Gotta be honest, since I started riding bikes, I’ve only ever had one off-season, and it was forced on me by a medical issue. I live to train. Really, I have no other life, I’ve pretty much made sure of it. The end of race season hits me a little bit like going out and drinking two dirty gin martinis hits me: first I’m all “This is gonna be AWESOME!” and then I’m all, “What do I do with myself… why is it so hard to walk?” This year, I wanted to try something different. It’s been a really long race season, and an incredibly disciplined year. I wanted to perfect the art of not training, not racing.
Because after a long season of total dedication to one thing and one goal: training for racing, eating for racing, sleeping for racing, taking tons of vitamins and supplements (so I can race better), not drinking alcohol ever (so I can race better), and generally living life in a cycling-only vacuum (because it makes me race better), I think it’s normal to be feeling some shell shock after crossing the line at that last competition. It can be scary, this strange concept of “free” time.
Now how to pass the time in a vaguely beneficial way… I decided to mountain bike – LOTS. I mean, full metal marathoning of the mtb. It ended up being 30 straight days. It might have been more (like, marathoning indefinitely… forever) but it started to get out of hand… lol… and my coach was saying all this stuff about overtraining and actually doing more harm than good and, well, some other coach stuff. I totally trust him. But during the season, I had been restricted to mostly road bike and recovery because nearly every weekend was a race weekend and in between there’s not much space for fun mtbing. I missed my Superfly. I longed for hours of lazy riding, or IDGAF all-out hammerfests. My soul ached for dirt.
Yet, I’m not used to being liberated in that way. I had to learn how to have no goal other than to enjoy myself.
A mere 30 days later, I’ve 180’d my mindset. I have become a messiah of mtb slackerdom. I have achieved unstructured bike nirvana. I’ve cracked the code to off-seasoning like a boss.
Step 1: I got my hands on a large quantity of Redbull. I prefer the Red Edition, but really, any Redbull will do. I initially effed this step up, foolishly buying 2 or 3 Redbulls daily at 7-11’s and gas stations across NJ on my way to whatever destination I was planning to ride. $3 a can at a minimum two cans a day would be $6/day and would total over $180 in a month’s time. MATH. That’s a little excessive for a beverage. I mean, it’s not even beer. Pshh. I love Redbull. I would make it rain for Redbull. But… no. Either be soooo cool and make friends with a sponsored person who can get you the RB hook up or, more realistically for the loser majority of us, order a giant effin case of it off the internet. 30 bux. You’re going to need huge doses of Redbull if you want to get epic. How I dosed: I’d drink one on the way to where ever, go ride for an hour or so, and then have another before riding for another hour or so. If I was planning to ride another hour or so, I’d have another. You get the point. For every hour or so you RB. All the calories, sugar, etc you need in an easily transportable can. After a bunch of straight days of mtbing, when the body starts to hurt and motivation starts to wane, RB to the rescue. And when you can’t (or aren’t going to, if you’re me) have anything that resembles actual nutrition, you just Redbull. That thing about the wings is no lie, yo.
Step 2: I went ‘destination’ riding. For me, this is pretty much anywhere outside of the 3 places that I had ever mountain biked locally. I haven’t had a lot of time to explore so when I started riding 2ish years ago, I just latched onto the same three places that I knew I could easily navigate solo. I’d been doing the same training loops incessantly since. Timing them. Obsessing over them. Dialing them in like a psychopath. It was high time for me to GTFO of this routine and into some new scenery. I checked out as many new riding spots as I could reasonably get to, or find a tour guide for. For other places, I just went out and got lost. It was truly awesome to go out by myself and explore, and wayyy more awesome to go out with a friend and get a guided tour of places I would never typically go. And now I have multiple new training grounds to add to my arsenal and obsess over for next year.
Step 3: I went long, and hard. And easy. And hard — then easy. I took all those pace and time restrictions from training with specificity, and tossed them into a metaphorical furnace. Nothing specific anymore! If I felt like hammering, I’d hammer. If I felt like doing a short ride, I didn’t force more out of myself. If I felt like it, I’d go suuuper long, taking a whole day to go out and learn a new park. I went out and simply rode how I felt. Didn’t plan it, just went out and did whatever felt appropriate in the moment. I got to reconnect with what it’s like to enjoy riding without having to suffer or hold back. There’s a time and place for that, letting go of it for a little while will make you rabid to get back to it later. Sometimes, having no plan is the best plan.
Step 4: I tried something new. I had switched up my stomping grounds, let go of the plan, and I was hopped up on massive quantities of Redbull, twitching like an ADD kid off Ritalin. Seemed like the perfect time to try something I’d never tried before. Something not exactly safe… something waaaay out of my comfort zone. WHY NOT TRY DOWNHILLING? I did… and I fell desperately in love with it. I just bought a downhill bike, I’ve become so hopelessly obsessed. Don’t get me wrong here, I’m not very good at it. In fact, I’m probably going to die, but by putting myself out there and trying new things, I’ve stumbled onto something that I seriously love and am sure will bring me countless and amazing memories in the future… all the way up until my untimely demise. And then one final memory of me flying off the side of a cliff with a huge effin smile on my face yelling “IT WAS WOOOORRRTHHH IIIIIIIITTTTTT!!!” If you’re going to follow this path, I can’t stress enough the importance of getting super amped up on them Redbulls; DEF need to get the right chemicals sizzling through your physiological wiring before you go out and start doing double drops at your local downhill park. I mean it, it’s pretty freakin’ scary if you’re not into that kinda thing. And it’ll probably hurt less when you crack your sternum. And when the sternum gets cracked in like 5 places, no worries! That’s why God created the indoor trainer! 😀
Step 5: I rode with friends (sometimes). I figured I’d been antisocial long enough. Well, if you’re me, it’s never really long enough. But even I need to occasionally chill on that solitude $h*t and see other human beings, go a social pace, have actual conversations. I’d been committed to my race season (and even pre-season) training plan for so long, blowing off friends for that training ride day after day, that I’m sure people were starting to think I wasn’t even busy, that I’m just a giant ****. Even I, in all of my self-proclaimed lone wolf glory, was getting a little lonely out there by myself all the time. So my advice is: go out and ride with your friends, it’ll be more fun than you think it will be, and you’ll solidify friendships that were circling the drain due to inattention. Make your non-bike friends ride their dusty garage-ridden hybrids with you. Friends are good, people are good… and if you don’t see them now, you might never see them again. For me especially, because of the downhilling thing…
Step 6: Eat lots of whatever and stop taking supplements. Yeah. I have been averaging about 10 cookies a day since race season ended. The oatmeal kind. 😀 Thankfully I’ve been mtbing at an equal or greater rate to my cookie spawned caloric excess, and I’ve stopped taking those awful weight gainer shakes I had been taking all season, so I’ve actually lost a bit of weight. Also the ectomorph thing which is why I was drinking those gross shakes to begin with… Anyway the point here is this: if you swing the pendulum so far in one direction, you have to let it come back a little the other way or you’ll go absolutely mad. I’m getting the cookies in now, when it doesn’t matter, so that when I have to be on point later on this year, staring down at another can of effin tuna and wondering what all this is for, I’m not wishing I had eaten more cookies. Hopefully, I can binge eat enough cookies in my month of freedom that I never want to see another one again. At least not until next fall. Hopefully (not likely!). I also have been drinking a beer or two… hurr & thurr. Not lots. I did have a couple martinis. That was an interesting night. I hadn’t drank anything at all for well over a year for racing, totally abstained. I’m doing this now because I know that when training gets real again, I’m not going to have another adult beverage until next year, and, again, I don’t want to miss it. I get about two months of whatever dafuq I want and then it’s back to the self-deprivation that I feel has given me an edge in racing. So better to enjoy those months and not hold back. Unfortunately, I really can’t drink more than two beers…I just get wasted and fall asleep. Tiny people problems.
Step 7: Listen to Kanye and learn to selfie. These are self explanatory and the reasons are totally obvious.
DISCLAIMER: This plan can really only be followed for about a month before your nerves are shot from the Redbull and downhilling… and your body is seriously beat to ****. Then you’ll want to take a solid week off (at least) to repair yourself before, you guessed it, pre-season training begins again! Because it’s never more than 365 days until next race season, and you better be ******* ready, *****. 😀
ALSO NOTE: I really love Redbull. A LOT. The red one.