Fighting an old demon.
Okay as the title says this issue is very old for me and I have discussed it with many people. Most people totally focus on one aspect of the issue and can't help me. I bring this to you guys cause it seems some of you have tons of experience and knowledge on mountain biking and fitness.
When I race, MTB XC or ATV harescrambles I find myself incapable of even reaching my race pace or even my training pace for that matter. I feel like I am going to die if I push any harder yet my body performs so poorly I hardly recognise myself.
Here's how it started.
Years ago when I was in college I ran in several races. I did well and finished in the top 5 a few times. Then one day I entered a race with my friends. On the way to the race everyone was talking and speculating that I would be the fastest of our group (I usually was when we would train together) and that I might even win the race. What happend was that I fell to the back of the entire pack before we got to the trail and held that position until the end. I came in last place. My speed was well below training speeds and I felt like I was pushing harder than ever. This same scenario repeated itself many times over after that day.
For 2011 I decided to conquer this demon. I enterd a harescramble whch is a XC race for ATV's and to my dismay after all these years of being out of the sport I had the same thing happen to me. I was totally used before I even ade it to the trail.
I believe the issue has to do with how I am handling pre race stress. I am working on my nutrition and training inorder to get back into racing. This is not a pacing or nutrition issue. As I mentioned before when I failed like this I never even made it to my proper pace it's like my body went in to half power mode or something. Also after the races I was very sore and tired.
Any input is appreciated.
Could it be a mental issue? Are you way too nervous at the start? I find the more races I get under my belt, the less race day jitters I have. I too come from an atv background. Whats your training like? You say its not a pacing issue, but is it possible your going out too hard at the start? Not warming up enough? What are you using to compare to your training pace? Just speed, or are you using heart rate or power?
If you're physically well prepared then it sounds like a psychological problem. A mental block which has built up over time that holds you back when competing.
The thing with racing is to make it routine and not be intimidated by the event or your competition. It helps to have a selectively bad memory so that the failures fade away into the past and all that stands out is the successes. You have to forget the bad results and focus only on those events where you finished well. Success breeds success.
Pezcycling news do an occasional series on sports psychology that you might find useful to look through. Search for "Zauderer" in the page below to find all the PezCycling articles by Marv Zauderer:
PezCycling News - What's Cool In Pro Cycling
Marv Zauderer website articles on sports psychology and visualization:
Marvin Zauderer -- Articles on Mental Skills in Sports
I've found that the fitter I get, the more important warming up seems to be. I'm a similar speed to a guy I ride with regularly, but he doesn't seem to need the warmup. If I try keep up with him at the start of a ride, I'll run out of go within minutes, and it wont get better unless I rest for at least a few minutes. It's not a subtle effect either -- I can't get anywhere near a good pace and I feel utterly exhausted.
I just gave my kid the old "Sports is half mental" speech for her volleyball games because her team is beating itself.......
You are doing the same thing. You are beating yourself before the race even starts probably because the pressure you are putting on yourself to Win! I had a buddy who was a catcher in his younger days....he had a thought once about not being able to throw the ball back to the pitcher.....guess what happened? Yep - he went through a bad spell as his phobia turned into reality.
I say go to a race where you don't know anyone. Enter in the beginner category and don't talk about expectations to anyone before the race. Then just have fun instead of putting that pressure on yourself that you should win. Do that a few times to get yourself over that hump and get your confidence back.
Whether or not I need it physically, I think a warmup helps keep me from being too much in my head.
"Don't buy upgrades; ride up grades." -Eddy Merckx
Barring any physical anomolies, I too was thinking more along the lines of visualization techniques for race prep. The mental game is such a significant factor in racing, and expecting defeat will be self-fulfilling.
Originally Posted by WR304
Do you race with a computer or Garmin, Pipe? Check your data. Maybe you are blowing up out of the gate? Are you feeling extremely defeated if others are passing you in the early laps? What's going through your head? Just things to consider and track.
Get me the knuckles of Frisco..
Thanks guys I appreciate your input. As I mentioned it is a goal of mine to defeat this. I am currently getting back into mtb xc in order to run some races and defeat this. I do have a race in mind that is out of state and way over my head. I plan to simply ride to finish and to take in the atmosphere. I have dug out an old heart rate monitor from my wife and plan to start using it. These last few weeks have been my first time on the bike in years and I am loving it. I will keep you posted.
I plan to find some local races this winter and race beginner, I plan to not even tell my friends I am going. I will warm up for about 7-10 miles prior to the race. I've also learned a lot more about nutrition this time around and have begun to use what I have learned.
If anyone has experience with mental blocks please let me know.
What you're looking for are ways to get rid of (or reduce) the negative connotations that you've associated with racing. If you do some google searches along the lines of "agoraphobia", "panic disorder" or "anxiety" there are lots of web sites, some better than others. It might be worth a quick look through this psychology forum as there seem to be some good links and discussion in it:
Anxiety and Panic Attacks - Uncommon Knowledge
Anxiety and Panic Attacks Forum - Uncommon Knowledge
Can Panic Disorder be Cured?-Is it Possible to Cure Panic Disorder?
"Typical self-help strategies include:
Relaxation techniques, such as stretching and breathing
Positive affirmations and self-talk
Creating peaceful and reassuring visualizations
Journaling and other writing exercises
Using creative art methods to express feelings
Proper nutrition and exercise
Transforming ones negative belief system to more constructive and optimistic views
Lifestyle recommendations, such as getting enough sleep and limiting the use of caffeine" panicdisorder.about.com
Something that I found helpful in the past was to listen to a Paul McKenna self hypnosis cd repeatedly as a way of trying to boost confidence. The best way is to listen to it on headphones every day for an extended period. When you're in a stressful situation you can think of the triggers to calm yourself.
Instant Confidence (Book and CD): Amazon.co.uk: Paul McKenna: Books
A new bike can be a powerful motivational tool. When you're there on the start line you can look at it and remind yourself that you have the best equipment for the task ahead, which you have to justify by riding well. It takes away an excuse for failure and underperforming.
Along the same lines is being able to tell yourself that you've put in the hard work and training before hand. Whenever doubt creeps in you have the reassurance to tell yourself that your fitness and technical skills are good.
Last edited by WR304; 10-11-2011 at 06:54 AM.
I don't know if this will help, but when I was racing regularly and feeling anxious I used to focus on one particular runner, or rider, who I knew was better than me, and shadow him through out the race as best I could. This helped with the anxiety because...rather than putting the focus entirely on myself, I directed it outwards, on the other competitor. If the guy went out faster than I would have preferred (which was usually the case), I just stuck with him till he dropped me. That was usually far enough along in the race to allow me to settle in and refocus on my own race.
I like the idea of picking somebody out to tail. I'm looking to find a couple races here in the winter to try and enjoy while not pressuring myself to perform. I think making it about fun rather than competition might give me my edge back. I might even attend a race just to watch.
I should be out riding
Another former ATV racer here. Definitely mental IMO. I'd suggest racing as much as you can, and riding as frequently as possible on the trails where races will be held. I know when I started racing mx, I'd barely be able to hold still at the start and would make tons of dumb mistakes out of over exhuberance. A few years later and a LOT of laps later and I could nap on the starting line. It's all about getting comfortable in the situation... Whether bike racing, moto racing, or even test taking. IMO anyway.
Originally Posted by Pipe-Dreams
When I find myself nervous on the line I remind myself that I'm just riding my bike in the woods with a bunch of other geezers.
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