If you ask me, the “off season” is the best season of the year. This isn’t because Turkey Day and Xmas are here and I can finally unleash my inner lazy and gluttonous self, or because I can do some “holiday shopping” for my bike(s), or because I’m overtrained/burnt out and can’t stand looking at TrainingPeaks anymore, but because a year’s worth of focused and structured training has left me in the best athletic shape of my life, and the freedom to unleash it on anything or any challenge I can think of.
You see, during the normal “on season”, I have to be careful about what I do outside of the normal training plan because I have so much invested in my long term goals that I don’t want to jeopardize key workouts or races in the coming days/weeks. However, in the “off season”, I’m free to do all sorts of new and crazy things that may very well result in my being sore/incapacitated for several days, and it doesn’t matter! I can explore the limits of what my body is capable of doing and if I have to hobble around for a couple days afterwards, it’s OK.
The things you can try are almost endless because triathlon training gives you such a broad base of fitness, and being here in the Bay Area puts so many events at your doorstep:
- I can push myself in single discipline events and find out if pure mountain bike racers are much faster than off-road triathletes (not by a whole lot).
- I can ride my bike for 10K consecutive feet of climbing up a volcano, which teaches you a thing or two about pacing (and monotony too), along with destroying your legs/rear.
- I can go for the longest run of my life (more than 2x what I’ve done all year), just to see how far I can push my body, how much I slow down as the hours go by, what starts complaining first, how much will power is needed to push through and keep on going, and of course, how long it takes afterwards until things feel normal and I no longer walk like an old man.
- I can go exploring trail systems without much regard to how long they are, and can choose my runs based on scenic value as opposed to which provides the best surface/inclines for any given workout.
- I can work on my handstands, and if in the process I make my shoulders/arms so sore that I can’t even put a shirt on the next day, let alone go swimming, that’s not a problem.
- I can ride my singlespeed bike in the hills, ostensibly to work on “building power” in the legs, but really to enjoy the challenge of not knowing if you will be able to make it up any given hill before your legs crack, and to have to give your all multiple times during a ride.
- I can dust the unicycle off to work on my balance, core and smooth pedaling motion.
I can also give cyclocross (CX) racing a try, which with it’s mix of cycling and running at first glance appears like it would be right up our alley. Actually, CX is about as far removed from triathlon as you can get! First off, when you run, you have to carry your bike with you, and the biking and running keep alternating, making sure your HR stays sky-high. Secondly, while triathlon has a “gentlemens” feel to it where people are very focused on racing their own race, CX is all about getting past the guy in front of you by any means necessary, including but not limited to: stuffing your bike up the inside of a turn knowing full well you’ll be in his way, riding up a hill that he’s running, running up a hill he’s attempting to ride, drafting down the straights, rubbing your front wheel on his back wheel to play with his nerves, etc… And finally the courses are insanely tight and twisty, think 40+ turns in 1.6 miles, meaning you’re almost always accelerating or braking, and there is no such thing as “steady power”. It’s all about racing strategy, bike handling and passing skill, with how much power you’ve got in your legs of secondary importance.
Maybe this “off season” buzz is a bit bigger for me this year as for once I finish the year without injury, something that is 100% due to the variety that comes from training 3 different sports. Or maybe having had a so-so performance at my season-ending A-race has left me hungry for more? Or maybe I’m still trying to find what my ideal sport is, and this experimenting by trial and error is the best way I’ve found to do it. Either way, I know that I’ve got a little over another month to enjoy the “off season”, so I’ll be heading out on many more adventures while I can.