Ultra Marathon "Race" Pace Thoughts/Suggestions?

Been training for 5 months for a self-supported mtb/gravel ride/race across the state of Washington – The “XWA” – 670 miles with 40k elevation. Got my bike fit and gear mostly dialed, but am wondering now about pacing/power during the event.

At 54 my current CTL is at 92 — higher than I’ve ever seen it. So I’ve built an engine, but don’t want to blow it up doing something dumb

Obviously you have have to keep intensity very low since the volume is so high. The only ‘tip’ I’ve heard so far: stay out of zone 4–walk climbs if you must. I’d love to do 100 miles a day and finish in 6 nights/7 days.

My gut tells me stay in zone 2/60ish IF as much as possible. Any ultra vets care to share some thoughts?

From my stage racing experience - all comes down to your grit, nutrition and recovery (more eating) and sleeping.

You can do zone 2 all day , 6 days in a row. I would train 50 miles per day 6 days in a row in training and see how you fare. Recover and bump up to 75 miles a day in another training block - you will learn a lot that you can apply to the real deal


Very cool. THank Frank! PS the podcast is great! Keep up the great work. So much to learn from those

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Weather/wind dependent I’d wager that you’ll surprise yourself on how much riding you can do with that level of fitness. I did part of the Tour Divide (Montana to CO) a few years back and half of the fun was riding for as long as I felt like it - one day was ~190 miles, but the “hardest” day was ~110miles & ~12k in ~14hrs total at ~150w NP. Just eyeballing the typical day looked to be around 110 miles and ~8k and ~120w but I wasn’t in a hurry. Rode a hardtail 38/26 x 10-45.

I used an Opsack and a Ursack (and hung that where possible). Found out after the fact that I stopped in some of the worst Grizzly/Wolf areas possible - thankfully without incident but the footprints sure can wake you up in the morning.

Lastly, I wouldn’t recommend holding yourself to any distance goals but do have an idea where your food is along the way and when they’ll be open/closed. Take your time (reasonably) and enjoy it.

Great vote of confidence. Many thanks. This is probably no news to some, but I’ve been having good luck with adding Intensity Factor to my data screen on bike computer and trying to hover around 65 IF for long, loaded rides. Seems to help.

Also, totally agree on food and hydration. A common theme I’m hearing is staying comfortable and fed is almost more important than fitness.

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Someone in the know advised that change of socks every few hours is a lifesaver. Dunno if that helps.

I’ve done Trans Georgia (TNGA) a couple times and a few other ultras. Don’t pay attention a a PM or HR, just ride by feel. Day one, ride what feels like tempo on the climbs, coast on Dh and just ride what feels right ( probably upper ZN2) on the flats-hopefully you know what this feels like and dont have to depend on a device. For me, day one, I can’t go to sleep until like 3am or so, body is just to wired (even though youre pretty cooked), no reason to lay there wishing you can sleep, just keep riding until you know you can sleep. After day one, all HR an power data is pointless for pacing, legs are gonna be tired and HR is going to be out of wack. Just ride what feels comfy, walk uphill if thats what you need to do…just keep moving. Eating and drinking are key, as well as keeping a positive attitude. An extra pair of sock is nice if your think you feet will get wet a lot ( Trench foot is a real thing at TNGA…enough stream crossing that you never have dry feet for the whole race. Dont need to change them every couple hours, but dry socks in the morning are really nice. It probably would be a really really good idea to do a weekend trip where you do a solid saturday, camp, then do a solid sunday. Mt bike with bags on the bike is a bit different than mt biking.

for people who have ridden with power on multiday backpacking races, I believe they usually average like 30 tss/hr while riding for the whole event. so that comes in below normal Z2 pace, but I know they go harder than that on the climbs. you can do more than you think once you get on the trail. MY day 1 of TNGA was 150mile, 25k vert and 17 hrs ride time.

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and I’ve mentioned this a long time ago, but the Fascat Breck Epic plan was good training for bikepacking races. Wasnt designed for it, but does work well.

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This is great stuff. Thanks for sharing… I did a 7 hour ride yesterday fully loaded and tss was only 300–so about 45hr, but lots of climbing. It’s a whole new sport to get off the bike after 7 hours and feel less blown up than you do after a brisk group ride… just trying to figure out how to keep it entertaining now. I never use music/podacasts, but thinking I might have to start.

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