Best training plans for Xterra / Off Road Triathlon



I just finished cyclocross season in Texas and am planning my 2019 season. USAT Off-Road National Championships is in Waco, TX on June 8th. I completed the Olympic Training Plan (Base, Build, Specialty) for the same event last year. The MTB portion of the event last year was 18 miles so it is more consistent with a Olympic MTB. On the tri plan last year, I did the the mid-volume selections for cycling and followed the low volume instructions for swim and run because of my time limitations with work and family life. I almost think I would be better off getting a swimming coach or do Masters swimming as I think technique pays off better than putting just hours in the training following the swim recommendations although they were helpful for a novice swimmer last year. Any thoughts? Any recommendations?


XTERRA events, while similar in length to the Olympic Distance Triathlon, have specific demands that require a bit of deviation from the standard Olympic Plan. As a result, our XTERRA workout suggestion is a combination of the Olympic Triathlon Training Plan and the XC Olympic MTB training progression. Essentially, you will do the run and swim recommendations from the Tri plan, but you will drop in the rides from the MTB plan progression on the days you have rides. Here’s what that looks like:

Olympic Distance Base, option to substitute the rides from Sweet Spot Base II
Olympic Distance Build, but substitute the rides from General Build
Olympic Distance Specialty, but substitute the rides from XC Olympic MTB Specialty

Chad talks about recommended XTERRA training on our Ask a Cycling Coach Podcast here:
Podcast 071

I hope this helps!


I do agree with getting some swim coaching, whether it’s through masters or just some scattered swim lessons to work on learning good technique and skill building drills. Lots can be learned from various books but it’s hard to replace eyes on deck from an experienced swim coach to speed along the process. Wish you well.


I have been following this for the last two years. It is admittedly tough to do both interval sessions from the bike workouts in the build/specialty along with the running intervals prescribed in the oly plans. That is three very hard interval sessions, so if you want to hit up a drop ride or practice bike handling at race pace I have had to swap one of the bike interval sessions out.

I do short power build though as that was at the time the recommendation for off road athletes, and I will be sticking with that since I think it is a limiter for me personally and after looking at MTB power files, closer matches the type of trails we have here.

The Waco course is also more of a short power course, all climbs are 2 minutes and under but all very steep and high power, and a lot of them.

It was nice to hear that @chad was interested in doing an xterra focused plan, as I’ve been asking for one. With the calendar it is easier now to organize my run and swim workouts as opposed to always having to open the tri plan and open the details for the different weeks so I’m not quite as eager for it, but one major change I also need to make is around the taper. The low volume XCO plan is really only a 1 week taper and I try to get in a 2 week taper to start the race season or after a big block of training and only use 1 week during the season when the races are about a month apart.


And to answer one of the questions mentioned by @Nate and @Jonathan in that old podcast you guys have the old national championship course in your own backyard. Xterra Nats were held in Incline Village when I first started up and by the time I was ready to make a run to go there, they moved it to Ogden outside salt Lake City. The Xterra Lake Tahoe course goes up the flume trail and around Marlotte lake and back down to Incline Village.

This is longer than an average course though, what would be considered a “Championship” level race with the pros finishing the whole thing in around 3 hours


@Bioteknik, @Umbach, @Bryce, Thank you for the replies! Listening to that old(er) podcast I probably didn’t know what Xterra was back then. I agree with the short power build over the general build though as my MTB power files are more on and off again than steady state. I haven’t plugged the workouts in yet, but the calendar sure should help for planning. Thanks again! Jason


Yeah, the decision of your build will depend on a few factors. I’ve ridden in Texas a fair amount since i have relatives in Austin. Crazy to think they used to have a race at emma long. I know many western courses have more sustained climbs like the national champ course. But even my local area that has a net 1000 ft climb to the top it is broken up in to a bunch of mini climbs and descents much like you’d get at the revielle peak course near you.


My focus has been Xterra events. Unless you are coming from a swim background, getting help with the swim will really improve that portion of the event. A Masters swim with a coach on site will work well. That is what I am doing. I also have done private lessons to get over some major technique issues.

Might I suggest you listen to the Tower26 podcasts about tri-specific swimming?

This is what I found 2 years ago. My legs could not handle all the high intensity of bike and run. Just too much. Add that even the 5am workouts were in 90 degree heat and things were a challenge.

The saddest part of Xterra for me is Worlds is NOT a technical course. A long climb and fast descent. Roadie style course. Which leaves me going “Why GO to Maui when I qualify for that?”


Have you done the Kapalua course? Or basing this off of other people’s opinions?