Lessons From My Marji Gesick Race Taper

I’ll keep this short, but I thought it was relevant to take a step back and discuss the good and bad of my taper weeks leading into the Marji Gesick 100. I finished my last training build week with 3 weeks left before the Marji. I took a Recovery week, 1 peak week and then went into my race week. Right off the bat, I can tell you that I wish I would have allowed myself 2 weeks of peak training prior to the race week instead of just 1. At any rate, here are the details of exactly what I did during my Marji Gesick race taper weeks and what I would change for next time…

Here is legend for some of the graphs in the report:

Heart Rate



Final Marji Gesick Training Build Recovery Week

The purpose of my recovery week is pretty self explanatory, but it is basically to recover from my training build and is not the same as peaking and tapering for the primary target race. I spoke about this in a video a couple months ago, because I’ve learned to not align recovery weeks with primary target race weeks. I’ve learned to plan my last training build to finish a few weeks in front of my race, so that I can recover and then go into a peak period of honing in my race skills for the specific race. I’ll include a link to that video at the bottom of the post.

I was extremely spent after the final ride of my last build week and never actually went out for my longer endurance paced ride to finish off my last build week. This partially happened because of scheduling conflicts and my last mid intensity long ride was pushed back a day. So, even if I hadn’t over done it, I probably still would not have been able to fit in the other ride anyways. Here is what my recovery week looked like.

Spin Ups – Tuesday


I did 8 spin up intervals, going to max cadence on tuesday of my recovery week. I would do this same workout again, but I would have maxed cadence out around 120 rpms and then sustained for 30 seconds during this specific week and kowning how fatigued I was still at the time. I actually pushed up into the 170 rpm range on a few of these intervals and even though the pedal force was low, it still took a large amount of energy to spin at such a high rate.

You can see that my heart rate spiked pretty quick with the interval. My aerobic engine wasn’t quite ready for that 2 days after my sub 5 hour 100 mile ride and I ended up hindering my recovery. The next day I was feeling pretty spent and ended up skipping my short recovery spin. When you are really over fatigued in your muscles and aerobically, you just don’t feel like doing anything and that is where I was at the next day.

Race Simulation – Saturday


The intention was to get my race bike out on my local trail for a high intensity hot lap to test where I was at in my fitness. I found my newer rear derailer to be bad already and ended up on my fat bike. This was ok, but I was really wanting to do a shakedown on my race rig. Anyways, I put in a hard effort and actually lapped faster around my local course than I had in the past, even though I was on my fat bike.

This was a good sign that I was making some really good gains in my last 2 training builds. The bad part is that I was not fully recovered from my last build, even though I was at the end of my recovery week. I knew this going into it, but I wanted to ride fast anyways. Sometimes the fun and live in the moment, isn’t always the best for training. I hadn’t been on dirt since the Ore To Shore race though and I just wanted to rip on singletrack and that is what I did.

If I would not have over pushed it in my last training build and had dialed back on my spin ups earlier in the week, this hot lap would have been a perfect way to end my recovery week with a test. However, I was not fully recovered and ended up going into my following taper week still trying to recovery while moving into race taper and preperation rides.

Recovery Ride – Sunday


This was an easy, mostly gravel ride out to a local county park and back. As a side note, I have an engineering background and have started some product development on a few of my own product ideas. I had my first prototype fresh off my 3D printer and needed to get a few initial miles in for first impressions of fit and clearance during ride conditions. I included that as an obvious teaser of things to come down the road…

Back to the ride – I just needed to spin my legs out a bit and wished I had my race bike, but that wasn’t the case. I probably should have kept my effort all in Zone 1, but sometimes that is hard to do on the fat bike with the extra drag and rolling resistance without slowing to a crawl. I would like to have put in a little more distance, but I was short on time and could also feel my fatigue levels a little bit higher than I would have liked. I am thankful to have a few nice gravel roads close by. Here is a picture of my scenery from that ride.

marji gesick race taper

Recovery Week Biggest Lesson

Part of my recovery problem is not strictly tied to recovery weeks. My biggest issue is all around rest. My brain doesn’t stop and I have a hard time shutting down in the evening to get a solid night of rest. I’ll lay in bed with my head spinning about things I am working, when I should be sleeping. Ocassionally I’ll find myself wide awake at 2 or 3 in the morning and end up working on whatever is stuck in my head. At any rate, good quality rest is really my biggest issue when it comes to recovery.

Marji Gesick Peak Week

Now that I should have been recovered, it was time to drop the interval and workout sessions and just get ready to ride and race. I would put in some time at lower intensity, but also test myself at high intensity in real life riding. I would realize the strengths from the various interval work that I had done and put it to practice on the trails. My biggest mistake at this point was that I should have planned 2 weeks of peak training in my Marji Gesick race taper with the Marji being as tough and as long as it was. It wasn’t helping either that I wasn’t quite fully recovered at the end of my recovery week.

Endurance – Tuesday


This ride was a little shy of 2 hours and I would probably had prefered something closer to 3 hours this early in my Marji Gesick race taper, but I don’t have unlimited time to ride.

Race Simulation – Wednesday


Finally, I had my race bike set up and ready to ride. My new derailer and shifters arrived on this day and I headed to the trails for a hot lap as soon as I installed them. I had a great ride and again confirmed that I was stronger. I did 2 laps around the trail and both laps were again faster than I had ridden in the past. However, my biggest mistake was getting caught up in having a blast on the singletrack with my 29er and I spent too much time at high intensity.

My intention was 1 hot lap to keep the cardio system stretched and then ride a second lap at low tempo and focus on pedaling efficiencies and flowing through the trail using the least amount of energy. Like I said, I was pumped to be back on singletrack with my 29er and had fun ripping out a couple laps.

1 side note of this ride is that I easily cleaned the Woolly rock garden, which has traditionally caused me some problems. Some of it is confidence and I believe the other due to my power gains that allowed me to push a smaller ring on the cassette and maintain more speed through the rocks.

Recovery – Thursday


I had spent more time than planned at high intensity the previous day and could have skipped out on this ride, but I found a few minutes to spare and went for a quick, easy spin around the neighborhood to keep my legs loose.

Race Simulation – Sunday


This was my last race type ride before the race. If stars were to align, I could have scheduled an actual race for this weekend. The Chequamegon 40 might have been a good one, but I never signed up for it. As much as I love bike racing and getting out with the family, I still have to balance things out and it turned out good that we stayed home for the weekend as we were on the road a whole lot over the summer. Secondly, I would not have been able to hold myself back and would have hung at way too high of intensities for too long of periods. So I think the Chequamegon 40 would have been a little too hard of a push for me, 1 week before the Marji with my current fitness status and recovery times.

I’d like to think, with additional fitness and power gains, that the Chequamegon 40 might work out good for some higher intensity riding the weekend before Marji next year. But, I think that time ought to be spent honing in my comfort level on some technical singletrack the weekend before Marji.

Peak Week Biggest Lesson

I feel it is really important to maintain intensity levels as you peak and taper down for your final event, but I spent too much time at high intensity. To do it again, I would replace about half the time I spent in my threshold window with time in my tempo training zone and focused on efficient singletrack riding skills. It would have been easy to do, but like I said above, I was excited to be back on singletrack with my 29er. I had posted another video a couple months back about maintaining intensity levels during your race taper and by all means, that still stands. I just need more self control on the amount of time I spedt at those high intensity levels. I personally love pushing myself and testing my limits, which gets me carried away sometimes. I’ll also post a link to this video at the bottom of the report.

Marji Gesick Race Week

It was now race week and I would really start to dial back and make sure I was ready for racing. It was still important for me to keep the cardio system exercised and stretched, but I would not plan any hot laps. I would keep any high intensity efforts to low quantities and keep them short.

Shakedown – Wednesday


My intention was to get on some singletrack with my 7 year old and go for an easy ride with just a few short hard efforts, but I wasn’t going to make it all the way over there before the rain came in. We ended up stopping by our local county park and going for an easy ride around the gravel trails while I put in a few short, but hard efforts to exercise the cardio system. The rain started coming in and we had to cut the ride short. Here is a picture of Reid trying to do a wheelie.

marji gesick race taper

Not Quite Done For the Day – Wednesday


I didn’t feel like I got enough riding in an jumped on my trainer after the kids went to bed. I spun pretty easy and then finished off the ride with some very low cadence spin ups between 105 and 110 rpms. It probably wasn’t neccessary to do so many and in hind site, I would have just done a couple and spent the rest of the time at a really easy effort recovery spin.

Marji Gesick Pre-Ride – Friday


This is where I may have screwed up the most prior to the race, but I really wanted to know what to expect in the first few miles. To do it again, I would have taken a right on Forestville Road and headed back to the trailhead instead of going all the way down the hill to the first set of bike trails. However, I did feel more comfortable rolling out the first few miles of the race the next day and knew what to expect on the climb the next morning. This was key so early in the race, but I think I spent more energy the day before the race than optimal.

More Marji Gesick Pre-Riding – Friday


Even after riding a bit more than I really wanted to already, my curiosity got the best of me still as I wanted to know what to expect after leaving the drop bag area at mile 70. I rode around those trails for about 30 minutes, but you can see I got the heart rate elevated more than a few times and even went into threshold. Not a terrible thing to elevate the heart rate the day before the race, but a few short efforts is plenty at this point. Again, it was good in a way as it gave me a little bit of an idea for what was to come later in the race. That being said, it wasn’t nearly enough to give me the full picture of how difficult the trails would be near the end, so it may have all been a bit of a wasted effort.

Race Week Biggest Lesson

As I eluded to above, I should not have spent so much time on the bike the day before the race. Especially now that I know what the trail looks like, I will keep my riding to just a short 30 minute warm up ride the day before the race and concerve the energy for race day.

Marji Gesick Race Taper Summary

To wrap things up… I had, what I believe to be a pretty good plan. I got carried away on a few rides, but I don’t get to single track as much as I want and when I do, I like to go fast. Additionally, I just don’t always get the appropriate sleep and rest when it comes to recovery.

Good or bad as it might be for myself in the short term, it is all good in the long term. I get to hone in training and have some lessons to share with you. Plus, as I am diving into personal training and coaching, I have specific examples to share with folks that I might be working with that can be applied to multiple sports and even general fitness training. Plus, this is great for real life testing of race taper practice as I am diving deeper into workout and training plan design.

This was a specific race taper example for a specific race. No race is exactly the same and everything takes a bit of tweaking. Over time, I will get things dialed in and continue to share my experiences. As always, hit me up with your opinions or questions.

Reference Links:

Video – Recovery Week

Video – Maintaining High Intensity During Race Taper

Race Report – 2016 Marji Gesick

Follow My Training On Strava

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