This morning after swim training I was using an old threadbare towel to dry my old threadbare body, when I realised something felt different. Instead of the usual sensation that I was drying myself with a piece of astro turf, my towel felt soft, luxuriant, and so flexible that I was able to fold it without breaking it over my knee. This can only mean one thing – winter is here.
Yes, soft towels that actually dry you are a sure sign that the weather is now too cold to dry them on the line where they acquire the rigidity of a malt loaf that’s been in my back pocket for a five-hour ride, and the tumble dryer is now in use, imbuing my kit with a lemony freshness completely at odds with my personal hygiene habits.
The winter is here and it takes a dedicated triathlete to recognise that the time has come to swap the electric blue lenses in your cycling sunglasses for ones that make the world look like you’re staring at it through a urine sample. Over the years, each of us has identified our own little signs that the winter training months have arrived, so to help you spot when it’s time to dig out one of the 78 buffs you seem to have acquired, here are mine:
1. It’s only me and the postman still wearing shorts.
2. have to break all last year’s solidified mud off my spikes. I usually do this about half an hour before the first XC race of the season.
3. I go through a spell of turning up late at early-morning swim training because I keep forgetting to allow an extra 10 minutes to de-ice my car windscreen.
4. The shower water is running away much more quickly because I’ve stopped shaving my legs and clogging up the plughole with leg hair.
5. My nose runs faster than I do.
6. A pair of deep lines appear on my forehead, caused by my thermal skull cap, and stay for about four hours after I’ve taken the cap off.
7. I start looking at my puny frame in the mirror and saying ‘Right, off-season training starts now so stop eating crap and get in the gym.’ I will continue saying this every couple of days until Christmas when I change the sentence to say ‘Right, New Year is here so stop eating crap
and get in the gym.’
8. I know within the first minute of a ride or run whether I’m wearing too many or too few layers. At no point throughout the winter will I get the number of layers right.
9. My friend Neill starts doing the ‘cold water dance’ at morning swim training, a ritual which involves him climbing gingerly into the cool pool, wading out up to his waist with his arms above his shoulders, and going ‘ooh ah ooh ah’ like a gibbon with its tackle trapped in a fridge door.
10. I can be found wandering round my house wearing bib shorts, t-shirt and a woolly hat, doing all sorts of non-essential jobs such as rearranging the cutlery drawer, washing out the dog bowls, putting my socks in alphabetical order – anything, in fact, to put off getting on my turbo trainer.
11. I play my annual game of ‘hunt the shoe cover’, only able to find one when I know full well that I had two when I last took them off and flung them into the corner of the garage.
12. The first 10 seconds of the post-ride shower are more painful than the ride.
13. I start taking an interest in other people’s swimming ability. After months of diving into lakes where I have all the room in the world, I’m now suddenly forced indoors to share a white-tiled oblong trench with the public, so an ability to instantly appraise which lane is likely to hold me up the least is vital.
14. My hands no longer obey me when I stop cycling. After months of having more dexterity than a safe cracker, suddenly they refuse to perform simple tasks like selecting the right key to lock my bike or get in the bloody door
out of the rain.
15. I’ve started planning next season’s races, and compiling them into a list, which incidentally will bear absolutely no relation to the races I end up doing.
Anyway, it’s time for me to stop eating crap and get in the gym.