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hi joe, thanks for the post. i am a novice athlete and am only doing 350hrs/year and in my second year. my question is regarding my long endurance rides in the base periods - i've heard you say that your body makes changes after the 2 hour mark in an endurance ride but since i am sometimes doing an e2 ride that is only 1.5 hours i bump up my pace and do a third or more in zone 3. My reasoning is that with a bit more intensity my 1.5hr zone 2 ride will equal to a longer e2 ride. Am I wasting valuable recovery time in doing this? My primary races are <1hr mountain bike.... Thanks!

Christopher mumford

For oly distance, I understood race pace to be z3 for the swim, z3 for bike with some creep up to z4, and z3 in first part of run building to z5. I thought that upper z4 is not really sustainable for more than an hour. please clarify.

I spend almost my base training in z3 and increase intensity at tail end.


Ian Thomson

this is a good article. For endurance races of more than 10 hours, how do you get faster at your race pace? Does training mostly in zone 3 make you faster? Or should you be adding lots of zone 4 and 5 intervals? If I ride for 8 hours zone 2, I will still add 5 or 6 zone 4 or 5 intervals in the mix, and a few stomps, even though I am training for an ultra-endurance cycling race.

There are different opinions, or should I just be working in zone 2 and 3 power zones and leave the rest alone. :0)

Thank you again Joe, for always sharing your experience with us.


Would riding a Single Speed alter the way one should think about the Training Zones at all?


Joe, thanks very much for this post! This answers a lot of questions I had.

Joe Friel

Maggs--No, it sure would't.

Joe Friel

Ian-Wow, I wrote an entire book about this. I don't know how to answer such broad question in such a small space other than to paraphrase a quote from Eddie Merckx: 'Train lots.' I apologize but for beyond that I'm going to have to refer you to the Cyclist's Training Bible for your answers.

Joe Friel

Christopher M--Upper z4 is sustainable by a fit athlete for more than an hour, quite a bit more. But if fatigued from swimming and ridin one won't be able to hold it as long as if it was a stand alone run at z4.

Joe Friel

Rookie--I see no problem with doing that. Just bear in mind when you get to the Build period to make your workouts increasingly like the targeted races.

Mike Saif

Where does SST fit into this? If I understand it correctly, SST is kind of a level on its own that overlaps the upper half of L3 and the lower part of L4. So in that respect, SST would and could be spent in L3. And according to the Wattage guys, SST is a pretty good way to work on and increase FTP.

Joe Friel

Mike S--SST?


Maybe he means "steady state"? That would make sense.


I think he means "Sweet Spot Training" and "The wattage guys" are Allen and Coggan who wrote "Training and racing w/ a power meter". I guess they can answer your question, Joe, for themselves.

coach luggage

Wow,great content and your blog design is just informative. I learn a lot from your words, keep up your work, i'm sure many people will feel very thankful for arriving at your blog.

Steve Kent

Great stuff Joe, as usual!

I am working hard to develop my ability to hang with the pack in recreational MTB settings. I'm a ton better since using all your stuff beginning last fall. I am finding that to hang I am usually in high Z3 and low Z4. My base training went pretty well, now I'm zeroing in on a 5 day trip in 4 weeks, followed by another in 9 weeks.

Should I try to stay at lacate threshold on hard rides and assume that will improve my Z3 as well, or should I actually train for the long haul in Z3 and mix in Z4 & Z5?

I have no trouble ramping up to Z4, Z5 and dropping back for extended periods in Z2, but I don't know if that will do the trick.

Thanks! You Da Man!


Joe Friel

steve--here's the rule: The closer you get to the race the more like the race your hard workouts should become.


It's great to read this. Zone 3 has been described as a no-man's land, wasted workout, etc., and yet it's where my heart rate falls for a 70.3 or marathon.

It's never made sense to me to prepare for a zone-3 race by avoiding training in zone 3.

Mike Saif

Joe, I was talking about Sweet Spot Training. It is described as anything between the border of L2/3 and 95% of FTP in the Training With a Power Meter book.

It seems that SST is a large part of the training for the Wattage guys and with much of the SST level being in L3, I wondered how that reconciled with your post?

Christopher Mumford

Joe, you have made several references to race intensity in the last few blogs. Will you consider a posting on race intensity, particularly the sprint/oly as folks tend to redline these distances?

I have looked through your training bibles and not seen anything on it. Finally, should the monthly testing reflect race intensity and distances, particularly on sprints/olys? Thanks.

Joe Friel

Christopher M--In multisport whenever doing a leg that takes about 20-30 minutes or less (varies with athlete fitness) you will be likely to exceed LTHR, at least for portions. The obvious exception is the start of the swim when regadless of distance triathletes are likely to be exceeding LTHR.

Joe Friel

mike S-I really can't comment relative to others coach's training methodologies that I don't use. May work fine. I just don't do it so can't offer an opinion.

Christopher Mumford

As for oly distance, it sounds like you would recommend being as close to LTHR for as much as possible? Is that correct? Thanks.

Joe Friel

Christopher--It depends on how fit you are. Very fit athletes will race at close to LT/AT. But of course they are going fast so are out there a short time. It really isn't how long the race is in miles/kms but rather how long it takes you in minutes that determines what intenity you race at relative LT/AT.

Patrik Hast

Hi Joe,

I have a question related to this topic. Im doing my third year of mtb. Ive read several of your books, and noticed that as you mentioned above, that races longer than 3h should have zone 3 tempo. However when I look at my data from races (however not longer than 3h 30min), I have mostly 4 or 5a. I dont know if Im doing anything wrong, or if I should lower my tempo, or if that is fine? I also wonder if that is not a problem, should I train more zon 4 during base? I have two base 2 and one base 3, which means 8 weeks zone 3 intervals and 4 weeks zone 4. Your opinion would be great!


Joe Friel

Patrik Hast--Most athletes do 3h+ races in zone 3 (not that the "should"). If you are doing them in z4 that's not a problem so long as you are satisfied with results.

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