is necessary.

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When I did a brevet of 1430km in 2013

I was doing a 45 min road cycle commute twice a day, 5 days a week. I would do a 2-3 hour mtn bike blast round local trails on a Sat or Sun morning.

Looking at my brevets that year (ahead of the longer one above) I did

200km, 100km, 200km, 400km, 600km, 90km

In other words not many long rides at all, just once a month or so in the 6 months before. I had 3 weeks off the bike before the event with a couple of weeks walking hut to hut in the French Alps.

In 2018 also did a 1000km brevet in Scotland off the back of nothing longer than 200km rides. Mostly because my bike frame broke, and there was a delay till I managed to borrow a bike, to do the event on. Thus missed some of the longer brevets I could have done in build up.

I didn’t have any physical problems on those long events (other than some mild nerve damage in hands which is fairly typical for many on the big multi day brevets)

You want some longer rides to get your setup and logistics and the mental side sorted out. But you certainly do not need a vast number of them to develop the fitness. Outside events I don’t generally go above 6 hours of non stop riding, despite some events being over a number of days with little sleep. Key for my fitness was that frequent and consistent cycle commute.

If you’ve done the maths, I was averaging about 10.5 hours a week, with just the Sat having any real intensity. Not high volume at all.


Thanks for that - I’ve got into LEL having done nothing longer than 300 before so I have been getting a bit worried :slightly_smiling_face:

But I’ve done 12hr rides off the back of nothing longer than 2hrs before.

OP could try replacing some of the longer weekend rides with outdoor Z2 etc rides - TR generally doesn’t prescribe very long trainer rides in the plans as their data shows most people just don’t do them. The weekly tips on the old fixed plans did used to give advice about subbing the weekend rides out, and that’s still what they mention on the podcast.

Personally I’ve always done LV plans and topped up with other riding - average 10hr per week. I treat the 3x TR workouts as the key marks to hit and then generally try and top up with Z2 (although I’m not very good at sticking to Z2, club rides are rarely Z2 only…).

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Last year I did 2 MTB 100s and 2 XCM events in addition to 8 XCO races. This year I’m doing 5 MTB 100s as part of the NUE series. I’ve been racing MTB 100s and training with TR for almost 4 years.

There is plenty of good advice above and I’ll just add what has worked for me. I swap most/all of Sunday’s workouts for long z2. When that’s on the trainer (winter) that’s 2:30-3:30 workouts and outside 3:00-4:30 hours.

Also at the end of each training block before a recovery week, I try to make both weekend workouts a bit longer. So that Saturday might be extended to 2:00-3:00 hours. You can use alternates or just add z2 at the end. Weather permitting, that Saturday could also be a long trail ride. This gives you a weekend total of 6-8+ hours which will be more fatigue but you’re going into a recovery week. That recovery week allows you to pile up additional TSS just prior, but shouldn’t affect future training.


That’s where I was in 2013. I’d done a 300 in August 2012 to decide if I liked the longer distances and whether I’d enter LEL when entries opened. Then 2013 I also did my first 400 and 600.

Try and get a 400 and / or 600 in before LEL. Just so you get a feel for ones that go through the night, when your dozy times hit, and just how cold it gets, and what lighting and spare layers you’ll need.

It’s rarely fitness that produces DNF on events such as LEL. It’s usually the accumulation of a number of strategic or tactical errors that add up, via poor decisions made when mentally fatigued.

Bit of a hijack. Feel free to start a thread on LEL if you want to go into any detail. I was also a member of the central organising team in 2017. Thus have quite a bit of knowledge of it from both sides. I’m riding this year’s edition.

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This +1

Generally if you enter such an event you are likely to have the fitness. If you’ve not done anything similar before then it’s generally things like nutrition and hydration that you need to focus on.

I did a 200km MTB event in Wales last November, let’s just say things didn’t go according to plan! I felt rough from the off (it turned out I was starting with my first cold for six years), got cramp by 60km :man_shrugging: My GPS batteries died at 110km and the spares didn’t work! Threw up at around 140km :face_exhaling: but still managed to finish inside the first cutoff of 24hrs.

Sometimes grit and determination are what’s needed.

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I may do, cheers. I need to figure out pacing and sleep strategy at some point - I think I’ll be fit enough that I would be able to ride it in stages with a relatively OK amount of sleep in between (relative to having one or two hours at a time like some people do I mean, not relative to normal). But then obviously I won’t get a very fast time - I’m just not sure how much I want to/should push for a fast time. I know I’ll be much better off if I don’t try and push the sleep too much…

I’ve done some fully loaded (tent and cooking stuff etc) tours with back to back 150k days before which is probably more physiologically similar than a 1-day 300.

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I’ll add my n=1, so take it for what it’s worth…I did Leadville last year. I was using LV here on TR as my base plan. I would either do the rides inside or the outside version as my ‘key workouts’. I would also add in outside rides to end up riding 10h/week. I was in the camp of doing long rides, if I remember correctly, I did 5 rides of 5+ hrs a few MTB, a few road. My longest ride was an 8h MTB at kingdom trails in VT. My take on it that you probably don’t ‘need’ the ultra long rides but they are good from a mental perspective if you’ve never done rides as long as Leadville (I hadn’t)


If you have the time, then get outside and ride, it will be worth it in the long run.

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Thanks for making it simple. This is the way

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Thanks everyone! This is kinda what I expected to hear, and I know is right, but needed a little reassurance. Heading out for a long ride today while the weather is decent and I’m off work.

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I agree with everything about the post below. 2 points in particular:

  1. Experimenting with nutrition = incredibly important
  2. TR likely doesn’t prescribe 4 hour rides because of compliance

Also … pay attention to core work. The less watts (read: weight) you’re putting through the pedals, the more stress you’re putting on your abdomen, arms and ass.

I’d do at least a couple 4 hour rides to see what’s what.

Good luck🤘

EDIT: Here’s a specific recommendation… assuming you’re doing SPB MV, take the 2 hour Wright Peak ride which has about ~150 TSS. Take that TSS target +/- 10% and ride to it in Z2. If you’re riding at the higher end of Z2 (70% of FTP) you’ll do about 50 TSS per hour. If you ride at 60% of FTP you’ll accumulate 145 TSS in a 4 hour ride… and theoretically won’t accumulate more fatigue, but gain +2 hours on the bike. Boom :boom:

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Oh, I’d also add that one easy way to get more volume/endurance in any plan is to add z2 time to the end of workouts when you have time.

Get to the end, hit +30mins (or +30mins twice) and bump the percentage of ftp to around 55-60% and ride until you gotta do whatever else you gotta do that day. It’s generally not going to be fatiguing enough to make the next workouts more difficult, your body will get better at working at an endurance pace after being a little glycogen depleted, and you’re not tying yourself into a high volume plan…because you only have to do this when you have the extra time available.