I don’t know if anyone else would agree but it’s been a weird winter around these parts. The cold seems to be everpresent and with the lack of consistent snow it seems as if we’re stuck in a world of grey in which the sun never fully seems to come out and it’s dark both leaving and coming home from work. What makes it difficult for me to train during these days is that exercise and movement and motivation seem unnatural during the winter. The body calls for rest and sleep and non-movement so that by hibernating more and training less the cold winter will pass quicker. I look forward to the day usually in March where the sun is shining, the breeze is warm, and the smells of Spring are in the air, but until that arrives it’s a circle of rollers and cold frigid rides.
This year is my fifth year of bike racing in and around NYC and for the first time I’ve taken a different approach for the colder months. In the past I’d mostly run through the winter with some other cross training thrown in (I feel so ridiculous on the elliptical) and would let the body weight climb with plans to watch the food when the days turned warm. For this season I’ve approaching things differently. Rather than put the off in off-season, I’ve made it a point to train more steadily with specificity, mostly all bike with weight room work mixed in. I’ve also been avoiding the typical winter weight gain by eating like one person (rather than my usual 2.5). As a result, I’ve never felt this strong or lean before so something seems to be working.
The rollers offers one the opportunty to ponder and I was thinking the other day about the position that bicycle racing has in my life. Bicycle racing has a certain place based upon everyone’s different life situations. I remember one time going for a bike fit with a local Cat. 1 and what struck me the most was that his workspace and his living space were hard to tell apart. His entire apartment was filled with bikes and parts and tools and these were intermingled with his couch and his tv and his kitchen. Cycling was ingrained into the daily fabric of his life. Whereas for me, with the myriad of responsibilities and roles that my life has, it sometimes feels as if bicycle racing lives at the margins of my life. Time on the bike is wedged into the time not occupied by my family or work responsibilities. The two hour block of time that I have from 4:15 to 6:15 AM must be used or they’ll be no other opportunity to ride that day. Even the things of bike racing – clothes, tools, bike parts and the bike itself seem to be squirreled away and not always present.
What’s interesting is that I don’t resent the time constraints placed upon my racing or training. I take great joy out of seeing my family grow up around me. But I guess what I’m looking for is that fair balance. The balance between what I have promised to do for others and the promises that I try to keep to myself. To give attention and daylight to the joy that bike racing is to me and to give it the space in my life that it deserves.
Now to many reading this, especially those who have the time and talent to rise to the upper echelons of this sport at the local or even larger level, I just may be another excitable Cat. 4 desk jockey/weekend warrior who steals attention away from those who are ‘real’ bike racers, but I can tell you this. When I’m shoulder to shoulder with my peers in Central Park or Floyd Bennet Field and perhaps even on those special days when the racing roads are the hills of Vermont or upstate New York I can tell you that I rarely feel as alive as I do then. To be on the edge of things, knowing that the effort being poured out is, at that moment, being directly translated to speed and strength is an amazing, exhilirating and life-giving feeling.
And I think it’s the knowledge of that feeling, just a short time away now, that sends me to the rollers in the corner of the basement or to the roads on cold and early mornings. And If that’s the price I have to pay to feel like that, if even for only a little while, I’ll pay it happily knowing that for me and the way I see things, it’s a bargain.
Hang in there everyone. Pretty soon we’ll be listening to Charlie I. admonishing us to race faster or he’ll cutting laps, we’ll be screaming at the TV at BXL enjoying the benefit of our Paris-Roubaix inspired media blackout and we’ll remember that we’re lucky men and women to have pursuits such as these.
Here. We. Go.