To me, the off-season is as much a state of mind as it is a physical break. I think most racers would agree that the mental break is just as important as the physical. I know there is science behind the physical need for rest periods to help the body rejuvenate and recover from the stresses of training and racing.
I haven't seen any studies on the mental side, it would be interesting to see what types of changes occur in the brain during rest and recovery periods versus times of high stress. I'm no neurologist but I know there has to be something, possibly there is already plenty of data I just haven't seen yet. Everyone needs down time, in both sports and real life. Vacations from work usually see people come back refreshed and ready for new challenges.
Since there is such a large mental component to racing, it's just as important to me to be mentally fresh and motivated to ride hard. When I'm in that mindset I am more willing and able to suffer, and can tolerate pain so much better. On the flip side of that, when I'm fried mentally it is harder to push through and suffer. It seems that the more seasons I race, the shorter the winter break needs to be, and the longer I can stretch out my season. I am sure there are physiological adaptations that allow the body to race longer, and it seems like there's a mental adaptation as well, just learning how to focus and channel the energy necessary to race over a longer season.
That said I still make sure to take a good recharge break each winter, and Adam over at CTS has been on the same page with his coaching philosophy, and encourages short and frequent breaks throughout the season as well.
My 2013 season ended when I rode on to the beach in Limon on day 3 of La Ruta. I had been racing since mid-February, with some healthy in season breaks, but nonetheless needed some time to unwind. I finished on a high note though, with what seemed to me my best form yet. Mentally, I turned it off, but I still milked a few 'cross races out of my La Ruta form in November in the UTCX Series. That's kind of a nice way to taper out of the season, I still had pretty good race form for a few weeks, and so could enjoy the races, but didn't do any training otherwise and mentally was already on break.
I wrapped those up before Thanksgiving, and Sammi and I headed back east for the holiday. We spent Turkey Day in Vermont with my parents and grandmother, then drove to Maine for my other Grandfather's 90th birthday celebration with my dad's side of the family. It was awesome to see everyone and take some nice long walks on the coast of Maine; even if is was 10 degrees!
After a full two weeks off the bike, I was ready to get going again, but eased in to things pretty lightly in December, mixing in a lot of Nordic skiing, strength training, mountain biking and eventually some trainer rides when the weather wouldn’t cooperate. I have made sure to fit in some those lazy days too, because once the season gets going those are few and far between.
I have made a few trips to warmer climates to ride so far this winter as well. In December, I took a quick trip down to Orange County to take a downhill focused skills clinic from Brian Lopes, which was great, I think there are very few riders who couldn't learn a few things from him! I visited Sho-Air Intl. and Sho-Air Cannondale HQ on that trip as well, and it was great to visit the team home base.
Right after Christmas, Bart Gillespie and I hosted a weekend long skills and base training camp in St. George, Utah for junior and U23 riders through Gear Rush Skills. We felt like it was a success and are hoping to make it an annual event. It is awesome to see the talented young riders that we have coming up through the ranks.
I stayed down in St. George for a couple days after that and got in some good riding for the last few days of the year. It was great to get some good time in on the dirt, since all the trails around Salt Lake have been covered in snow for a couple months. Despite the weather, I've got a solid block of training in this month, with another nice weekend in St. George thrown in for some more time in the dirt. Ben Sonntag made the drive over from Durango to ride with us and I don't think he was disappointed in the riding that southwest Utah has to offer.
Now I'm resting up a bit before kicking off the next training block, and am more motivated than ever to get the season going!
Thanks for reading.