Off Season Training, Race Planning and Preparing for Next Year

The Chequamegon 40 Fat Tire festival officially wrapped up my racing for the year and I am currently thinking about my training and planning for next year.  I have a huge interest in the Endurance Racing scene at this point, because I like the ultimate test on the body and mind.  That being said, there are so many different races out there that I want to explore, making it difficult to plan out my race schedule.  Even though I am focused on adding some more 100 milers to my schedule, there are a few shorter 40 and 50 mile races that I am interested in along with Fat Bike racing over the winter.

What Next Year Is Starting To Look Like

Before I get into what I am doing right now; I’ll give you an overview of what I am planning for next year, so you have an idea of what is on my mind and what I will be using the winter months to prepare for…

The first race I locked in for next year was the Marji Gesick in Marquette, Michigan at the end of September.  2015 was the first year for the race and from what I can tell or have heard, it was a tough race and is going to continue to grow.  I believe there were just over 50 people in it this year and almost everybody signed back up for it again already within the first couple days that registration was open.  In fact, as I write this post…  There is already 125+ people registered for the 100 miler next year.  I am looking forward to this one!  Plus, I like the UP and the the Marquette trails that I have ridden are some of the best.

I am also planning to do the Lutsen 99er again.  I finished in just under 7 hours this year, which was a 2+ hour improvement over the previous year, but I feel like I have more in me to leave out on the trail.  Plus, my kids are already looking forward to that weekend.  This is a big growing event run by Lifetime Fitness, but it still has a cool grass roots feel to it.  It is a great group of people that come up to race it and it is on Minnesota’s North Shore of Lake Superior.  We have had a great family weekend out of it the last couple of years.

I am tossed up on the Maah Daah Hey 100.  It is a really awesome challenge and I would like to go back out there and knock some time off of my first attempt and place higher, but there are a couple other races that I am interested in doing around that same time as well.  There is now 150 miles of trail open out there and if there happened to be a Maah Daah Hey 150 race, then I would probably plan to go out for it.  It would be hard to pass that up.  If there is no MDH150, then I will most likely head to one of the other races I am interested in and return to the Maah Daah Hey 100 again in the future.

I won’t get into the other 100 milers I am interested in right now as the list is too big and I am working through them now to see what makes sense from a time, travel and of course, training and recovery schedule.  The Lutsen 99er and Marji Gesick 100 will both be A races for me at this point and I intend to fit in 2 more A races in the 100 mile range.  It will take a toll on my body, but I am up for the challenge and am curious how much of it that I can handle in one season.  I have a ton of work to do in order to be ready for that amount of racing though.  I did not really train myself well for that type of racing this past year and it took me a while to recover after the Lutsen 99er and the Maah Daah Hey 100.  It didn’t help that I was sick for the Lutsen 99er, but I also think it was partly due to my bad training habits.

I’d like to add some 40 and 50 milers in the schedule earlier in the season that I can use as training races for the 100 milers vs finishing the season with a 4o like I did this year in the Chequamegon 40.  I am uncertain at this point on the Chequamegon 40, as I also have some interest in a couple other races / events in early September and I am excitedly locked in for the Marji Gesick that is the following weekend.  The Chequamegon is a hard one to pass up, because it is such a great weekend and well run event, but something has to give in order to get to the other races that I really want to do.  That is one that I am willing to give up in order to experience some other races and maybe I’ll come back to it again in later years.  One of the big reasons I love mountain bike racing is finding new races in new places to compete in.  I tend to get board easy and need to mix things up a bit.

My next interest level beyond the 100 milers are the 12 and 24 hour races.  I feel like I need to fit 1 or 2 of those in next year to see how I like racing them.  I do think I need to do a couple 12 hour events before attempting a 24 race.  The biggest thing that turns me away from these type of events is the lap thing.  I love point to point and big single loop courses.  I have a hard time getting revved up to ride the same loop over and over again.  I have done a couple 4 hour races with the same format and I was sick of doing the same loop after 4 or 5 laps.  I can’t imagine 10 to 20 laps of the same course in one ride.

Ok, I guess I’ll dive into some of the other big events that I am interest in as well.  I really would like to try some racing at elevation, but need to figure out the logistics of getting out there and training at elevation before the race.  That being said, the other big ones that I am really interested in is the Breckenridge 100 and the Breck Epic.  They look like really cool events and I think stage racing at the Breck Epic would be a really cool experience and a different type of endurance test.  The Tatanka 100 is also on the list along with a few other of the NUE Series races.  Like I said, I need to get it figured out and will just start putting the schedule together as I work out what makes sense for training and recovering between events, along with the logistics of travel between them.

Going back to the 40 to 50 mile races…  I am really interested in the Epic Rides events, but they are a long haul for me. My kids are still in school at that point, so the family trip is out.  I like keeping the family involved in the race weekends, so it is not just me taking off to have a good time racing.  My kids are usually on the trail side ringing cowbells at me and cheering me on.  I can usually hear them yelling “Go Dad, Go!”  It just isn’t as much fun without them there, but we’ll see what I can work out.  I might be packing my tent and doing a quick and long road trip for a couple of races, knowing that my wife and kids will be there for the big ones in the summer months.

Winter / Fat Bike Season

Bringing things back to what’s in the short term, is Fat Bike Season.  I have confirmed registration for the Solstice Chase in late December and the Frozen Forty in February.  Yes, the Solstice Chase is actually still this year, but it is so late that it really is a totally different race season.  There are a couple others on the list as well, such as the 906 Polar Roll and The Fat Bike Birkie that I haven’t registered for yet.  Registration doesn’t open up on the Polar Roll until November 8th, but it is on my calendar to register when it opens.  The Frozen Forty and the 906 Polar Roll are back to back weekends, but both those days would most likely be long race like training days anyways in my training schedule.  So, I figure I might as well go have some fun racing with everybody else instead of pretending to race by myself…

I just got the Fat Bike last year and I plan on racing it as is with the wide 4.6″ stock Ground Control Tires.  I may try to make them tubeless to take a little bit of rolling mass out of them.  My biggest issue last year was cold feet, regardless of what I wore for boots.  I even tried my bigger boots that I wear ice fishing.  Not sure how my feet can get cold on the bike and not sitting out on the ice, but they did.  I was looking at the Wolvhammers, but have starting looking at the Lake 303s as well.  The Lakes come in wide sizes, which I think would be real helpful and they are a little cheaper.  I was traveling out of country quite a bit last winter, so I really didn’t get as much time on the Fat Bike as I wanted, in order to work out all the gear issues.  I hate to say it, but I am looking forward to the snow flying.

Training and Planning

training and planning

So, all that being said…  I am in a bit of a transition phase.  I was feeling really fatigued the last part of the summer and that was due to a couple things.  First, I had done a lot of racing, but I wasn’t training or recovering very smart.  I probably would have raced again after the Chequamegon, but my body was ready for a rest and some fun mild aerobic riding / training.  Since the Chequamegon, I have kept most of my riding to fairly easy heart rate zone 1 / 2 aerobic training rides, aside from a couple short spin sessions on my trainer.

This last year, I never made out a training plan at all.  I just rode when I felt like it and then scrambled to cram in training when I realized I wasn’t as strong as I wanted to be.  I don’t want to get too deep into that in this article as I plan to write a more in depth article in the coming month or 2 regarding my lessons learned from this past year.  I trained this way, because I always liked a bit of spontaneity in life, but at the end of the day, I really did not enjoy the results of my lack of a training plan and I would rather perform better and not take so long to recover.

This brings me back to what I am doing now and how I am planning for next year.  I went ahead recently and signed up for a 1 year training peaks premium membership and had a big “duh” moment in the process.  I had started reading Joe Friel’s “The Cyclists Training Bible” in the spring.  I checked it out from the library and then decided to purchase my own copy.  I highly recommend the book to anyone that has an interest in cycling and doing a bit of racing.  I have not read the book cover to cover, but have used it like a text book for reference.  I am starting to get deeper into it now that I have a Training Peaks Premium account.

After a couple days of playing around in Training Peaks, I totally get it, or at least I think I do.  The training blocks, recovery blocks and tapers are all making more sense to me.  I started loading potential races into my Training Peaks schedule and it built out a high level training schedule based on the races being A, B or C races, the length of them and how many hours per week of training that I intend to average.  So right now, I am in a prep phase.  This is because I have labeled all the Fat Bike races as B races.  If I switch them to A races, then I am behind schedule according to what Training Peaks would lay out for training.

I was about to start a full training build before building out this schedule in Training Peaks, even though my body wasn’t really feeling like it.  Now I am back to doing prep work for a training build to start in November.  It was very helpful to lay everything out and be able to visually see the schedule and suggestions for training.  The Cyclists Training Bible book is a good reference to have after setting up your schedule in Training Peaks, because the book has different types of workouts and training week types that you can reference for your actual workout.  I think it is aimed at road racers, but it is helping me make a lot more sense out of things.

I knew that I was making mistakes before, but I really like figuring things out for myself and learning things from my own experience.  That being said, I’ll be 37 years old next year and if I am going to get serious about taking my racing to another level, which I do, then I need to get more disciplined about it.  Plus, it is no fun feeling over fatigued, burnt out or getting sick only because I lack a descent training plan.  When I ride, I like to ride with a purpose and a goal.  I used to go out on every ride and go like hell, because I thought it would make me faster.  It did for a while, but I know that won’t take me where I want to go in the long term.

Interestingly enough, I learned during the past few weeks, that it is just as much fun to set a low heart rate target and accomplish riding to that low target heart rate as it was going like hell every ride.  I guess it makes sense.  I tried the 100 milers, because I like testing myself against the challenge and the sense of accomplishment at the finish line.  As long as I have a specific goal for the training ride, whether I am busting my ass or targeting a certain low heart rate window; I will still get that same sense of accomplishment for the day as I know that it is part of a bigger plan.

I think I now understand this whole transition to off season, recovery and prepping for a training block.  If I were to go hard into a training block right now, to compete at the top end of 100 mile races, I think my body would say no.  So over the next few weeks, I will be doing a lot of aerobic type riding and just getting some miles in to build up a bit of an endurance base and prep the body for the beating that will occur over the following weeks of training.  I actually started this a week or 2 ago and then have been sick with some nasty cold for the last 5 days and haven’t been on my bike at all.  I am starting to shake the cold off today and will most likely get on my trainer tomorrow to see if I am ready to get going again.  Needless to say, this cold was a bit of a set back, but I guess it was good to get it out of the way now versus getting sick half way through my training.

I am looking back on this article now and see that this is a whole lot of words to get to the point of telling you about my current prep for next season and where my head is at today, but I think it helps to lay everything out and put things in perspective.  I am really looking forward to having some fun on the Fat Bike this winter and racing some big races next summer.  I enjoy pushing myself and continue to soak up and learn as much as I can along the way.

I’d like to hear about your race planning for next year and how you approach it as well.  Feel free to contact me through my Contact Me page or leave a comment at the bottom.  Thanks!


  1. mike halverson on October 16, 2015 at 7:44 pm

    You made good points with the late season fatigue.I had felt alot of the same symptoms. I’m suprised I felt as good as I did for Chequamegon. Not giving myself time to recover after that race hurt my riding. Luckily it was the last of the season for me. It’s also sad to hear you may skip the Chequamegon next year. It won’t be as much fun without a race buddy along for the weekend. get better soon. let’s get some late season mtb’ing in this year. By the way, (gravel bike), your thoughts ?

  2. Steve Hamlin on October 17, 2015 at 12:22 pm

    Thanks Mike. Yes, the biggest thing I need to get better at and work out for next year is training a little smarter and recovery. I feel like I fumbled that one up pretty good this year and would have enjoyed the second half of the riding season a lot more if I was smarter about the recovery.

    Good thing on the Chequamegon is I don’t have to make that call until March when the lottery registration closes. If I don’t end up traveling to do an early Sept. race then I might still be in. We’ll see. The guys over to Cyclova do a really cool 3 day Gravel Ride up on the North Shore the weekend before, that I think would be fun also along with there being a few other 100 milers that I am interested in early September. My bucket list of races is spilling over.

    Gravel Bike – Hell yes! I demo’d one at the Salsa demo over to Woolly and if my road bike was worth anything, I would sell it for a gravel bike and just get me an extra set of wheels for dedicated road or gravel. I think it would be fun ripping around here and being able to head down the gravel roads while stilling carrying some speed on the paved ones. Gravel Bike is on my list along with many many other items… But, if I were to go purchase a bike today I would go for a Gravel Bike personally. There are a lot of fun Gravel Races in the fall as well.

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