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  1. #1
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    Race start - pulse through the roof, whaaat?!

    Just really getting into XC racing and one of the (many!) problems I have is the start - most riders are off full-tilt to get the early advantage but if I try to emulate that trick (to have any hope of keeping up with the pack), my pulse rate rockets through the roof, like close to 85% of MHR and takes at least a lap to settle down, regardless of how warmed up I am. After a lap or so, though, I am OK, ride at my normal race tempo (for better or worse), and the pulse rate settles.

    I know other riders say the same is true for them, but I am wondering is that basically a fitness issue, or is there also something else I should be thinking about? If it's down to fitness, what kind of training should I think about? Doing repeat standing starts would seem the obvious choice, but maybe that's not the point!

    I think this is important because I know I have a good chance of keeping pace with the first 5-6 riders in the races I ride (because I train with some of them), but not if I lose them out of sight within 10 seconds at the start!
    SPD shoes, pedals, cleats and the experience of going clipless. (a work in progress - let me know if I missed something!)

  2. #2
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    Yeah the start is crucial. That lead bunch has a totally different dynamic to the rest of the field, usually. Three people in that group are most likely gonna podium, and that gives a drive and speed to the group that's greater than the sum of it's parts. If you really think you've got a chance in a race, you need to be there in that group, hence the fast starts. There also seems to be some loose correlation between position and tech ability, so if you get a bad start, you could loose a minute or more on the first lap 'waiting' behind riders in the singletrack.

    But starts are a mental thing. You can work on fast standing starts after a good warm up, and this will prepare you mentally for the pain. I like to take a 10 min all-out hill climb once a fortnight (in place of a race if I don't have one). It's probably the most intense workout I do, but does wonders for me, at least.

  3. #3
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    yep need to replicate it outside of racing im affraid.
    Standing starts and sprints.

    Getting to the lead pack before the first singletrack makes a huge difference imho ... as getting stuck behind the roadies that cant do S/T is a fooking nightmare !

  4. #4
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    OK, so you're saying "sky-high pulse is normal at the start, deal with it", pretty much? Guess I will have to start actually doing race starts in training - one of those things you don't really think to train for, but are quite specific. Guess hammering some hills once in a while can't harm things either, but I do a fair bit of that and it doesn't seem to quite emulate that race-start situation for me: the start always seems like a world of pain to me that I never experience in training...

    Definitely agree about the need for a fast start - I have begun to make a point of really pushing the start because of early bottlenecks on the track like s/t or a tough ascent, but a lot of it has to do with pace too: if I lose sight of the leaders then there's no way I can keep pace of my own accord and eventually catch up with them - I just end up lagging more and more and it's bye-bye.

    Oh well, looks like more pain to deal with!
    SPD shoes, pedals, cleats and the experience of going clipless. (a work in progress - let me know if I missed something!)

  5. #5
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    Perceived effort and race pace

    Quote Originally Posted by markowe
    Guess hammering some hills once in a while can't harm things either, but I do a fair bit of that and it doesn't seem to quite emulate that race-start situation for me: the start always seems like a world of pain to me that I never experience in training...

    Oh well, looks like more pain to deal with!
    I re-learn every year at the first race that my perceived effort in training does not correlate with race pain. Above threshold/race pace work requires an objective measure of effort- that would be measuring power or speed or time.

    Here is one workout that the board coaches can comment on based on speed. Find a flat road or two track and ramp up the speed of your mtb to 23-25 mph (road) or 20-22 mph (two track) before backing off. Recover and repeat for as many times as you can stand it. Then go on a two hour, mtb tempo ride. (Based on a Dave Morris suggestion in his book).

  6. #6
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    i think the mental factor plays a huge role. If you are new to racing, nervousness causes the HR to skyrocket much faster than a few hard training starts.
    Also, if you hit the single track in the lead group, your body will hurt about the same but your mind will be more at ease, and your HR might recover faster.

    A couple times i've hit the trails dead last and passed most of the field, but its pretty impossible to catch the leaders.

  7. #7
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    85% of max HR? I'd say you aren't going hard enough.

  8. #8
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    85% of max HR? I'd say you aren't going hard enough.
    Good point. markowe, what % of MHR are you comfortable at? Everyone's different, but if I'm racing to win, my HR is usually Really High™ most of the time, easily beyond 90%, with surges beyond 95%. You might just need to keep racing and supplement it with some training to get comfortable at higher HRs. I'm no coach, but it sounds like a job for interval training to me.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by rob_co2
    i think the mental factor plays a huge role. If you are new to racing, nervousness causes the HR to skyrocket much faster than a few hard training starts.
    Oh, definitely! I thought that too, that there is an element of nerves. Having said that, I can pretty much replicate the "problem" in training too.
    SPD shoes, pedals, cleats and the experience of going clipless. (a work in progress - let me know if I missed something!)

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by mechBgon
    Good point. markowe, what % of MHR are you comfortable at? Everyone's different, but if I'm racing to win, my HR is usually Really High™ most of the time, easily beyond 90%, with surges beyond 95%. You might just need to keep racing and supplement it with some training to get comfortable at higher HRs. I'm no coach, but it sounds like a job for interval training to me.
    It's not perhaps a completely accurate measurement, but you're right, I COULD be going harder probably, but have always been reluctant to, fearing that I'll bury myself for the rest of the race!

    Certainly I figure more intervals would help (I do do them, but maybe not enough), but somehow even intervals don't quite seem to emulate that fast start. Will have to experiment with some REALLY fast starts and see what happens. Got a minor race on Sunday too, so will get a chance to test things out there too.
    SPD shoes, pedals, cleats and the experience of going clipless. (a work in progress - let me know if I missed something!)

  11. #11
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    Egad just race more and throw away your stupid gadgets.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by flargle
    Egad just race more and throw away your stupid gadgets.
    I don't use any gadgets, % of MHR is just a way of describing what sort of strain I perceive myself to be under. And I would love to race more, but there just aren't enough races around here. I think that's the point of training anyway - I can train almost every day, but I can't race every day...
    SPD shoes, pedals, cleats and the experience of going clipless. (a work in progress - let me know if I missed something!)

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by markowe
    I don't use any gadgets, % of MHR is just a way of describing what sort of strain I perceive myself to be under. And I would love to race more, but there just aren't enough races around here. I think that's the point of training anyway - I can train almost every day, but I can't race every day...
    Do yourself a favor, and flip your HRM/computer over on your handlebars during races, so you can't see it.

    It kills me when I see people looking at their HRM or power meter computer during a race. It's a training tool. Please don't use it to dictate your racing.

    If you're human like the rest of us, you produce various hormones which allow your body to elevate its performance under stress; the "fight or flight" reaction. Not going to speak for you, but my heart can run 10bpm higher in a race. I'd be selling myself short if I paid any attention to that and only raced according to what I'm capable of during a training session.

  14. #14
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    If you have a minor race Sunday, i say why not sprint hard at the start and try to get in the trails near the front of the group, see how you hold up. You might be surprised. Like others said, adrenaline and such pump through the veins and you go harder and faster than you normally could in training. If you end up not being able to sustain it, well you've learned a lot about where your upper limit actually is. Next time, aim for the middle.

    If you dont have a heart rate monitor, dont worry, i dont and plenty of others dont. But no reason to even guess at what HR was. Just say that it was surprisingly high, or felt unsustainable, or whatever. Even the HRM users debate about getting their actual max, which in effect could throw off all the percentage numbers. The main thing is to compare one effort to other efforts. You might want to look into the Rate Perceived Effort to judge though.

    So, are you in Serbia? When I traveled through a few years ago there were some beautiful mtns around, sure wish I could have ridden them! The trails in the video look fun by the way!

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by markowe
    I don't use any gadgets, % of MHR is just a way of describing what sort of strain I perceive myself to be under

  16. #16
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    I like to push the starts, but if someone is going harder than I want to go, especially on an opening climb, I'll let them go. I don't mind digging deep, but too deep and the legs might get a bit over blown. I have often brought guys back, as long as the trail isn't loaded with blockers.. that would be my main concern. But if I'm within a few riders of my nemesis, I think thats manageable and often times leaves enough extra in the legs to bring em back. Especially if its a longer race.

  17. #17
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    other ideas

    Aside from all the good advice here on training for faster starts, here are a few things you can do to enjoy your first races more and perhaps get better results... while you are learning how to start fast without blowing sky high.

    - pre-ride the course very carefully looking for passing lanes, especially in the first few miles. But also around the entire course.

    - warm up A LOT. Try a full hour with twenty minutes of some hard efforts. Hopefully you won't bring on lactic acid from the warm up, but you will have worked up a sweat and are completely opened up.

    - if the first two suggestions are working for you, and you are on a course that has sufficient passing, then don't start too fast. Letting others bury themselves can be an advantage to you if you truly have the fitness to ride a steady tempo throughout the race. But this is course dependent.

    - work on your passing techniques... there are many. Learn to read those you are trying to pass. Some will be willing to let you pass if you communicate clearly and make a bold move. Others will not be so willing, but usually will relent after repeated attempts. And there are handling techniques to passing on different types of trail sections. Confidence in your passing skills can help make up for slow starts.

  18. #18
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    For a faster start use a higher gear that wont spin you out in the first 50m. Many people start in too low of a gear, they spin rapidly in the beginning and try up-shifting whilst everyone is mashing and passing them. Whenever I race I try to get out in the lead right away because it prevents getting stuck behind pile-ups on large hills or hairy turns and lets you set your own pace once in singletrack (so long as its fast enough that people don't need to pass you). Singlespeed makes starting easy, just stand and mash!
    You should feel the blood pumping like crazy throughout your body after the first few hundred meters, but it cools down a bit once you get into the "groove" (for me anyway).
    This gets me a podium finish in cat 2 SS and top 15 in cat 2 overall.
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  19. #19
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    I know how you feel. I can never get going off the line at full speed. I can usually do a little sprint so i don't totally end up in the back. But it takes me a good mile or 2 before i can really get going. I try to do linger races so i can pass people and finish higher. The only thing that i have found that helps me get off the line faster is to do some short track racing or crits. Its basically on the limit for 30 min or more.

  20. #20
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    Garlock's response is justified, and a pretty accurate summation of this thread in light of the comment prompting his response :/
    Quote Originally Posted by tom2304
    Yep farkin.net is mostly immature kids asking how to put dual crown forks on hardtails and such.

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by Le Duke
    Do yourself a favor, and flip your HRM/computer over on your handlebars during races, so you can't see it.

    It kills me when I see people looking at their HRM or power meter computer during a race. It's a training tool. Please don't use it to dictate your racing.

    If you're human like the rest of us, you produce various hormones which allow your body to elevate its performance under stress; the "fight or flight" reaction. Not going to speak for you, but my heart can run 10bpm higher in a race. I'd be selling myself short if I paid any attention to that and only raced according to what I'm capable of during a training session.
    As I mentioned, I don't actually use an HRM (except a little in winter training), I was just giving an estimate of how stressed I feel - I could have said, "At the race start I get so out of breath I can't say four words one after the other" and meant the same thing. I was just trying to get my head round the big stress that seems to happen at the start and how to deal with it, although if I used an HRM I could see how it would be tempting to use it to dictate your race tempo - in fact that's what most riders I know do.

    I appreciate what you're saying - racing is just a whole different experience to training and you can never quite prepare yourself. However, I wonder how far to take that. I mean, like I said, that's the point of training, isn't it? To push, but also get to know your boundaries. If your experience in training says, "If I try to race at this tempo I will flake before the end" then that's got to count for something and I think I'd be taking a risk exceeding those boundaries. But then maybe you'll say that that's what separates the good riders from the average...

    As an experiment, I think I will try tomorrow's race at a higher pace (especially the start which I will ride flat out) than I would usually - and report on the results
    SPD shoes, pedals, cleats and the experience of going clipless. (a work in progress - let me know if I missed something!)

  22. #22
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    Sounds to me like it is just a matter of fitness/training. As you said, you are pretty new to XC racing. Keeping up on training rides with the guys you are racing against is a whole different ball game than actual racing. Practice fast starts and try to sustain a pace that is really uncomfortable for 10-15 minutes or so. Do that a couple of times each week. You have to be disciplined enough to REALLY make yourself suffer. How long have the guys that you are trying to keep up with been riding/racing? For most of us it takes a good amount of time to see "significant" gains in fitness/ability. In 2007 I was pretty much towards the back of the pack, 2008 I was consistently mid-pack, this year I have podiumed 2 out of 3 races and was only one spot away from the podium at the last race. Even with that I KNOW that I am another year away from being able to beat/compete with a couple of the guys "short of them having mechanicals" or just a really bad day. I guess what I am trying to say is just keep training, don't get down on yourself, be patient and above all else have fun.

  23. #23
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    I agree w/ LeDuke. I can never get as high of a heart rate in training as I do in a race. Your body is accepting a multitude of stimuli in a race that you just can't replicate in training, short of having a lion chasing you. Obviously training for fast starts is going to help, but racing will always hurt (if you care). My very first race 5 years ago (I was "training/riding" 3 hours a week) was painful. My race last weekend (now training 10 hours a week) was just as painful. The only difference is where you finish.
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  24. #24
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    I estimated that my heart rate was around 120% of MHR last Thursday, so I had to go check myself with my cardiologist.

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by rob_co2
    If you have a minor race Sunday, i say why not sprint hard at the start and try to get in the trails near the front of the group, see how you hold up. You might be surprised. Like others said, adrenaline and such pump through the veins and you go harder and faster than you normally could in training. If you end up not being able to sustain it, well you've learned a lot about where your upper limit actually is. Next time, aim for the middle.
    Holidays and what-not intervened, but going back to this thread, I have done some three races since and have definitely confirmed three principles:

    1) Warm up
    2) Warm up
    3) ...you get the idea...

    The first race I was really late and sort of piled out of the car straight into the starting lineup - needless to say I was a wreck the first couple of laps and didn't finish very well (though oddly I picked up my first-ever podium, just because there was hardly anyone racing in my category ). The second two races I prerode the trail, or parts of it at near-race speed, fairly close to the start timewise, and... hey presto! I was up there with the pack, no problems, and no ridiculously high heart-rate, because I was nicely warmed up. The only limit was my general race ability and so I could ride my best without flaking out. Great feeling!


    Quote Originally Posted by rob_co2
    So, are you in Serbia? When I traveled through a few years ago there were some beautiful mtns around, sure wish I could have ridden them! The trails in the video look fun by the way!
    Hey, yeah, I am a Brit, but have lived in Serbia since 1996. What were you doing in this part of the world? Well worth a visit, we do a fair bit of recreational mountain biking/camping and there is a lot of freedom here to ride where you want. The trail you saw, I guess, would be the recent XC race I filmed, which is one of the tougher ones technically, especially in those muddy conditions, but really great to improve my skills on.

    Thanks for the ideas guys, improving all the time..!
    SPD shoes, pedals, cleats and the experience of going clipless. (a work in progress - let me know if I missed something!)

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