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  1. #1
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    Help me gauge my first race performance

    After a few years of riding pretty consistently I finally got up the nerve to try my first mtb race over the weekend. I entered beginner class in a fairly low key "local" type race. My only other race experience was a cyclocross race a couple years ago in which I was thoroughly embarassed. Needless to say, I didn't want a repeat performance. I have read the advice from many of you over the past year or so and tried to apply your sage wisdom.

    While lined up near the very back of the pack(all classes started at the same time, beginners did one 15 mile lap, sport did a lap and a half, expert/pro two laps), I tried to get out fast and found myself picking off quite a few sport riders on the opening climb. After that I settled in and rode fairly error free (I lost a few spots early on after dropping my chain while trying to shift into my small chain ring). I'd say I was at about 85-90% effort most of the race and never really felt like I was going to drop dead.

    To make a long story short, I ended up coming in third in the beginner class(3:00 behind 1st, :30 behind 2nd) and while I'm stoked with the outcome, I'm not sure what to make of it. The beginner class was only about 9-10 people in all. I finished my 1 lap ahead of quite a few of the sport riders and I felt like I had plenty left in the tank but who knows how things would have gone on that extra half lap.

    What should I make of all this? Have you had your ego falsely inflated in a local race only to see it crushed in a larger regional/national type race?

    Ultimately, I had a lot of fun and want to do another race, just want a better idea of where I stand. I thought my first race would answer a lot of questions but it seems to have posed more than its answered.

  2. #2
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    where do you stand? You stand 3rd in beginner class.

    Every race is going to be different, Different tracks will appeal to you and you will race well. Next season you may do it again and totally suck at that track.
    Your personal fittness and how phisically prepared you are on the day will tell the story.

    A good way to now gauge this is do the next race and see how you go against the 1st and 2nd riders. Find out thier names, go chat to them after the race and see if either want to hook up for training rides or weekend trail rides.

    My 2c. hope it helps a little dude.
    Will Race For Beer...

  3. #3
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    If you ride pretty regular you are probably a candidate to move up to the sport class. The novice class is pretty much filled with first year riders or weekend warriors. The class is often small because after a couple of races most riders will move into the sport class. You can stay competetive in sport pretty much as long as you want. Staying competetive in expert takes a lot of training and natural athletic ability. I like racing as a gauge of fitness but if you move into expert your results often dont show the effort you put into getting into shape. I just pulled a last place among all men in expert yet if I had been in Sport I would have finished mid-pack.

  4. #4
    Brant-C.
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    I'm racing beginner this year also. But I plan on moving to sport next year. I just want a "good" year of racing under my belt before moving up. I've also learned a lot of things like how to eat, train, ride, what not to do and what to do, etc.

    If you're not in a hurry, I'd keep doing beginner races this year. Then go to sport next year.

    What I've been told by experts/sport racers that I've met is, "...as long as you keep finishing in the top five, you should move up a class...". I think this pertains to beginner to sport class.

    As for you standing...utester said it. Just remember also that some sport riders will drop a class if they haven't trained well. So talking to these guys who finish at the top of the class will let you know what type of rider they are. You also get roadies who like to play on the dirt and only race a few times on an MTB to have fun (which is what beginner class is about).

    Hope that helps.
    I just like riding my mountain bike.

  5. #5
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    That sounds like a great start.

    As you race more you will start to compete with the same guys and find yourself flip flopping with them on time. For some reason one race you will finish better than others (depending on type of terrain).

    Keep in mind that the bigger races will bring in the best riders.

  6. #6
    CB2
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    Next race try going 100% and see how you fare.

  7. #7
    Mythical Creature
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    Quote Originally Posted by Carl Hungus
    What should I make of all this? Have you had your ego falsely inflated in a local race only to see it crushed in a larger regional/national type race?
    It is what it is... a great result in your first outing in a while. I'd suggest a few things;

    (1) Using lap / course times to compare "up" is useless. The sport riders you passed may have been weaker than you - or knew they had 1/2 again more racing to do - so it's hard to tell until you race against THEM. I make a note of this as, unless a course is the same distance for all groups - a rarity - one cannot compare the apples to oranges. You can, however, compare "down" a class, for instance: you move up to expert and have avarage lap times over 4 laps, faster than the winning sport guy's average for 3 laps. Cool. You'd have smoked him, and made the right choice.

    I'll be the first to say that the increased duration/distance/speed at race pace is something that can take a recently upgraded racer by surprise. I was stunned at how fast my first expert race took off the line, how fast it stayed, and how freakin' fast it finished. That particular event is where I pulled the above noted comparison from - as my mid-pack, 4-lap expert race / finish had me 3+/- minutes faster than the winning sport guy based on average lap times for his 3-lap race.

    (2) Race a larger/regional level beginner event, and if you place top-3, I suggest moving up and focusing on longer sport level races. As noted, beginner races are really for untrained/minimally trained first-timers. I entered my first race as a sport and got annihilated! But learned quick. I had no aspirations for winning/placing - just to challenge myself.

    Next season? started winning sport races. Moved up, repeated aforementioned annihilation / learning curve, and the next season started winning the local expert races - and podiuming at regional/national events.

    And so the cycle goes......

    My gut sense is you might want to do 1-2 more beginner races, or just skip ahead to sport. Do ride/train on the road? If so - get out of beginner! If you train with a strong roadie group? You'll be expert in no time - as long as mountain skills keep up.

    glen

    3rd year expert, already semi-retired!
    Last edited by glenzx; 07-24-2007 at 09:13 AM.
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  8. #8
    It's about showing up.
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    Congratulations!

    Do not jump to sport in your first season just because you are a decent mountain biker. Racing is a very different discipline form mountain biking, and vice-versa. Take the time to learn to be a good racer in the category that is set-up exactly for that purpose. Stay in Beginner Class.

    There is more to this than just going fast and ending up on the Podium. There are co-operative behaviors, crashes, cramps, meatheads, varying distances, a long list of things to learn about. I have found that these are best learned when you have a bit in the tank, rather than at your limits. That is what Beginning categories are about, not just times.

  9. #9
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    Generally once you have 3 top 3 finishes move up a class.

  10. #10
    It's about showing up.
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    Check with the governing body of the races

    and use THEIR requirements for moving up in classification.

  11. #11
    Devil Mtn
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    A Log Jammin' performance ...

  12. #12
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    Thank you for all your responses. Great insight as always. I think I will try another beginner race and if my experiences are the same, I'm moving up to sport where I can return to getting stompted.

  13. #13
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    First, congratulations on a great finish. Many racers would love to finish in the top 10 in their first race.

    Second, obviously you should listen to what glenzx has to say. If anybody on here could provide the most insightful advice, it is him.

    Third, I have to ask; why didn't you race at 100%? You only missed 2nd by 30 seconds (although you probably couldn't see 2nd place at 30 seconds back). I could understand only going 85-90% for the first 1/2 of the race due to fear of blowing up. However, I don't understand why you wouldn't give 100% for the second 1/2, especially if you are going to try to assess yourself as a racer.

    I would suggest you can't really tell where you stand, because 100% may have put you way ahead of 1st place. If that happened you might be getting different answers to your post. There was a similar thread recently posted where someone tried their first race and won. There were numerous suggestions for that person to move up sooner rather than later.

    I think the best advice came from CB2: race at 100% and see how you do. Then post a race report so we can read about your experience.

    Good Luck!
    It is difficult for some people to use the two words "too" and "to" appropriately.

    "I had to go where I went, to get where I am. Any other path would have taken me elsewhere, and I may have missed the joy."

  14. #14
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    That's actually really hard to judge

    Quote Originally Posted by jspharmd
    Third, I have to ask; why didn't you race at 100%? You only missed 2nd by 30 seconds (although you probably couldn't see 2nd place at 30 seconds back).

    For years I thought I wasn't giving 100% during races. I always felt like I had a little more in the tank/could have gone harder. I did a VO2 max test, learned my heart rate zones, and during the next race I was anaerobic a good portion of it. Basically I _wasn't_ taking it easy, I just wasn't very good at judging relative effort.

    Dave

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by MightySchmoePong
    For years I thought I wasn't giving 100% during races. I always felt like I had a little more in the tank/could have gone harder. I did a VO2 max test, learned my heart rate zones, and during the next race I was anaerobic a good portion of it. Basically I _wasn't_ taking it easy, I just wasn't very good at judging relative effort.

    Dave
    Interesting, when did you feel you weren't giving 100%, during or following a race? If it was during, did you ever try harder when you thought you weren't giving 100%? Do you now know what 100% feels like or do you still feel like you could give more despite heart rate zones?
    It is difficult for some people to use the two words "too" and "to" appropriately.

    "I had to go where I went, to get where I am. Any other path would have taken me elsewhere, and I may have missed the joy."

  16. #16
    It's about showing up.
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    It is hard to know what 100% would do.

    When you do it and for how long can also change your results for the worse. Secondly,
    "For years I thought I wasn't giving 100% during races. I always felt like I had a little more in the tank/could have gone harder. I did a VO2 max test, learned my heart rate zones, and during the next race I was anaerobic a good portion of it. Basically I _wasn't_ taking it easy, I just wasn't very good at judging relative effort." This puts it all in a nutshell.

    What it comes down to is that this is a proces of learning. Recommendations for pressing the process based soley upon percent of effort are hoplessly inconsiderate of all the other skills that need to be developed to race. It's enthusiastic and determined but just bad coaching from the "all you have to do" school.

    Take your time to learn.
    Last edited by Berkeley Mike; 07-26-2007 at 10:56 AM.

  17. #17
    rj2
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    I enjoyed top 10 finishes

    last year in beginner, finished 6th at Nationals, and 5th in CA state series. I got my a** handed to me racing sport early in the season. Trained harder and smarter, lost some more weight and managed 5th place in the CCCX series. Finally got my 1st win at the Bigfoot Classic. Race report here: This was the last Bigfoot Classic

    Stay in beginner and learn, move up to sport next year and learn some more, rinse and repeat. If you win 5 sanctioned races before the season's over, congratulations, it's a mandatory upgrade to sport.

    Let us know how it goes.

  18. #18
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    I'm sorry if this is hijacking the thread, but how many racers out there would go around telling people that when they compete, they only put in about 85-90% effort.

    I would agree that most people, after completing a race and following a bit of recuperating, feel like they may have been able to give a little more during the race. This is especially true if you didn't win your race or if you won by such a large margin you relaxed a bit. However, I doubt the very competitive people that post on here would admit that they go out every race and give it uh, maybe 85-90%. Just read a couple of race reports and tell me how many people say the race was really hard so I only gave it partial effort.

    My point is if you say you had 10-15% more in you, then you held back on purpose. Regardless of whether you truly know your 100% or not.
    It is difficult for some people to use the two words "too" and "to" appropriately.

    "I had to go where I went, to get where I am. Any other path would have taken me elsewhere, and I may have missed the joy."

  19. #19
    Brant-C.
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    Quote Originally Posted by jspharmd
    I'm sorry if this is hijacking the thread, but how many racers out there would go around telling people that when they compete, they only put in about 85-90% effort.

    I would agree that most people, after completing a race and following a bit of recuperating, feel like they may have been able to give a little more during the race. This is especially true if you didn't win your race or if you won by such a large margin you relaxed a bit. However, I doubt the very competitive people that post on here would admit that they go out every race and give it uh, maybe 85-90%. Just read a couple of race reports and tell me how many people say the race was really hard so I only gave it partial effort.

    My point is if you say you had 10-15% more in you, then you held back on purpose. Regardless of whether you truly know your 100% or not.
    Well, from my experience this year, I know I'm giving it all when coming off the line. It's 100% trying to hold onto a lead or keeping other riders from passing. My lungs, legs, whole body hurts!

    But, I've also noticed that once you are in situation where you are riding by yourself, you get into a rhythm and I know for a fact myself that my 100% effort becomes less than 100%. I don't know if it's on purpose, my lungs and legs tell me to slow down and rest while my head is telling my body to push it...my last race my wife told me that I looked relaxed and calm...it was a section where there was noone but me.

    Then when you catch up to another racer and/or sense another racer behind, that effort is again increased to 100%.

    Just my .02
    I just like riding my mountain bike.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by bcaronongan
    Well, from my experience this year, I know I'm giving it all when coming off the line. It's 100% trying to hold onto a lead or keeping other riders from passing. My lungs, legs, whole body hurts!

    But, I've also noticed that once you are in situation where you are riding by yourself, you get into a rhythm and I know for a fact myself that my 100% effort becomes less than 100%. I don't know if it's on purpose, my lungs and legs tell me to slow down and rest while my head is telling my body to push it...my last race my wife told me that I looked relaxed and calm...it was a section where there was noone but me.

    Then when you catch up to another racer and/or sense another racer behind, that effort is again increased to 100%.

    Just my .02

    Since I've seemed to open up a can of worms, I'll continue on a bit.

    So when you tell people about your race do you tell them that you race at 85-90%?

    This is my point: You can give 100% of yourself without constantly being at the verge of collapse. Most athletes say they give 100% without truly giving 100% of their muscle energy 100% of the time. When you give 100% it generally means you didn't hold back on purpose. You may have held back because you were afraid you were going to blow-up, but that is different than giving 85%. You slowed down because you didn't want to kill yourself. Without any jokes, the guys in the TDF don't operate at 100% of their capacity for 100% of the time, but they would all tell you that they gave 100% effort for the race.

    Maybe this will clear-up the intention of my original question to the OP.
    It is difficult for some people to use the two words "too" and "to" appropriately.

    "I had to go where I went, to get where I am. Any other path would have taken me elsewhere, and I may have missed the joy."

  21. #21
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    Both during and following actually.

    Quote Originally Posted by jspharmd
    Interesting, when did you feel you weren't giving 100%, during or following a race? If it was during, did you ever try harder when you thought you weren't giving 100%? Do you now know what 100% feels like or do you still feel like you could give more despite heart rate zones?

    Yeah, believe me, I learned what 100% felt like during the test I basically cycled to absolute collapse. I was equating the "giving 100%" to the feeling you get right at absolute collapse. I.e. a pace that you really can't maintain for very long. I had always assumed that everybody else was cycling at that pace/feeling for the entire race.

    I was never able to really force myself to ride harder for any significant time during the race; I had always assumed it was because I just wasn't mentally tough enough. I realize now it's just that I was asking my body to go anaerobic for a sustained period of time and I simply wasn't trained/able to do that.

    Mentally I generally feel like I could go harder; but whenever I try it doesn't last very long. Basically once I go a certain amount over my LT I start to fall to pieces after a couple of minutes.

    Dave

  22. #22
    hardtails rule!!!
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    Give the guy a break about not going 100%!!!! This was his first race right? Carl, learn from your first racing experience, build on it, and have fun!

  23. #23
    It's about showing up.
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    I train racers from beginners on up

    My Varsity and JV racers race early in the season, in non-League races, but not to win. A race course is the only place we can ride safely at speed and practice the skills they need to learn to be competitive later in the season when it counts. If you ride/workout at these speeds on shared trails like we have in California you are a hazard to anyone, including yourself. Who needs that grief?

    We call these tune-ups. We don't care if they win and they have learned not to in these cases as well. They are pretty disciplined and I am proud of them. This sort of experience offers opportunities to dial-in bikes and gear, tinker with prepration, come back from injury or stress, test nutrition schemes, adapt to changes in distance, manage hazardous conditions, and feel their power at various levels at various times withou needing to 100% all the time. There are a panoply of race ettiquette skills to be learned as well. They are invaluable.

    We de-emphasize the most competitive aspects of the race experience for newer racers. When this isn't done and they progress into the next levels they can be inelegant and create their own set of problems amongst fine athletes. There is much more to racing than just speed and power. Every race is not the Olympics.

    One of the skills they may learn is how to stay out of the way of REAL racers like jspharmd.

  24. #24
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    Wow! I didn't think my post would get so many responses but I appreaciate all of them. As far as giving 100%, I have to admit I'm not sure how to go 100% for more than a few seconds. Did I give a good effort? Yes. Was I on the verge of death? No. I also feel like the size of the field had a lot to do with my restraint during the race. Because it was a small field, often times I was riding by myself for extended legnths of the race. I couldn't hear anyone behind me and because the course was mostly singletrack, I couldn't see anyone in front of me. Also, towards the end of the race I honestly thought I was winning the beginner class because I assumed I had picked off all the beginners that I saw at the start line. Had I known 2nd was thirty seconds ahead, I obviously would have pushed harder. RJ2, the race I speak of was the Bigfoot Classic by the way. Great job on your Sport win!

  25. #25
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    Carl,

    I apologize for the issue of 100% becoming such a problem. My only point was that, as a new racer, you seemed to question your own effort for the race. As I recently posted, 100% doesn't necessarily mean redline capacity all of the time. Although, it seems most people on here seem to think it does. I only wanted to suggest that if you question your status as a racer and you believe you didn't give it your all in the race, you can't truly assess your status and neither can most people here. We can all offer our opinions and that is all that they are, mine included.


    Posted by BerkeleyMike: One of the skills they may learn is how to stay out of the way of REAL racers like jspharmd.
    Berkeley Mike,

    You obviously have more experience in racing than I do, since you are coaching racers. I've only been riding mountain bikes since 2004. I'm not sure when or why you felt the need to personally attack me and the opinion I posted. Everyone here has an opinion, and most of us are just trying to be helpful.

    If you really have such a problem with my statements, maybe you should explain why you think what I said was wrong. That would be more helpful to Carl than personally attacking me.
    It is difficult for some people to use the two words "too" and "to" appropriately.

    "I had to go where I went, to get where I am. Any other path would have taken me elsewhere, and I may have missed the joy."

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