By Kari Stuart, owner of Stuart Coaching

The training plans I’ve developed for this event provide a very simplistic and minimalistic approach to training for a gravel race.  The plans build slowly and safely, with a recovery week and taper, ensuring you are recovered, and ready for race day. If you are able, I’d recommend that you start training earlier to build base mileage and get a jump start.

I use a three-zone system to help you understand the intensity in which you should ride – easy, medium and hard.  Your first few weeks will be primarily in the easy zone.  Then we will add some medium sessions blended with the easy, and finally comes the hard stuff (used sparingly)!  

Types of training sessions in this plan. 

  1. Aerobic Endurance Sessions - EASY

The long stuff is where your body adapts to go the distance. Progressively longer distances will build mental toughness and serve as a great simulation for race day. Endurance sessions provide the opportunity to experiment with nutrition and hydration, gear, etc.

I’d recommend doing your longer sessions on a gravel route similar to race day.   

These are EASY, and that does not mean that you will race poorly. The other sessions teach you to go hard, these teach you to go long. 

  1. Tempo Sessions - MEDIUM

Tempo efforts are steady and moderately prolonged intervals at a challenging but manageable effort level. These are slightly uncomfortable but not draining.  They are easy enough that you hang out here for a while, but hard enough to build resilience and mental stamina.  As you progress through the plan, you may begin to take these sessions a tad bit harder into what is called the “sweet spot”.

This is how to read the plan:

Tempo 45m – this is a tempo session that will last 45 minutes

3x5m (RI 3m) – the “work” portion of the ride is three 5-minute long intervals ridden at tempo effort (not hard, not easy).  RI 3m means that the rest interval between the tempo intervals is 3 minutes.

10 min WU/CD  - 10 minutes of this ride (at least) should be spent warming up and cooling down.  Basically, when you are not doing the work, you are spinning smooth and easy.

  1. Threshold Intervals - HARD

Progression rides are a great race simulation where your effort gradually increases for an extended duration. Keep your cadence steady throughout as you increase effort.  Make sure to start easy and break as needed. 

  1. Progression Ride – EASY to HARD

Progression rides are a great race simulation where your effort gradually increases for an extended duration. Keep your cadence steady throughout as you increase effort.  Make sure to start easy and break as needed.  These are particularly important for the 30 and 50 mile to prepare for Ivan the Terrible at the end of the race!

Drills in this plan.

Technique is an important part of riding and racing well. The ability to quickly change your cadence and ride out of the saddle are skills that will be very helpful during the Dirty 30. So, we are going to practice these skills. 

Technique is typically mastered during your easy sessions. So, during your aerobic endurance sessions you’ll see some drills.

  1. Cadence Spin-ups: Every few minutes do a 100+ rpm high-cadence spin-up for 30 to 45 seconds (ride for at least 10 minutes before you start the spin-ups). Use very low (easy) gearing so your heart rate does not go above Zone 2. This is not a high-intensity sprint, because it’s not explosive, it’s gradual. Your goal is to improve your ability to spin a higher cadence and to recover.
  2. Single Leg Drills: these teach you to apply power through the entire pedal stroke by focusing strictly on one leg's activity. Completely unclip one foot from the pedal and rest it on your trainer or a nearby chair. With a slow cadence, spin with one leg for 10-20s until you can no longer pedal without "knocking". Keep tension on the chain and switch legs anytime your form degrades; don't practice bad habits just to tack on 5 or 10 more seconds.  You can do these as often as you’d like during any warm up – they will only help you become more efficient!
  3. Hardstart: these drills are an exception, and not done on easy sessions – these are done on your hard sessions. These are done at the very beginning of the interval, you’ll shift to a harder gear and get out of the saddle for 15-20 seconds as a primer to really get your heart thumping before you start that hard interval in the saddle!

Rest days and active recovery

This program includes two rest days.  For more experienced athletes, one of those rest days can be used as a low impact cross training day. One day should be 100% rest.  In short: for the love of all things, do not skip your rest day.

Active recovery includes any type of low impact exercise that stimulates your cardiovascular system.  You can add a 4th ride in the form of a recovery ride. Recovery Rides are low intensity sessions that help you with active recovery without accumulating training stress. Recovery sessions are typically within 24 hours of a hard session to maximize physiological adaptations. Recovery rides are optional so listen to your legs and do what they tell ya.  

Strength Training and Cross Training

I highly recommend strength training and cross training for all athletes to prevent injury and maintain a balanced body. This plan does not include specific strength and cross training activities, but both are encouraged.  If you have questions about strength training, please feel free to inquire about our coaching services.

Additional Help with Training

If you decide you want more specific help, Stuart Coaching would be more than happy to discuss one-on-one coaching to give you a more customized approach and support to reach your goals.  

We also have more detailed training plans for these distances which will sync to TrainingPeaks and provide workouts directly on most training devices!  Your plan can be purchased here and includes a 15-minute consultation with Kari Stuart of Stuart Coaching.  Use the code the code DIRTY30 for 10% off.  Other plans exist as well.

Link to Sick 6 Run plan
Link to Unclean 16 plan
Link to Dirty 30 plan
Link to Filthy 50 plan


The following training plan is designed for educational purposes only and is not a prescribed training plan for any particular individual. I am a certified coach and have created this training plan with safety in mind, but you should understand that there is always the possibility of injury with physical activity. Participation in this training program is at your own risk. As a voluntary participant in these activities, you assume all risk of injury to yourself. You should consult your physician or other health care professional before starting this or any other fitness program.