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  1. #1
    Senior Member Smallguy's Avatar
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    learning how to pace yourself

    I race primarily MTB (mtb race forums is dead so I hope it's fine to ask here) all races are sub 2 hours winners in my class generally finishing in 1h:30.

    this was my first year and was not happy with my results

    I always finished feeling like I had not left it all out on the course and could have ridden for a while longer or ridden harder and never finished in the top half of my category.

    I believe my main issue is I did not have confidence in my fitness level and held back in the beginning allowing riders I could have beat beat me by getting too much of a lead to pull them back in.

    do you have any tips on getting enough confidence in your fitness to know you can hold a pace near or at your LTHR and still recover ?

  2. #2
    ..... Jynx's Avatar
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    you can pace yourself a couple of different ways.

    1. If you have a power meter then depending on the length of the race you can use a % of FTP.

    2. If you do not have any power meter use perceived rate of exertion. Unfortunately to get a solid and accurate value takes a lot of experience.

    generally people go too hard in the beginning and fizzle out at the end. usually you start a little easy and go harder and harder.

    try making an effort at the 1 hour mark to really kick up the intensity. it is going to be trial and error at first to find the effort you should be doing.

  3. #3
    Senior Member Nate552's Avatar
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    What kind of tools do you have at your disposal? HR Monitor? Power?

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    Quantum Mesa Cycles McTufferton's Avatar
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    Train with people in higher categories then yourself. If you can keep up with them, you can keep up / beat most others in your category.

    It's not scientific. It's not based on numbers. But it's a confidence builder. You line up at every race thinking (or knowing) you can ride these guys off your wheel.

    I don't own a powermeter. I just (two weeks ago) got a HRM. I don't have a very structured training program. All I have is a team chock-full of guys who are faster then me, and I do my best to keep up. It's a simple approach that's getting me through the ranks pretty quickly.

    I'll add to not get discouraged in your results. Keep it fun while working really, really, really hard.

    That's all I got... Good luck this year.
    "Jens Voigt is unable to use the internet because he's always dropping his connection"
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    You can't really pace with a power meter on a mtb.

    But get yourself a Heart rate monitor. Figure out a bpm that you can sustain for a long time and shoot for that while you race. Though heart rate isn't super accurate since you can be +/- 10bpm depending on your health (fatigue, dehydration, sickness) and weather (temp, humidity, etc)

    Race smart too. Knowing the course is key. No sense in hammering yourself silly going down a hill when you know there is a huge climb coming up. And best of all, experience. Sorry it seems like a no brainer but there is no substitute for experience. Race a lot, ride a lot. Eventually you'll find your limits and how your body reacts when you are about to crack. Take mental (or physical) notes on how you felt during the race/ride and how you felt afterwards.

    Actually the most important data you can get, is when you go to failure. When you crack/bonk/hit the wall, you have reached your absolute limit. Try to remember how you felt leading up to the point of failure (immediately before, 5 minutes, 15, 30 minutes). So for the next time, when you start to feel those effects, you know you need to either slow down, eat, or drink more.

  6. #6
    Senior Member Smallguy's Avatar
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    I do have an HRM

    I thought the answer would more than likely come down to experience

  7. #7
    Senior Member Smallguy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by nitropowered View Post

    Race smart too. Knowing the course is key. No sense in hammering yourself silly going down a hill when you know there is a huge climb coming up. And best of all, experience. Sorry it seems like a no brainer but there is no substitute for experience.
    This is one thing I know I lacked most of the courses I raced were places I had never ridden at and did not do a pre-ride of..certainly something I plan to improve on

  8. #8
    Senior Member agoodale's Avatar
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    Fear of not being able to finish the race may be holding you back. Take one race and go all out until you bonk. Then you'll know what your limit is. You may surprise yourself.

  9. #9
    ride lots be safe Creakyknees's Avatar
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    it's your racing strategy. mtb races start fast, and then the guys at the front burn everybody else off.

    so, the leaders may be "pacing" but the guys behind are holding on for dear life. that's what you should do. eventually you'll blow up but you'll at least know where your limits are.

    and you'll probably finish higher.
    "have fun and be kind"
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  10. #10
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    not sure where you are racing or what the courses are like, but around here (eastern NC) the races are usually multiple laps on a 6 mile or so course. That makes pacing easier because after the first lap you know what to expect.
    Even if your races are not like this, perhaps you can do it for training. I ride a local trail that has a 3 mile loop and time it to get a good idea of how hard I can push and for how long.

    If it is really technical you are limited by your experience and skills. If it is more open then it is more about fitness.
    Coming from road biking to mtbing, I find my technical skills suck but my fitness lets me pass a lot of people in the second half of the race.

  11. #11
    Slow'n'Aero DrWJODonnell's Avatar
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    I would disagree that in MTBing there is no use for a power meter, but that is just my opinion. Also my opinion, having a HRM will be helpful. My oversimplified opinion/suggested solution? Train hard. As hard as you can. Not all of the time but kick it at or above race pace in training and discover your limitations (approximate of course). Training is the time to fail. Racing is the time to succeed or fail trying your hardest. In road racing there are those willing to hang with the pack, and then there are those whose mentality is "off the front or off the back." You sound like someone who is happy to finish rather than putting everything on the line. Get an idea of what you might be cabable of during training and then go for it when you race.

    Personally, there is no better feeling than knowing I gave it my all, even if I bonked/cracked/came in DFL.

  12. #12
    Wheelsuck Fat Boy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by agoodale View Post
    Fear of not being able to finish the race may be holding you back. Take one race and go all out until you bonk. Then you'll know what your limit is. You may surprise yourself.
    You know, this was basically what I was thinking. Take one race and just go like hell. Go fast enough that you _know_ you're not going to make it to the finish without blowing up. You won't, but it's a damn good way to set an upper bound of how hard you can go and it'll let you know where you stand with respect to your competition. OK, so people will go by you at the end, but there very well might be a point in there where everyone else assumes they're racing for second and slows down which helps you finish higher than you would have.

  13. #13
    Senior Member Smallguy's Avatar
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    fear of not finishing certainly held me back.... guess my first race next season which will be a short track event so a little shorter I'll put it all on the line and see what happens.

    I've certainly never bonked in a race

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    Bottom line is fitness level. This will be my fifth season mountain bike racing. I HAD to go with a pack start to keep from blowing up right away. I then paced off the slower riders and managed to finish toward the back half of the group. As the years have gone by I've moved up mostly by starting a little faster, but having more endurance and making up time on the second or third lap. But if you really want to win, you've GOT to have fitness and be able to go fast right away.

    Mtn bike racing is like a crit - tons of surges and rests. You've got to be able to redline for a fairly long time and be able to rest a relatively short time before redlining again. The start should always be a surge. Your heartrate should be through the roof within five minutes. This helps keep slower riders out of your way. A narrow singletrack climb is the worst place to get stuck behind a slower rider, yet nine out of our ten state races have this relatively early in a race. Suffer, get out front, then back off a bit. The rest comes with downhill technique, which is no small part. I've lost quite a bit of ground to superior down-hillers. When you've got the fitness and technique down, you'll get results.

  15. #15
    Making a kilometer blurry waterrockets's Avatar
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    I think it does come down to experience. You can accelerate your rate of experience gain though. One thing you can try is hill repeats with negative splits. If you go out for 5 hill repeats on a hill that takes about 5'. Try to do each climb just a little faster than the previous one, with the 5th one being almost all-out and still remaining close to the others.

    The first time you try, you might beat your time the 2nd run, and maybe again on the 3rd, but you're likely to realize that you started too hard and be unable to cut time for the remaining climbs.

    Once you get your first true negative split workout (which is significant if you're going fairly hard on the last two), you can then start to tighten the group. I can run hill repeats with about a 3-5" gain on each run, and have done one 5x5 workout where all the times were improvements, and the total time spread was only 10 seconds. This was before I got a power meter.

    Now I have a pretty good handle on my pace, in general. The power meter is a bigger help, but I'm familiar with the sensations when I'm close to my threshold.

  16. #16
    Wheelsuck Fat Boy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by waterrockets View Post

    The tenth time you try, you might beat your time the 2nd run, and maybe again on the 3rd, but you're likely to realize that you started too hard and be unable to cut time for the remaining climbs.

    = my pacing skills

  17. #17
    runnin' down a dream edbikebabe's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Smallguy View Post
    This is one thing I know I lacked most of the courses I raced were places I had never ridden at and did not do a pre-ride of..certainly something I plan to improve on
    Pre-riding will help. Knowing the course is key in MTB.

  18. #18
    Tilting with windmills txvintage's Avatar
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    One thing that hasn't been mentioned or asked is if you are racing with a team or unatattached? If you are racing with a team your contribution may be different than going solo.

    I have an at least near term reality to accept that my role will not be to be guided to the finish. My role will be to have at least one good bullet and be ready to fire it when the time comes. This will have a huge impact on how you pace yourself during a race.

    If riding unattached, you are racing for position/points, or the win. This will require learning where your limits are and manageing them. In a team situation, you may have to hit those limits at different times, then either go off the back or hang it up.

  19. #19
    Resident Alien Racer Ex's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by txvintage View Post
    One thing that hasn't been mentioned or asked is if you are racing with a team or unatattached?
    He's an MTB guy asking about MTB races here because most of the answers in the MTB forum contain the words "dude" and "sweet bud".

    MTB races are essentially messy TT's with some yelling thrown in.

  20. #20
    Making a kilometer blurry waterrockets's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fat Boy View Post
    = my pacing skills
    Yep, it is a skill you can learn -- practice practice. The hill repeat workout is a great VO2Max workout as well as pacing practice.

    If you have a power meter, STUCI threshold intervals are great too. (custom workout name there: Same Time Until Can't Improve)

  21. #21
    Wheelsuck Fat Boy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by waterrockets View Post
    Yep, it is a skill you can learn -- practice practice. The hill repeat workout is a great VO2Max workout as well as pacing practice.

    If you have a power meter, STUCI threshold intervals are great too. (custom workout name there: Same Time Until Can't Improve)
    I do STCUI's. Just not well. You know the first 3 rules of time trialling, right?

    1. Don't start too fast
    2. Don't start too fast
    3. Don't start too fast

    I'm getting better, but it is a definitely a learned trait.

  22. #22
    Making a kilometer blurry waterrockets's Avatar
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    I've actually found that in that first minute, a little hard-hitting nonsense doesn't hurt the rest of my ride. I've got this high-end ATP/AWC stuff that seems to be available only at the beginning, and can help out the overall time and average power.

    I also tend to lose focus in a TT, so going fast when I'm paying attention is just good economy

  23. #23
    Senior Member Duke of Kent's Avatar
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    As RacerEx said, MTB races are really sloppy TTs, with some yelling thrown in.

    However, as I've discovered through trial and error, the difference between a road TT and a MTB race is that a hard start in an MTB race won't necessarily kill you, whereas it will in a road TT.

    The best races I've had have been the ones where I go out with the pros, go until I blow, and then hang on for dear life. Having other fast people to ride with will not only help you pace yourself at a level you probably wouldn't be able to achieve solo, and it will show you the fast lines necessary to pick your way around the course in the quickest possible manner.

    The worst races I've had were the ones where I decided to pace myself at the start, and had to pick my way through much slower competition. Not only were they getting in the way, but they were taking sloppy lines and kept me from getting up to a nice cruising speed.
    "If a non personal post makes you feel as if you've been attacked, maybe the problem IS you."

  24. #24
    Wheelsuck Fat Boy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Duke of Kent View Post
    The best races I've had have been the ones where I go out with the pros, go until I blow, and then hang on for dear life. Having other fast people to ride with will not only help you pace yourself at a level you probably wouldn't be able to achieve solo, and it will show you the fast lines necessary to pick your way around the course in the quickest possible manner.
    Use a rigid fork and drop bars and it's called cyclocross. I've had the same experience. I can generally go really damn hard (for me) for about a 1/2 hour and then I drop off. After a 10 or 15 minute drop off, I'm good for another 3-5 minute hard push to the end. The trick is to not drop off too much during that 10-15 minute lull.

  25. #25
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    "I believe my main issue is I did not have confidence in my fitness level and held back in the beginning allowing riders I could have beat beat me by getting too much of a lead to pull them back in.'

    I think pacing is his problem. Too slow of a pace I am not saying completely blow yourself up in the first 10 minutes, but do not think quite so much. The only thought you are thinking is not leting some rider who you think you can beat, go.

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