We need a break. It’s over. It’s me, not you. I can commit no longer, I need space, I’m tired. Let’s not get emotional, let’s enjoy the memories we shared, fond moments we’ll never forget. So long bike.
Done. Kaput. Finito. The end of the cycling season comes to an abrupt halt, no warning, just like that, you stop cycling. Mercy. One week you’re loving every ride, no end in sight, not even winter will stop you, and then bang, you’re sat inside on a lovely day, no motivation, no guilt, beer in hand, telly on, belly out.
I’m not cycling, I’m not thinking of cycling, I’m not even cycle shopping. I’m well and truly done! Whisper it quietly, I may even be sick of cycling! The shock, the horror.
Every year the season end catches me by surprise. I never plan a break, it just happens. Body and mind decide they can no longer continue, enough they scream, we need a bloody break.
All or nothing
I’m pretty intense. When I set my mind to something, I adopt a lazer-like focus, little distracts me. I’m all or nothing. So after riding hard and often for nine months I’ve been very much looking forward to the break, mind more than body.
Year to date I’ve ridden a couple of hundred miles short of last year’s total and my ride time is a full 24 hours shorter. Yet I’ve never ridden so often with 30 percent more activities than the previous year, and double that of 2014. This despite adopting a three weeks on, one week off schedule. Short and sharp has been my game, this being my first year of structured training.
Time for rest. Despite the abrupt end, the signs have been there for a while. Intensity dipping, distance dropping, times up local hills lengthening, fingers no longer avoiding the snacks at work, a cheeky glass of wine here, there, everywhere.
The real end to my season was actually three weeks earlier, peaking in a hill climb race, satisfied with my results, or at least my performances, my inner chimp finally smiled before closing his eyes, ready for his brief hibernation.
Of course there is no ‘season’. I’m an amateur, yet my year is marked by high and low intensity. When you’re putting in hard efforts three times a week for nine months, then it’s easy to see your cycling as a regime. Such riding is not sustainable, something has to give.
Every passing year my break gets shorter and shorter. Gone are the days when I’d not cycle at all for a few months. Now I’m down to about a month and even then, I’m still riding, albeit with a focus on fun not structure.
This year I’m thinking a couple of weeks off riding completely. No fun rides, no commutes, nothing. Then a few weeks of unstructured riding up to Christmas before returning to action in January. But I cannot choose. My body and mind will know when it’s time to return. Until then, I’m looking forward to some time off.
The joy of the off season
Ahhh. No riding. Normally this would send me into a panic but not now, for this is a break well earned. I owe it to myself to rest. No longer do I watch what I eat. Booze is back, after many months of restricting myself I can now finally give in to that sweet, sweet smell of alcohol. And chocolate. And fat. And idleness.
I can indulge in some of my favourite non-activities. Horizontal all day, watching minor sports on the television, plenty of cups of tea and coffee, little bits of chocolate here and there, more snacking, and much more doing nothing. Lazing in bed when others are out on icy frozen roads, electrolytes courtesy of my salt cured bacon sandwiches, no need to worry about how many carbs I’m eating every hour, no need for padding in the seat of my pyjamas.
Mentally, this is a time to switch off too. To not worry about how I’ll fit three rides into my week, or how many layers of Lycra are needed to beat the chill, or if I’ve eaten enough food to make sure I’ll make it back home!
I can wear clothes without revealing my anatomy to the world, climb a hill as slowly as I like, stay in bed, sheesh, I can even stay up past my usual child-like bed time. Bliss.
Entropy and the need to be doing something
Bliss will inevitably turn to disquiet, to boredom, to frustration, nay, even anger. No release, no movement, no joy. Stuck inside I’ll gasp for fresh air, for adventure.
Commuting by tube rather than bike will quickly wear and turn from novelty to hell, usually by the end of the first journey. The unedifying smell of others, cramped and crushed together, cattle going to market – at least they don’t have to repeat the journey on the return. People do this every day? Wow.
Body rested, it begins to quiver with excess energy. Long standing aches and pains are banished. I’m healed. Mentally too, I’ll be itching to be back on the bike, to be free, to be challenged, to be at peace. The anticipation will build and build, a child on Christmas eve, eager to play with his new toys, patience thin.
The dreams return. I begin cycling in my sleep once more.