Embracing the cold

I notoriously have a great dislike of winter. In the UK, it’s just like summer. Only colder, windier and marginally wetter. In Norway, it’s not like summer. It’s freezing, snowy, icy, dark, and cloudy. I’m not sure which is the most depressing.

I was able to avoid winter until mid December. By staying in Brandbu I got to enjoy the British Winter in Norway. Some beautiful days (although mostly overcast), and able to bike. It was better than the British Winter though, as the ground was frozen solid, so every ride was fast and dry. Some days, a fine scattering of snow would cover my trails. Others, I could ride through the fallen leaves, feeling them crunch under tyre. It’s a satisfying crunch. Not the weak, semi frozen soggy state that occurs in the UK on only the coldest of days, but with the leaves frozen to their core, the rigidness breaking gives a wonderful crackle.

A fun autumnal MTB ride, when the weather was still nice and warm!

A fun autumnal MTB ride, when the weather was still nice and warm!

It was fun. Ramping up my training volume after a full month off, and then a month of ‘free’ training. But then, life changed for the worse. The days in December are so dark. With the change of season, the air is humid and freezing. Ice crystals seem to form and float about the air, which can be stunning at night with a torch, but generally just makes life colder.

We spent Xmas in the UK. My warm weather training camp; +10°C and sunny for a good chunk of the 2 weeks I spent there. I got to ride my bike again. On terra firma. I got muddy. And wet. I got to wear three layers, as opposed the customary 4 or 5 in Norway. I seem to have adopt the Norwegian Winter habit of stating whether it is ‘plus’ or ‘minus’ degrees before the number. Actually, Norwegians just forget the ‘minus’ part, but that’s important to me. Plus implies some degree of warmth and a southerly wind. I have a little party each time the thermometer reads ‘plus’ degrees. It’s a small victory over winter; spring is coming. Better to hear the birds though. That’s a sure sign of some warmth to the days.

Skiing at the Lygna.

Skiing at the Lygna. Life is tough some days, on others, it’s remarkably simple.

Now, in mid February, we actually have positive figures on the thermometer. Some heavy snowfall a couple of weeks ago has compacted nicely in the melt/freeze of day/night. It’s perfect for fatbiking. Walking trails are winter’s singletracks. Lots of concentration to keep the tyres in the sunken snowy path that weaves along summer tracks. Clip the soft snow and it’s game over. The ski tracks are becoming increasingly perfect each day. Those that get double pisted are already my night ride playground.

In January, my first week back in Norway after the England trip, I was feeling depressed. Barely light at 9am, and pitch black by 4pm. I had no motivation to do anything other than hibernate all day in my nest. Lack of motivation led to skipped training sessions. Skipped training sessions led to guilt and then more depression. It was starting to become a vicious circle after just 2 days. I decided to take an easy week because I was ‘tired’. I checked my training plan and saw that I would have to have an extra easy week at some point in order to get the training cycle of hard and easy weeks right before the Europeans in June. I took it in January.

During this week, I had words with myself. This couldn’t go on. If I want to win the World Championships, I wasn’t going to do it moping around. To win, I needed to train. The motto ‘Go Hard or Go Home’ crept in my mind. Although I wanted to stop everything, and not train seriously, just doing what I wanted when I wanted (which in this state of mind would have been little) I also knew this was not the way to improve and get stronger. If I slowed the rate of training, even temporarily for a month or two until spring arrives, the impact later would be huge.

I decided after this 10 minute chat with myself, that I had to embrace winter. I had to love it, and enjoy it. So what if it’s cold? I’ll just ski faster. What if I’m tired? I’ll go training, and have a nap. What if it’s cloudy? I’ll go out anyway.

A fun solitary fatbike tour around Sølvsberget. On the road to start and then ski tracks all the way home

A fun solitary fatbike tour around Sølvsberget. On the road to start and then ski tracks all the way home.

With that, the following week I put in a full week of intervals. No more 2/3 measures. By the end of the week, I felt great. I felt I could train harder. More volume, more intervals. The next week I went harder still. I didn’t feel tired. Every session was a joy. This is why I love training. I have a wonderful amount of variety in what I can train; fatbike, classic ski, skating, running (avoid as much as possible), strength and weights. Whatever I did, I was smiling. Loving training means I’m working hard when I need to. Intervals are tough. Yesterday, on the fatbike on the forest singletracks. No crashes, just a huge grin as I flew down the snow covered trails again, and again, and again. Two and half hours later, I returned home because I had to watch HJ at WOC in SkiO.

I love finished a good day of training, and feeling that I want to ride my bike again because my other sessions were so much fun. It’s hard in these times to stop myself doing more. Better to save the enjoyment for the next day. But for now, it’s time to eat again because I am starving!

An evening fatbike ride, starting on the ski tracks just 50m from home.

An evening fatbike ride, starting on the ski tracks just 50m from home.

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