or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bike.
The off-season is officially over. For me, the last two weeks of October were categorized by long periods of physical rest punctuated by brief, intense spells of mental restlessness. Repeatedly, over the first few days of those two weeks, I succumbed to near panic attacks as I watched the well-tuned fitness I had developed over the last few weeks of the season slowly die like the embers of a once mighty fire. I had no desire to be racing or training, but I still had frayed nerves from the vast, empty time that lay in front of me. To survive, I channeled the nervous energy into other tasks.
During this period, I was able to finally get around to working on projects that were on my list but never really had the time for during the season. The mix of cooler weather and free time provided the perfect environment to precipitate action out of somebody that is used to riding for at least 3 hours a day. I cast off the spandex bibs in favor of my trusty (but equally ridiculous looking) gardening hat and went at it. All it took was a day off from work and a full Bodum to turn a stack of extra two-by’s into a new raised bed garden. Add some seeds and some water and let the waiting begin.
The waiting; this was the hardest part of the off-season for me. For those two weeks, everything seemed to be in suspended animation. Coach put a restraining order on the bike and the discipline that comes with daily rides. A mind that is occupied by nothing but waiting can be convinced to do anything. All of a sudden, things that were terrible ideas a month ago are perfectly acceptable. Rain on a Saturday morning? Sleeping in. Sweets? Yes, please. Beer with dinner? Can’t hurt. Wine glass filled with bourbon? Bueno!
Without the need to get up at 6 am to get a ride in, one beer easily turns into many beers. And why not? The consequence of a hangover can be spread out over an entire day and is often completely forgotten about when that one teammate (you know the one; he’s on every team) calls back at 7 pm to repeat the process from the night before and go get “a beer.”
After the two week descent into debauchery, even the most race fatigued mind is ready to get back on the bike to return to something that even vaguely resembles a routine. As soon as the cleats clip in for the first time for the first ride, the world exhales; the pause is over. Somewhere over those two weeks, a mind that was fried off of bike racing re-discovered the ability to enjoy riding a bike again. Seemingly out of nowhere, what appeared fallow is now beginning to show signs of life.
Bring on the base miles.