Training, or lack thereof......
I am new to the racing side of mountain biking. I have been riding for about a year. Last July I had a wreck that put me out of commission for about 6 months. Had 2 discs operated on in my back. I had the surgery 11/01/2012. Got back on the bike 01/01/2013 (Dr said go for it).
I entered my first EVER race in a Cat 3 end of February beginning of March. I was out of shape BAD and DNF'd after 6.5 miles of up/down/washboards. I was having a pain in my leg that I used to have before surgery and got scared... Not to mention I had staples removed from a gall bladder surgery the day before the race. Yeah, Im crazy like that!!!
ANYWAY, I won 4th place and yesterday 2ndplace (I chalk this up to dumb luck/ lack of participation). My problem is I feel like crap during the race, no energy, feel like I cant go, dont have the get up and go, I walk portions every race. I cant climb a hill worth you know what.
I ride 12-18 miles per day on my mountain bike. I feel like I am in the worst shape ever. I thought riding so much would keep my weight down but Ive gained 6 pounds?????? I just feel like I am not doing something right here! Maybe need to do things differently? No hills here really to practice on. HELP!!!!
It seems like everyone is in better shape than me, goes faster, has more stamina, etc.... What gives? I (who doesnt) want to be the fastest, best in shape I can be).....
I just started racing and really trying to train for racing last year, so I can just give you advice for what has helped me improve so far. Obviously without knowing what you eat, when, etc it's hard to know why you've gained 6lbs but as far as preparing for races, this is what I would say.
I always feel like crap while I'm racing. I chalk that up to elevated heart rate because I want to do well and pushing myself more than I realize I am. That crappy feeling you have during a race, you need to attempt to duplicate that during the week.
To start out for a simple goal, once a week, go outside for a ride and try to make yourself suffer on the bike. I think for just starting, it doesn't matter how you achieve that. It could be short 10-20 sec sprints with a 10-30 sec rest between, or more if you need to for starters. Or a really high level fast paced ride that you can maintain for an hour, or build up to that and beyond as you get better. Since you don't have hills, that is how I try to make myself suffer when it warms up outside.
But again, you have to put your body in distress. You have to leave your house at least once a week knowing that you are going to push yourself to the limit like in a race. The more you do that over time you will start increasing the length of your rides at a certain pace, or decreasing your breaks between short sprints. Also NEVER stop while you are riding. EVER. That was the first thing I did when I started "training". No more breaks. The break is pedaling at a easier gear until you recover to go faster again.
There's several things that really have helped me over the years:
-Volume, 8-15 hours per week
-Consistency (6 days a week)
-Lots of zone 2 training. Teaches your body to use more fat as fuel (rather than lactic acid, which is inefficient)
-Long bottom-up approach (Zone 2, then tempo, then threshold......integrated over a few months). It takes patience and time, but works well.
-I also like having something to focus on every day, whether it's tempo, cadence work, sprint form, or recovery, etc., etc..
But every time I hit a wall, I just go back to the "Friel Basics"; and I somehow break some new PRs, even at my old age.
Since you've only been riding a year and are pretty new to racing, you could easily be overtraining if you are riding almost everyday. If you are riding everyday and not taking enough rest days you will always be tired; rest days are as important as workouts. Mileage is not so important, I think it's better to look at how long you are riding in minutes/hours.
Beginner races are generally between 30min and 60min? So endurance training is not much of a factor, it's more about speed and bike handling, and short recoveries from short hard efforts.
I have been getting myself back into race-shape after 20 years off, I've been at it for a little over a year and a half. The first year I rode twice a week all year, sometimes 3x a week, usually for 45min to 1.5 hours each time, 95% of the rides were on more technical narrow trails with a few short hard hills (quite a bit of fatique and headaches the first few months). The technical narrow trails are especially good for winter, you go slow because of the terrain and it's easier to stay warm. I was able to get pretty decent finishes in cat4 cyclocross after exactly one year of regular riding, from 15th to 5th (usually 40 racers). Cat 4 cx is pretty fast, faster than Cat3 mtn in these parts. I stepped up to 4x avg a week in November, most rides about an hour to 1:15, as long as 2 hours, no more than 2 days off in a row, no more than 3 days on in a row. 4 - 8 short hard climbs. Racing this winter/spring I've been on the cat2 podium every race (4 so far). I was a decent cat1 mtb racer 20 years ago, so I have some residual handling skills, but my fitness was very poor 1.5 years ago.
My point is; as a beginner you don't have to overthink it. Regular fun rides with some hard sections (highly elevated heart rates) and some challenging terrain can make you a good Cat3 mtb racer, getting satisfying results. More shorter rides are better than fewer longer rides, but remember that rest&recovery are critical. I've known guys who rode a lot of miles but were always slow, they always rode long slower paced rides, and they could ride slow all day long!
I started riding last year, and like you I gained about 5-8 pounds, and then started dropping weight. I chalked it up to muscle gain... muscle weighs more than fat, remember! I'm still not down to my "skinny college girl days" weight, but I am far more slimmer and toned looking at 145lbs and cycling, then I did at 130lbs 10 years ago. So don't get discouraged! Learn to ignore the scale numbers, and look for results you can see.
I started racing last year a month after I got a MTB, and am this spring starting to feel like I have a bit of fitness, so it all takes time! I use to suck at climbing, so I started forcing myself to go climb every hill I could find (which is easier said then done, depends on where you live of course - I'm in WY so we have lots of hills), and that has vastly improved my climbing and I see the results at races. Everything takes time, and I definitely get what you're feeling. I still get discouraged, but have to remind myself I am a lot newer at this whole racing thing than many of my fellow competitors are. Just keep at it!
Originally Posted by jimPacNW
Your work ethic is admirable - but can also be your problem. Even 'minor' surgery can create a lot of stress on the body - let alone racing/working out on top of it.
The problem for me is when I go mtbing, is with hammering hills (where I ride, there is no easy way to mtb) I am going 'aenorobic' - not a good thing to do everyday.
Joe Friel - How to Recover
Maybe add some rest and try to do some steady road / fire road rides like this:
Sweet Spot Part Deux | FasCat Coaching :: Cycling Coach for all Cyclists
You really do not need to do much 'hammering' to sharpen your 'redline' power - while 'redlining' all the time creates a lot of stress (fatigue) and not much gain.
Regarding the weight, since it's such a big part of climbing fast, weight loss is 80% what you eat, and only 20% what you do. I know a lot of people who ride a lot and use that as an excuse to eat whatever and then lament about not being able to lose weight. Eat as if you're trying to lose weight, with the only difference being a recovery drink after your ride and you'll start to see a major difference. Personally, I started following the Paleo Diet for Athletes by Joe Friel method, which is like Paleo adapted to include extra carbs on training days for endurance athletes. Recommending things like recovery drinks and the like that pure paleo diets might ignore. The best cookbook I've found to go with it is Well Fed. The ginger-lime shrimp is fantastic, in fact everything I've cooked out of that book so far has been awesome. Otherwise, stick with it. It sounds like you really know how to deal with adversity. Other people might have given up and just resigned themselves to the couch after what you've been through, and you're out kickin' butt on a mountain bike. That's awesome.
Do you use an HRM at all?
"Great things are not accomplished by those who yield to trends and fads and popular opinion."-Jack Kerouac
Cycling plays very nicely with longevity. There are a lot of older guys with thousands of miles in their legs that are winning races and doing very well. So don't compare yourself to someone who has been riding for multiple years. Beginners will see vast improvements year after year with just riding your bike more. So it just takes time and stick with it. Doing anything and you are probably already ahead of 90% of the population.
Like previously mentioned. If you are not doing a ride once a week that really hurts (the good kind of hurt, not bone/injury/joint hurt) then your body isn't going to make any adaptations. Hurt can mean either super hard short intervals or one long ride.
About weight. Last July I rode and ran more than any other month and I gained 5 pounds. It was because I was always so hungry from all of my workouts and races that I didn't pay any attention to what I was eating as long as food was going into my mouth.
Another piece of advice is to race against yourself. I know we all want to impress others by showing them how fast we are. However, the thing that makes me happiest is to see how I am improving month after month and year after year. Do a race one year and then do it the next and marvel at how much faster you have gotten.
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