Marji Gesick Training Report – Part 2

This is part 2 of my Marji Gesick training report. If you remember, I had put out a part 1 training overview after finishing my first training block, about a month ago. You can find a link at the bottom of this report to that first article in case you missed it. No worries, you do not need to read part 1 before reading this one. They are independent reports and cover different training blocks.

After the Ore To Shore race, I went straight into a final training block to wrap up my Marji Gesick training and this report covers that last training block. You will find all kinds of details in this report about the various workouts I did and why. I believe I probably take the analysis a bit deeper in this report than the last, so buckle up. You may want to bookmark this, so you can come back again later.

I still have a lot of work to get to the performance levels that I want to achieve on a mountain bike, but I am definitely making gains and feel I am sitting stronger than I was last year. That being said, I definitely have a big miss on the training volume and the last half of the Marji Gesick is gonna hurt. I feel real confident in the first 4 to 6 hours and should be able to hang in there thru the 8 hour mark. Beyond 8 hours, I don’t know what will happen and then after 10 hours… I’ll be hurting and it will be all guts and survival.

To clarify on my confidence… That doesn’t mean I think I will be hanging with the guys up front. They are at a whole other level. What I mean is; I should perform well to my standards and past race history.

I do have a lot of graphs in this training report and here is the legend for each color of line in the graphs:

Heart Rate




Ore To Shore

I’ll start out this last training block review with the Ore To Shore race as that was the last milestone and split between training blocks.

The Race

marji gesick training

Ore To Shore was a great test to see where my fitness was at between training blocks and good to see where my actual racing heart rate threshold was at. I showed that I can race at a slightly higher heart rate threshold than I have in the past. I’d like to attribute that to the fact that I kept my intensity levels high during the week and a half before the race with a couple sub 1 hour high intensity race simulation workouts. I believe this helped avoid the shock to my cardio system at the race start and my body was able to settle into a high intensity pace without blowing up. Those high intensity race simulations also helped me feel comfortable at that pace and know what it was going to feel like. I also believe that all the high tempo and sub threshold riding that I had done in the weeks leading up to the race was huge in further developing my cardio system and pushing that threshold window up.

Active Recovery – Day after Ore to Shore

marji gesick training

I usually shut right down the day after a race and don’t ride at all other than maybe a couple mile spin with the kids, but I felt pretty good the day after the Ore to Shore and wanted to see what it felt like to go for some easy miles. I took the kids for a 3.5 mile ride and then I headed out on my own and ended up going for another 27 miles. It felt great to get out and I think it was really good for my legs. The easy recovery pace helped keep my legs loose and prevent them from tightening up as I was heading immediately into the second training block. The key was keeping my effort extremely low.

Max / Explosive Power Intervals (Attacks)

On Indoor Trainer

marji gesick training

I call these longer power intervals Attacks because I see them more as attacks up a climb, bridging a gap or maybe trying to hit single track first. The explosive power build happens in the first 8 to 12 seconds and then the remaining 22 to 18 seconds of the interval is really maintaining the speed that you gained in the first 8 to 12 seconds. It’s one thing to put down a lot of force in one pedal stroke, but the ability to put down force at a high rate of speed is what creates power. The person that can do that and then continue putting down that force at a high rate of speed for a longer duration is the one that wins. I’m working on another article right now that is going to cover cadence and power output. Look out for it in the future.

I think it is a good exercise to build that power and then have to maintain that speed for another short period. You’ll need a near 5 minute recovery between intervals, if you are really laying everything down that you’ve got. You should not be holding anything back on these. Not that I will be going out on a bunch of attacks during the Marji Gesick, but these type of work will be valuable to my ability to get up those climbs and that is why I included this type of work in my Marji Gesick training.

I did these 1 of the weeks on my trainer and then the following 2 weeks, I adjusted my training schedule by 1 day and used a local group ride at Cyclova XC in St. Croix Falls, WI for my Power Intervals or Attacks as I currently call them in my training plans.

Cyclova XC Group Sprint Ride

marji gesick training

I don’t do a lot of group riding, but this group ride put on by Cyclova XC is about the best you will find if you are looking to work on explosive power and/or VO2 Max. I replaced my Attack intervals for the week with this group ride during week 2 and 3 of my build. It was a good gut check for my fitness as well, since there are specific sprint segments set up for this group ride. The green in the graph above is speed, red is heart rate and the grey area is elevation. You can see the obvious increases in speed and heart rate where the sprint segments were at. We also had a little fun at the end of the ride with one last random effort in our cruise back to the Cyclova XC shop.

I definitely feel stronger than last year and can put out more explosive power… The downside is that I was not recovering as fast as I would like, so I do have a lot more work to do on my ability to recover between high efforts. That is gonna take some more above threshold interval work. That being said, my current goal was to put on some leg muscle and increase power and I have made some progress that area. I am probably going to go back to some more force interval work (low cadence hill repeats) to increase strength during the off season and then I will hit some more power interval work just before some of the bigger fat bike races. I’ll add in some VO2 max intervals somewhere also to work on my recovery cycle.

I’m sharing all this because if you remember, I was doing force work with low cadence efforts during my previous build that I discussed in part 1 of my Marji Gesick training report. This is important, because I needed to build more strength in my legs, in other words… add muscle and build the ability to put out more force in order to realize gains out of the power workouts that I did in this second build. It is also a very similar cycle to body building. Add muscle, work on max strength and then turn it into explosive power that is actually usable in some sporting fashion (as in cycling for my case). This would be a similar process for runners, trying to improve their sprint or ability to drop a competitive runner up a hill in a trail climb without blowing up. We all just use different tools, but the process and goals are similar in the end game.

Threshold Interval Work

Sub Threshold On KICKR

marji gesick training

This is another example of why I think my power levels are higher than what actually came out of my first threshold test on the KICKR. I had mentioned this in my first Marji Gesick training report also. However, some of the variance does come from power gains made from training also. These intervals were 6 minutes long and should have been long enough for my heart rate to settle out and I think it was pretty close. My heart rate maxed out at 161 bpm while I had power set at 240 watts. We’ll revisit this with the Super Threshold Interval workout below where I set the power at 270 watts and see what my heart rate did. Regardless, I didn’t feel taxed out like maybe I should have and you can see that my heart rate actually dropped all the way back to 100 to 110 bpm during the 2 minute recovery times.

My goal was muscular endurance, so this was still a great workout. But, I should have increased the intervals to 8 to 10 minutes at 240 watts or added more intervals to get the muscular endurance adaptation benefit I was looking for. You can obviously see that my heart rate settled out slightly less each time, but it went all the way back to my recovery zone by the end of every recovery zone and did dropped fairly quick. I could have gotten away with pushing myself a bit more for the goals I was after in this workout.

Regarding the first KICKR threshold test… If you remember, I had been idle for a few weeks because of the rib issue and I went straight into a threshold test. I understand the heart rate coming out slightly lower than race effort, but I don’t think my legs were up for a true threshold test at the time after being idle for so long. That being said, I am getting comfortable enough now with the various workouts and training that I am putting together to make some of those training zone adjustments on my own without having to do another threshold test. I probably won’t do another actual threshold test until this sometime this fall.

Super Threshold Intervals On KICKR

marji gesick training

The goal here was to get some extended interval work sessions for muscular endurance, but I also wanted to get above threshold to work on my recovery cycle. My heart rate peaked at 165, but you can see that it was still trending up all the way thru the end of the work cycle. You can also see that I was having power signal drops, but I had power set at 270 watts. Power never actually dropped out. It was the signal transmission only to my Garmin. I don’t really know what was going on with it, but since cadence was also dropping out… I have to blame this on the Garmin. Just to be clear, I am a big fan of Garmin and the customer service I have received from them.

At any rate, if I was working under threshold, then I believe 7 and a half minutes would have been a long enough time for my heart rate to level out. The fact that it was still trending up and it would settle back to around 120 bpm in the 2 and a half minutes shows me that I was most likely working in a power zone above my threshold power, even if it was just slightly. This also goes to further prove that training by heart rate only can be very difficult and helps explain my tendencies to overtrain in the past, before I had the trainer with a power meter. If you are using heart rate only, it can be very easy to find yourself training in higher zone than you intend. If you don’t have the time to analyze the data like this nor have the interest… this is where a coach comes in. This is their job to recognize these situations for you and help you dial in your workouts before you overtrain and end up sick.

Super Threshold Intervals On Jet Fluid Pro

For comparison, I did the exact same workout the following week on my Jet Fluid Pro trainer, instead of the KICKR. Not on purpose, but I had to send the KICKR back for a warranty issue. No worries, they are taking care of me and actually sent me a brand new one. At any rate… I damn near nailed the workout and you could almost lay the 2 charts over the top of each other aside from power missing from this one. My heart rate peaked at the exact same 165 bpm and you can see the same heart rate trend that is still rising at the end of each interval. I attribute this to having a better understanding of my perceived effort levels, after having been able to compare those perceived efforts levels to actual power numbers over the last month or so of using the KICKR. Here is the graph for the exact same workout, but without a power meter. (Ignore the yellow cadence line as the signal was dropping out on me, but I was spinning just over 90 rpm for most of the time). I since replaced the battery in the cadence/speed sensor and realigned it and it is working good again.

marji gesick training

Race Pace Simulation Rides

I actually prescribe race simulation rides in my training plans. I do this for a couple reasons, but you have to get out and ride at race pace during your training. If you only have 3 or 4 days per week to ride… You don’t want to spend all that time on the trainer and some of the days, you just want to ride. There is a variety of structured intervals that you could do, but I like prescribing just a race pace simulation ride so that you get out on the trails or road, either by yourself or with a spirited group to hone in your skills on the bike. Plus, this also allows you to do some actual races during your training. Again, if you weren’t racing or doing high intensity riding; it would still be some high intensity interval workout on the trainer and a couple days per week on the trainer is enough for those of us that have only a few days a week.

This thought process is also backed up by the fact that I made massive gains when I first started riding a few years ago, by just getting out a couple times of week and going on a hammerfest. This was when I was just getting back into riding and that first year, I only rode 700 miles and then only 1,700 the following year. I didn’t have a lot of time and did very little structured work, but when I did have time to ride… I just went out and busted my butt and I got faster every time. Now I have found a way to fit those same type of rides in, with the addition of a couple structured training sessions per week to take things to the next level. I have a lot of work to do still and am far from where I want to be with riding, but I do continue to get faster and I am sharing the things that I have been doing and am doing.

Back to these race simulation rides… I can’t remember what was going on the first week, but it might have been raining or I ran out of time in the day. Anyways, I ended up doing this workout on the trainer in the evening for week 1. I would normally suggest trail riding on your race rig if you were training for a 2 to 4 hour target race, but my target race is in the 12 hour range and I am way low on training volume and I still am, even at the end of this training block. I’ll come back to this at the end when I wrap up this training report with my overall training and fitness status going into the Marji Gesick.

Over / Under Threshold Intervals On The Trainer

At any rate, my intention was high tempo / sub threshold distance on the road. Since I didn’t get out on the road this first week; I opted to play with some over / under threshold intervals on my trainer, thinking this could simulate a race situation. I like the idea of interval training above threshold, because that will happen in the race, even though it is an endurance race. However, I need the body to adapt to clearing lactic acid out of the system without going all the way to a recovery pace. During a race situation, you have to have the ability to recover without letting off the pedals completely. This is what I was trying to simulate.

marji gesick training

I did 2 and a half minute intervals, swapping between 260 watts and 220 watts. I did 3 intervals of this before going into a 5 minute recovery spin. After the recovery spin, I did 3 more intervals swapping between 280 watts and 220 watts and then added a 4th interval at 300 watts. The red line is my heart rate and you can see that my heart rate peaked in the high 150s for the 260 watt intervals, high 160s for the 280 watt intervals and then went over my heart rate threshold into 170s for the 300 watt interval.

This actually helps further dial in my power threshold also, without having to do an actual threshold test. You can see that when I went down to 220 watts from the 260 watts, my heart rate dropped into the 140s. 260 watts should have been above threshold and at the top of my threshold zone. My heart rate should have wanted to continue rising if that was the case and should have taken longer to settle down. However, it quickly dropped into the 140s, which is the bottom of my tempo zone, while 220 watts should have been at the top of my tempo zone. This helps justify my reasoning for bumping my power zone for training purposes to make sure I am actually training in the zones that I want to train in. This is also why I took a 5 minute recovery cycle and then repeated the intervals at 280 watts.

These numbers line up better and 280 watts got my heart rate to the high 160s and then I would settle into the high 150s at 220 watts. I know this is a lot of numbers and maybe a bit much to follow. I enjoy this and it’s been really cool to analyze this stuff. At any rate, I do not have this workout prescribed in any of my training plans right now and want to spend some more time with it.

High Tempo Road Rides

As I mentioned earlier, I would prefer trail race simulations for these workouts. However, I knew I was way low on training volume and opted to take this training to the road for a couple reasons. First, I was hoping to short cut my lack of overall training volume with a steady high tempo/sub-threshold pace. I knew if I put in the same time on a trail training ride, I would be in an uncontrolled off and on effort situation and I really wanted to put in a consistent effort without going above threshold. I thought this was a good way to stack up training stress and muscular endurance adaptation. Plus, it would be a good test to see where I stood on a fitness level, that was measurable over a longer ride that eliminated some of the variables of trail conditions. The other reason was that I was getting high intensity above threshold work in already with the Attack and Super Threshold intervals I was doing during the week.

Sub 4 Hour 80 Miler

marji gesick training

The first ride was 82 miles near the end of week 2 and I managed to do it under 4 hours. I was very pumped about this and it was definitely a good sign that I had upped my fitness and endurance levels. It was a steady, consistent pace. I know the Marji Gesick is going to have a lot of up and downs that will take me in and out of threshold, but I am feeling good about the fact that my legs were able to still put down enough power to keep my heart rate at the top of my tempo zone and into the bottom end of threshold for the entire 4 hours. In the past, my power would start dropping off earlier than this. You don’t need a power meter to realize this. I can see it in my heart rate profiles of previous races. You can tell when your power output starts dropping, because you’ll have a hard time bringing up the heart rate. Bottom line, my legs were able to keep up with my cardio system for at least 4 hours. The problem is, the Marji Gesick is in the 12 hour range…

I won’t go into my ride the following day, but I went out and put in another 4 hour ride, but at an endurance zone pace for another 62 miles. The easier pace ride on day 2 was horrible. My legs had enough power, but it was just miserable riding the road shoulders as such a slower pace. The higher pace the day before was much more entertaining.

Sub 5 Hour 100 Miler

marji gesick training

Again, I decided to go with the same game plan on week 3 and try to stack up more steady state volume. I figured I would get my trail race simulation in at the end of my recovery week and during my taper weeks before the race. I am sure at this point it was the right thing to do, but I don’t know if adding an additional hour in week 3 was the right thing to do and I’ll come back to that…

You’ll have to ignore some of the Active Recovery and Endurance Zone time in the chart for this ride as I had 2 flat tires and I do not auto pause my Garmin, so Training Peaks pulls the data for the entire workout duration. So that being said; I spent nearly 5 hours between Tempo and Threshold. Keep in mind that all but like 10 seconds of the Threshold time was actually at the bottom of my Threshold Zone. Again, I am really pumped about this ride. It was a slightly slower pace than the 80 mile ride, but I still managed over a 20 mph moving average and a sub 5 hour moving time for 100 miles. To top it off, I still had the legs to hammer it home the last few miles and push my heart rate near threshold. This was a really good sign, I was now up to 5 hours of steady state high tempo / subthreshold riding and my legs were with me the entire time. The problem is, that is still only half the Marji Gesick race time and that’s if I were to have the race of my life and finish in 10 hours.

Back to my statement about not knowing if adding the additional hour was a good idea at this point… I was definitely fatigued after this ride and I skipped out on the endurance pace ride the next day. I was starting my recovery week anyways, but I felt like my training stress was too high after that last ride and I was dancing with not being able to recover fully during my recovery week at this point. If I would have kept it at 80 miles of steady state, I probably would have been able to get another 4 hours of Endurance zone riding in the next day. I would have ended up with more training volume and overall training stress at the end of the week, without risking being able to recover properly during my recovery week.

Recovery Week

As it turns out, I was right. I had tipped myself slightly over the edge by the end of the third week of training and I could feel it when I went out on my end of recovery week test. The only thing I did during recovery week was a spin up workout on my trainer mid week and then Saturday I headed to my local trail for 1 single hot lap. The first issue I had, was that I realized my rear derailer was trashed again, which is a story for another time.

Anyways, I had to take my Fat Bike. Not a big deal, but I wanted to use this time on my race set up. At the end of the day, I managed to beat my previous time on my local trail, even though I was on my Fat Bike, but I was still feeling real fatigued and was extremely happy it wasn’t race day. Think about that Recovery Week video that I put out on Facebook a week or 2 ago. It falls right in line with this and the reason I put it out was, because I saw this coming during my recovery week and was thankful that I had not planned my recovery week directly lining up to race week. I’ve learned this lesson the hard way in the past. You don’t always know if you are going to be recovered fully at the end of your recovery week, which is another reason not to take your recovery week as your race taper week.

Peak / Taper / Race Weeks

I gave myself 2 weeks between my recovery week and the Marji Gesick race and it is almost only a week out from the race as I finish up this training report. I got in a high intensity race pace shakedown on my local trail on Wednesday of this week and felt great. I was not feeling 100% and would not expect to be their yet either, but I did 2 laps around my local trail and was faster on both laps than I ever have been. I was real strong on the climbs, but I was definitely lacking in my bike handling as I hadn’t ridden that bike since the Ore To Shore. It was actually only my second trail ride since Ore To Shore.

I was spent at the end of it, but by the time I got home, I felt like I could go do it again. Regarding the bike handling… I still easily cleared the rock garden on both laps that use to cause me a lot of problems. I am learning that speed is your friend in the rocks. At any rate, I was pumped about cleaning the rock garden.

I will get another high intensity trail ride in this weekend, but probably dial back the overall pace to a high Tempo effort with some high intensity spikes thrown in on the climbs. I will also add an additional lap from my ride a couple days ago. The week of the race, I will probably run over to the trail again for just 1 quick hot lap and I’ll do that early in the week. I’ll play things by ear on how I am feeling before making the call on how much of a hot lap it will be. If my legs are still feeling a little heavy at that point, then I may dial back the amount of time I spend at higher intensities.

I like this taper approach much better, because I can gut check how I am feeling these last 2 weeks and dial up or down these shorter race efforts, based on how I am feeling and have a better chance of going into the race in good form. Right now, I can safely tell you that I did not fully recover during my recovery week and that is why I will dial back my ride this Saturday. I will still get my heart rate up, but just not as much volume of it as I might have originally done if I was fully recovered the previous week.

At this point in the game, there is nothing I can do about the lack of training volume. Not that I am lacking training volume relative to most situations, but I would have liked to peak out my high tempo rides in the 6 to 8 hour range, but you can only ramp up so fast. Plus, I just don’t have the additional time right now with the various projects I have going on at the moment.

Marji Gesick Training Summary & Status

So after all that training and analysis… Where do I stand? Well, it actually wasn’t that many training hours. For a race like the Marji Gesick, I am really low on training volume in my opinion. Here is what my training volume actually was, starting with week 1 of the build (the week following Ore To Shore):

Week 1: 7 hr, 13 min

Week 2: 10 hr, 31 min

Week 3: 10 hr, 03 min

Recovery Week: 2 hr, 25 min

Peak Week: estimated to be 5 hr, 30 min

Race Week: estimated to be 2 hr, 15 min (not counting Marji Gesick race)

I would be sitting in much better shape for the Marji Gesick if I could have gotten up around the 12 hr mark during week 1 – week 3. If I were headed to the Chequamegon this weekend, I am quite confident that I would easily set a personal record for myself. However, that wasn’t the plan for this year and am real excited about the adventure that the Marji Gesick 100 will put me through.

At the end of the day, I am definitely stronger and faster than I have ever been. My past couple training builds have done wonders for me. I am still far from where I want to get, but I do feel like I made some great gains. I can’t say that I am completely ready for the Marji Gesick, but at this point it doesn’t matter. Even though I like to say that I am in it for the adventure, I still want to compete and race well. But, what matters most to me, is that I am still continuously learning and improving my game. That is what my Endurance Path is all about…

Training For The Marji Gesick Part 1

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