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Open MTB Coaching Day Q&A’s April 2014

April 3rd was another productive live online Open MTB Coaching day spent connecting with athletes and answering mountain bike training and racing questions. I look forward to setting aside this day once per month to do nothing but coaching – my favorite thing! This month the questions centered around racing; pacing in races, improving mental game during racing, fueling in races. Read through the day’s Q & A’s below.

Next month, Open MTB Coaching day is Thursday May 1st on our LW Coaching Facebook page. Like our FB page and join in our day. You are invited!


Jennifer S:  Hello Lynda. My question relates to zone 5 intervals. At the end of the interval it takes my HR 45-60 seconds to come down to Zone 2. Should I stay there for an additional 2 minutes, or start the next interval 2 minutes after the last one ended regardless?

Coach Lynda:  Jennifer – Start the next one regardless. Make sure between intervals you are coasting or pedaling very lightly. That said, 2 mins is a very short rest time between zone 5 intervals. 3 mins is generally the minimum rest I schedule unless the work interval is 2 mins or less. For zone 5 intervals the ideal work to rest ratio is 1:1

Jennifer S:  The 2 minute recovery concept was my mistake (not sure where I came up with that, except that a 5 minute cycle of interval/ recovery seemed so handy). Thanks Lynda!

Gord:  My question relates to pacing. Some 24H solo racers seem to pin the first lap before settling in to a more conservative pace. Is this something that comes with experience to be able to judge output? I’ve just done one 24H, and I was cautious to keep things reined in pretty well at the beginning, and kept my focus on HR, PE, fuelling and hydration. The strategic appeal of a quick first lap is hard to resist though. Is this something that I should experiment with in the long rides of the 24H PR plan? Thanks again Lynda!

Coach Lynda:  Pinning the first lap of a 24 hour solo is a poor strategy and not the route to optimal performance.  It is the fastest and most reliable route to a DNF. You got it right the first time – good job!

Jonathan L:  Thoughts on how to structure a plan for my first season of long (100m, 100k, and maybe a 24 hr) ss races. I spend a lot of time on the road due to weather/trail conditions and proximity. But can usually get on dirt once a week.

Coach Lynda:  Jonathan – Base – Build – Peak and race is how to structure your training plan. Lots of free training information can be found in my MTB training article library.

If you have a specific question I’d love to answer it.

Tom W:  Hello Coach Lynda, I have my first ever 8 hour race in 4.5 weeks away. My longest ride to this point has been around 2.5-3 hrs. My weekly average is 5-8 hrs. My “training” is a mix of commuting by bike and trainer rides. I am just looking to finish and have a good time. No performance goals other than that. What should the remainder of my weeks look like to get me to the finish line? Thanks.

Coach Lynda:  Three weeks out from your race day do a 6 hour ride. Do this off-road on terrain similar to your race course. First hour is warm up. Hours 1-5 are at race pace and last hour is your choice – easy or race pace. Focus on your bike set up, clothing choices and fueling. This ride is to practice pacing and race execution. Other than that ride, keep doing what you are doing up to 7 days before the race, and then take it easy to make sure you start the race rested. Have a plenty of carbs for dinner the night before and a decent breakfast to start with your muscle glycogen topped up. Have a great race!

Robert B:  I’m training for a 30 mile xc race, (Whiskey Offroad), and my LT is 165 bpm. My time so far is sub 3.5 hrs w/only 1 quick feed/liquid stop. I’m thinking 1st 30 min road climb @ approx 160 to singletrack and then settle into avg 145-150? Should I even monitor HR at all and just wing it? Trying to beat the st backup/wait and still have enough to go strong the rest of the race to finish my best/close to 3:15 at age 54…ouch! Maybe I need to do a full on race pace pre-ride soon, but would rather wait for the race to give it all I have. Thoughts?

Coach Lynda:  Robert – Pacing depends on how you have been training. To ride the first climb at threshold with zero training at threshold will have your legs cramping before the end of the race. If you have been training for this pace then you can race at this pace. Ride the race start at 0-5 bpm below your threshold to the single-track. Once onto the single-track, settle in to a more sustainable pace of 10-20 bpm below threshold on the flat and less steep grades. Let your HR go up to threshold on the steeper climbs otherwise you will be walking. Get to the course and pre-ride the start to single-track section at race pace 2-3 times. From the start of the single-track you can cut over to the descent and practice that too. No need to drill out the entire course before race day – just session sections of it.

Brittany W:  When conditions get muddy on race day we are often forced to ride a trail in worse conditions than we train on. What is the best approach to riding muddy on race day. Specifically tackling sharp turns on mud, sand, and with slippery roots.

Coach Lynda:  Practice makes perfect. Although not the best fun or the best for trails or best for your bike, a little practice in muddy conditions is needed to hone the skill in. The next best option is to increase your balance and technical ride skills. Keep your weight balanced on both feet over your center of gravity and use the front brake very lightly. Pedal through sand with your weight slightly back and keep a high cadence/low force pedal stroke.

Mark S:  A “nutrition” question. I’ll often camp the night before a race at the location with other people. I like to drink beer so I’ll usually have a couple. Then I thought maybe this would impact the next days performance. But after researching this, I can’t find any studies that show that this would have an impact on performance as long as you a. don’t drink too much and get a hangover and b. make sure you hydrate in the morning. Any feedback?

Coach Lynda:  A couple of beers may or may not be an issue for pre-race prep. Alcohol can interrupt sleep patterns negatively in some athletes – which is not good for pre-race prep. If you are accounting for the extra calories and treating the beer as a dessert and it has no effect on your sleep patterns there is little evidence it will reduce your race performance. If you rarely drink beer I highly recommend you do not before a race either.

Mark S:  Hey Lynda…I’m on the Masters 40+ 100 mile mountain bike training plan with the race date of July 6th. I’m also thinking of racing either 4 or 6 hours on June 21st. Is this too close to the July 6th date where it will impact performance?

Coach Lynda:  What week of the training plan will you be following on June 21st and July 6th? Have you followed the entire plan from week 1 so far? Let me know where you are with your training.

Mark S:  Yes, I have been following the plan from week 1. The race would be in week 10 with the 100 mile race at the end of week 12.

Coach Lynda:  The best option is not to add the race and stick to the plan this close to your peak race. Long hard efforts are great 3 weeks out from a peak race but, in the masters 40+ crowd, you risk reducing peak race performance when you are less than 3 weeks out from your peak.

If you really need to do this race and accept risking reduced performance at your peak race, you can fit it in by switching week 9 day 7 with week 10 day 6 plus take the day off week 9 day 6 and week 10 day 7. Adding the extra recovery is needed to compensate for racing that close to peak race day.

Trish A:  For those of us that are long time racers and love to race but only “train” by ourselves one or two days/week b/c we prefer to be social and do group rides (although we ride 4-5 times/week), is there a workout or two that might give us the most bang for our buck? I mostly do traditional XC races and CX

Coach Lynda:  Great question. Many racers are in this situation. The workouts that will give you the most bang for your buck will be the ones that add variety to your schedule and work on your weakness. If your social rides are slow then ride fast when you are solo and vice versa. If your weakness is climbing, do 4 x 4 climbing intervals when solo. Avoid redundancy in your schedule for the highest ROI.

Emily C:  Good morning. Do you have any recommendations on improving my mental game during racing? I find I am scared to fail (whatever that means for age group racing!!) or feel like an impostor. Some examples are giving myself a poor position when self-seeding at a start line or attributing a good finish to luck or the small size of most women’s fields.

Coach Lynda:  Emily – these are all confidence issues you mention. There are two ways to get confidence. The first is you earn it with many small milestones achieved and successes. The other way is that you give it to yourself, honestly receive it and act on it. Google building confidence in athletics and you will come up with hundreds of ways to do it. They all work. The key is finding the one that resonates and works for you. My guess is you are only missing the own it and act on it part so you are 80% of the way there already. I know you have achieved many goals and had your share of successes. Write them all down on paper. The other day my 6th grade daughter and I sat down and wrote down a lot of her volunteering hours, awards and achievements for an Honors program application. It took forever because once we started thinking about it she had a really long list. When they were all written down for us to visually see she had a huge boost in her view of her self-value increasing her belief that she rightfully deserved a place in the honors program.

Maaike E:  I actually don’t have a question today  but wanted to compliment you on your responsiveness and willingness to answer all our burning questions either here or on the forum – so awesome! Thanks as well for the advice on how to deal with my endo-derived muscle bruise – so much easier to take it easy when you say it than why I try to convince myself! My thigh transitioned from blue, super stiff and painful to much less stiff and way more colorful today, so easy pedal around the neighborhood is on the docket for tonight!

Coach Lynda:  Maaike – Thanks for your kind words. I hope you have taken photos of that bruise for your trophy album!

Rachel V: If I feel like my purchased training program (6 weeks to first XC race) is too easy, do I just stick to it anyway, increase intensity, or increase duration?

Coach Lynda:  Rachel – I recommend moving up to the next level program if you feel the one you are on is too easy. The next step up would be the Category 3 Beginner Cross Country Mountain Bike Training Plan and the next step up after that is the TIME CRUNCHED Category 2 Sport Cross Country Mountain Bike Training Plan. This Cat 2 plan has a free 2 week training plan previews to look at and check in to see if you are up to that training level.

Rachel V:  Thanks! I’ll check those out.

Barb M:  Hi Lynda, Couple questions. When I see people riding in endurance races like Leadville and Cedar City, they’re not wearing Camelbaks. How do they hydrate? And for Leadville where you have to be on the starting line at 5 am, how do people warm up? They get up at 3 am?

Coach Lynda:  I guess you got into Leadville then! Congrats! Leadville is easy to fuel with bottles as there are plentiful aid stations. You have 5 aid stations to refill your bottles at. If you are going to fuel with bottles make sure to practice in training.

It is virtually impossible to warm up at Leadville because of the crowds and corral staging situation. Your best strategy is to start conservatively and use the first part of the race as a warm up.

You should have finished your pre-race meal at least 2 hour before you start. Start time is 6:30 am at Leadville. If you are staying close by and are efficient you can probably sleep in until 4 am. But yes, it is an early start. It is scheduled that way for safety so most racers can make it past the high point before the typical Colorado afternoon thunderstorms hit.


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