Using TR for mountain ultras (trail running) training

Not sure which ‘target discipline’ in the plan builder to select. I do mountain trail races (normally ~300+ ft/mile) from marathon upto ~100 miles (just completed UTMB a few weeks ago), so 4-5hrs to more than 24h. I also do some cycle racing, mostly 1-2hr in length (crit-like in terms of dynamics i.e. very surgy), and although I do want to improve on this, it’s secondary to trail racing.

My first thought was to select IM triathlon but then saw Enduro MTB and then Cross-country marathon and wondering, especially with the latter, if that would be better? Although 100m ultras are probably similar to IM in that is just steady, consistent power, everything else that’s shorter is more spikey and sounds like XC marathon might be like that (no idea but watching XCO that seems very off/on and guessing XCM is just a tamer version?).

Any suggestions or experience from others?


Former ultra runner here … I think you have to be clear with yourself regarding how you want your cycling to support your running, and to stay focused on cycling being secondary to trail racing (until it’s not).

I’ll make some common assumptions about you as a runner and suggest that you use cycling to do two things:

  1. Replace some of your running intensity sessions with structured cycling workouts (and avoid the wear and tear of running). Your running economy will come from the presumably high mileage you’re already doing on trails, especially if you’re occasionally practicing your hiking and fast descents.
  2. Replace some very easy runs and recovery runs (such as your 2nd run of the day?) with bike sessions. (Don’t replace your long runs!)

Ultimately (and maybe #3 on the list), having cycling in your training mix will reduce your risk of injury by keeping your volume high even with less running than before, it will give you a choice when you get injured or feel a niggle that requires some time off your feet, and should also give you some options during the off-season (or later in your life). You should be able to run for longer as you get older (unfortunately, a mistake I made).

As far as your target event goes, and based on the above, I think something like low-volume XC marathon would be good for the intensity mix, alongside you filling the calendar with a slightly reduced running schedule.

Make sure you’re getting enough recovery, though.

My 2 cents. Good luck.

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Solid advice there

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Thanks so much for the thorough response and I will probably do the XC marathon option! Everything you said makes sense to me.

For some more background…I’m a little abnormal when it comes to running in that e.g. for UTMB training I never ran more than ~ 30miles/week and 2/3rds of that is a long trail run. I don’t have access during the week to trails and I hate road running so it’s a struggle to do any midweek.

Cycling is my preferred sport of the two but, being someone that needs racing for motivation, I don’t view cycling as a competitive sport for me - I do some racing but my #1 priority is not to crash, and most of the races around me end in bunch sprints that I just don’t want to get involved in (I spend the race near the front, trying to get in breaks, etc, but the breaks pretty much never succeed) - there are plenty of crashes, which I have somehow managed to avoid and/or stay on my feet. My training is probably 80:20 in favor of cycling in off-season and probably drops to 60:40 or so once I start doing longer trail runs. Long ride at the weekend (+ race in season), midweek is mostly trainer (usually Zwift racing), no structure (I do normally try to choose one of the hilly Zwift crit races so that is basically an interval session).

However, although I’m at the upper end in trail races I realize that I do need to change something in my training to progress further…so the first thing to do is Trainer Road (running may not change too much but will look to get more ‘vert’ midweek doing stairmill or maybe treadmill on max incline)

Thanks again.

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I’ve been having fun down the gym. It’s amazing what you can do with a couple of boxes. 10 mins of prancing around on this and you really know about it.

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