2018 Gravel Training Plan

The training plan is ready!

This year, I decided to expand it to be a training template for gravel races in the Kansas City metro area. If you live in the KC area, the plan includes all the major gravel events leading up to the Dirty Kanza 200. It culminates with a quick taper and then a short week of training leading up to the DK200.

If you don’t live in the KC area or don’t plan to ride any of the events, the training template indicates alternative workouts for those dates.

To access a copy of the training plan, simply follow this blog by clicking “Keep Me Updated” in the upper right corner. You will receive an email with a link to the template. The template is saved as a Google Spreadsheet. If that format doesn’t work for you, leave a comment below and I’ll email a PDF copy of the plan to you.

If you already follow my blog, I’ve tried to keep track of everyone that requested a copy, and I will those out today. If you don’t receive an email from me today, leave a comment below and I’ll get that out to you.

The training included in the template is demanding. But, so is gravel racing and especially the Dirty Kanza. Don’t let the first view intimidate you. If you can find the time and settle in to a training routine, the plan is actually pretty easy to follow. You have to plan and be ready for the big days on the bike.

There’s no catch for requesting a copy of the training plan. I won’t email you, sell your information, or market anything to you. I created this plan for myself (used it 2 years) but was taken off the bike by an injury suffered while playing baseball. Rather than letting the plan waste away, I thought I would help as many people as I can to show up in Emporia and crush their goal. The plan isn’t customized to your individual needs, but it’s a great starting template.

Train hard! Race Smart!


2018 Dirty Kanza Training Plan

I’ve received a lot of requests for the 2017 DK training plan. And, regrettably, I haven’t replied to the requests that have come in lately. I plan to do so and will do so. Please be patient with me. =)

I plan on updating the plan for 2018 and will send that to everyone once it’s ready.

If you’re anxious to get started training, the best thing you can do right now is to ride your bike. The plan doesn’t start until January, so there’s no rush until then. So, get on the bike, keep the rubber side down, and have fun!

DK Women Over 50 Podium - Lynn Malir

Lynn Malir Rocks DK 2017!!!

This year, well over 100 people requested a copy of the 2017 Dirty Kanza training plan. It’s quite humbling (and slightly stressful) to have so many people interested in the plan. Some of the folks that requested a copy stayed in touch over the spring and even followed up after the finish. The best part of offering the plan is hearing all the stories and Dirty Kanza race reports. And this year, the stories have been amazing!

One story stands out because the rider took a bunch of want-tos and turned it into an age-group podium finish! Lynn Malir contacted me early in February, stating that she would “LOVE” a copy of the plan. As I try to do with everyone, I emailed her a link to the plan along with a few questions, the most important one being her goal for the DK. She wrote back and told me that she would like to finish in under 17 hours. We emailed back and forth a few times, discussing training strategies, how to conquer the nutritional challenge, as well as bike maintenance and a few other DK topics. Then, the emails stopped, which is to be expected when complete strangers strike up a conversation on a singular topic.

Then, at the end of February, Lynn emailed, asking if I would help her create a plan specific to her current fitness and time available for training. She said that she was fully committed to finishing the DK and wanted a training plan that would get her there. She also shared that she had a running background and that she had completed the DK Half Pint and started the DK 200 in 2016 but DNF’d due to stomach issues. After learning a bit about her training background and weekly schedule, I  pulled together a complete training plan that included mobility work, strength exercises, and bike workouts. It was slightly overwhelming to see it all together as one plan.

In March, Lynn completed a power test. After a month of training, her FTP was improving ahead of schedule. Her fitness was already better than the 17-hour goal. She was riding more in the 15-hour range. Learning this, I Updated the plan to push Lynn a little harder. And, every week, she reported back with positive news, mostly that she loved the workouts. She was getting stronger and rides were getting easier. As the weeks rolled on and the positive training reports continued, I began to wonder how good she could be. She completed another power test midway through April. Her FTP was up almost 10% since March. It was up so much I made a note next to her FTP number: “age-group podium finisher?” She was doing the work and reaping huge rewards.

There were a few setbacks along the way–a nasty spill during a training ride, travel plans that interrupted a full training week; the typical stuff that almost every athlete encounters during the training season. Then, 2 weeks before the DK, Lynn emailed that she was tired. She was really tired, so much so that she couldn’t complete the scheduled workouts. Did she peak too soon!? We made considerable adjustments to her training so she could focus on recovery. Through all the turmoil, Lynn never really complained. She was concerned, but she listened to her body and made the necessary adjustments. The night before the DK, she emailed me, “I am relaxed and ready to have some fun.”

Malir on the DK Course

Lynn on the Dirty Kanza course.

The next day, I watched my phone as updates rolled in. She arrived at the first checkpoint in under 3 hours. That’s a great time, but I was slightly worried that she was going too hard. Then, the CP2 update arrived before 1 PM. She was maintaining the same average pace. “Wow! She’s gonna do this.” Then nothing. No update for CP3 came in. I checked the weather radar and saw showers moving northward on the course. Maybe that was it. She was behind the rain and slogging through the mud. 5 PM…6 PM…7 PM still no update. I convinced myself that she experienced a technical issue. Then, almost on queue, my phone buzzed. “Lynn Malir crossed the finish at 19:30.” SHE DID IT! And HOLY 13:30-total-time COW. Lynn not only finished, she rode her way to 2nd in her age group and 16th overall!

I’m waiting to read Lynn’s race report. I’m also curious to hear what’s next. Lynn has crazy-good fitness, so she’ll hopefully find another event to race in the next few weeks. Or, maybe she’ll relax a bit and enjoy her amazing accomplishment.

Congratulations, Lynn! 2nd Place Women 50+ Dirty Kanza 2017

DK Women Over 50 Podium - Lynn Malir

Congratulations, Lynn! DK Women Over 50 Podium

2017 Dirty Kanza Training Plan

In 2015, I offered my personal DK training plan free to anyone that wanted a copy. After sharing a copy with 100’s of folks over the past 2 years, I thought I would update the plan for 2017 and offer it again. So, if you’re looking for a quality training plan that will help you achieve your goals in Emporia, leave a comment and I’ll get a copy to you.

Here’s what a rider that followed the plan last year had to say about the plan:

Training with the plan increased my FTP by about 10% and I’m climbing better than I ever have. The plan was tough, but it helped out very much getting prepared for the 2016 DK200 where about half the field DNF. I made it in to the faster half of my age group (60+ Male). This was my 4th gravel ride ever and my first ultra distance ride. The training along with good mental prep, bike prep and nutrition plan all came together nicely for me. It wasn’t until the last hour really that I noticed my legs getting a bit tired (guess I should have ridden harder!). – Steve

As Steve said, the plan is tough. It is demanding and it will push you.  The results are worth it! The Dirty Kanza is waiting…

And, there’s no catch. I won’t email you or market anything to you. I created this plan for myself (I used it 2 times) but was taken off the bike by an injury suffered while playing baseball. Rather than just let the plan waste away, I thought I would help out as many people as I can so they can show up in Emporia and crush their goal.



Dirty Kanza Training – Don’t Skip Arm Day!

If you’re planning (or already started) training for the Dirty Kanza, you have probably mapped out every mile that you will ride between now and May 30. A training plan that ramps miles is critical for building power at LT and get your body ready for the big day. As part of your training plan, have you also thought about your upper body?

Rabobank Racer Rasmussen during the 2010 Tour de France.

Rabobank Racer Rasmussen during the 2010 Tour de France.

It might seem counter-intuitive to train your upper body–most cyclists seem concerned that any upper body training will result in extra weight, albeit muscle, to lug up hills. Just look at any Tour racer and you’ll see the outcome of that mindset: their emaciated chest and arm muscles don’t look exactly athletic.

But, there’s an important distinction that might get lost in all the training talk: strength does not necessarily mean bulk. Likewise, there are numerous benefits that come with a strong upper body. A good analogy is to compare a bicyclist to a car. If the legs are the engine, the arms and core are the suspension. The suspension helps the car hug the road, carve smoothly through corners, and handle all the bumps along the way. There is a reason the suspension gets better and more finely tuned with cars built to go fast…to go fast, you have to float along the road surface.

When the DK turns on to gravel at mile 2, you will need the same finesse to efficiently move the bike along the course. Here are a few specific reasons a cyclist needs a strong upper body and core:

  • Holding your body in the drops during sections into the headwind (spend as much training time as possible in the drops)
  • Shifting your weight to maneuvering the bike across the rugged terrain
  • Pulling on the handlebars as you climb hills (yes, there are a LOT of hills on the DK!) and move over rocks and ruts
  • Absorbing vibrations and bumps
  • Steering the bike through loose gravel or mud

Considering the DK is an all-day event, your upper body and core must be ready to repeatedly perform these tasks. Yes, riding will build muscular endurance and some strength. But, adding strength workouts during the week will do much more to prepare your body and help you to ride strong all day long.

Building upper body and core strength does not have to mean hours in the gym. Just a few targeted exercises can have huge rewards. And, building core doesn’t necessarily mean crunches! In fact, as a cyclist, you should probably forget those all together! Marlonn Familton with Peak’s Coaching Group explains why.

Kent Woerman, with MoveUp Endurance Coaching, demonstrates the Dead Bug, a great entry-level exercise. He also shows how to perform several Plank variations. Once you’ve mastered those exercises, consider moving on to more complex movements, like Roll-out Pikes, which according to research, are the single most beneficial core exercises.

For upper body, simple exercises like the push-up can work wonders. Performed correctly, the push up works arms, shoulders, chest, and back. Check out this slideshow from Bicycling Magazine to ensure you’re doing them correctly.

In addition to push-ups, a body weight routine can target each area needed to get you ready. LeanItUp.com has a great do-anywhere body weight routine that does just that. And, as an added bonus, the descriptions include videos showing how to perform each exercise.

It doesn’t take a lot of extra time to add these exercises into your training plan. By doing so, you’ll be better prepared to comfortably ride the endless gravel.

Good luck!

Jeep Trail Rated Badge

Have you ever wondered what the Trail Rated badge on the side of your Jeep means?

That’s a great video from Jeep. But, what does it really mean? Because, not all Jeeps wear the badge. I noticed this while shopping for my Jeep, and quickly realized it’s just marketing. Granted, it’s a great idea that helps draw attention to the vehicle’s inherit capabilities. But, in the end, there’s no additional equipment or capabilities. There is a line item on the invoice for it, though.


Drake Locking Hood Hold Downs

Hood bounce. If you own a Jeep Wrangler you know exactly what those two words mean. There’s nothing quite as concerning as seeing the hood bounce against safety latch. The problem, while more scary than it is dangerous, is due to the flimsy hood latches used by Jeep. The lightweight rubber that’s intended to hold the hood down simply can’t stand up to the force of headwinds at highway speeds.

It’s a bit shocking that Jeep has left the latches unchanged. Jeep forums are crowded with discussions, and there are plenty of aftermarket options available to make it go away. It seems with that much conversation, Jeep would be motivated to do something about it.

It took only a few trips on the freeway for me to start searching the web for a solution to this problem. I found several options, some incredibly creative ones, but none of them had the Jeep look I wanted–something tough, mechanical looking and, oh yeah, secure. Then I stumbled on the Drake Locking Hood Hold Downs. Locking? That’s a bonus and something I didn’t even think about before then. I read a few reviews and quickly decided these were the solution to my problem. They are a bit pricey compared to other options on the market, but rest assured, it’s money well spent!

Drake Locking LatchesI knew the moment I opened the package that I made the right choice. The Drake hold downs are very well build and are constructed with quality materials. The instructions were a little short on detail, but considering the simplicity of the install, I don’t know that more words or pictures would improve them.

The package included two latch assemblies, 4 barrel keys (awesome!), necessary bolts, and installation instructions. The rubber tabs from the OEM latches are required to complete the install. Don’t miss that step!

The install took less than an hour. The most difficult task was removing the lower bolt on the OEM latch. The instructions said to reach in with a wrench and take it off. I took that route and cursed over and over again. It’s a tight fit. Add in a wrench and it’s almost an impossible fit. I realized when I started installing the new latches that things would be much easier with the grill removed. I snapped that off and “AAHHHH!” I had plenty of room. I finished up, stepped back and smiled. THESE THINGS LOOK AWESOME! A few adjustments were required on both sides to get things just right. But, once they were adjusted, the hood was sitting very securely against the body. All bouncing gone! And, the engine bay is locked, too.

Bottom line: if you hate watching your hood bounce or are concerned about strangers rooting around under your hood, you will love these! In fact, Jeep should consider offering these as a factory option. They’re that good.