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  1. #1
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    I cant seem to improve...Help?

    Just had my 3rd race and I finished 31 out of 34. Pretty much where ive been finishing all year (well my 2 other races).

    I find my its not my legs, or my bike (I actually handle advanced single track very well), its my lungs. I cant catch my breath after about 2 miles and it doesnt come back till the race is over.

    My training has consisted mostly of riding the local xc trails and increasing my mileage as I improve. However im finding it harder and harder to get my heart rate up doing the tracks here over and over again.

    I have 2 races left and im being realistic that its probably too late to make much of a difference at this point (both are in next 4 weeks).

    Ideas?
    People ask me all the time "who beat you up"? I tell them "a tree". They just look at me funny....

  2. #2
    Fat-tired Roadie
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    With all due respect.

    The XC Racing and Training Master Thread (FAQ) v1.0

    Did you try warming up this time? Did you try pacing yourself?
    "Don't buy upgrades; ride up grades." -Eddy Merckx

  3. #3
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    Drink more beer - more sex with strangers

  4. #4
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    What testing have you done? Races aren't a very good way to judge if you're improving because the competition is not a constant.

  5. #5
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    Pedal in a higher gear. If your legs are fine but your out of breath you are probably in too small a gear. It makes you pedal more and you get out of breath quicker.

  6. #6
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    I'm no coach

    but i did stay at a holiday inn

    anyway, the heart rate comment you made makes me think of two things. one, you may be tired from not taking rest days. Many people have trouble getting their heart rate up when they are training/racing every day and not getting recovery. You have to rest hard and train hard to increase fitness

    Two, if you are rested and can't get the heart rate up, then that could mean you are not riding at high enough intensity in some of your training rides. In training, you have to periodically (occasionally) ride at race pace, or even above race pace, to get the body used to that stress. If you are always riding at a comfortable pace in training and then are suddenly put at the crazy start pace of a mtb race, your physiology will undergo 'epic fail'.

    There are lots of training threads and recommended training books here, and although they differ in the details, they all combine the concepts of developing endurance by longer than race length (slow) rides, developing speed (strength) by shorter than race length (fast) rides, and periodically resting with slow, shorter than race length rides.

    You seem motivated, so get ready to ride all winter in the cold or inside on a trainer to setup for serious training pain next spring so that you can kill it next summer. So plenty of time to read some training books and threads and setup a plan for yourself. Or if you want to make an investment, hire a coach.

    Good Luck!

  7. #7
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    Road Bike


    .....or your mountain bike on the road. Find some kind of interval plan and get a heart rate monitor. Doing specific workouts is so much easier on the road.

  8. #8
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    pattongb: My training has consisted mostly of riding the local xc trails and increasing my mileage as I improve.

    This is the reason that "just ride" does not work if the goal is to maximize performance. You need to get into more and more focused training and intervals are probably the best way to take youself to the next level. You need to push your system beyond your current comfort level, and intervals allow you to do that in a very systematic way.
    My rides:
    Lynskey Ti Pro29 SL singlespeed
    KHS Team 29
    S-Works Roubaix SL3 Dura Ace
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  9. #9
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    It sounds like you "are having a hard time getting your heart rate up" compared to before. If so, then it sorta sounds like you are improving imho.

    Research some training tips and create some sort of routine..

  10. #10
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    Sounds like you're not that naturally talented at this sport......just like me. :-)

    But keep it going, read some good training books, and keep at it. Then it's just all about why you're racing: for placings, or for health. I've take the health approach and that has kept me racing for 8 years now; and at almost 45 yrs old, I'm in the best shape of my life. (And my health insurance just sent me a $100 check for having excellent biometrics).

    My improvement rate was slow, but I did keep improving. It's hard to make improvements within a season, but good steps can be made going from one season to the next.
    Head Coach, Ben Lomond HS MTB Team
    www.utahmtb.org
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    http://www.roostersbikersedge.com/

  11. #11
    LMN
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    Quote Originally Posted by pattongb View Post
    Just had my 3rd race and I finished 31 out of 34. Pretty much where ive been finishing all year (well my 2 other races).

    I find my its not my legs, or my bike (I actually handle advanced single track very well), its my lungs. I cant catch my breath after about 2 miles and it doesnt come back till the race is over.

    My training has consisted mostly of riding the local xc trails and increasing my mileage as I improve. However im finding it harder and harder to get my heart rate up doing the tracks here over and over again.

    I have 2 races left and im being realistic that its probably too late to make much of a difference at this point (both are in next 4 weeks).

    Ideas?
    It takes time, a lot of time.

    Getting fast doesn't happen in a couple of weeks, it takes years and years of work.
    "The best pace is suicide pace, and today is a good day to die." Steve Prefontaine

  12. #12
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    What I found that works for me, ride one day in zone 2 for 1.5-2 hours then the next day do intervals and repeat. Also, rest is very important. Rest one-2 days a week depending on the workload that week and dont rest the day before a race. Preride slow with a few 2-5 min at high intensity. And warm up before the race.


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  13. #13
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    i had the exact problem my first year of racing. I was used to riding at a leisure pace and my heart went crazy when I started racing. To fix this, my second year in racing for last two weeks before the first race I worked on starts. I basically just found a decent size hill and just plugged it for a one minute interval. I built this up over the two weeks. This led to huge improvements for me. Stick in there, the guys I ride with say it takes about 4-5 years before you get your "cycling legs" !

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Novice View Post
    Stick in there, the guys I ride with say it takes about 4-5 years before you get your "cycling legs" !
    Really??? 4 years? Wow... I wonder what the science behind that is about.

  15. #15
    Fat-tired Roadie
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    For what it's worth, other sports have sayings like that too. Boxing, for example.

    I doubt that there's anything magic about four years, per se. I think it's probably just a good compromise between long enough for someone to really improve his skill and aerobic capacity and short enough that diminishing returns haven't set in too badly.
    "Don't buy upgrades; ride up grades." -Eddy Merckx

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by AndrwSwitch View Post
    For what it's worth, other sports have sayings like that too. Boxing, for example.

    I doubt that there's anything magic about four years, per se. I think it's probably just a good compromise between long enough for someone to really improve his skill and aerobic capacity and short enough that diminishing returns haven't set in too badly.
    Oh okay. So, the point is, for the average racer ( or below average; like me), he or she will hit his or her stride in a few seasons. "It just takes some time."

  17. #17
    It's about showing up.
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    It took 5-6 years for me to become a decent mtb'er, and I am a natural athlete, with road experience at the time. Learning how to race? You learn to respect all that this takes on so many levels. Even natural atheltes well-conditioned over years from another sport take their lumps on the race course.

    So...patience; no tips or tricks. Find a plan and try to keep it fun.

    In the meantime take a look at the success you have had; finishing, no mechanicals, no cramping, keeping your food down, not being burnt out. Just spend time on this forum and you will see what takes the pins out from under each of us. Look at that, build on it, and see what you can learn for the rest of the racing season.
    I don't rattle.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jnthomps08 View Post
    Really??? 4 years? Wow... I wonder what the science behind that is about.
    Science? Hardly. Just karma, dues, sweat, and humiliation.

    I like to say that you can't make baklava with one thick layer of dough. It's not just muscle.

    I train beginner riders to be racers and it takes two years just to get their attention. At the end of that second season you can see the lightbulb go on. At the 4 th year the knowledge and skill is amazing. 4 years, 3 workouts per week, 6 months per year. Bring them out to the local shop ride and they destroy everyone. They compete well in cat 1 & 2.
    I don't rattle.

  19. #19
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    Unless you're a total freak, it takes years. Years after year after consistent effort makes the difference. Consistency and dedication are the most important things - and it still hurts like crazy.

    I improved like crazy after 2 years of consistent effort. But that is what it takes. years of consistent effort.

    Get after it, and keep after it.

  20. #20
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    There was a thread back in the spring asking about how for behind is forever behind. At the beginning of the year I felt like I was forever behind, but I have keep at it and have seen my time gap on the leader shrink a good bit even though my placement has not increased all that much. I was somewhat frustrated with my time in the beginning but now I feel like I learn something every race. I am hoping this translates into top 1/3 finishes next year.
    The most important thing I have learned is how to eat before the race, I typically train in the late evening but all races are in the morning. So how I felt during races had nothing to do with how I felt when training. At the beginning of the year I was following some of the recommendations listed in these threads but they simply did not work for me as I was running out of energy, often very early in the race. Now that I know how I need to eat, that has helped me more than anything and has made my time spent at the races much more enjoyable.

  21. #21
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    I did not realize that there is a 4-year "switch" that turns on. Not joking or being sarcastic, but actually providing me some hope...

    I used to ride a long time ago, took many years off and in 2009 picked the bike back up. In 2010 I did some local races as a beginner, trained last winter, and in 2011 did a bunch of races in the Sport category. I did decent in sport, usually finishing towards the top. Yesterday was the last race of the season, so I did my first race in the Expert (geared) category, and finished around middle of the bottom half. I was ~17 minutes behind first on a 2 hour race.

    I know my endurance is/was lacking, but I got beaten pretty handily. I don't know if 2012 I should start back in sport (different age group) or just stay in expert and take my whoopings. I wasn't DFL, but I could see it from my position.

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by LMN View Post
    It takes time, a lot of time.

    Getting fast doesn't happen in a couple of weeks, it takes years and years of work.
    +8000

    If you want to be fast it's a lifestyle change and you aren't going to be fast overnight or even a year from now (unless you're a freak of nature). I was a year into racing/training before I realized it was a lifestyle change. At the end of my 3rd season it's apparent that all the hard work pays off, but there will always be someone faster and/or more naturally gifted.

    During the first year of training I think it's more about riding your bike more, and learning your limits while pushing yourself. Don't take breaks while you're out on the trail (unless doing intervals), you don't get breaks while racing. If you think your races are going to be about an hour try and do some 1.5 hour rides at a fast pace. Keep working your way up, but don't go overboard. You can throw intervals into the mix as well, but you'll likely need to work on your base fitness before focusing on the high end. A lot of it is about consistency and continually building your fitness day over day, month over month, year over year. You have to enjoy racing, or learn to enjoy racing, because it's going to take time.
    Last edited by tiflow_21; 09-26-2011 at 12:03 PM.

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by jonw9 View Post
    I did not realize that there is a 4-year "switch" that turns on. Not joking or being sarcastic, but actually providing me some hope...

    I used to ride a long time ago, took many years off and in 2009 picked the bike back up. In 2010 I did some local races as a beginner, trained last winter, and in 2011 did a bunch of races in the Sport category. I did decent in sport, usually finishing towards the top. Yesterday was the last race of the season, so I did my first race in the Expert (geared) category, and finished around middle of the bottom half. I was ~17 minutes behind first on a 2 hour race.

    I know my endurance is/was lacking, but I got beaten pretty handily. I don't know if 2012 I should start back in sport (different age group) or just stay in expert and take my whoopings. I wasn't DFL, but I could see it from my position.
    My 2 cents: Race Expert, as long as you weren't DFL you will have a much more enjoyable race day if you race expert. 99% of the people in Expert and just plain fun to race against (they ask if you want to pass uphill or downhill and yield when you want to pass, they give you encouragement when you pass or when they pass you, will be more social at the start/finish line), where as in sport I found that 99% of the people not to be very kind racers (think that they are faster than everyone, tell you to shut up if you make polite conversation during the race, will not yield when you try to pass).

  24. #24
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    Thanks to all for the advice.

    I was pretty frustrated after my last race. I changed up a few things.

    One- Attitude. I realize im a fiery competitor so coming in near the bottom is hard for me to swallow. But this isnt going to happen over night (me being competetive) and im not 25 anymore. So ive adjusted my goals. I have finished every race this year (4) and I have never been last. So I take that in stride.

    Two - Training. I got the Mountain Bikers Training Bible and the first thing I realized is I was not training properly. Not even close. I spent all summer pushing myself even if I was tired and my legs were sore. I did very little resting. I probably could be 2x fitter right now if I had rested my body from time to time. Before this last race I only rode 3x compared to my normal 5 or 6.

    Three - Strategy. I decided on my last race to never let myself get completely out of breath no matter how much I had to slow down. This worked miracles. I found myself really pushing it on the last lap and even had my first race to the finish line against another racer (I won )

    I am in this for the next 10 years or more, so im willing to give it time. Starting this winter with a kick ass training regiment.

    Oh and I finished 8th this last weekend. It was out of 11 racers in my age group but 5 of those had top ten finishes this year. I was under 2 minutes off the 4th place racer. I would say I finally am seeing improvements, which feels great. If the usual 30 -35 racers had been present (it was raining all weekend so many stayed away), im confident I would have had my first top 20 finish.

    Every race I learn a bit more.....
    People ask me all the time "who beat you up"? I tell them "a tree". They just look at me funny....

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