I though I would share my thoughts on the "off season." In running and swimming (way back when), there was always at least two main seasons with a short break between each. I have always believed that building a strong base is paramount in order to race fast. Last winter, I may have jumped up a little too much over the winter as I was a little sluggish during outdoor track, but I firmly believe the body will eventually adapt to the training loads.
"Champions are made in the off season" is a quote that I believe is very true. I think some athletes can make huge jumps in ability during the off season. Some people believe the winter should be light mileage to prevent burn out (mentally), but I think if your goal is to race from March to September or October, you have to have a solid foundation to build upon. In this early phase of my training, I am logging mostly easy aerobic mileage in the pool, on the bike, and on the roads running. My last three weeks have all been about 20 hours of training, and have only fluctuated due to this being an extremely busy time of the year for college students! It is also important to keep up with stretching, hydration, and rolling out (with products such as Trigger Point Therapy) in the early season because it's easier to prevent injuries than heal one! I am looking to hold about 30 hours of training during the month of January, averaging about 200 miles/week on the bike, 30k yards swimming, and the normal 60-70 running. I am a big fan of long steady runs during the base phase such as my favorite 10 mile run with no warm up just going and working hard the whole time. Last winter, I averaged 5:33's during December for this run. I like huge base training because it makes me get to the starting line knowing I am ready for anything in the race (something I did not have last season of tris because I had no base of cycling or swimming to speak of!)
I have almost finalized my racing schedule for next year, and am excited to do some traveling to races such as Collegiate Nationals, REV 3 Knoxville, Clarmont ITU, San Francisco ITU, and hopefully World University Games in Taiwan, and U23 Worlds in New Zealand.