The off-season is over but winter? Far from it. Home is now Chambéry, a university city east of Lyon in France. You can stop picturing sunny vineyards and long lunches that start with the crack of a fresh baguette right now, it’s still only single digit temperatures and, more often than not, raining. Even when the sun manages to barge through the clouds for a few hours, it’s impossible to ignore the vast blanket of snow on the mountains that collar the town. If that’s not a reality check, the fact that I’m covered head-to-toe in thermal water “proof” clothing is. It is very much still flippin’ winter.
That distant landscape reminds me that there are still wet and cold training days ahead but that isn’t my complete perspective. The towering mountains seem to ground me in a sense of gratitude that expands far beyond the excitement of 14km mountain passes winding though tunnels, past alpine-looking houses and up to altitudes worthy of Tour de France stages. It reminds this small Canadian girl that she is in France. Swimming, running, cycling and living en Francais. Baguettes, berets, the Alps; buying pommes not apples, saying Bonjour instead of hello, and training outside instead of on the indoor trainer like so many athletes are still doing. Of course many others around the world are enjoying the sun, waking up to blue skys and hitting the ground without a thought to mother nature, but, glass half full right?
Of course that sunny outlook is big picture thinking and during the daily grind when it’s 4 degrees and I’ve got a 3 hour base ride to do, the chatter in my brain is more akin to that of an angry sailor rather than an enlightened monk. The line between dedicated and stupid is blurry at best and while I often entertain thoughts of making that line more considerate of my core body temperature, when the chips are down, that line always seems to read “just get it done.” And that’s where the mountains come in. It’s not stupidity or dedication or toughness that gets me out the door to “just get it done,” it’s gratitude.
So it’s rainy, cold, grey and miserable? I’m also nestled in the Alps cycling, running and swimming. Ceasing the opportunity with gratitude gives me motivation to pull on thermal leg warmers every day, ignore numb feet, and get my climbing intervals done despite the freezing windchill. Forget “manning up” in the winter, an enlightened monk beats an angry sailor any day of the week.