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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
You may already know that my "training" is erratic and inconsistent. I don't have a "race schedule".

My "training" route is 17 miles of rolling hills on an out-and-back. There is one steeper climb on the route, and I don't allow myself to shift below a certain gear at any time. This results in good cadence most of the time, and a few periods of serious anaerobic "grinding". By "training" I mean I am focused and on-the-gas for the duration. By the end, I am bleary-eyed and my legs are toast.
I also ride shorter rides, 7-10 miles off road at varying effort at least once a week.

If I enter a 25 mile MTB race, my gut tells me that if I ride conservatively through the first 8 miles, then ramp up my output for the final 17 miles, I should finish pretty well.

Opposite that, if I went out hard, I might last for more than 17 miles, but I would implode long before I reached the finish.

Does this sound like an accurate assessment? I have not done more than 17 miles yet this year, but in years past I get a decent 40-60 mi. ride in periodically, so the distance is not foreign to me.

Thanks,
-F
 

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That sounds pretty good. I would also minimize your warmup to prevent fatigue, and think of that first part of the race as your warmup. I know a lot of guys swear by their big/long warmup, but I see a lot of guys fade during the final 1/3 of the race. I think the big/long warmup is best left to the higher volume guys.
 

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I'm new to this, but trying to get better and have been educating myself a bit.

I think you're right that going at your "all out" 17 mile pace will leave you gassed before the 25 miles are up, so pacing is definitely important.

You also mention grinding uphill in a relatively high gear--from what I understand, pushing a big gear burns up your muscles' glycogen stores more quickly than spinning a lower gear. Aiming for a comfortable but higher cadence might help you pace and last longer as well.
 

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I’m a great fan of going out and giving it the beans in a race. If it works out then you discover a new world of ability and if it doesn’t you discover a new world of out of body suffering. Both are really cool. It’s a win win situation.
 

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You may already know that my "training" is erratic and inconsistent. I don't have a "race schedule".

My "training" route is 17 miles of rolling hills on an out-and-back. There is one steeper climb on the route, and I don't allow myself to shift below a certain gear at any time. This results in good cadence most of the time, and a few periods of serious anaerobic "grinding". By "training" I mean I am focused and on-the-gas for the duration. By the end, I am bleary-eyed and my legs are toast.
I also ride shorter rides, 7-10 miles off road at varying effort at least once a week.

If I enter a 25 mile MTB race, my gut tells me that if I ride conservatively through the first 8 miles, then ramp up my output for the final 17 miles, I should finish pretty well.

Opposite that, if I went out hard, I might last for more than 17 miles, but I would implode long before I reached the finish.

Does this sound like an accurate assessment? I have not done more than 17 miles yet this year, but in years past I get a decent 40-60 mi. ride in periodically, so the distance is not foreign to me.

Thanks,
-F
You need to vary how you ride that route, going and riding it the same intensity every time is not variable and your body is going to adapt to that route and it's terrain, not what you'll be doing in a MTB race. If that's what you have to work with, do various intervals, over unders, sweet spot, etc or try to ride the whole thing at a certain intensity.

To your point, most people find they can push themselves much harder in a race, so ideally you hold back at the start and try and finish strong. Reality is you go out as hard as you can and blow up, I still do to this day and I know better.

What you'll find is how your body responds to a race environment including anxiety and adrenaline.

Your gut is correct - but it takes a LONG time to get it right. Let us know how it turns out.
 

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Opposite that, if I went out hard, I might last for more than 17 miles, but I would implode long before I reached the finish.
I don't think this is necessarily true. If you're going in fresh, you might be surprised at how far you can take your 17-mile pace.

Training is meant to build accumulated fatigue in your legs. When you get close to an event, you back off (taper) so that your body can recover from this fatigue and be ready for higher demands = fresh.

So in theory your max distance isn't necessarily predictive, nor is your current max pace at that max distance if that makes sense. It's more about your schedule. I don't know how many of those 17 mile rides you're getting in each week but I would imagine if you're doing 4 of those rides per week now, then you back off the week prior to the race, you might be able to smash 25 miles at your 17-mile pace.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
I’m a great fan of going out and giving it the beans in a race. If it works out then you discover a new world of ability and if it doesn’t you discover a new world of out of body suffering. Both are really cool. It’s a win win situation.
I tried this once. I blew up 14 miles into an 18 mile race and dropped from 4th to 10th. So my doubts hang largely on that single event.

....

Training is meant to build accumulated fatigue in your legs. When you get close to an event, you back off (taper) so that your body can recover from this fatigue and be ready for higher demands = fresh.
....
^^^I completely forgot about this. ...but mostly because my current [so-called] "training" schedule is erratic enough that tapering is almost a moot point. I think I could adjust enough to implement it, though. I'm sure it would help.

-F

PS - In "race mode" I def. run a higher cadence, at least on climbs...break those hills off in little pieces instead of big chunks.
 

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Elitest thrill junkie
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You may already know that my "training" is erratic and inconsistent. I don't have a "race schedule".

My "training" route is 17 miles of rolling hills on an out-and-back. There is one steeper climb on the route, and I don't allow myself to shift below a certain gear at any time. This results in good cadence most of the time, and a few periods of serious anaerobic "grinding". By "training" I mean I am focused and on-the-gas for the duration. By the end, I am bleary-eyed and my legs are toast.
I also ride shorter rides, 7-10 miles off road at varying effort at least once a week.

If I enter a 25 mile MTB race, my gut tells me that if I ride conservatively through the first 8 miles, then ramp up my output for the final 17 miles, I should finish pretty well.

Opposite that, if I went out hard, I might last for more than 17 miles, but I would implode long before I reached the finish.

Does this sound like an accurate assessment? I have not done more than 17 miles yet this year, but in years past I get a decent 40-60 mi. ride in periodically, so the distance is not foreign to me.

Thanks,
-F
Even on a 100+ mile race, I'm not trying to get "faster" during the race by starting out slow, I'm just trying to keep some kind of pace as I get fatigued, which inevitably will happen. A race is about betting and trading your candles at the right time. Falling back at the beginning means the front-runners will be further ahead, they'll be pushing each-other to maintain a faster pace, it will be harder to catch up. It is easier to push yourself to ride faster when you are riding with people, besides they'll have the benefit of not getting jammed up as much by riders blocking the trail.

Don't blow yourself up too bad at the beginning, but you also have to go hard and maintain a pace. You ideally want lap 1 2 and 3 to be just a few seconds apart, meaning you are maintaining a pace. That's where you'll be able to see improvements, etc. Some real fast people can go faster on subsequent laps, but it's usually not by a lot.
 

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That's where you'll be able to see improvements, etc. Some real fast people can go faster on subsequent laps, but it's usually not by a lot.
Sort of off topic, but a great read is the book, Endure, by Alex Huchison. He provides some great insight on people who negative split races. Some people no matter what they do cannot fully commit themselves until the end is in sight.
 

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Ok, so here is my take on it..... don’t worry about distance, worry about time in training. My 17 mile pace (I’m assuming you’re on the road for this) at a harder effort is about 50-55 minutes, but yours might be 1 hour, so distance matters less than time. Estimate how long the race will take and go from there. I’m going to guess you’ll be around 3 ish hours depending on difficulty of the course, but I don’t know you so this is a VERY rough guess. When training for an event you should try to get at least one ride in at 80% of the time you will be in the event.

As for training, you’ve got a start, but there’s a lot of room for improvement. Riding the same loop at a hard pace will only get you so far, intervals and Z2 days are key. Start doing 2x20 minute intervals, 5x5 minute intervals, and maybe even some tabatas! You’ll see WAY bigger changes this way. These are just the basics, it gets way more advanced once you start using a power meter.....

Here are some training basics that are followed by everyone that has ever made an entrance into professional cycling.

•don’t do more than 3 high intensity/really hard training days a week.

•don’t train more than 6 days a week, make sure you have at least one day off a week.

•don’t take more than 2 days off training! This is a common mistake among beginners! After two days you start to lose mitochondria on your muscle cells (aka the “power plants” of athleticism) and athletic performance begins to decline. It’s not the end of the world if you have to take 3-4 days off, but just know you’re going to feel a bit slower and you’ll have a slightly harder time keeping your old pace for the next few rides. Fortunately you can recover lost mitochondria fairy quickly!

•listen to the old folks at the bike shop! Sure, they probably don’t even know what a ftp is, but they sure do know how to make you a tough cyclist that will chew up any race course! They also have a lot of insight as to race strategy and preparation/nutrition. Every shop has that old fellow that’s been cycling for their whole life and probably looks a wee bit crazy, possibly a bit overweight, has a very long beard, and shouts profanity at the very mention of strava or training technology..... that’s the guy you want to take advice from!

•make sure you do 1 really long ride a week at endurance Z2 pace (if you don’t have a HR monitor, this is typically the pace that you can comfortably breath out of your nose, but hard enough that you’re working and ALMOST have to breath through your mouth, if you are breathing out of your mouth or feel like your burning up, you’re going too hard)

•aside from interval/hard days, all other rides should be done at a Z2 or easier pace.

Fortunately for you, you’re doing a 25 mile event, this is a slightly longer event, but at least it isn’t a distance where proper training is critical, worst case you’ll bonk during the last five miles. That sucks for your race times, but isn’t a big deal in the scheme of things. Races are learning experiences and you will only get better the more races you do, besides, unless you’ve bonked horribly in a race, you haven’t experienced cycling! ;-)

Best of luck to you and let us know how it goes! If you have anymore questions feel free to let me know, and listen to whatever Jayem says, the guy knows his stuff
 

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Also, as far as pacing goes, if you train right, you’ll be able to maintain the same speed for the entire duration rather than start easy and then go hard. I personally go all out on anything under 20 miles..... so I would be tempted to go all out for the full 25, but I also have an engine like a freight train, I don’t really die off by going too hard, I just end up settling into the pace that I should have been at in the beginning. My friend has just the opposite problem, he’s got a ton of fitness, but if he even goes a few watts over his pacing in the first hour, his race is shot..... so much of training is purely based on the individual. Now if you had a smart trainer or a way to measure wattage then you could follow prescribed workouts and see major benefits occur far faster than riding without and you’d also have a better idea as to how to pace yourself
 

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I tried this once. I blew up 14 miles into an 18 mile race and dropped from 4th to 10th. So my doubts hang largely on that single event.
How do you know that you would have finished 11th, if it wasn't for the fact that you went hard and got to 4th before fading? Or, maybe 13th? Maybe with slightly better pacing you would have been 9th?

There is very little reason to believe that you would have finished 4th just by starting slower.
 

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How do you know that you would have finished 11th, if it wasn't for the fact that you went hard and got to 4th before fading? Or, maybe 13th? Maybe with slightly better pacing you would have been 9th?

There is very little reason to believe that you would have finished 4th just by starting slower.
Agree 100%

I have never once regretted going out too hard. I have almost always regretted going out to easy and the “what ifs” that followed.

Your performance could have been from a number of factors on that one day. In a race of that distance, nutrition and hydration really come into play for the last 30 minutes. It will rear it’s head if you haven’t kept a up.

The only place I would consider starting easier would be in very long marathon race. Even then, it’s not a very good strategy for me.

XC starts are Hard! There is plenty of time to go hard, recover and go hard again. I would rather you Barbell your efforts than start slower. Just due to dynamics of XC race flow.

Try this on your practice loop. First 15 min go hard, settle in and then empty the tank towards the end.






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I just assume I'm going to feel like hell on the first lap. The 2nd and 3rd usually feel much better, even though I don't lose much time. Getting up onto that plateau is a b*tch. I often feel on the final lap like I could easily do another lap, because I feel so much more "in the zone". Small things like screaming to myself (mentally) to not climb in the big gears helps keeping my speed up and not falling off too early.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
How do you know that you would have finished 11th, if it wasn't for the fact that you went hard and got to 4th before fading? Or, maybe 13th? Maybe with slightly better pacing you would have been 9th?

There is very little reason to believe that you would have finished 4th just by starting slower.
Whoa! There is a lot more data coming out here than I would have time to investigate.

On this 18 mile race mentioned above, I did go out hard. I had every intention of finishing the race, by my time estimation, before I bonked or faded or whatever. It did not work, I think, because my training had only conditioned me for about 70-80 minutes of all-out race pace. I think I pooped out at 90 minutes (of course there are other factors like nutrition and such that might have confounded things). In that race, had I started "slow", I probably would have been trailing the 5 guys that passed me late in the race for the whole race, but I would have had to deal with a bunch of slower guys who fell off before the first lap ended. That was a tight course. I knew I needed to get near the front.

Since then, I have done only a few races, but in one fatbike race I managed to maintain very consistent lap times (without a clock or anything - just on feel). It took a lot of concentration to stay on task and in my "efficient zone". That was an ideal race distance and time for me, though. Had that race been 2 or 3 more laps (they were short laps), I don't know what would have happened.

The 25 mile course is a single circuit. So lap times are irrelevant. Pace, of course, is highly relevant. I just don't know how big my gas tank is. Historically, if I put a huge effort in early, my finish doesn't feel as good. On my training route, the "big climb" is early in the route. I know if I'm in good shape I can really stomp up the hill and recover quickly over the top. Right now I can't do that.

-F
 

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I don't have that much race experience but I do think it's important to train for the distance you're racing. Rides that are longer & harder than I normally do are really difficult until I do them several times, and then they become much easier.

It's really advantageous to pre-ride or train on a particular course if at all possible, knowing how long the climbs are and when recovery zones come helps me a lot.
 

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Ok, I�m beginning to think that nutrition is something you need to work on based on your last post..... at an all out pace, you will bonk out between 45 minutes and 2 hours depending on a lot of factors (how rested, what you�ve eaten, and genetics). So for you to bonk out at 90 minutes sounds absolutely normal and more of a nutrition issue than a lack of training!

As for what you should use for nutrition, this is purely a personal preference and requires you to experiment and find what works for you. My body has an issue digesting sugar, it absorbs really slow into my bloodstream..... oddly enough it means that I run really well off of sugar because I don�t get a sugar spike and I digest it at an even rate of speed! My go-to is �Shotblocks� and �PJ pickle juice�. I eat an entire package of shot blocks before a race, then I eat 3 individual shot blocks each half hour (there are 6 shot blocks in a package). I think drink a 2.5 ounce bottle of pickle juice before the race and then once every three hours. It eliminates cramps and lower perceived effort drastically. This method has worked AMAZING for me even in a 100 mile race, but my buddy can�t use them because he gets such a bad sugar spike..... he prefers granola bars like Cliffbars. Even know a guy on the Keto diet that has a bunch of bacon strips in his top tube sack, so seriously, you�ll have to experiment to see what works for you!

I can honestly say that I�d be a bit less concerned about pace if at any point in the race you have a climb bigger than 100� in elevation or stretches of single track. These obstacles will cause your estimated pace to fall while at the same time cause you to panic and go too hard in an effort to recover your pace..... it will blow your race unless you have a very good understanding of the course and a lot of pacing experience. Instead I would focus more on how you feel and go from there. For the first hour just go moderately hard and go as fast as you think you can maintain for the race. For the second hour on, when you feel like you�re going pretty hard, go just a bit harder. After an hour your mind starts a mental spiral that will raise perceived effort in an attempt to slow you down even though you have a lot left in the tank. It will hurt, but you need to go a bit on �override mode� and power through it a bit, it will get better!
 

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On this 18 mile race mentioned above, I did go out hard. I had every intention of finishing the race, by my time estimation, before I bonked or faded or whatever. It did not work, I think, because my training had only conditioned me for about 70-80 minutes of all-out race pace. I think I pooped out at 90 minutes (of course there are other factors like nutrition and such that might have confounded things). In that race, had I started "slow", I probably would have been trailing the 5 guys that passed me late in the race for the whole race, but I would have had to deal with a bunch of slower guys who fell off before the first lap ended. That was a tight course. I knew I needed to get near the front.
This is what you should have done. You just mis managed a combination of hydration/nutrition/recovery strategy/ fitness.

Racing from behind takes an insanely fit person or someone who naturally comes on hard late in the race. This is extremely rare in lower ranks, so I would take any comments from a bunch is seasoned Cat1 racers who say this is their strategy. With a grain of salt.

It takes a special kind of person and a good negotiator to get through traffic. In Cat 1, there is lots of respect to let you by, but not in cat 2 or 3 and mass starts marathons are problematic.

Since then, I have done only a few races, but in one fatbike race I managed to maintain very consistent lap times (without a clock or anything - just on feel). It took a lot of concentration to stay on task and in my "efficient zone". That was an ideal race distance and time for me, though. Had that race been 2 or 3 more laps (they were short laps), I don't know what would have happened.
There isn’t an ideal distance, there are just correct pacing strategies. My longest race had been 22 miles when I did an Ultra 82 mile MTB race by backing off just a hair and just staying below threshold when possible. AKA “saving matches”.

Pacing is an Art and you strategy can often go out the window for you to stay in podium contention.

Learn from that one race, but don’t let it be your benchmark. You wouldn’t have miraculously gotten top 5 by going easier in the beginning. You lacked the power (fitness) to go that hard THAT DAY(this is important). It’s highly likely you were more affected by nutrition and hydration. Your explanation of your experience is a telltale sign. I’ve done this when I. Didn’t have enough water or ran out of energy stores (glycogen /sugar ) and I turned into a hot mess. You loose almost all of your punchy power and can only ride at a moderate steady pace.

Count on your first 20 races being a learning experience. Try all kinds of things out, don’t pigeon hole yourself into one strategy. You won’t win many races at all timetrialing (steady pacing) an XCO race, at least not at your current level.

Seeing other people can make you do things that you wouldn’t do otherwise. Losing sight of them will make you fall back into “your pace”. You can use this as a tactic to shake people on your wheel, but that’s another discussion. If your goal is podium, try this strategy:

Grab the 5th or 4th place wheel and just go with that rider for the race. If you find them riding slower than you would like, make judgment calls throughout the race, learn their weaknesses, wait for a mistake and make a move at some point in the race. If he is a smart racer, he won’t let you wheel suck all day. If you really want to see how that person is doing, start chatting it up and see how responsive they are. “How do you like those tires?” Any open ended question will do.

Good luck!


The 25 mile course is a single circuit. So lap times are irrelevant. Pace, of course, is highly relevant. I just don't know how big my gas tank is. Historically, if I put a huge effort in early, my finish doesn't feel as good. On my training route, the "big climb" is early in the route. I know if I'm in good shape I can really stomp up the hill and recover quickly over the top. Right now I can't do that.

-F
Any time I feel great at the end, it’s because at some point I didn’t go hard enough. Most of the time that comes with regrets unless you win, or the next place was too far ahead for it to be a factor.

This happened more times I I’d like to admit while the guys on the top blocks were on the ground almost dying.


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I'm agree with FJ on all of this.

I am one of those start slow, finish strong types with good results (but as FJ also mentions, a lot of rider respect in the Cat1/Pro classes). But I started racing multilap XCO format with an 80% rule so I can't do that anymore. I have been retraining myself to go out hard. Sometimes it means going out too hard and getting pulled early, or not hard enough and getting pulled out early. Or, in a recent race, I went just the right amount...and still got pulled :lol: (I actually made it really far into the race with four 18 minute laps on a long course).

I have a decent amount of race experience now, and I am still learning something every race.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Now you guys got me thinking about timing my food intake better. I like to run near empty, or "very light", but that obviously has its caveats. I think I'll be returning to the liquid ride diet. I can make that work.
Maybe if I was "more serious" I would think of all this stuff right off. :???:

Good stuff!

-F
 
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