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Our next batch of Winter has arrived and I believe it may proper this time. It actually might not be just another sneak preview like we have witnessed over the past few weeks.
I’ve seen some social media posts and even seen some recent vlog’s where guys are out training and highlighting that it’s ONLY 4-5 degree’s. It really must be a case of acclimatisation over time relative to where you live/work/train because in the Highlands of Scotland we would embrace 5 degree’s like we would our favourite teddy bear. None the less I say Chapeau! to anyone out there clocking up the winter KM’s no matter where you are. It is not a competition of who has the most extreme weather or who is brave enough to tackle said extreme weather. We are all living in different climates (even in the UK to an extent) which is the difference between us. But we do have one thing in common regardless of this and that is we are getting out and training in it.



Being as British as Possible. Passive Aggression Towards the Weather:

Other than ice on the roads I am honestly happy to train outdoors in minus temperatures. I have to be.
There is a lot more going on weather wise than the temperature alone though. Wind and then rain are the elements that come to my mind when thinking about the weather but in recent times the biggest issue has been the fog. We call it the “Haar” or “Sea Haar” up here and I honestly do not know if that’s a UK wide saying or if its less common to call it this the further South you travel in the UK? If you’re reading this from Southern Englandshire, do you refer to it as the Haar? I imagine most people not from/in the UK will never have heard of this term?

The Haar is a bank of exceptionally dense low lying fog that travels up from the coast via Rivers and Firths. It really is a sight to behold when the conditions are right as it basically looks like a huge ground hugging cloud moving across the water at high speed. We have recently seen days where the fog has remained in place for the entire day. It is truly horrible to train in and disrupts travel across the board for everyone.


^ A neat timelapse captured by my girlfriends father shows the Haar moving up the Firth. Ben Wyvis is the mountain in the background and the town of Dingwall is centre. You just can’t see the town due to the Haar!

haar-map
^ My “Haar Map” might be primitive but I enjoyed making it!
^ You can see from where “home” is in relation to “work”. Directly in the Haar Path. The Black Isle is also one of my top locations for training. As you can see it is essentially a big peninsula and at the mercy of two Haar Pathways.

When riding in the Haar there is the obvious issue of visibility in that it is so dense you can barely see 5 metres in front of your wheel. You then also have a major worry of other road users possibly not seeing you in good time or at all!
The moisture content of the air in the Haar is also really high so you end up getting soggy. However, the biggest issue of all is the temperature within this foggy misery. During recent times it has been -2 to -5 degree’s Celsius so coupled with the moisture in the air you’re literally cycling through freezing fog.
Breathing in this freezing wet air is torture on the lungs and therefore torture on my frozen muscles. It’s what escalated my recent bout of illness I spoke about in my previous post. With ice forming on my handlebars and on my gloves, it does get to the point where I question if it is all worth it….
Just in case you are wondering what the answer to that question is, well, it’s not even really a question is it? I can confirm it IS all worth it.

    
^ The max temperatures were 100% not recorded outdoors. I can only wish that they were.
^ What isn’t shown on the 28.7km ride (commute) is the 24 entire minutes it took me to change an inner tube that was popped by hitting a crater in the road. 24 minutes being around 20 minutes longer than it should take any person to sort a puncture….. but when it is -5, in the middle of nowhere and you can barely see your hands in front of your face due to the fog, things are a little different.



A not-so British Positive Counter Attack:

I might have shown that where I choose to call home is a grim place to be weather wise. Certainly for anyone who wants to do anything outdoors that is. I mean, so far North that it’s always Baltic cold anyway, plus living central to two Firths that promote Haar Attacks!
It would be easy to get down in the dumps about the weather. It would be even easier to use it as reason not to ride a bike outdoors at all for the next six months….

The best way to counter that negativity is to seek out a positive which can be suitably used to smash the negatives face in.
This is where I conjure up my inner Belgian and blindly convince myself that as horrific as it may be, it is making me stronger, and tougher.
I am by no stretch of the imagination actually meant to be Scottish and I am certainly not full blown Belgian material! I am renowned terrible for feeling the cold whilst others roll their eyes at me. Sat in their t-shirts complaining that it is tropical. I was definitely meant to be born and live my life somewhere warm and sunny but a fatal glitch in the Matrix at some point lead me to this Baltic fate.

belgian-wooly-hat

For those that are wondering what on Earth I am talking about Belgians for, let me explain briefly….
When it comes to cycling/racing the Belgians are super tough. They get battered by wind, rain and cold temperatures year round and have no choice but to get outside and get on with it. Cycling is in their blood and it is so popular at a competitive level that avoiding training and not going outside is almost a non-option. If you don’t get the training done, you won’t perform, then the hard nut who did get the training done will be there to take your spot/defeat you.
If you watch (you should!) some of the March/April time semiclassic and classic races from Belgium next year on Eurosport. The lad on the front absolutely hammering it through the rain in 3 degree’s C, with bare legs and arms on show as everyone is wrapped to the neck in lycra. There is a crazy high chance that lad is Belgian. He is probably bloody happy in that situation as well. A tiny little flake of that exists inside of me. My inner Belgian.


^ My Belgian man crush, Tiesj Benoot. Harder than Nails! Image courtesy of INRNG.com – Give the image a click to check out the race report (Strade Bianche 2018) and their awesome website.

What I am trying to say is that Belgian cyclists counter attack negative weather and all that comes with it by making it a positive circumstance. Training outdoors in the bad weather is tougher mentally for sure and depending on the conditions it can be tougher physically also.
My inner Belgian tells me that the suffering I am putting myself through is suffering that competitors might not be putting themselves through when the weather is grim. Multiply that scenario by ten and by the time tropical May 2019 rolls around  that can all add up in my favour.

Embrace the grim. Turn what appears to be complete negativity around on itself with the help of your own inner Belgian. It could be what delivers that extra 1,2,3,4,5% next season and it has come from nothing more than a different mentality towards what Mother Nature is dishing out.