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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Hi there,

I just finished my first XC race in 20 years--I'm a female in my 40's who's just started mountain biking again almost 2 years ago after 5 years off (Baby.) I train pretty hard between the gym--weight lifting and interval training, the trail, logging hours/distance on logging roads etc. I know at this age I'm not going pro, but I'm one of those crazy people that enjoys training.

However= this has happened to me on two races (this recent race and during a 12 hour relay/endurance race I did last year.) :

My legs feel like they are on fire and my lungs feel like they want to quit 15 minutes into the race! I then struggle to make the climb and watch everyone pass me. It's so depressing.

Our races here start on a long ascent that becomes steep up to the single track--4 days ago, I felt awesome up this particular hill, and had room to spare to fly on the trail.

Today, I wanted to turn around and go home about 15 minutes after the race started. I struggled up the climb, and then tried to push myself on the trail, especially on the downhills as hard as I could because I have good trail skills.. I had signed up for intermediate at the advice of some of the organizers, but wound up deciding to do only one lap because my legs felt fried.

I wound up winning the beginner category which was nice, but I'm still disappointed that I felt so awful and struggled so hard, when last week I floated up that hill and flew down the trail like a banshee.

So, my questions are: Am I starting to darn fast? Is it adrenaline? Nerves? Need to train for fast starts? Poor pre-race prep? Not pre-riding the course at race pace a week before, as one racer suggested?

What can I do to improve this situation for next time? I really like testing myself, and I'm very competitive so I'd like to do it again, but I want to have a better experience next time and ride up to the potential that I know I have.

Thanks for any and all advice!
 

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Lazy Overachiever
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Could be a host of issues at work here.

I'd start by making sure that you get a good warm up prior to the race. Also, it wouldn't hurt to ask some of your fellow racers about "openers".

Good luck, have fun, and welcome back to the club.
 

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Relentless forward motion
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Our racers here start the same way, up! A typical (and effective) strategy is to go out really fast and string out the race quickly, weeding out the pretenders (once the front group is gone, you never see them again). In fact, the first 10 mins of every XC race here is like this and it can be a disaster if you're not prepared for it. Most of the racers are on the rivet (max heart rate) for probably more than they want and many more don't recover from it. To do this and recover from this takes pretty good fitness (even at the lower classes like Sport... that has some wicked fast racers, don't let them fool you). Sounds like you need to do some (very) high intensity intervals and also some power intervals. Since you won... you many want to do one or two more beginner races to use as benchmarks to test your interval results... but you should move up to Sport or Cat 2 very soon.

+1 on the Time Crunched Cyclist suggestion!
 

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I agree with what someone said above about warming up.

I used to try and spin easily before races to warm up and was worried about putting in any kind of effort cause I thought I'd be using energy that I needed to save for the race. Then I started reading into it and just watching guys at races warming up. Get a few hard efforts in to really get yourself revved up and at least for me the problem goes away. Bad starts used to be a trademark for me... now I feel like I can start pretty strong without having that first 10-15 minute span be totally miserable.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 · (Edited)
Hi-

Thanks for all the advice everyone!

In terms of fitness, I am feeling pretty darn fit these days--I am one of the fastest riders in my weekly ladies night ride--especially on the trail, even at my ripe ol' middle age of 43! While the ride is casual--we separate into groups by ability and fitness level. So, therefore my expectations for myself and my first race might have been higher than I'd like to admit.

Also, Note to Self: Group rides are not=to racing. Not even close.

However! In hindsight after the "I suck and should never race again" pity party, I think I made a number of mistakes leading up to and during this race.

1: I am the type of person that gets really worked up and blows things out of proportion even though I keep trying to tell my self to have fun and not worry about it.

2: I went in with no plan! I decided to do the race only 2 days before hand. I figured I didn't need to pre-ride because I've ridden the trails in the race a zillion times and know them like the back of my hand. I think my attempt to "not take it to seriously" backfired big-time.

3: Not timing myself before hand to see how fast I can do that climb without blowing up. while I may be keeping up with the strong climbers this year on my weekly club ride, we are not "racing" up the hill! So, with that in mind, I think I need to start attacking that climb at a faster pace and try to keep improving my time up it.

I've been using my trainer a lot as the weather has only just permitted outside training, but I can't stand to be on it for longer than and an hour and a half! (Booorrrrrrinngggg.) I don't have anyway to keep track of intervals on the trainer or on the road--no, I don't own a smart phone!!! So I do them spinning at the gym. Other ideas--besides breaking down and getting a phone...or other handy electronic device?!

Also, I have been working all winter on strength and power in the gym: Deadlifts, squats/leg press, split-squats/lunges--on different days I'll do kettle bell swings, jump-ups, lunge-jumps etc. I"ve seen a VAST improvement in my riding the first time out on real dirt after the snow melted.

P.S.S! I've decided that rather than give up, in two weeks I'm going to go to the next race in the series and approach the whole thing with a PLAN and see how I do this next time. I think the racing thing is at least partially about experience, which is what I'm going to chalk up this last one to.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Oh yeah,

I did about a half hour warm up, and I did some harder efforts up the hill. My nerves were pretty terrible during the warm up, and I was starting to worry then because my legs felt like lead during the warm up. Was this a mental thing? I think I am my own worst enemy!

Also, when I think about the start, I went out way, way to fast. I tried to sprint out ahead on the hill. My adrenaline was pumping and I was putting out far more effort than I should have been--I couldn't keep up what I was doing and I basically trashed myself for the rest of the race. Then the negative self talk kicked in and well, the rest is history. Lesson learned.
 

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washed-up moto guy
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Hey DirtGirl!

First of all, awesome job putting yourself out there for the first race back. There has been a lot of great info/advice in here, so to avoid redundancy I'll just throw in my .02 on the following:

I've been using my trainer a lot as the weather has only just permitted outside training, but I can't stand to be on it for longer than and an hour and a half! (Booorrrrrrinngggg.) I don't have anyway to keep track of intervals on the trainer or on the road--no, I don't own a smart phone!!! So I do them spinning at the gym. Other ideas--besides breaking down and getting a phone...or other handy electronic device?!
When I first started using a trainer I thought I needed to be entertained while on the trainer in order to avoid boredom, but I've found that what I really need is objectified training. A structured workout with live feedback can really help. Whether your workout is structured with a stopwatch, whiteboard and going off of RPE (rate of perceived exertion on a scale of 1-10) or using software and power.

Regarding warmups, the advice in here is spot on and the one thing I would add is that it is important to be consistent with your warmups whether you are racing or training. A warmup that is foreign to your body could shock your system rather than warm it up. Also, consider bringing your trainer to the races. That way you can eliminate the variables from your warmup and make sure it is done precisely.

Using the trainer for training is very powerful due to this comparable lack of variables and can be a great tool for building specific fitness, so good on'ya! For example, a great workout that I do to build for the high intensity of the start in an XC race looks like this:

1. 0:00:00-0:10:00 (Warmup @ 5/10)
2. 0:10:00-0:15:00 (Warmup @ 7/10)
3. 0:15:00-0:18:00 (Warmup 3 sets of 30sec @9/10 30sec @7/10)

4. 0:18:00-0:22:00 (Recovery @ 3/10)

*Repeat 3 times or more if you are feeling saucy :)*
5. 0:22:00-0:30:00 (Interval 30sec @10/10 7min30sec @ 8/10)
6. 0:30:00-0:32:00 (Recovery @ 3/10)

6. 0:52:00-1:00:00 (Recovery @ 3/10 decreasing to 0/10)

Hope some of that helps!
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
1. 0:00:00-0:10:00 (Warmup @ 5/10)
2. 0:10:00-0:15:00 (Warmup @ 7/10)
3. 0:15:00-0:18:00 (Warmup 3 sets of 30sec @9/10 30sec @7/10)

4. 0:18:00-0:22:00 (Recovery @ 3/10)

*Repeat 3 times or more if you are feeling saucy :)*
5. 0:22:00-0:30:00 (Interval 30sec @10/10 7min30sec @ 8/10)
6. 0:30:00-0:32:00 (Recovery @ 3/10)

6. 0:52:00-1:00:00 (Recovery @ 3/10 decreasing to 0/10)

Hope some of that helps!
Firstly, thank you so much for this "fast-start interval workout routine!

May I ask how many times a week (once, twice?) you use it? I want to get one hill climbing interval workout in, and some non-interval workouts, so I don't want to overdo it--I can over focus on training, (to bad I'm not getting paid for it...) therefore I have to really watch my tendency to "over-train."

I want to work on this leading up to the next race in 3 weeks, and then the next one 3 weeks after that: I'll let you know how it goes!

And yes, I definitely have kept myself "entertained" on the trainer this winter: I got through the entire 5 seasons of Breaking Bad. Amazing show...;)
 

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Here's another thing: run appropriate tires at appropriate pressures for your terrain, weight and riding style.

Don't be "that guy" running 2.35" Nevegals at 50psi on hero dirt in Wisconsin.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Hi there everyone,

Thanks for ALL the advice.

Two things:

Thing 1:While interval training seems to be all the rage, I'm also reading advice from others about training for longer slower rides for longer. I generally try to get at least one 2-3 hour ride in once a week in nice weather, along with shorter rides and interval training, but during the winter months, this is impossible to do outside and UNBEARABLE on the trainer! I'm not trying to go pro here, as I'm way to old for that. I'd just love going fast on my bike, and I'd love to race more without it being miserable.

On the trainer, I can only stand to go about an hour and a half, once I think I did 2 hours, but the thought that 2 hours of my life was going by while I was spinning away and watching "Django, Unchained," (terrible movie. I'm done with Tarantino.) was just to much for me to stomach. Am I not getting enough hours/miles on the bike?

Back in the day, (my 20's) I lived in Arizona, and I could go on long road rides into the sunset for 9 months of the year! (Oh yeah, and I had no kid, and a flexible job. Great, why didn't I try harder back THEN! Way to go, now I'm going to bed with regrets!)

Thing 2:

Nerves/adrenaline: My nerves were out of control. I was shaking during my warm up and telling myself "I wish I could go home." When the start gun went off, I went all out, even outpacing some of the intermediate guys. Up the hill, I realized my breathing was really fast and shallow and that my anxiety was still quite high. I kept telling myself to calm down and slow down, but it was to darn late, and in less than 15 minutes, I was praying I'd be attacked by a bear or get abducted by aliens.

So of course no one can really tell by the explanation of my training program how fit I really am or am not, but at least in good part does anyone think this problem boils down to plain ol' anxiety and a crappy mental state?
 

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I don't have a ton of experience with racing, so take this with a grain of salt. Unless there's a really bad singletrack bottleneck that you need to get to ASAP, I would just concentrate on pacing myself at the start. You can always burn your extra matches later if you're feeling good, but you can't do anything if you use them all up early.

I tend to reel in people that started faster, and the ones that I don't catch, well I figure I wouldn't have been able to keep up with them anyway. I have a lot more fun if I finish strong rather than blowing up or cramping :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
That's great advice. I think I just need to concentrate on calming my nerves, starting out mid-pack, looking for the women that start fast, and then stay well behind them for a while. I'm no pro, so I want to have fun--not kill myself to place. Certainly, I'd love to place, but for now I want to concentrate on getting through a race with out blowing up early...and once I've got THAT down confidently, I work on kickin' ass, which I know I'm capable of!
 

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mnoutain bkie rdier
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"I was praying I'd be attacked by a bear or get abducted by aliens." Haha...hillarious!

A little advice:
Do your best to pinpoint what it is that is causing the nerves. You will always have a bit of butterflies at the start, but what you describe is pretty extreme and will affect your performance in a negative way.

Whatever it is that you determine is the root of your anxiety or nerves should be worked on. For example, I get some nerves because I am concerned about being one of the first to the single track in my field. I hate getting stuck behind guys I should be in front of. I make sure I pre-ride the beginning of the race numerous times and become extremely familiar with each turn, pitch, rut etc etc. Do the nerves disappear? Nope. But, I am more comfortable and ready, so the nerves become more manageable.

Pre-riding the entire course is a huge advantage for many reasons.

Not knowing what is around each corner can be the source of nerves for anyone...even pros.

Keep at it!
 

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washed-up moto guy
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May I ask how many times a week (once, twice?) you use it?
Of course! It all depends on what you are building for and what type of training load your body is used to carrying. I'd say that if you are racing typical XC (60-90 minutes on a loop with repetitive climbs/hard efforts) then generally a good balance is at least 60/40 high intensity/steady state. For example:

Mon: High Intensity (40-90 minutes)
Tue: Steady State (40-90 minutes)
Wed: High Intensity (40-90 minutes)
Thur: Recovery
Fri:High Intensity (40-90 minutes)
Sat: Steady State (90-240 minutes)
Sun: Recovery

A typical steady state workout looks something like:

1. 0:00:00-0:05:00 (Warmup @ 3/10)
2. 0:05:00-0:10:00 (Warmup @ 4/10)
3. 0:10:00-0:15:00 (Warmup @ 5/10)

5. 0:15:00-0:30:00 (Interval @ 7/10)
6. 0:30:00-0:45:00 (Interval @ 8/10)
7. 0:45:00-1:00:00 (Interval @ 7/10)

8. 1:00:00-1:10:00 (Recovery @ 5/10 decreasing to 3/10)

Or the gold old fashioned 2X20 @8/10 could work as well.

Regarding the "base miles" perspective, it definitely has it's merits. Remember that a balanced training regimen will build a balanced racer, while a specialized training regimen will build a specialized racer.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Hi there,

Thanks! Actually, that was my first race in years, and I only did a few back in my 20's before I screwed up my shoulder, moved, got more into sailing and drinking...well, enough of that stroll down the path of broken dreams!

Anyway, I am an anxious person. I suffer from social anxiety, performance anxiety and stage fright. I'm pretty sure it's all related! I kept telling myself that the race was "no big deal," that I'd be happy just to finish, but this did not help my nerves. Quit frankly, I was worried about being last and feeling embarrassed, because the race was in my community-- Well, didn't I just create a self-fulfilling prophecy! So the source of my anxiety is actually feeling extremely self conscious about my performance. (I think this is probably one for my therapist.;)

Also, I decided to race as last minute, I didn't pre-ride the course because I've ridden those trails a zillion times and I could ride them in my sleep. What I should have done was ride it twice around anyway just below race pace to see where I could push and where not, and time myself. So, knowing what kind of pace I might be able to sustain without stopping would have been good I think...gee, ya think?!

It also might have helped to warm up away from everyone and get to the start 10 minutes before so that I'm not feeling self-conscious.

Between this thread and my own analysis, I'm getting some great ideas for the next race in 3 weeks!
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Hi,

That's great, thanks!

Would you vary those high-intensity workouts between shorter and longer intervals, such as hill climbs etc? That is what I "try" to do, also I lift twice a week, on speed/power day, one strength day. I'll do 2 sets or so of shorter duration intervals one day, and then longer hill climbing intervals, over-unders, etc. with two shorter steady state workouts and one long, steady dirt-road ride on the weekend of 3 hours or more.

I try to have a plan, but I'm trying to dial in an even more focused one than, "I think I"ll do this today." Also, life happens! Like I have no childcare during my kid's 2 week spring break on week before this last race!

But that is a great regime to work on.

Thanks!
 

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washed-up moto guy
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Would you vary those high-intensity workouts between shorter and longer intervals, such as hill climbs etc?
I may be answering this one wrong, so correct me if I misunderstood, but I assume you are referring to alternating between steady-state and high-intensity workouts on consecutive days.

If that's the case, then yes. In my experience it is generally a good idea to alternate while assuring you have adequate time to recover.

Good job pushing for consistency! Definitely not easy for the dedicated athlete, much less a mother, so once again, major kudos!
 
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