The Off Season



Is there such a thing? Is a cyclist ever really in an off season? Is it just riding but in different temperatures? (According to the thermals I’ve found myself digging out at the moment, that last part is definitely true.)

Technically, I am now in the off season and it got me thinking about a few things I have learned this year….

If you want to do something you’ll find a way…

Focused training was new to me and there were a lot of times where I was fatigued or hungry or just mentally not there when I started the session but once I was on the bike a little switch would flip and no fatigue or hunger mattered.

Whilst the Marmotte ride might not have entirely gone to plan and I suffered ebyond anything I have ever experienced previously on a bike whilst on Alpe d’Huez, it meant a lot to me to go out there and see what I had as a rider and whether I could push myself. I did. And suffered as a result, but that’s part of what La Marmotte is all about. If you ride it, you will suffer in a very unique way.

That said, it’s a sportive I would (and have already been) actively encouraging people to do. The route, the climbs, the camaraderie of it all make it a truly special event.

I feel like there is some unfinished business there. I learned a lot form the experience and would love to one day go back and see if I can push for a gold time. Not in 2019, but who knows, perhaps 2020?

Don’t forget how fundamentally enjoyable riding a bike can be!

After the months of dieting and being focused on sitting at the prescribed power zones of the program I followed, getting out and just riding for the sake of it was at first a bit strange. I would find myself by default staring at my power numbers on a climb or pushing harder on rolling segments based on my numbers, but after a few rides back I pushed that all to one side and just rode.

Even more exciting was discovering some of the fun single track segments in my locale that are ripe for the gravel bike. I’m not riding fast but I am riding happy.

No cyclist is ever in a complete off season

So, pro cyclists get some hard earned time off after the road season finishes, but no-one in my circle is a pro and we all have things we want to accomplish on and in one case off the bike next year.

I reached out to a few friends to see how they cope with the off season and winter training in general and one thing became very quickly apparent.

No one is sitting down and not training!

Karl (Targeting 50 mile Time Trials): “Start of the week will be turbo zwift  or gym session…Thursday will be a spin class which is always the most intense sesh I do in a week. Every Friday will be cyclocross. Normally rest Saturday and then try to do one long steady ride on Sunday. “

Andy on targeting Iron Man Wales: “2 turbos a week with a long ride on Sunday, will have the odd Saturday turbo but only to do a run after it. That’s for the next 8 weeks then its up to 3 turbos in the week. I had weeks off after the Marmotte, next 8 weeks are pretty chilled and I need to learn that I don’t have to train every night and it’s OK to miss [a session]. But then it’s f*****g go time!.”

Dave on not targeting anything: “Historically, not so much riding. Strength work in the gym and lots of snowboarding.”

Phil on targeting the Haute Route Pyrnees in 2019 after a top 50 finish in the Haute Route Alpes 2018: “Like this {distressed emoji}.  I’ll think and let you know in a bit!”

 

My take away from these chats….”what off season?”. Whether its next years events, the in progress cyclocross season or the love of the bike we don’t stop. We fluctuate in volume but within my group there isn’t really an off season, just a switch in focus. There’s always one eye on the future and even I have found myself starting the planning of what my winter training will look like based on the events I want to ride next year will need, but for now I am just happy to be riding for fun.

Having had time to reflect on the year I learned that cyclists are absolute gluttons for self inflicted suffering. No one holds a gun to our heads and forces us to ride. We hover on that line between sadist and masochist as we push ourselves as far as we can.

Even in the immediate aftermath of the Marmotte, we sat down to dinner and in my case forcing myself to eat and in another member of the groups case, a spontaneous trip to a quit spot to empty their guts. Again.  But in that exhausted state and still working to manage the various states of physical distress  we were each in someone put forward the question that I think secretly we’d all already asked ourselves:

“Would you do it again?”

There wasn’t a single “No” at the table.

 

We don’t stop.

 

 

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