Since the end of the season I haven’t blogged at all, mostly because to be blogging about something you’re not doing seems fraudulent: as someone once said, I’m a writer only when I write, and it’s the same with the bike. I climbed off at the end of October and more or less threw it into the dark recesses of the garage. On average I’ve done 70k a week, if I’m lucky. Once or twice I’ve gone for a gentlemanly 40-50k with no thought other than to listen to the birds or atone for the dietary sins which seem welded to this time of year, regardless of whichever hemisphere you happen to be in.
The off-season is tradition, and it comes with a whole heap of downsides. Some of my trousers are a little tighter than they were a month or two ago. The hiatus from racing brings with it a whole being-available-for-DIY issue. Last, but not least, it takes 21 days to make a habit, apparently, and after six weeks of quite frankly absolutely taking the piss it’s going to be doubly hard to get back on track. No wonder there’s a slew of tinterweb articles preaching caution and temperance.
However, there are huge upsides which are, by my reckoning, severely under-promoted. By the end of the year my body was screaming at me, fed up with hunching over bars. Who, after all, does a yoga session or a swim instead of a ride – which one really makes you faster? Riding does. Yoga and swimming make you faster for longer, but that’s tomorrow’s problem, and as such they always seem to wait until then.
So my tip for surviving the off season? Embrace it. Take the time to make your body hurt less. Catch up with friends, remember your children’s names, make that pudding you saw on TV and slobbered at back when you could only eat raw carrots because there was a climb that week, and eat it with them. Take a surf trip or head for the snow. Pay the debt of gratitude and attention you owe the rest of humanity after opting out of it to ride your bike.
Bike racing at its best verges on the inhuman. The real point of a well-spent off-season is to remember how to be human.
Happy Christmas, and a peaceful New Year.