As the nights draw in, it is hard to stay motivated sometimes. But relieving the pressure of the training schedule and the long rides for me, ensures I keep riding through winter and keep the base fitness at a good level.
First of all it is hard to get out and do long k's after work or before work in winter, just mentally hard, staying hidden under the duvet seems a better options. But you don't get fit by getting soft around the edges, but don't beat yourself up if you miss a session, mentally or physically this might be what you need.
But how to get through a winter of riding to maintain or even build for a 12 or 24hr solo race? Find good riding partners, they don't all have to be able to get out at the same time, they don't all have to be super human or own a MTB if you have a roadie or CX. The immediate key for me is variety, this keeps me interested and willing to head out. Riding mates that are out at different times gives you the opportunity to get out and helps you commit to some rides.
Shorter Rides/Time on the bike
Do shorter rides, but more of them. Ride often, be on the bike as much as you can. Ride in the morning one day and the evening the next. Mixing it up helps prepare the mind better for the mental games when you are sat in the saddle for 12-24hrs. Do some really short (1hr) rides at odd times late night early evening. If the roads are dry and clear head out for a long road ride for a day here and there.
Having a couple of local loops that you ride often as well helps, time yourself on each ride. Don't look to beat the previous times, just try to keep riding it in that sweet spot where you feel fast and strong, but not pushing 100%. This will help to see how you are improving.
What about hill reps?
Yes, but find a short interesting loop that you can do the climb and then weave down a short bit of singletrack to the bottom and then climb back up again. Don't try to kill yourself initially, ride it once comfortably and check the time and then aim for the same time, do about five reps. The last few will feel uncomfortable but push through. The next time aim for a few 5% quicker of the climb time and have a short sharp hill climb and a long enduring one, endurance MTB courses will have both. I find once I start to plateau it is time to start pushing a lot harder on the reps, this often ends in tears of the last rep being painfully slow, but it all helps.
Of course these are key and you should try to get a couple a month at least, but riding shorter stuff daily will certainly help and requires shorter recover times. With the long rides I like to mix them up from flat to hilly, a day out with friends to a training ride head down bum up. Keep it fun, keep it interesting. After all if things get boring it is harder to be motivated to do them.
Recover and reward.
If you have had a hard long ride or a few hard short days and the legs hurt, maybe a day off or a 30 minute turbo spin or short easy ride is in order. If your commute is part of your training, give yourself and extra 30minutes or whatever seem suitable for the commute length extra. Not recovering can lead to prolonged injury and illness.
A reward, have that apple pie with cream or that chocolate brownie, you probably deserve it. You probably deserve that beer or glass of wine as well. I find removing the nice things from my life just doesn't work for me in fact it makes me start to resent the activity/sport, so I just don't do it. Close to a race I am a little more careful, but that is about it.
Listen to your body, it knows what it is talking about, it really does.
Does what it says on the tin. Race through winter, short, CX or something similar to the Merida Brass Monkeys. It keeps you heading for short term goals and can be lots of fun, even if miserable and cold, you're a mountain biker, that is what you signed up for. CX races are short, fun, very fast and just a little different and you can do them on your MTB if you don't have a CX.
This is more of a brain dump for those thinking 12-24hr MTB solo and some of it may be useful, some may not. But the idea was to provide some insight into how I stay motivated and it may help. Their are others that are clearly training machines and will have a tight schedule and deviate little from this and that might work for you as well.
But I can tell you one thing that is key, we all like to make it fun, so keep it FUN.