Those Four Weeks aren't Coming Back
Winter seems endless. The extended darkness and cold temperatures fosters a bleak feeling that spring seems so far away. So why am I in my basement watching YouTube videos of snowfall in European villages? Well, it is relaxing, but also, because we apparently don’t have winter anymore in Utah, it reminds me of how winter is supposed to be. The skiff of snow that fell earlier this week has been the only characteristic seasonal weather now in over a month. That beautiful day in December where I had to blow my driveway twice in 12 hours seems like a dream. If it wasn’t for the smog and darkness, I’m not sure I would even realize it’s winter in Salt Lake.
Which makes it all the more ridiculous that I spent three hours this morning riding on my trainer in my basement instead of doing something outside. The reason, however, is that just as winter is supposed to seem endless, Cycle 1 of my winter BaseCamp training has also seemed endless, and the value of getting this final, monotonous workout of Cycle 1 completed far outweighed being out on the mountain.
It only took 2+ months, but I finally finished the first 4-week cycle of BaseCamp’s 16-week plan. Sciatica, which I’m still battling, sidelined me for nearly four weeks starting around Christmas. And with that much time off the bike, I essentially had to start over from square one. So that’s why finishing today’s ride meant so much—it was a long time coming.
Every time I get an injury (which has been happening way too much as I enter middle-age), it reminds me how lucky I am that when I am healthy, I can ride/ski/hike the way I do. That’s why I was so energized to get my rides in after my mulligan in which I restarted from Week 2 of my training program. My back still wasn’t 100% at the time, but it was good enough to get back on the saddle. And with the horrible snow conditions and the constant social media doom-feed reminding me of the canyon traffic, I decided that trainer riding took precedence over skiing and I should make the most of this opportunity with my improving back to “green” as many workouts as possible. (Green is the color-coding on my TrainingPeaks calendar that denotes a workout was completed to “spec”.)
February is typically that month where I realize, “Oh shit, winter is ending.” As the days get longer and the weather warms, I realize that spring skiing is right around the corner and I need to make haste to make the most of our every diminishing winters. But this year, I have skied a grand total of TWO DAYS to this date. That is by far the lowest amount of days to this point in over 20 years—and that includes a year in which I tore my ACL on Christmas Eve—though I hardly have been concerned with my low “day count” because it doesn’t feel like we’ve even had a winter, and for most of January, I was questioning if I could ski without doubling over in pain as my sciatic nerve drops an A bomb down the back of my leg as soon as I hit a mogul wrong.
Where this is all going seems to be going is: “Appreciate what you have when you have it,” and that is a common response when something you love is taken from you, even temporarily, but I want to flip that a bit. In my time off the bike and away from the mountain, I was doing other things that were of no less value. I was finally working on my resume. I finally went through 20+ years of old photos and organized them on my server. I made some progress in the books I’m reading, and did quite a bit of writing. I did not miss out on skiing, nor did I severely inhibit my cycling fitness, by taking some time off. Instead, I got an opportunity to shift my focus to other avocations without the self-imposed shame that I “should be” doing something else. My back injury took that shame out of the equation.
I’m not saying I’m glad I injured my back. Trust me, I would trade in the hip-napalm in a second for this insight, but you have to take lessons when they are taught, and this experience reminded me of how it is possible that balance in our lives has to be forced on us occasionally. I am lucky enough that in my life, I have had more epic ski days than any kid who grew up skiing the icy tundra of the U.P. has a right to. I’ve tagged some pretty impressive lines, skied incredible powder, and have my fair share of suffer-fests to make for a good story. And on the bike, well let’s just say the years and years of Garmin stats prove that I can afford to take a little time out of the saddle. So I’m not going to let this disruption to my training or the lack of ski days bother me. I can’t get those days back, so there is no sense in crying about it. What I can do is look ahead and, more importantly, look to now.