The Alberta CX season swan song has been sung… And with that of course comes tears, followed by the sudden and vacuous void where you’re left with one thing, the unanswered question, ‘so… what now?’

Sure, like most people at the end of the race season, I’m tired and ready for a break of somekind, but I can’t say I’m excited about heading into the off season. While a few of my racing palz are headed for B.C. to continue racing, others are facing the upcoming Alberta winter bravely, by already waxing their skis, lacing up their skates for beer league, or pumping up their tires on their Fatbikes. But I’m feeling directionless… I don’t know what I’m going to do over the next 5 long months of dark, cold  winter.

A big part of me wants to knuckle down, design a killer training plan and get to work on 2014 – can’t beat Ken Hurd sitting on the couch eating fried chicken while catching up on 6 seasons Breaking Bad. Plus, I had a reasonably successful race season this year and want to build on that if I can. Problem is, as it’s only November right now, building on my current riding fitness would mean months on end of riding the trainer in the basement – and although I did that consistently last winter, I don’t think I have it in me again. I wouldn’t exactly equate the indoor trainer to Chinese water torture, or browsing the throw-pillow aisle at Home Sense, but it can get monotonous… I am prepared to put ‘some’ time in, but not the intensity I’d need to build on the fitness I have today – it’s that simple. So, I have to come up with something else.

Another option is to join a weekly spin class. There are several in the city. I’ve done them before and there are certain things that appeal to me, including getting out of the house and spinning in a social setting. The added benefit of peer pressure to both ensure you show up, and put in the work while you’re there, is obviously going to pay real fitness dividends. Aside from cost though, the biggest downside to spin classes is time… It takes added time to load up your bike and trainer, drive to the venue, set up there, ride, pack up again and then get back home. For 1 hour of real training, you’re burning a solid 2-2 ½ hours… Not ideal, and not likely a viable option for me.

Winter Road via Lexious

I could ride outside. Again, I’ve done winter riding before and I enjoyed it. It was a moderate winter that year though, so you could get out for 2-3 hours pretty often in -15 degrees or warmer. I logged some solid miles that season, and it was great to get outside, breath some fresh air, and soak in some much needed vitamin D given the short days and lack of sunlight that time of year. But riding outside also comes with some ‘added’ time, as compared to the stationary trainer siting in my basement. In the winter you can’t just hop on your bike and go. Getting ready to go, kind of like like trying to paint a red wall, white – you need lots of layers. that said, riding outside has a much greater overall upside to it compared to training indoors – fitness, fresh air, improved technical skills, and the option to ride with others, so it can definitely be social. Do I need I now need a fatbike I wonder. Not sure if it’s ‘cool’ to winter ride without one these days..?

There is one more option to consider here and that is simply to embrace my sense of ‘directionless’ and commit to mixing things up – which includes not training.  Maybe I’ll ride inside one week, but then outside the next, or not if it’s -30 and cold enough to put important body appendages at risk . I can also go for a run now and then, inside on the treadmill and then next time outside, and make a point of getting out on the XC skis as much an I can. Maybe I can also mix in some weights this winter as well, and look to increase my leg strength to become not just a fitter rider, but also a stronger rider than before. All in, if I can just make sure I’m doing ‘something’ 3-4 days a week and allowing for rest/recovery, a plan like that would probably yield a pretty solid base fitness and set me up for spring when I’m refreshed and want to re-focus on the bike. I mean once spring comes, it’s almost cross season, isn’t it?!

How do you fill the void? What’s your winter (off season) plan?