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Just thought I would throw this out there to see if anyone has any good advice.  I have found the last two seasons that my starts are killing me.  I feel like I go all out to stay in the top 1/4 of the group going for the hole shot (which I never get) and  get burned out too quickly and suffer while everyone passes me.  I feel like I get stronger as the race goes on but I never really recover from that first effort.  This year I have added in more threshold training and max intervals hoping that will help.  I know convential wisdom says start slower and I am going to try that approach - just wanted to see if anyone had some suggestions.

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do a good warm up and really open the legs up...pedaling around in circles in the parking lot or one lap of pre-ride doesn't cut it. if you're legs and aerobic system aren't ready for the all out effort you'll die a slow death.
Not sure about your take on conventional wisdom but I'm similar to you and my conventional wisdom simply says train harder / do more sprint work at the top end and I'll stay with them longer. Stick with the intervals and stick with the fast starts. Coming back from a slower start is a near impossible task.
Man, someone should write an article about that. Maybe even in issue 10 of CXM.

Don't go out so hard. Stick with the people you would normally place with. Definitely don't try and win the start. Just get a good enough start and then turn it off and settle in.

I would really disagree that you can't come back from a slow start. The cream will rise to the top.
I am by no means someone to give advice, but I found bringing a trainer to the race seems to work well. And I mean that stupid axle mount stand thingy... not Chris Carmichael. Although that wouldn't hurt
Thanks for the advice Chris - I think my fitness has been down since having kids. I am going to use the next couple of races to try your approach and hopefully build on my fitness so I can get to where I want to be for my A races at the end of Nov and begining of Dec.
Check out issue #10, seriously.

Also, let me ask you this, do you prefer crits or TTs? Short hard rides or long ones?
TT's - guilty as charged. FYI - I am just psyched that FatMarc's coach is taking some time to help a guy like me out!!
I'll help anyone ;)

What's your warm up look like?
I race in the 4's so the course is open when I get there. I usually try to get three laps done on the course - 1st to check it out, 2nd more on my tempo pace and the third with some max efforts. Depending on the time I stay on the course until the call us to the start.
Sounds like you need some more intensity in your warm up. When you do a full tilt effort as you would the start of the race you need some time below threshold to recover. The more time above threshold the bigger the recovery. Doing a few intense efforts before the start helps you to not blow up from your first start.
http://blog.fascatcoaching.com/2010/10/cyclocross-race-warm-up/

On a more general note some people can out start themselves, that is they can start quite well but can't hold on to it. For those people, for sure, they should start a bit slower and play that card later. I actually do have an article in CXM about this and you can read about it here too:
http://home.trainingpeaks.com/articles/cycling/power-profiling.aspx
specifically the \ profile.

I don't think the latter applies to you but in my experience it does to about one in ten people.
This makes me want to write an article. here's some thoughts.

I think you have to ask youself, "am I trying to win, or trying to finish as well as possible." If you're trying to win, you need to be near the front, even if you risk blowing up. It's an all or nothing proposition as I think it's damn near impossible to win from the back. If you're trying to finish as well as possible (or with the contents of your stomach still in your stomach), then you don't need the front of the pack, you don't need anyone, you're racing for yourself, set it at a pace you can handle and focus on efficiency.

I'm always going for the win, so regardless of how I feel in the first 60 seconds, I'm always trying to be at the front (top 3-5) regardless of how it makes me feel. Sometimes I blow up, sometimes everyone else does. Kenton is right, soft pedaling isn't going to help you, you've got to do some serious sprints (I guess they're called "openers") after your warmup, a few minutes before the start. As you're doing these, your legs will feel like crap. You'll doubt that you've got it in you to really kick ass. Erase all these negative thoughts and focus on "opening" up your legs. It will hurt, that's the point. It's like taking a really really deep breath, you've got to get blood and oxygen to every single part of your legs, and the only way to do that is to push them past what you'll ask of them in the first lap.

So, 20 minutes before the start, get out and really let those legs fly, burn it up, then get a long drink of water before heading to the start line. Like I said, it'll feel like crap, but you get it out of the way and allow your legs to clear the lactic acid prior to the start so you aren't carrying around that feeling the whole race. You mention you "never really recover from that first effort." If you replicate that first effort prior to the start, then take a few minutes to stretch and breath at the staging, when you hammer out of the gate, your legs will know what's up and they wont be so pissed at you. Don't worry about expending energy pre-start, if 3 minutes of openers kills your legs, you've got your work cut out for you Monday-Thursday.

The conventional wisdom of starting slow comes from people who finish the race happy, not first. If you want to win, you've got to be at the front of the race. Start slow and the only people that will come back to you are the ones that have blown up; you'll never see the front of the race again. I would bet the guys who're winning your race feel just about as bad, they just deny themselves the luxury of acknowledging an alternative. If you don't want to feel like crap, you might try spectating.

Is that too forward?
Solid response booksy. I am pretty thick-skinned so nothing is too forward. I will definitely work on my warm-up routine. I think since I have gotten older the engine needs a little more warming up. I hope I am not getting softer as I get older!! Def. not ready to be a spectator just yet...

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