Training for Ultra distance events



Would/how would you adapt TR training plans for ultra distance events? I’m interested on everyones opinion.

I’m considering following SSB, SPB then century plan. But swapping out some of the sweetspot days and replacing them with longer zone 2 rides.


For sure, you need long and steady endurance pace days.

Look at the weekly notes (Build and Specialty) and you will see a suggestion for a longer ride to replace the Sunday ride (sometimes 2 options).


Probably depends on how long the ultra distance event is. If multiple days in the saddle, and long hours each day (e.g. like the Colorado Trail Race) , I think that’s the kind of event where there is no substitute for a lot of training hours in the saddle.

One option would be to use the TR plans as part of an overall polarized training plan. e.g. on the low volume plans, do the two interval sessions mid week, and go for some very long lower intensity rides at the weekend instead of the scheduled TR weekend ride.

The traditional TR sweet spot training approach is probably better suited for rides that are long, but not in the ultra category e.g. LT100


Ultra’s come in so many different forms and to be honest I don’t know a lot about mtb and trail ultras (although Ride the Divide is on the hit list) For me training for a 12/24h event is totally different than training for a multi day/multi week event, crewed/none crewed event.

Plus terrain is a huge factor. So to be honest I feel you probably need to look at your end goal and work backwards. So Nurburgring 24h where you have a 600m climb touching 18% every lap is different from training for TransAm where the climbs are long and you will be on your bike over 16 hours a day for 20+ days with the top height reaching around 11,300ft but nothing over 10% until the final day.

Therefore I think you need to look at the a. time duration/distance b. the course.


Totally with you until the last line. I think Nate, and likely many others, used the basic TR methods to great success. Some long days will surely help, but a total shift in training method is not necessary for most riders and goals, IMHO.


Yep - fair point - the TR approach does help prepare you for all sorts of events. However in keeping with the concept of specificity and “train like you ride”, there’s a lot of reasons for doing training rides that are similar to the event you’re training for. Its probably a question of how much time you have available to train (and the kind of training that keeps you motivated) that dictates the approach you take.


Agreed, very time schedule dependent. Best to choose there first and adapt that plan, if needed to get the long game dialed.


yep. for LT100 next year, I’m going to try the approach of doing the TR low volume plans for the interval sessions during the week, and augment with longer outdoor rides at the weekend. Hopefully will have the time available to pull this off.


Hi Jason, What you are considering is exactly what I used preparing for two Rapha Cent Cols while living Holland on mid-volume. Once the weather improved I swapped out one of the weekend rides for longer outdoor activities. At the end of it my endurance was pretty much flawless and I felt I could sweet-spot all day. I did become a very one-dimensional rider however, so I’d probably go for Climbing Road Race if I were to do it again, as that would get a better balance for VO2Max and high end intervals in the real world.


Thank you for your reply and everyone else’s.
Being able to hold sweetspot all day is what I’m looking for, Im thinking about doing a 12hour TT next year and also a few ultra distance 200Mile+ road rides for fun. How long was the rapha cent col?


The Cent Cols is 10 days, about 200 km per day with ~5000 meters of climbing/day. :sweat_smile:


Hi, I too am looking at getting a training plan nailed down for my ‘A’ event.
It’s a 400mile ride with over 11,000m climbing, in a 42 hour time limit. Gravel and road. I rode it last year and completed it feeling rather fresh in the legs, although my upper body and hands were in bits.
It’s called This Is Not A Tour if anyone is interested, in homage to Mike Hall.
Next year I hope to complete it faster, so looking to tailor my TR sessions accordingly. SSB 1 & 2, Sustained Power Build, then what? Build again? As there is a serious amount of climbing, more rumored for 2019 :face_with_raised_eyebrow:, I am of the opinion that steady state without burning any matches is the way to go.

Is it worth doing a Specialty, when on the day, I am consciously going to avoid going ‘into the red’.

Any advice on exercises for back and shoulders, hands etc?!


I’m curious, did you follow ssb and sustainable power build last year?

Also for a range of exercised to do id recommend reading “Tom Danielsons Core Advantage” its got lots of useful body exercises and a progression plan to choose from.


Well I tried to. SSB1, sick, SSB1, sick… So I just toned it down and just turned up on the day. I started out too fast by trying to keep up with the (guys I later found out were spending the night in a Travelodge (motel) then carrying on) some racing snakes.
I live in Suffolk, UK so didn’t have gearing to make it up the climbs. Anything over 15% and I was pushing, not embarrassed to admit that! I just went slow and steady. Did it in 38 hours.

I’m thinking of SSB then Sus Power Build unless I hear anything different!


Thanks for the book recommendation, I’ll add it to my Christmas list!


My A race was a 1000km brevet this summer. In the canadian winter, I used the the high-volume Century plan. Starting in the spring, I switched to mid-volume Century with a 200km+ brevet every other weekend with a mega 2 week taper period before the event.

It worked? Not sure if that’s a good enough recommendation for you! :stuck_out_tongue:

If you’re not going out on longer road rides, you’ll need to definitely do some cross training. The stabilization muscles are ones that usually get forgotten when you first start training for ultra distance.


I’m lining up in Banff on the second Friday in June 2020. Just wanted to bill board that! The more I tell people the more I can’t dodge it. And to be fair, I have not told that many.

My idea is for now until the first half of 2019 to push my ftp up. Mainly with sweet spot work and some endurance work. So it is mainly low volume sweet spot base, followed by the build. I have a few bike packing races in September so I will do a couple of longer rides before but mainly on TR. Then in autumn 2019 I will return to an extended SSB and an extended build period. I will do a 24 hour race or two in January and February, then SSB low volume but the higher tts version, build then century.

I don’t find that anything over 5 hours to be useful training for bikepacking or audax events, your riding at 60 to 80% of your ftp for hours at a time, a high ftp will make you travel faster than having done loads of junk miles in z1 or z2. Getting your kit and sleeping dialed is crucial. But I’m not expecting to do much of the later!

If anyone thinks I’m going about things wrong please say so. My training is not set in stone. Thanks!


I agree. It was my hands and shoulder that let me down. Mentally, I’ve got it. My legs felt strong, even managed a hero pull at the front of a small group that formed after a food stop!
Bar tape and lighter actions on my brifters will help my hands, but my shoulders need some help.
I have a ‘cyclist’s’ build, arms like a small school girl.
I need to get some kettle bells I think!