It is the week before the US National Championship of Cyclocross and I am having trouble figuring out a good topic for my biweekly VeloNews.com journal. I wish this was because I am so focused and preoccupied with the impending championship event, but in reality my mind wanders as I think of the upcoming off season that directly follows the race.
My year is divided up into a few portions: preparing for the next race, training with no racing, and staying off my bike for a good long break. Right now the thought of being completely off the bike, beyond trips around town, seems to be completely consuming my morning, day and night.
I am excited to have a break from the monotony of travel, spending countless wasted hours sitting on airplanes, in airports, in rental car offices, driving in unfamiliar places and sleeping in strange beds. Physically and mentally I am worn out. My season started way back in February at a 24-hour race and has been pretty nonstop since then. It seems like eons ago that I was suiting up for the first NMBS or World Cup race this season, or waking up at the crack of dawn to attack another stage of the BC Bike Race. These memories seem like far off dreams that have hazy details, yet they happened just a few short months ago
My body tries to remind me of this every morning as I struggle to open my eyes before 9 am, and sleep comes easy and early in the evening. My mind has trouble forming coherent thoughts as I suit up for another day on the bike, every motion robotic and automatic from infinite repetition. Turning the pedals, turning onto the route I know so well, mind numb and on auto pilot. Whole moments or hours going by and then later, trying to remember parts of the ride, and being unable to. These are signs that it is time to stop for a while. It’s time to allow my brain and body to reset and to unlearn what it feels like to be tired, sore and suffering. Time to recover. Not just enough for the next race, but enough to forget. Recover enough to be lucent again, to form original thoughts and create something new. To remember what it is to be awake, conscious, and real again.
Somewhere in the crash and rush and excitement of the race season these things become dull. Despite my efforts, I forget what it is I am doing and why. I turn into a bike racing robot, sticking to my directive, unconscious yet brutally efficient and effective.
I need time to find the beauty in life and then direct that back towards my passion. I race bikes because I love it, I love the feeling of flying down the trail, floating effortlessly over obstacles at will, pedaling faster and faster and running out of gears because my legs are so strong, flashing through peoples vision as I roar past, becoming a flicker of speed, motion and energy as I race through the woods.
As with anything these sensations are lessened by overexposure. I forget to find the beauty, forget what it really feels like to go fast, and forget why I am out there pursuing the elusive perfect race.
Now it is time to put out for one more race, one last final hurrah of the season before calling it quits for a while. But in my head I can still see that it’s almost time to go bowling every night, to enjoy a glass or two of wine, and sleep in my own bed as long as I want. I can see it’s almost time to get around to all the sewing projects I have been neglecting and to do a little Christmas shopping. Standout in these daily activities is the realization that each day I can decide whether or not I will get on my bike.
Before I can completely succumb to my tired body, legs and mind, there is one large race left between my reset and my roboot. Let’s hope that things come together one last time, all the monumental hours on the bike will pay off, and I can wear some stars and stripes next season. But if not, at least I will know I left it all out there. It is the last race of the season, and I can’t hold anything back.