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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Just really getting into XC racing and one of the (many!) problems I have is the start - most riders are off full-tilt to get the early advantage but if I try to emulate that trick (to have any hope of keeping up with the pack), my pulse rate rockets through the roof, like close to 85% of MHR and takes at least a lap to settle down, regardless of how warmed up I am. After a lap or so, though, I am OK, ride at my normal race tempo (for better or worse), and the pulse rate settles.

I know other riders say the same is true for them, but I am wondering is that basically a fitness issue, or is there also something else I should be thinking about? If it's down to fitness, what kind of training should I think about? Doing repeat standing starts would seem the obvious choice, but maybe that's not the point!

I think this is important because I know I have a good chance of keeping pace with the first 5-6 riders in the races I ride (because I train with some of them), but not if I lose them out of sight within 10 seconds at the start!
 

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Yeah the start is crucial. That lead bunch has a totally different dynamic to the rest of the field, usually. Three people in that group are most likely gonna podium, and that gives a drive and speed to the group that's greater than the sum of it's parts. If you really think you've got a chance in a race, you need to be there in that group, hence the fast starts. There also seems to be some loose correlation between position and tech ability, so if you get a bad start, you could loose a minute or more on the first lap 'waiting' behind riders in the singletrack.

But starts are a mental thing. You can work on fast standing starts after a good warm up, and this will prepare you mentally for the pain. I like to take a 10 min all-out hill climb once a fortnight (in place of a race if I don't have one). It's probably the most intense workout I do, but does wonders for me, at least.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
OK, so you're saying "sky-high pulse is normal at the start, deal with it", pretty much? Guess I will have to start actually doing race starts in training - one of those things you don't really think to train for, but are quite specific. Guess hammering some hills once in a while can't harm things either, but I do a fair bit of that and it doesn't seem to quite emulate that race-start situation for me: the start always seems like a world of pain to me that I never experience in training...

Definitely agree about the need for a fast start - I have begun to make a point of really pushing the start because of early bottlenecks on the track like s/t or a tough ascent, but a lot of it has to do with pace too: if I lose sight of the leaders then there's no way I can keep pace of my own accord and eventually catch up with them - I just end up lagging more and more and it's bye-bye.

Oh well, looks like more pain to deal with!
 

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Perceived effort and race pace

markowe said:
Guess hammering some hills once in a while can't harm things either, but I do a fair bit of that and it doesn't seem to quite emulate that race-start situation for me: the start always seems like a world of pain to me that I never experience in training...

Oh well, looks like more pain to deal with!
I re-learn every year at the first race that my perceived effort in training does not correlate with race pain. Above threshold/race pace work requires an objective measure of effort- that would be measuring power or speed or time.

Here is one workout that the board coaches can comment on based on speed. Find a flat road or two track and ramp up the speed of your mtb to 23-25 mph (road) or 20-22 mph (two track) before backing off. Recover and repeat for as many times as you can stand it. Then go on a two hour, mtb tempo ride. (Based on a Dave Morris suggestion in his book).
 

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i think the mental factor plays a huge role. If you are new to racing, nervousness causes the HR to skyrocket much faster than a few hard training starts.
Also, if you hit the single track in the lead group, your body will hurt about the same but your mind will be more at ease, and your HR might recover faster.

A couple times i've hit the trails dead last and passed most of the field, but its pretty impossible to catch the leaders.
 

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85% of max HR? I'd say you aren't going hard enough.
Good point. markowe, what % of MHR are you comfortable at? Everyone's different, but if I'm racing to win, my HR is usually Really High™ most of the time, easily beyond 90%, with surges beyond 95%. You might just need to keep racing and supplement it with some training to get comfortable at higher HRs. I'm no coach, but it sounds like a job for interval training to me.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
rob_co2 said:
i think the mental factor plays a huge role. If you are new to racing, nervousness causes the HR to skyrocket much faster than a few hard training starts.
Oh, definitely! I thought that too, that there is an element of nerves. Having said that, I can pretty much replicate the "problem" in training too.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
mechBgon said:
Good point. markowe, what % of MHR are you comfortable at? Everyone's different, but if I'm racing to win, my HR is usually Really High™ most of the time, easily beyond 90%, with surges beyond 95%. You might just need to keep racing and supplement it with some training to get comfortable at higher HRs. I'm no coach, but it sounds like a job for interval training to me.
It's not perhaps a completely accurate measurement, but you're right, I COULD be going harder probably, but have always been reluctant to, fearing that I'll bury myself for the rest of the race!

Certainly I figure more intervals would help (I do do them, but maybe not enough), but somehow even intervals don't quite seem to emulate that fast start. Will have to experiment with some REALLY fast starts and see what happens. Got a minor race on Sunday too, so will get a chance to test things out there too.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
flargle said:
Egad just race more and throw away your stupid gadgets.
I don't use any gadgets, % of MHR is just a way of describing what sort of strain I perceive myself to be under. And I would love to race more, but there just aren't enough races around here. I think that's the point of training anyway - I can train almost every day, but I can't race every day...
 

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markowe said:
I don't use any gadgets, % of MHR is just a way of describing what sort of strain I perceive myself to be under. And I would love to race more, but there just aren't enough races around here. I think that's the point of training anyway - I can train almost every day, but I can't race every day...
Do yourself a favor, and flip your HRM/computer over on your handlebars during races, so you can't see it.

It kills me when I see people looking at their HRM or power meter computer during a race. It's a training tool. Please don't use it to dictate your racing.

If you're human like the rest of us, you produce various hormones which allow your body to elevate its performance under stress; the "fight or flight" reaction. Not going to speak for you, but my heart can run 10bpm higher in a race. I'd be selling myself short if I paid any attention to that and only raced according to what I'm capable of during a training session.
 

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If you have a minor race Sunday, i say why not sprint hard at the start and try to get in the trails near the front of the group, see how you hold up. You might be surprised. Like others said, adrenaline and such pump through the veins and you go harder and faster than you normally could in training. If you end up not being able to sustain it, well you've learned a lot about where your upper limit actually is. Next time, aim for the middle.

If you dont have a heart rate monitor, dont worry, i dont and plenty of others dont. But no reason to even guess at what HR was. Just say that it was surprisingly high, or felt unsustainable, or whatever. Even the HRM users debate about getting their actual max, which in effect could throw off all the percentage numbers. The main thing is to compare one effort to other efforts. You might want to look into the Rate Perceived Effort to judge though.

So, are you in Serbia? When I traveled through a few years ago there were some beautiful mtns around, sure wish I could have ridden them! The trails in the video look fun by the way!
 

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I like to push the starts, but if someone is going harder than I want to go, especially on an opening climb, I'll let them go. I don't mind digging deep, but too deep and the legs might get a bit over blown. I have often brought guys back, as long as the trail isn't loaded with blockers.. that would be my main concern. But if I'm within a few riders of my nemesis, I think thats manageable and often times leaves enough extra in the legs to bring em back. Especially if its a longer race.
 

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other ideas

Aside from all the good advice here on training for faster starts, here are a few things you can do to enjoy your first races more and perhaps get better results... while you are learning how to start fast without blowing sky high.

- pre-ride the course very carefully looking for passing lanes, especially in the first few miles. But also around the entire course.

- warm up A LOT. Try a full hour with twenty minutes of some hard efforts. Hopefully you won't bring on lactic acid from the warm up, but you will have worked up a sweat and are completely opened up.

- if the first two suggestions are working for you, and you are on a course that has sufficient passing, then don't start too fast. Letting others bury themselves can be an advantage to you if you truly have the fitness to ride a steady tempo throughout the race. But this is course dependent.

- work on your passing techniques... there are many. Learn to read those you are trying to pass. Some will be willing to let you pass if you communicate clearly and make a bold move. Others will not be so willing, but usually will relent after repeated attempts. And there are handling techniques to passing on different types of trail sections. Confidence in your passing skills can help make up for slow starts.
 

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For a faster start use a higher gear that wont spin you out in the first 50m. Many people start in too low of a gear, they spin rapidly in the beginning and try up-shifting whilst everyone is mashing and passing them. Whenever I race I try to get out in the lead right away because it prevents getting stuck behind pile-ups on large hills or hairy turns and lets you set your own pace once in singletrack (so long as its fast enough that people don't need to pass you). Singlespeed makes starting easy, just stand and mash!
You should feel the blood pumping like crazy throughout your body after the first few hundred meters, but it cools down a bit once you get into the "groove" (for me anyway).
This gets me a podium finish in cat 2 SS and top 15 in cat 2 overall.
 

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I know how you feel. I can never get going off the line at full speed. I can usually do a little sprint so i don't totally end up in the back. But it takes me a good mile or 2 before i can really get going. I try to do linger races so i can pass people and finish higher. The only thing that i have found that helps me get off the line faster is to do some short track racing or crits. Its basically on the limit for 30 min or more.
 

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Garlock's response is justified, and a pretty accurate summation of this thread in light of the comment prompting his response :/
 
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