After suffering through 3 winters in Boston, I moved to Austin and I swore I would never live in a cold climate again. But after only 2 and half years there I somehow found myself living back in a cold winter climate in Boulder.
I learned a lot about how to train through the winter when I was in Boston and this time around I came up with a couple more tricks to try and make winter triathlon training a little more tolerable.
One of the main ways I get through winter is to find people to train with. Training with a small group helps in many ways. When you're having a bad day, there is always someone in the group who will be motivated and you can feed off of this until your motivation comes back. When I was in Boston there were very few people to train with. On occasion I would meet up with Dede Griesbauer for a ride, but she always smacked me around on the bike, so that wasn't much fun.
During winter I find that running a lot works best for me. Running high mileage during winter will pay off later in the year, and when the weather starts to get better, you can drop the run back to pick up the bike mileage. I think running is also the quickest way to get fit. Keeping a high run volume during the winter helps keep your weight under control. I often hear a lot of the pros talk about putting on weight over the winter so they have something to burn off when they get fit again. I think this is really bad and unprofessional. Whenever I have gained weight over the winter, it has taken me twice as long to get my run fitness back. The first 4 to 6 weeks feel like hell and I don't enjoy it at all. So, I recommend keeping the running up.
One of the most important things for getting through the winter is consistency. Sometimes that doesn't even mean doing a lot. Just getting in the training, day in and day out, will make the winter fly past. Having goals helps a lot too. I like to set distance goals for the week. For example, this January I tried to keep my running at over 100km for the week, and luckily, Boulder had a very mild winter so far and I have been able to achieve my monthly goal of 2000km on the bike. This hasn't been easy, but if you take day by day, it's possible.
When the weather is good, take advantage. Whenever it warms up, I get out on the bike and try to fit in some good long rides. You never know when you'll get to do your next long ride outside. Also, heavy duty ski gloves and hand/foot warmers work great on cold days. And speaking of cold days, running mittens might look stupid but they are awesome.
If you can find a race to do mid-winter, whether it's a triathlon or even just a running race, this will help keep you focused on your training. Races help split the winter in half so you just need to get through the race and then set a new goal for the second half of winter.
One last tip: don't go skiing. As much fun as it is, something always happens. I went for a day trip with Chris Legh in December. I had a little tumble and and tweaked my shoulder. It's been sore ever since, even with all the work I have had on it.
And remember, only the hard, tough triathletes stay up north in the winter.
- Richie Cunningham