Updated: Jan 4, 2019
The off-season is the perfect time to take stock on what you've accomplished, where improvements can be made, and start planning what's coming next.
Time to Rest
My 2018 season started in December of 2017 - a few days after the Christmas holidays I was gifted some warm weather in my hometown of Floyds Knobs, Indiana to which I kicked off training for the upcoming road racing season.
The first day of a training plan for racing season is always one of apprehension. Can I really accomplish everything I want to this season? Is this the year that I finally stop improving? Will I still have the dedication to do the work necessary?
Nearly twelve months later, I'm now at the beginning of my annual two week break from training where I don't even look at a bicycle. For reasons I'm not entirely certain, I always feel like I never can really reflect on how a season went until I've officially thrown in the towel on trying to hold residuals of my peak-road-season fitness. This is partially my fault, as I generally transition from the end of road season in early September directly to racing cyclocross (and long, amazing October rides among the changing colors). This approach to the "off-season" generally keeps me focused on the here-and-now and too busy or tired to accurately assess how I progressed against the goals I set so long ago.
I now sit on the other side of these questions and, with the wisdom only hindsight can bring, know the answers I that were churning through my mind on that cold December ride.
When the legs are good... I don't think I could have dreamed up a better 2018 year for the First Internet Bank team. Not only did we compete in our team's first UCI stage race (the Joe Martin Stage Race in Fayetteville, AR), but we got third place on the 110 mile road race on stage 2. We took wins at the Burlington Road Race and Kwik Star Criterium over Memorial Day weekend in Iowa and won our first PRT race at the Glencoe Grand Prix.
FirstIB was one of three amateur teams to get invited to the US Pro Road and Criterium Championships in Knoxville, TN. In the toughest championship road race in recent memory, we put a rider in the top 25 and another in the top 30. We won the Madiera and Hyde Park Blast criteriums in Cincinnati Ohio (thanks to Jack for "letting" Robert have the win at Hyde Park). To finish out the season, we won the overall at the River Gorge Omnium in Chattanooga and placed second at the Thompson Criterium of Doylestown, another PRT event.
In all, we won a total of 31 races in 2018, which if my back-of-the-napkin math is to be trusted, is close to half the races we entered. As the saying goes: "When the legs are good, they're good, eh?"
This past season was better than anything I could have ever imagined. This off-season, I've been doing my best to take time and revel in what we accomplished as a team last season. But I'm also a bike racer, and inevitably only a few moments after doing so the classic question always arises:
Coming soon to a bike race near you
I really shouldn't be surprised that it's already December again, because you can usually tell what time of the off-season it is by the state of the team group chat.
September: After the last race of the year, there's a much higher proportion of texts that occur late at night, with numerous spelling errors...
October: The activity is less, but everyone's Strava feeds are full of long rides through the woods with innumerable pictures of the changing leaves.
November: The trash talk about the team's annual "measuring contest" at the traditional post-Thanksgiving Gravel Grovel reaches an all-time high as everyone pretends like they aren't taking it seriously.
December: As the weather officially turns, talk turns to rumors of what races we're going to do, each generally more ambitious than the next.
I haven't written my training plan for next season yet - I'm not quite ready for the commitment. With the race schedule the team is considering and the goals I'm setting, by all accounts it's going to have to be the best training plan I've ever written. Somehow, I'll need to seek out ways to refine the training that led to a near-perfect year.
Those doubts are beginning to return to my mind once again - was last year a fluke? Am I actually expecting for us to improve on our best season ever? Can I get myself to stop playing Mario and start doing 15-hour training weeks again?
It's funny, because the very presence of those doubts make me certain I'm going to do everything in my power to prove them wrong, just as I did last year.