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Open MTB Coaching Day Q&A’s May 2014

I had a great time again on our LW Coaching Facebook page with my monthly Open MTB Coaching Day Q&A’s May 2014. I spent the whole day live online chatting about mountain bike training and racing. We had questions about how to get faster, what to do for a peak race in 2 weeks time, how to throw extra races into the training plan and how to fuel for Leadville 100. Read through all the Q & A’s below.

Next month  my live open coaching day is Tues day June 1st on our LW Coaching Facebook page. Come along, like our FB page and join our chat. You are invited!


Open MTB coaching day


Corinna M:  Hi Lynda!!! First a huge thanks for hosting these open coaching days! It is so generous of you! I am currently in week 4 of your time crunched cat 1 base program. I am racing a xc race this weekend and was wondering what my pacing plan should be? Thanks again!

Coach Lynda:  Start fast building HR quickly to zone 5 but not max pace. Hold a little bit back. Then settle in to a sustainable threshold pace for the rest of the race. HR should be in zone 4-5 most of the race. If your race is on Saturday, take Sunday off. Have fun racing XC!

Corinna M: Thanks Lynda!!!


Maaike E:  Hi Lynda; I’m about 2 weeks away from my A race and feel ready; looking forward to the taper and putting a fine point on my fitness, and then having fun during the race! One thing I still struggle with though is how to best access food during races. I wear a Hydrapack so cannot readily access my back pockets without taking my pack off, and although I can stick a gel or two in my pant legs for easy access, I cannot stick bulkier food items there such as rice cakes or bigger energy bars. My strategy thus far has been to just quickly stop and yank off my pack, grab something from there and stuff it in my mouth, but I’m wondering if other solutions might be quicker, like perhaps a handlebar bag, or a pack like the Osprey Raptro that has pockets that wrap around your waist for quicker access. I know there’s personal preference coming into play here, but any thoughts/suggestions/tips for this? Looking forward to seeing all the questions today!

Coach Lynda:  Great question. In a race, if you cannot access your food without stopping you will probably under-fuel. I am a real fan of the mountain feedbags made by Revelate Designs. You can open and close it with one hand and get food in and out quickly. If you close it tightly it will keep the contents dry in the rain. I know from experience! This bag will be perfect for you.

Maaike E: Thanks for the link – I’ll get me one!


Lou M: Hi Lynda, I have been waiting for this day.  My question is a general one.  58, now more consistent in my training and riding MTB, riding anywhere from 16-30 mile per ride 1-2 days a week, looking to do Barn Burner (54 mile) in Sept and next year the 300 part of the  AZ Trail… But my question is on speed, how do I get faster.. I avg about 9-10 mph, yet when I compete same age group is doing 13-14 mph.. how do I get there??? or close

Coach Lynda:  Lou, one word: Intervals!

Add some shorter rides with interval sessions. Start with 2 x 20 min intervals at HR zone 3 tempo pace and 10 minutes recovery after each in HR zone 1. Do this interval session 1-2 times per week. Gradually over a few weeks increase the intensity of your intervals to HR zone 4 threshold pace. Next change the intervals to 4 x 4 minutes with 3 minutes HR zone 1 recovery after each and increase the intensity to HR zone 5 VO2 max pace. Also add in some sprint training. Mix up your longer rides with these shorter interval based rides to increase your fitness, power and speed on the bike. You’ll be surprised how quickly the increased speed from intervals kicks in.

Lou M:  Thanks. I am new to your site. Can you explain or share the Zone and Tempo levels.

Coach Lynda:  I know there is a ton of info on my site. It can be tough to sort through. Have a look at this Training intensity guidelines page. It gives an explanation of how each zone should feel.

HR zones are set by doing a field test. You do a maximum effort for 20 minutes, take your average heart rate from that 20 minutes and put it into my training level and zone calculator. It will give you your HR training zone numbers.

This test is written into all of my training plans.

Lou M:  Very cool

Coach Lynda:  Shout out with any other questions today. That is what I am here for!!


Robert B:  Good morning Lynda! I raced the WOR Offroad last Sat….crazy snowstorm etc, WOW. Trained well/big improvements all winter, but I struggle (mentally mostly, I guess) with the first 5 mile climb. I can’t seem to get mentally in my ZONE, and climb strong like I do normally. Didn’t used HRM or ear buds, so maybe that would have helped. As an older rider I already know several young sprinters will out-climb me, but it “feels like I’m falling behind more than I should, even though I beat the bottleneck this year which was #1 in my strategy this year. Too bad I could not use my endurance climbing strengths in the shortened race, due to the storm that blew in that morning.

Coach Lynda:  Robert, you are right on track by having small goals for the start of the race. Congrats on nailing your “beat the bottleneck” goal.

Take a good look at your race warm-up routine. It sounds like you are starting cold. I recommend adding more intensity to your warm-up to raise the juices and get you in go-fast race mode from the gun.  How does your race warm up routine compare to days when you are climbing strongly? Masters racers typically need more time to warm up than younger racers.

Robert B:  Lynda, thanks for the warm-up intensity suggestion. I do find a longer warm-up is better these days. I also notice stronger riding on longer non-stop rides. I have more sustained power than I realize when I push further/longer, a direct result of this year’s training and alt. acclimatizing. Racing again in 3 weeks and looking forward to applying a few more strategies. Chat again soon.


Bruce B: Hi, Lynda! Thanks so much for doing these. I’m in the middle of week 4 of your Build, Peak, and Race 12 week plan for XC MTB Racing Masters. On tap today are 3 x 15 L4/Z4 intervals. 1st MTB Race of the state series is this Sunday. Is it okay and recommended to do all 3 intervals today this close to the race as long as I hit the recovery food/plan post-ride? Tomorrow is core/recovery spin and I figured Saturday could be a light recovery as well to lead into Sunday’s race….

Coach Lynda: Bruce, if it is a low priority training race and you are feeling fresh, strong and fully recovered today do the 3 x 15. If it is a high priority race for you and you feel fresh and strong today, drop the intervals to two sets. If you are feeling tired at all warm up and do one set. Have a great race. I appreciate the thanks!

Bruce B:  Thanks, Lynda.


Laina ZH: Hello! Is it ok to go a little over & under briefly when doing intervals on the trails? It’s more due to the terrain. I could do them indoors on the trainer if it is better. Mainly concerned about 3 x 12 L4 intervals.

Coach Lynda:  Laina, doing your intervals outside is better (if it is safe) than on a trainer. Less than exact perfect intervals outside are better training than perfect intervals on a trainer. Going briefly over and under target intensity is ok so long as more than 80% of the interval  duration is in the correct power bin.

Laina ZH:  this is great, thank you! i was definitely getting more than 80% in the right zone. yay!


Adrian F:  Hi Lynda, I am excited to hear your feedback on a couple of things. I race a local mountain bike series in Indiana as a Cat 2 Open class. I think that I often miss the opportunity to capitalize on a post-race or event recovery ride due to not knowing how or when that should take place after an event such as a race. They often say big gains come during recovery, should my recovery ride be something like an hour easy spin (zone 2) on the trainer? Should I have ANY harder brief bursts in there? And should my recovery ride be the very next day after a race, or two days? Does that timing matter? Sorry for all the combined questions and thanks in advance for your help. Adrian.

Coach Lynda:  Adrian, a recovery ride should be 30-60 min, all in HR zone 1. Pedal very easily, with light force. Depending on how tired you are after the race, do your recovery ride the next day or take one day off and do the recovery ride 2 days post-race. You are right that recovery is a huge piece of the getting fitter puzzle.


Jennifer S: Hello Lynda! I recently looked at your article laying out the race plan for a 50 miler. I loved the big picture of it. Have you written one for a 100 miler? Or would you mind throwing out a few pearls about how it should be different from a 50 miler?

Coach Lynda:  This Executing your first 100 mile mountain bike race article is another similar article. It is a good plan to divide your race plan into quarters with pacing, fueling, strategy and motivation mantras for each quarter. Mistakes made in the first quarter are magnified in a 100 miler. Being conservative in the first quarter is most often a solid strategy.


Barb M: Hi Lynda, I’ve heard two schools of thought on fueling for endurance races. One says if you fuel with liquid food, it sucks water out of your body during the digestion process, which can increase the risk of cramping. Others say if you eat solid food, you risk stomach/intestinal malaise, so for races of 100km or more (like cedar city or Leadville 100) what do you think is the best approach to nutrition? Thanks!

Coach Lynda:  the best approach is the one you have practiced in training that works for you. Both strategies do work and don’t work depending on how you implement them. The key is concentration of the digesting solution in your stomach. If your stomach contents are too concentrated they will suck water out of your body and bloat your stomach. You can create this situation with liquids or solids. You can also dilute your liquids and solids to the optimal digestion concentration. My preference is to use all sources of calories. Sports drinks and gels (solids and semi-solids) are portable and easy to use. Too much of them for too long can throw off the pH in your stomach and halt stomach clearing. Some solid real food added to the correct mix can keep your stomach processing better than sugary sports drinks alone. Add water to dilute your stomach to the ideal concentration no matter the format of the food you throw down the hatch. Gulp of water, bite of food, gulp of water is the preferred sequence for solids.

Ben W:  Hey Barb, you may find a lot of episodes on The Apex Nutrition Show helpful – Apex Nutrition, LLC is great with nutrition info – both training and daily nutrition. The Apex Nutrition Podcast is nutrition information for Mountain Bikers on Mountain Bike Radio. The Apex Nutrition Podcast is a regular podcast packed with information geared towards endurance mountain bikers and other endurance athletes.

Coach Lynda:  Ben, thanks for the link!

Mountain Bike Radio:  Apex Nutrition, LLC is good!

Barb M: Awesome, thank you Lynda, Ben


Laurie H: Due to my work and family schedule unable to get outdoors to ride during week. Relegated to spin classes 4 times week. I do get out on weekends for long rides. Not sure how to incorporate those classes into a training plan. Any ideas

Coach Lynda:  Laurie, you can build a lot of fitness with spin classes. They are a great option along with weekend outdoor rides. I recommend taking Monday off the bike and making Friday an easy day. Do spin classes on Tue – Thur, work hard and sweat a lot. You really are at the mercy of the spin instructor to what exactly you do but IME all spin classes are hard sessions!


Tucker J: Hi Lynda! I ride a pretty good bit of road along with my mtb although I only race the mtb. When I’m riding road for several days in a row I can be doing really well and feeling good and strong and the same usually applies to my mtb riding but whenever I switch between bikes it always seems to take at least 2 rides of “transition” to get my legs in the game and to where I don’t feel like I’m dragging a concrete block behind me! It’s usually about 2 rides going from road to mtb and 1 going from mtb to road. I’ve tried all kinds of different combination of rest days or hard/easy days before the switch with no real noticeable difference. I ride a pretty strong gear on the mtb and road and don’t shy away from the hills either. Is there anything I can be doing to help ease the transition between the two? Thanks!

Coach Lynda:  Do you have the same bike fit and same length cranks on both bikes? Matching ride position on both bikes makes the transition smoother.

Tucker J:  No, different crank length for sure, 172.5 on the road bike with a standard crank and 175 on the mtb with a single 38T. The road bike was fit to me but the mtb never has been but has always been comfortable. If have to measure them out to see just how far off they are but I know that the seat height is the same between them.


Victoria M:  Could you maybe recommend a mtb event for 6 h? I have approached my road riding with events like Death ride and such but I am looking for a starter event in mtb, endurance is what I am interested in. 6-8 hours, not so hyper technical but that forces me to work on my skills.

Coach Lynda:  where are you located? How far will you travel to race? This endurance racing calendar on Mountain Bike Radio is a comprehensive race calendar with links to many events


Leslie L: Hello! First, I cannot turn left, especially in tight corners. I initiate the turn and for whatever reason find myself straightening the bars and many times end up having to put my foot down. I know I am very dominant on the other side. Any pointers for this? Thanks!

Coach Lynda:  Have someone film you riding both a left and right turns then review it immediately. Often we can pick out our own mistakes and correct them ourselves with immediate visual feedback. I do this coaching our high school team riders. The improvement in their form after self-critiquing is amazing. This is easy to do with smart phones. Study yourself in the edit and compare both sides. What position were your feet in? Did you stay seated? Where did your eyes/head look? Did your outside elbow stay out? Film yourself again, review, rinse and repeat. Use your strong side as a template to compare what is blocking you on your other side. Practice all of this on corners that you feel confident in then gradually work up to more challenging ones.


Stephen W:  Hi Lynda, thanks for answering these questions. My question has to do with persistent pain in my neck and upper back when doing mountain bike rides of 3+ hours. This is a major issue because endurance races is what I like to do, and I’m currently doing the Masters PR 50 miler plan. I’m fairly certain my fit is ok on the bike and I’ve experimented with a shorter stem to sit me up more, but it didn’t make a difference. I’m guessing that I’m just lacking strength in my neck muscles to hold my big noggin up for hours on the bike. Do you have any recommendations for strengthening or relieving the pain?

Coach Lynda: Stephen, it is unusual to have persistent pain in your neck and upper back when doing mountain bike rides of 3+ hours. I recommend seeking out the cause of it. I suspect it is more of a flexibility and alignment issue than a strength issue. If that is the case, strengthening exercises will be fruitless and may even exacerbate the problem. I highly recommend you visit a sports focused physical therapist for a flexibility and alignment exam. Your ticket to pain-free endurance racing is likely more flexibility and alignment not strength. I recommend doing some yoga or Pilates. Also stretching and foam rolling will loosen up tight muscles and fascia. First tactic would be to get some answers from a hands-on exam.

Stephen W:  Thanks, Lynda. I actually have an appointment with a chiropractor next week. Maybe that will help. If not, I will seek other medical opinions.


David K: Hi Lynda, I’m in Week 9 of the 100 km Mountain Bike Race – Personal Record Plan and everything is going pretty well. This coming Saturday I have the option of doing either a 50 or 30 mile race. I am considering doing the race to dial in my gear and nutrition plan, and double-check my fitness. Also, this would be my first and only race before my priority race. Do think it is better to race or stick with the rides on the plan? If the race which distance 50 or 30 miles?

Coach Lynda:  David, the 50 miler race on Saturday will fit nicely for training. To complete your weekend, on Sunday, duplicate the 2 hour ride from week 10 day 7 (skills and recovery).

David K:  Thank you!


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Open MTB Coaching Day Q&A’s May 2014 was last modified: May 16th, 2014 by Lynda

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