It's January and the middle of winter here in the northern hemisphere. The roads are wet, sometimes icy and all too often it's a tad too cold to go outside without at least three layers. Many riders are inside on the turbo and those that are not quite often head back to their local club to join the cafe rides that head out on a weekend or get involved with some base miles to keep the legs ticking over for the still distant race season. It's at this point in the year that most riders are taking it easy but still training their way through winter. However most club riders will have encountered the infamous 'Winter Warrior" - these fable riders step forth into the snow covered roads with their heads held high and their gleaming bike ready for action as they break free from their autumnal hibernation in the pain cave. It's their time to shine.
You set out onto a base mile ride where the aim is to keep things steady and the winter warrior will head to the front, dial into their Garmin, head down and slowly but surely raise the tempo of the ride. Within the group come murmurs of " you're riding pretty well for winter" and "keep it steady". The winter warrior fails to recognise this and rides ever faster. In the distance is a 30mph sign - the old school sprint to the village - off goes the warrior into the distance, head down, heart rate high and full power into the village. He waits on the village green to gloat about his amazing sprint success again not realising that his friends didn't even contest the sprint.
The group back together and the warrior gleeful he'll slide into the group to recover once more. Everyone else breathes a sigh of relief - he must have realised it's winter. Unfortunately they find out it's quite the opposite. The road rears up and into the hills now. Typically in winter the group keeps a steady tempo to the top and works together in the cold but the winter warrior must forge his own path to the top. Suddenly from the back of the group he'll sprint to the outside, darting passed the riders and away up the hill to the top, glancing over his shoulder to check he's got the gap to become "KOM" for the day. Everyone else sticks to the group and sighs. Another gleeful gloat at success and the winter warrior slides back into the pack.
At the end of the ride the winter warrior has a whole host of personal records when his friends have none. He sits in the cafe smug about his successes.
Winter comes to an end and the winter warrior is feeling happier than ever as the cold, dark days turn into summer. In his head winter training has gone well and he's far further ahead than his friends think. At this point his friends have started real training and racing and all of a sudden on the same climbs and sprints he's getting dropped - what's gone wrong he wonders? Well, everyone else was resting over winter and now they're getting fit again. He's mis-timed when he needs his fitness the most. Suddenly it's pretty glum going out on those training rides and races and the winter warrior retreats once more until summer is over, convinced of a second peak later in the year.
Everyone knows a winter warrior and I'm sure they have great fun racking up the miles and the speed in winter but for most people it's a time of rest, recovery and rebuilding their riding so it's worth trying to factor in what your goals and aims for the season are and when you need to peak. There is nothing worse than peaking in December when your key focus is July.
I have recently been involved in some pretty big mileage for the Festive 500 and some training with my friends down at the new club, FTR. Unfortunately for me I'm finding myself a little further ahead than I want to be, so rather than risk being the winter warrior, it's time to reel things in, relax a little and make sure i'm firing all cylinders when they are too.
It's not to say don't ride hard in winter, or that you should ride less necessarily, but sometimes you need to take into account where you are and where you want to be. If you're training for something in summer, why not take a step back, slide into the group and enjoy the steady amble to the cafe for some cake?