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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello.

I'm a long time runner and sometime road cyclist. I've had many problems with my calves over the last few years, so I've decided to start riding more. In september, I bought a Gary Fisher Marlin and have been riding it 1-2 times per week as well as doing some running and road cycling.

Last week, my buddy talked me into signing up for the sea otter classic cross country race. I figure if I'm going to ride it, I should try and train properly. I have a few questions. First I'll give a little background:

38 years old. Can easily go out and ride 40 miles in close to 2 hours on my road bike (can go sub 2 if pushing). When I ride mountain bikes with my friend, I usually leave him on the climbs, but he kills me on the descents and technical stuff. I live in CA, central valley and don't have access to a lot of great trails nearby. The closest good mountain trail to me requires almost an hour of driving each way. There is a trail along dry creek in modesto which has some fun technical sections. I rode it for the first time this week.

My plan to get into shape is something like this.

1. Ride 5-6 days per week 60-90 minutes on weekdays (because that is all I have time for) and 2-2.5 hours on one of the days of the weekend.

2. Do much of my training during the week on my roadbike. Just go out and ride with my HR around 140.

3. Weekends, ride the mountain bike for my longer/harder rides

4. Once per week, during the week, go to dry creek park in modesto or another park nearby that has some offroad area just to give myself more skill practice (I just dont have the time to get offroad more than this).

5. Try to lift weights 2-3 times per week.

That is about it. I'm concerned that my bike handling skills will not be good enough to race. I was wondering if anybody had input or has been in a similar situation.

Constructive comments on the plan would also be appreciated.
 

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Sea Otter XC is a roadies dream race....nothing too technical....mostly smooth buff singletrack.....there are a couple deep sandy sections though (they can be squirrely)

it's about 20 miles and 3K' ascent...the part that's gonna frustrate you is getting stuck in a conga line filing into trail 50 after the trail 11 fire road descent.....so hit the hole fast and crush it for the first few miles after you exit Laguna Seca race course.....

then you'll have prime opportunity to pass climbing up trail 82..this is where many riders blow up......watch the exit onto pavement...many endos will ensue....

from there it's mostly a blur of fire road climbs to ST descents and vice versa.....

the last stragglers will start falling off on the last of the uphill rollers of fire road - this is where your conditioning will come in.....don't cramp and reel the others back in.....

for specifics in course description and training you should visit:
Sea Otter forum
XC Racing forum
Norcal Forum

do some searching and you'll find a plethora of answers.....

and of course....since you are accustomed to consistent power output you may want to start going anaerobic during some of your training (intervals....blech)...

and definitely work on your MTB skills....what's buff and smooth for me may be kinda hectic for you ;)
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Cool, thanks!

I wasn't looking for so much info on how to ride the race itself. I don't know the trails that well, so that doesn't mean that much to me. I was wondering about how hard to go out. I figured that it would be difficult to pass on the single track, but am worried that if I do go out too hard, I will be one of the guys dying on the rollers at the end.

It is good that you mentioned trying to do rides where the power output is varied. I made up a little circuit at a county park that has 3 short, but very steep hills on it. Each hill takes around 45-50 seconds to climb. I did a workout the other day that included 5 laps of the circuit as hard as I could go (each lap took around 7 minutes). I underestimated how much lactate would build up on the ride. By the end of the second circuit, I felt like I was going to puke and ended up slowing way down. My HR never got above 172 for the workout, but the lactate from the short climbs never really got out of my blood stream. I was able to speed back up on the last lap, but learned that I need to be able to get rid of lactic acid better.

Mostly when I go hard, or climb hard, my legs blow up before I get to my max HR. How do I address this on a bike? I know how to train for this when it comes to running, but it seems different on a bike.
 

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Intervals, climbing and leg weights are what help me, although I'm not a racer, I've gotten to the point where only the hammer in our group can stay ahead of me on the climbs.

I think you need to tailor your approach to your skills too. For the longest time I listened to my more experienced friends tell me it's all about spinning. I can spin, and I have good cardio for long climbs, but what really gets me jazzed are the tech climbs, where for me, mashing can really make a difference. That's where leg strength also becomes big.

Don't you just love that feeling of almost having to puke after a nasty climb?

David B.
 

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This is where I made mistakes in the past. I would do classes at the gym, long rides but no climbing, so when I went out bush under race conditions I was screwed on climbs.
Now I make a point of finding the biggest mother effin hill I can find and train on this at least 2 - 3 times a week. by marking where I have to get off I can monitor how I am doing fitness wise. By starting this now I am hoping to by October next year to be in good shape to do the Scott 24hr enduro with a team and be competitive. As well as do better on my MTB Orienteering events
my plan is gym to work on upper body strenght and leg strenght as well as endurance and the bike to for the long hill grinds and skill building on the trial that is also important.
ie getting confidence in you and your bike abilities on the techy sections or fast downhill.
look up MT stromlo and you will see a good example. long technical ascent followed by the maddest free flowing singletrack downhill (skyline for the win)
 

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davidbeinct said:
Intervals, climbing and leg weights are what help me, although I'm not a racer, I've gotten to the point where only the hammer in our group can stay ahead of me on the climbs.

I think you need to tailor your approach to your skills too. For the longest time I listened to my more experienced friends tell me it's all about spinning. I can spin, and I have good cardio for long climbs, but what really gets me jazzed are the tech climbs, where for me, mashing can really make a difference. That's where leg strength also becomes big.

Don't you just love that feeling of almost having to puke after a nasty climb?

David B.
"Almost" ? I still puke on one particularly nasty climb . :(
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
First full week of training in the bag

Not so impressive, but I did manage to get on a bike 6 of the 7 days.

Sat: 15 miles on road bike, kind of moderate effort. 45 minutes. Had to get something in quickly between downpours.

Sunday: 30 miles road bike 1:36, avg. HR 136 (huh, that's funny)

Mon: 8 miles, mtn bike on levies near home. (did about 1/2 mile of slalom between trees that were planted really close together. Had to go slow because it was pretty muddy.

Tue: 13 miles road bike. Pretty easy but went fairly hard for a 2 mile stretch in the middle

Wed: 1 hour, mountain bike at dry creek park in Modesto. Rode easy, tried to find the most technical sections of trail possible and ride them multiple times. Had to stop a few times because I couldn't make it through a few sections

Thu: Did not ride, hauled junk to the dump after work

Fri: 25 miles on the road bike. First 23 really easy with avg HR at 130. One mile in 2:40 (had to stop for a stop light, lost 10-15 seconds) peak HR 167. Legs totally burning but nowhere near max HR. 1 mile easy back to the house.
 

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More thoughts...

coachb03 said:
Not so impressive, but I did manage to get on a bike 6 of the 7 days.

Sat: 15 miles on road bike, kind of moderate effort. 45 minutes. Had to get something in quickly between downpours.

Sunday: 30 miles road bike 1:36, avg. HR 136 (huh, that's funny)

Mon: 8 miles, mtn bike on levies near home. (did about 1/2 mile of slalom between trees that were planted really close together. Had to go slow because it was pretty muddy.

Tue: 13 miles road bike. Pretty easy but went fairly hard for a 2 mile stretch in the middle

Wed: 1 hour, mountain bike at dry creek park in Modesto. Rode easy, tried to find the most technical sections of trail possible and ride them multiple times. Had to stop a few times because I couldn't make it through a few sections

Thu: Did not ride, hauled junk to the dump after work

Fri: 25 miles on the road bike. First 23 really easy with avg HR at 130. One mile in 2:40 (had to stop for a stop light, lost 10-15 seconds) peak HR 167. Legs totally burning but nowhere near max HR. 1 mile easy back to the house.
A couple of thoughts:

1. Your road miles will give you your base.

2. Legs blowing up before your lungs: I live in Kansas. When I'm in Colorado, this rarely happens to me.... but.... climb differently during the climb. Stand up and mash, sit down and spin. It's very much like climbing on a road bike. Look for false flats to shake your legs and try and get ride of the lactic acid. More power climbs on your road bike in harder gears will dramatically improve your power on your mountain bike. To paraphrase some nobody named Lance Armstrong, spin in your big gear.

3. Rest. Don't forget to rest. Based on your experience and your week one schedule, you obviously know this but it's important to emphasize.

4. More base fitness miles on your road bike. Mix up your workout. Intervals certainly are important but so are LSD rides (Long Slow Distance). On weekends, pick a day to ride your road bike consistently for hours, not miles. Build up to 6-8 hour rides.

5. Technical skills: There's a couple ways to dramatically improve your bike handling skills.

> One of those options is something that younger racers do: They ride faster than their skill level and crash/break frames until they figure it out. My suggestion for you is to not do this.

> Ride behind a partner who has significantly better skills than you. Try to follow their lines. In fact, you mentioned that you have better fitness and less skill than your current riding buddies. Find other riders to train with. Most hammers forgive a lack of skill but not a lapse of fitness. Find some hammers to train with. Your skills will improve quickly.

> Another option based on your budget is to pick up a big hit, full suspension bike and practice launching off stuff. The big hit bike gives you a margin of error that let's you know your technique isn't correct but allows you to ride out your mistake vs. stacking and injuring yourself. The technique that you'll refine on a big hit bike will transfer directly to your race mountain bike.

> Yet another option is to take lessons. This is also driven by budget. There aren't a lot of places that offer lessons. You may have to travel to get to them. But you'll be traveling to an epic location and building your skills. Ask a local stud to teach you while you're riding together would be a lower cost approach here.

Thanks for the updates. Please keep us posted.
 

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OK....ya need to go search in the XC Training and Racing forum:
http://forums.mtbr.com/forumdisplay.php?f=59

This is the beginner forum for noobs who want to know things like how to lube chains....store bikes for the winter...what bike to get...etc...

you're already an experienced cyclist....and discussing lactic acid threshholds, base vs. interval..and zone workouts are a little on the advanced side here ;)

if you've got questions on some of the technical aspects of MTB'ing this is the forum...

now...as to your below workout.....two very basic rules that many forget....

1. do not overtrain
2. rest days are equally important as workout days...


my .02

PS - it would be a good idea to do a couple 'local' MTB races so you get a feel....they'll be friendlier that Otter (which for some reason the cat beginners get all serious)...:)

PPS - XC races are won in the climbs....not the descents......

coachb03 said:
...I did manage to get on a bike 6 of the 7 days......
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Ken in KC said:
A couple of thoughts:

2. Legs blowing up before your lungs: I live in Kansas. When I'm in Colorado, this rarely happens to me.... but.... climb differently during the climb. Stand up and mash, sit down and spin. It's very much like climbing on a road bike. Look for false flats to shake your legs and try and get ride of the lactic acid. More power climbs on your road bike in harder gears will dramatically improve your power on your mountain bike. To paraphrase some nobody named Lance Armstrong, spin in your big gear.

4. More base fitness miles on your road bike. Mix up your workout. Intervals certainly are important but so are LSD rides (Long Slow Distance). On weekends, pick a day to ride your road bike consistently for hours, not miles. Build up to 6-8 hour rides.

5. Technical skills: There's a couple ways to dramatically improve your bike handling skills.

> One of those options is something that younger racers do: They ride faster than their skill level and crash/break frames until they figure it out. My suggestion for you is to not do this.

Thanks for the updates. Please keep us posted.
#2. We already do this for fun. One of us will yell out "Big ring challenge" We will then ride in the big front chain ring until the end of the ride. We usually do this on the way back down the mountain where it is mostly downhill with only a few short climbs to be done in the big ring.

#4. This could be a problem. I coach track so many of my saturdays are already spoken for. I could see myself doing 3-4 hour rides, but the wife would freak out if I were gone at a track meet all day saturday and gone for 8 hours on the bike sunday.

#5. Already broke my wrist over the summer. Scaphoid, just like Levi Leipheimer. Not in any hurry to repeat the procedure.
 

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coachb03 said:
Not so impressive, but I did manage to get on a bike 6 of the 7 days.

Sat: 15 miles on road bike, kind of moderate effort. 45 minutes. Had to get something in quickly between downpours.

Sunday: 30 miles road bike 1:36, avg. HR 136 (huh, that's funny)

Mon: 8 miles, mtn bike on levies near home. (did about 1/2 mile of slalom between trees that were planted really close together. Had to go slow because it was pretty muddy.

Tue: 13 miles road bike. Pretty easy but went fairly hard for a 2 mile stretch in the middle

Wed: 1 hour, mountain bike at dry creek park in Modesto. Rode easy, tried to find the most technical sections of trail possible and ride them multiple times. Had to stop a few times because I couldn't make it through a few sections

Thu: Did not ride, hauled junk to the dump after work

Fri: 25 miles on the road bike. First 23 really easy with avg HR at 130. One mile in 2:40 (had to stop for a stop light, lost 10-15 seconds) peak HR 167. Legs totally burning but nowhere near max HR. 1 mile easy back to the house.
there don't appear to be any hard days, and your easy days appear to be too hard.

an hour or hour and a half at a moderate effort on a road bike won't do that much to make your body adapt and grow for the next ride. its not long enough to really be developing an aerobic base, and not hard enough to be making your legs stronger. that's just riding around....which will make you fit, but not that fit. and an hour at an easy effort, with a hard/random interval won't let your body fully recover from the previous days work...because it was too stressed.

i'd say if you only have an hour to ride....go out and pedal your butt off. drain yourself and force your body to adapt. and if you're feeling it the next day...then make it a truly easy day. just spin, keep your heart rate low, and resist all temptations to go fast.
 

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coachb03 said:
#2. We already do this for fun. One of us will yell out "Big ring challenge" We will then ride in the big front chain ring until the end of the ride. We usually do this on the way back down the mountain where it is mostly downhill with only a few short climbs to be done in the big ring.

#4. This could be a problem. I coach track so many of my saturdays are already spoken for. I could see myself doing 3-4 hour rides, but the wife would freak out if I were gone at a track meet all day saturday and gone for 8 hours on the bike sunday.

#5. Already broke my wrist over the summer. Scaphoid, just like Levi Leipheimer. Not in any hurry to repeat the procedure.
Big ring downhill isn't what I'm suggesting.
 

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Ken in KC said:
4. More base fitness miles on your road bike. Mix up your workout. Intervals certainly are important but so are LSD rides. On weekends, pick a day to ride your road bike consistently for hours, not miles. Build up to 6-8 hour rides.
ZOMG LSD rides:eekster: :eekster: :eekster:

:p
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Update

I rode my first race yesterday. Training has been going pretty well. I'm getting about 9-12 "workouts" in per week. Mostly they are 30-40 minute bouts of exercise (rollers,running, weight training) wedged in where I have the time, but I am getting a good 2 hours on the mtn bike on sundays.

So anyway, yesterday I took 1st place in the 30-39 beginner class at the Cool Mt. Bike Race. This was absolutely the muddiest ride ever. 1:10 for 11.5 miles. There were about 1800 feet of climbing and multiple creek crossings.

When I got to the starting line, I realized that I probably should have been in the Sport class. There were only 8-9 guys in my class (whereas in previous years, the results showed 18-25 guys). I'm still signed up to ride beginner at Sea Otter Classic in one month. I think that there will be quite a bit more competition there.
 

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How are you feeling about your bike handling skills? I think I have a similar weakness as a racer, and I decided this season to try to spend more time on the mountain bike, even if it meant I couldn't devote as much training time to improving power output (wasteful if I spend it all accelerating after clearing obstacles I could have cleared more efficiently with a little practice.)

It sounds like you've figured out about the best training plan that being an adult who has a life will allow you. Since Sea Otter is going to be an 'A' race for you, make sure to take an easier week leading up to it. If you can find the time, it would be good to make a pilgrimage to where the race will be held, and get a little more of a feel for the trails.

I'm totally envious - I went to school in Santa Cruz, and did a little of the cyclocross racing that was going on around there, but I haven't done Sea Otter. Have fun!

Are you planning more races this season?
 
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