The Wonder in Winter Training and Perspective in the Strava Universe

Mte. Aire Canyon, Utah

I’m pretty good about keeping perspective, especially when it comes to training. For ten years training as a speed skater perspective came from training with the national team every day. We followed the program like good soldiers under the guidance of the ultimate drill sergeant: Coach Xuili Wang. There was no straying from the program and there was no doubt we trained harder than anyone in the world of speed skating. I spent ten years in a state of exhaustion that led to some monumental moments of success in my life of sport under Xiuli’s tutelage.

Fast forward to my current life in sport, the life of a cyclist. Gone are the group training sessions; gone is the microscope I loathed and loved from Xiuli. Yes, it’s a new life in sport, with a new coach: Chris Rozdilsky. Xiuli and Chris come from two very different worlds, China and America respectively but the traits they share are those which I’ve found in every coach who has guided my path. They are both tough as nails, understand what it takes to win and are not shy to create and demand the training to achieve world class results. The big difference is that I’m not with my coach day and and out anymore.

Is there less loathe and more love to the training pain because of distance? Not necessarily. I find myself sending curse emails to Chris calling him mean and cruel, but they always end with a ‘thanks, Coach’. The thing that’s different is the perspective. I often wonder ‘should this be so hard’ or ‘am I training hard enough’ because a lot of what I do is by myself in the torture chamber basement of our house here in Utah. It’s the ultimate set-up for indoor and mountain training where you can find e-motion rollers, computrainer, magturbo trainer, time trial bikes, road bikes, snow shoes, etc. I can name all these things because if you want to come and rob me, you’ll need a snowcat and keys and swipecards to get to my place, if you can find it. But that’s not the point here. The point is perspective.

Which leads me to Strava , one of our team sponsors this year. I am not one for social media but have to admit the Strava idea is pretty cool. I signed up merely to map my rides, hikes and snowshoes to see topographically where I’d gone. I live at altitude and love gauging training by how much I gain in elevation in a session. This is not easy to do when, in the winter, much of the pedaling I do is indoors, and when hiking or snowshoeing there is no SRM to download.

The posts I’ve made since the monster miles at camp have been what seem like pitiful little walks in the woods. The downloads don’t show how hard it is to posthole up and over mountain passes, how exhausting it is to bush-whack where there is no trail…I post my Garmin downloads and look at those of the people linked to my Strava page. I see my competitors, people with jobs, families, responsibilities that seem so much more intense than mine as an athlete seemingly training WAY more than me. Of course, those torture sessions in the basement have not been recorded….I tried this and one particular session of 2 1/2 hours that about killed me read ‘1.2 kilometers’ long and was promptly deleted.

I began to think maybe I don’t ride enough in the winter… started to feel a little embarrassed about the little ‘pro’ icon beside my name (which, for the record, I have no idea how it got there) and almost sent Chris, my coach, a note asking about just what I was doing for this winter training thing that was supposed to bring me to the races at the level above the many citizen riders I was reading about who were training WAY more than me!!!

And then, today, here in Utah, winter finally arrived. Today, the day when I was supposed to get out and ride the road again. For the first time since last friday, eight whole days ago, I was going to get out and do a 5-hour ride that I was pretty excited to download onto Strava to show those who probably do not care that yes, I DO TRAIN SOMETIMES! Instead, I woke up to a massive blanket of snow stretched across the Wasatch Mountain range.

One of my rules for indoor training (and thankfully my Coach’s rule, too) is that long endurance rides are not done on the trainer. Or on the rollers. Or, indoors, for that matter. That kind of stuff ‘fries your brain’ as Chris would say. I looked at the date and, noticing it was only January the 7th, gained some perspective. Next, I looked at my training program, and it said for January 7th, 2012 “Group ride 4-5 hrs. If no ride, then snowshoe 3hrs”. Long live plan B’s. With my first race in march and a training camp in Tucson beginning on Thursday, I realized there was no rush for pounding the pedals any more than I currently am. That fresh snow became more enticing the more I thought about how long a cycling season can be.

Thus, my Strava entry today titled ‘FIRST SNOWSHOE OF THE YEAR!’ What a day it was, ridge walking in fresh white pow with Peter along for the trip. The moose we encountered gave us a long time to admire his fluffy brown coat as he munched on some buds in the middle of the path, in no hurry to move. The snowmobile ride up to where we started gave me multiple chances to practice my leans in the turns that I’ll bring onto the bike later this week in Arizona.

To my delight there was a comment from a rider I only know is on the other side of America, on one of my hike entries saying something like ‘Perhaps I need to switch it up a bit, get off the bike a bit a while?’ Maybe I’m not so off track after all. And maybe, just maybe, there is some perspective to be gained on Strava.

I have to admit, however, that I am looking forward to downloading some wicked numbers during ten glorious days of road riding in Tucson. Winter here, road riding there, in the end it’s perspective that matters the most. Training for cycling can be a very strange and potentially destructive thing. There is really no limit to how much a person can hammer out the miles, the watts, the meters gained.

If there’s one thing I bring into bike training from skating it’s the idea that quality always trumps quantity. More is not always better. I will be proud if, come July, August and September, I can have some more monumental athletic moments that might show it’s possible to go fast on a bike and have fun in the snow along the way.

It was cold out!

Real men drive skidoos

My favorite winter activity

Peter close to our mountain house

The may does not show the snow!

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