Off season. What does that mean?
Your feet are standing in one spot, but your emotions are all over the place. Its like a rubber band you have been pulling on and pulling on, and then you come to a stop at full tension, and someone lets go on the other end. What happens next? Everything comes rushing at you, and you hope that this year you are prepared for it.
The race season is over: no more racing. No more packing your bike, just to unpack it a few hours later in a different state. No more proving the car rental agent wrong, “No I do not need an upgrade. I can fit all of this into a compact.” Suck it car rental agents all over the country. I never came back for that upgrade.
No more airport runs to pick up teammates. No more grocery runs and calculating the perfect amount of food so you don’t run out, and so you don’t have leftovers. This became a personal challenge of mine that somehow turned in to a really gratifying game when I won.
No competitive remembering where hosts keep their kitchen devices so I can smugly ask teammates, “what are you looking for? Oh that? that is in the drawer left of the stove in the way back.” Why smugly you ask? Because not everyone can have this superpower to see something once and then know were it is when you can’t find it. You will thank me someday.
No more “sleeping” on an air mattress, waking up with your butt on the floor, or hating yourself in the middle of the night for forgetting to put that extra blanket under you because you are now air-conditioning-frozen, even though its 100 degrees outside.
No more lying awake playing the end of the race (which hasn’t happened yet) over and over again in your head, and analyzing all the different ways you might win or lose the race.
No more timing race day down to the minute: what time you wake up, when you will have your coffee, when you will go to the bathroom, when you will eat breakfast, pack your pre and post race snack, load up the car, drive to the race, unload the car, prep your race wheels, sign in, pin your number, warm up, change your wheels, pre race snack, hit the bathroom one last time, and then one more time after that. Line up… wait. Wait some more. Race your bike. Eat, drink, repeat. None of that.
No more post-race recovery, clean up, and depending on how the race played out, no more going to the podium or playing the race over and over in your head to analyze what went wrong. Or if you made the podium, there’s no making sure you’re zipped up, podium hat is on with your sunglasses placed just so that they re not blocking the sponsor logo. No making sure you are standing just right so all the things you are insecure about will not show up in the podium shot.
Off season means no negotiation of who showers first, or checking your post-race email inbox and working until its well past your scheduled bed time, only to start the process all over for race day 2.
Off season means everyone goes back to their home states and countries, and then thats when the rubber band hits and you have about two weeks to deal with it, to not look at your bike, to start panicking about who you will ride for next season, to reflect on what went right, what went wrong, where you can make improvements, and when you try and relax and enjoy this short break before the real work starts.
The off season in my opinion is the hardest part of the year. This is where you begin to lay the foundation, where you are honest with yourself and where you dig deep both mentally and physically. The workouts on the bike may not be intense at first, but they are long, depending on who you are and what your coach’s training philosophy is. You may start running, you may go to the gym and start lifting. In my case I do both.
Running = put your shoes on and your out the door. Freedom is quiet trail runs, breathing deep, and alone time with your thoughts.
Lifting = hard work, noticeable achievements week to week, working your arms to the point that it’s hard to lift that recovery drink (and by recovery drink I mean adult beverage. It is the off season after all.) to your lips with trembling arms.
Bike = long slow distances, a lot of time in your head, and building a strong foundation for the coming season. Endurance, endurance, endurance. Depending where you live this may also mean a lot of trainer time. This is my second year in Portland, Oregon, and sometimes the rain is coming down so hard that the streets are flooded, or its just so cold that no matter what you do your hands and feet go past numb to that painful stabbing feeling in a short period of time. I find that a good trainer/rollers and a great playlist help me to get through these indoor training sessions. Its even better when you can do it with a friend or go to your favorite computrainer studio (mine is EndurancePDX) and share laughs and painful workouts with your buddies.
The most important thing to me about the off season is finding a balance between getting the prescribed work done and allowing myself to have fun, indulge a bit now because once race season comes around you will allow yourself these simple pleasures less and less. Find motivation in friends and in yourself by going over your upcoming season goals no matter how big or how small over and over again. It’s a great use of your time on those long solo rides. Keep up the positive self talk, and envision yourself on that top step as much as possible.
There are a lot of exciting things coming in 2015 and I will share all of those soon enough. 2014 was a hard transitional year from crit racing to stage racing, I learned a lot about racing and about myself. I also had one of my better seasons, standing on that top step several times, taking back-to-back wins on multiple occasions, and taking home the Oregon Criterium State Championships.
The hard decision to change coaches was made and I am really excited about the progress we have already seen. As a graphic designer I have been really fortunate this year to be able to work with so many amazing clients. Without them I could not keep the same focus on my training as I do now. We got a dog, Abi, and she now has an Instagram hashtag: #abitheaussie. Abi, you have filled my heart with joy, and you have tested me like only a puppy can. I look forward to many adventures with you little girl. My support system is what gets me up in the morning and to bed at night. Without Gino, the friends who have stuck by my side, and the new ones here in Portland I’m not sure I could do this – any of this – without you. It’s your belief, your cheers and friendship that keep me going, as well as believing in myself and this crazy dream I have. 2014 you have been a tough one, I thank you for all that I have learned but I am excited to move on to 2015.