This Season is Over, Another Begins: The Transition Period

Mountain Bike Hangs in the Garage for winterThe 2013 season ended for me on October, 20th at the OMBC championships at Mohican Cabins in Glenmont, Ohio.  It was an anti-climatic ending to an otherwise great season.  I managed to go the first 9 races of the year without any mechanicals or major mishaps and I had high hopes for the championship race.  I was in second place in my age group, but there was still a small chance that I could catch the first place racer, Tony Mellot, in the standings.

4 miles into the technical 13 mile championship course I made a wrong turn which added at least two valuable minutes to my time.  I tried to rally but I felt like I was finishing the race with a cloud over my head.  On top of that, I misjudged the amount of clothing that I needed.  After the first lap, I was over-heating and drenched with sweat under my long-sleeve thermal jersey –  my only layer!  Big mistake.  At the lap point I whipped my jersey on the ground and finished the second half of the race shirtless.  I was fairly comfortable while I was racing but I must have lost a lot of heat because I was chilled for several hours after the race.

In the end, the third place guy in the standings, Cato Coleman, won the race and passed me in the overalls.

But, all that is behind us now.  It’s time to get ready for 2014!

The Mountain Biker's Training Bible by Joe Friel

The bike is hanging in the garage, where I intend to keep it for the entire winter.  In Joe Friel’s book, The Mountain Biker’s Training Bible, he talks about the importance of a “transition period”.  He describes it as “a break from training to allow for a physical and mental transition from the race period”.  I am clearly in the heart of that time frame right now.  Instead of 2 hour training rides, I am focusing my efforts on long walks on the bike path and hiking in the woods.  I may take up running just to stress the cardio system a little, but my main focus right now is to let my body heal after an intense season and recharge my batteries.

This is the first season in years that I wasn’t completely burnt out by the final race and I credit what I learned in Friel’s book for that fact.  He stressed the importance of rest and recovery throughout the season and his words gave me permission to dial it back from time to time when I felt fatigued.  My body and my brain appreciated the break.

Now, the season is over but I am as jacked as ever to keep riding.  I am forcing myself to stick to the plan and stay off the bike for 3 or 4 weeks before I head down to my spin bike in the basement.  Next year’s championship is still a year away and I know that my body will thank me next October for this break I am taking now.

spin bike in the basement for winter ridingMy plan for this winter is to do all of my spinning in the basement.  I don’t want to do too much because riding a lot indoors on a spin bike or trainer is a great way to burn yourself out.  My plan is to do three one-hour workouts per week.  I’d like to keep the intensity of these workouts fairly low.  The focus is just to maintain some of my strength and aerobic endurance so that when I head back outside in March I have a decent base to build from.

I have tried various strategies in past winters with varying success.  I have ridden outside in sub-freezing weather, but no matter how much I bundle up I have a hard time keeping my hands and feet from going numb.  Not being able to feel your feet gets old after a while, so I am going to avoid going outside this winter.  Plus, it will be nice not to spend tons of time getting my cold weather gear on and off when I go for a ride.

Last winter I focused all of my exercise on walking, hiking and running outside.  It worked out well and I stayed in decent shape, but this year I want to experiment with trying to maintain my cycling fitness a little more this winter.  I think if I don’t overdo it this winter I can hit the spring training sessions hard and rack up some points in the early season races when a lot of the weekend warriors are just starting to dust off their bikes.

The Basement Set-Up

This summer I bought a spin bike off of Amazon, the Phoenix 98623 Revolution Cycle Pro II Exercise Bike.  I was specifically using it for recovery rides when I couldn’t escape the house during the week.  I haven’t used it for winter training yet, so I am curious to see whether it will be too boring to do all my rides in the basement this winter.

Flat screen in front of spin bikeTo fight the boredom I have a 32″ flat screen set up with a Roku 3 to watch Netflix or Amazon Prime while I ride.

The bike itself does not come with a cycling computer, so there is no way to measure your intensity or to track progress.  My plan is to buy a set of Garmin Vector pedals to measure wattage.  I think that will be a great way to keep my power in the right zones.  Then, in the spring I will be able to transfer the pedals to my road bike and get twice the value out of them.  Unfortunately, I don’t think they are intended to be used on rugged mountain biking rides.

Another plus of training with power this winter is that I can measure kilojoules and use that number to estimate the calories I burn.  Keeping my weight from rising this winter is definitely one of my goals and I think these pedals can help me achieve that.

That’s what I have planned for this winter.  What are you doing to prepare for the next racing season?  Let me know in the comment section and don’t forget to come back to Quickdirt for more tips on training and racing.

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