XC Marathon Plan...Hugh?

I’m six weeks into the XC Marathon low volume plan. My ‘A’ race is a 50 mile mtb event that historically has taken me between five and six hours depending on conditions and fitness. My ‘B’ races are a few XC marathons and gravel grinders; all which range from 3-6 hours in length. I was scanning ahead on the workout calendar and noticed that none of the workouts are longer than 90’. This seems strange for a plan that is focusing on 3+ hour events. I chose the low volume plan so I could supplement with outdoor rides, Zwift fondos, etc. As such, I’ll get my long rides in that way but, It seems odd there aren’t any long rides prescribed. What gives?


You don’t need long workouts to prepare for long races, certainly not structured ones. If it helps contextualise, I finished Top25 in the BC Bike Race (7 day XCM stage race) a while back on nothing more than low/mid-volume plan and maybe one or two longer (unstructured) outdoor endurance-type rides per month. I added in a block of “B” XCMs in the run-up to the “A” goal (BCBR) but that was it.

After 6-7 years of using TR, I’d set up a low volume plan with a basic weekly “fitness quality” structure and use the weekend for outdoor rides to work on your “bike quality” (skills, technique, social) and mostly unstructured work (weather/conditions permitting, otherwise replace with Zwift or cross-training). That’s basically been my setup for the last 5 years or so and I believe that it provides good balance between fitness and the basic joys of riding your bike. For me anyway.


I’be been on high volume for years and the longest TR has ever prescribed was 2 hours. It’s structured training and basically assumes on the trainer, so it’s good enough to complete your event. However, training for XC/XCM/100s I’ve always extended Saturdays to include extra z2 and/or long trail rides and Sundays substitutions of 3-6 hour z2.

It’s sounds like your training is structured properly the way you have it now so you can have a variety outside of the LV plan.

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I second what @pensamtb said.
You certainly don’t require long structured, however you can see long rides as a way to practice your nutrition strategy, dial your bike fit and generally just practice the mental aspects of being on the bike for multiple hours.

Myself I have been experimenting with doing 2 workouts back to back starting with an endurance workout and then immediately following up with the prescribed workout as per the original plan.

On the other hand, if you do have the time and willingness to do longer structured workouts, look at workout alternates, you can always select one that’s more in line with what you have in mind. Just be aware of the recovery cost of longer workouts, making sure you’re not losing the ability to supplement with outdoor rides, zwift fondos, as you mentioned.

Hope this helps…

You told a computer that you had 3.5 hours to train a week. 1+1+1.5 is better training compared to one 3.5 hour ride a week.

If you want longer workouts you can always choose an alternate and look for a longer duration that fits the time you have to ride.

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TR won’t prescribe rides longer than about 2 hours as above - it’s mainly looking at structured turbo workouts, and you don’t really need to do longer ones than that.

I completed a 1540km audax last year using a TR low volume plan - the way I look at it is I set LV which basically gives me 3 key workouts per week split over 3.5 hours, then I add outdoor Z2 above that. The 3 key workouts are usually sweetspot, threshold, VO2 or whatever and I would often tack on say 30 minutes of Z2 at the end of those for a bit of extra volume. I did also do quite a few 3 or 3+hr turbo rides, especially early season (some of which were TR sessions) but I added those on myself.

Basically use the TR workouts to develop across the power range and longer stuff for the “time in saddle” aspects.

The older fixed plans did used to include weekly tips which did give advice to substitute the long weekend ride for a longer outdoor ride.

TrainerRoad likes to tout that you don’t need to do rides longer than 2 hours to do marathon type events. I would agree with that statement as it stands. But would add that for those that want to improve performance in long races, doing some longer rides will help. I would definitely supplement their plans with longer rides if you have the time.

+1 and totally agree.

If your goal is to finish a marathon rides longer than 2 hours are not needed. If you do enough 2 hour rides and are consistent with training you will be able to finish. However, if you are RACING a marathon longer efforts are absolutely essential.