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Training for the Marmotte: the last 6 weeks

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Training for the Marmotte: the last 6 weeks

By Marvin Faure and Silas Cullen

 

As we write this article, there are a little over 7 weeks or approximately 40 days to go before the Marmotte Alps on September 5th. How can you make the most of these last few weeks?

 

As always, the answer is highly individual. Your plan needs to take into account a host of individual factors, most importantly your current level of fitness, your availability to train in the coming weeks and how quickly you recover from hard training sessions. For many of you, family or other constraints will make it impossible to follow what might be the ‘ideal’ training plan, which is why tailored training programmes are so much more effective. If you are seriously interested in your performance, consider hiring a coach!

 

In the rest of the article, we make some suggestions for what would be the ‘ideal’ plans for two different profiles.

 

PROFILE 1: THE FINISHER

People with this profile can expect to take 9-12 hours to complete the 175km and 5,000m of climbing.

 

For all sorts of different reasons, this rider is only aiming to finish. Whether behind on training, coming back from injury, first-time participant or simply not of a competitive nature, our Finisher’s goal is to enjoy the ride and reach the finish within the time limit. Depending on the rider’s current level, this will make for a more or less relaxed ride, mostly in the Endurance zone.

 

We will assume that our Finisher has only managed 2,000 – 3,000km so far this year, few of them in the mountains. They nevertheless have a reasonable base, as they typically manage around 6,000km per year, including a sportive or GranFondo somewhere in the mountains.

 

The priority is to build aerobic endurance, or the ability to comfortably go the distance.

 

PROFILE 2: THE COMPETITOR

Competitors are motivated by the results. Whatever their level, they want to reach the finish line in Alpe d’Huez feeling that they have given the absolute maximum. To do this they will spend a considerable amount of time at Tempo and even Threshold pace (Zones 3 and 4).

 

Our Competitors have been training hard throughout the season – pandemic or not – and want to be on the start line in the best possible condition. In a normal year, the majority of the participants at the Marmotte are probably in this category.

 

For this profile, aerobic endurance should largely be built by now. The priority becomes to build strength endurance while managing the training load and recovery carefully to ensure peaking on September 5th.

 

YOUR TRAINING PLAN FOR THE LAST FEW WEEKS

You will find a plan below for each of the two profiles, Finisher and Competitor. It is deliberately written in the form of guidelines rather than in full prescriptive detail, because you will need to adapt it to your own specific needs and constraints.

 

FINISHER: July 20 – Aug 23 (5 weeks)

FOCUS: AEROBIC ENDURANCE1

Ride, ride and ride again!

  • Try to do one long ride per week building from wherever you’re at now up to an 8h ride before Aug 23, keeping to a steady endurance pace (Zone 2, at less than 75% of your FTP or HRmax).
  • Include as much climbing2 as possible, all in Zone 2.
  • Do one or two short recovery rides per week at a very easy pace.
  • Test4 your equipment and nutrition/hydration options.
  • Practice your mental strategies5
  • Do at least two flexibility & stretching session per week.
  • Get as much sleep as possible.
  • Eat the best available food.
  • Keep travel and stress to a minimum.

 

FINISHER: Aug 24 – Sept. 5

FOCUS: ELIMINATE FATIGUE, PEAK6   

  • Take the first week very easy: just 2-3 short and easy recovery rides.
  • Maintain your fitness in the second week with 3 or 4 x 1-2h rides at endurance pace, pushing slightly harder for short periods on the climbs.

 

COMPETITOR: July 20 – Aug 23 (5 weeks)

FOCUS: STRENGTH ENDURANCE

Climb, climb and climb again!

  • One long ride per week (5-6h, building up to an 8h ride before Aug 23), as much climbing2 as possible, all climbs at tempo pace (Zone 3).
  • One or two shorter rides specifically to build strength endurance3, including multiple 10’-30’ low cadence efforts at threshold. Note this is advanced high-load training and won’t suit everyone.
  • Do one or two short recovery rides per week at a very easy pace.
  • Test4 your equipment and nutrition/hydration options.
  • Practice your mental strategies5
  • Do two or three flexibility & stretching sessions per week.
  • Get as much sleep as possible.
  • Eat the best available food.
  • Keep travel and stress to a minimum.

 

COMPETITOR: Aug 24 – Sept. 5

FOCUS: ELIMINATE FATIGUE, PEAK6

  • Take the first week very easy: just 2-3 short and easy recovery rides
  • Maintain your fitness in the second week with 2 or 3 x 3h rides at endurance pace, pushing at tempo for 15min or so on the climbs, with a few short above-threshold accelerations.

 

NOTES

  1. The focus for a Finisher is based on the premise that the goal is not a position in the ranking but to finish within the limite and enjoy the experience as much as possible. In terms of intensity, this means low-mid endurance pace (Zone 2). From the strict point of view of preparing to ride the Marmotte in this way, there’s no need to train at higher intensities. Doing so will only add fatigue for little benefit and may even be detrimental.
  2. What to do if you live on the plain? Read here about how to simulate long climbs when you don’t have any mountains to hand.
  3. Strength endurance is the key quality needed to climb fast for a long time. Your muscles must repeatedly generate a high level of force. Low cadence/high-intensity intervals are effective to build strength endurance. Increase the dose progressively and conservatively to avoid injury. This can be done more accurately with a good power meter and ideally under the watchful eye of a coach.
  4. Test everything you plan to use at the Marmotte during your training rides. You can’t know what will work (or not) until you try it. If you are planning to use gels, train (or retrain) your gut to tolerate and absorb them effectively.
  5. Getting your best result at the Marmotte is as much a mental challenge as a physical one. Read here for how to prepare mentally for the challenge, including seven mental strategies to use when the going gets tough.
  6. Tapering and peaking is highly individual and thus more an art than a science. If you know what works for you, don’t change it. The goal is to eliminate fatigue while maintaining fitness. There’s some evidence that this works best when the rest week is not taken immediately before the event, but a week before that, allowing for full recovery and adaptation by D-7. The final week before the event then brings your body to peak form by applying just the right amount of stimulus without creating new fatigue. Similarly, many people find having a day off two days out and then riding the day before is a better strategy than taking the final day off. The key here is to experiment and then stick to what works best for you.

AT THE MARMOTTE

We will be present in the event village in Alpe d’Huez during the two days before the race, and will be making regular presentations on how to make the most of your ride. If you are new to the Marmotte, here is a foretaste of what to expect.

 

Come and see us in the event village to share how your training has gone this year, and maybe pick up some tips for the big day!

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