Cyclocross Magazine columnist Paul Warloski profiles his return to cyclocross after a near-devastating injury. Follow Paul as he takes us along for a ride of trials and tribulations of a cyclocrosser with a refreshed perspective. If you missed it, check out Paul’s last column, Learning to Trust Those Mad ’Cross Skillz.

row of trophies

For Warloski, a trophy used to be the primary goal. Now, racing is all about the fun. © Terren in Virginia

Chasing the WFQ Points This Year

by Paul Warloski

Actually, I was a little embarrassed.

I stood in front of friends and fellow racers at the Wisconsin Cycling Association’s cyclocross banquet, holding a trophy.

Fifth place overall 2011 WCA in 45 plus.

The trophy is a guy standing next to a bike. It has my name on it. The trophy is ceramic or something. I know that because of what I’ll tell you at the end of the story.

During the season, I made sure I raced every race in the series, even races I don’t like, just to maintain my spot in the points for the trophy. To me it was purely a symbolic and tangible piece of evidence that I could still race my bike, just 18 months after the crash.

Since the doctors said I probably wouldn’t be able to race again, I had to prove them wrong. And to finish in the top five overall would be the proof.

So the 2010 season was a Groundhogs Day of sorts: I usually finished around the same people every race. My goal every race was to stay with Ferguson for as long as possible. That usually lasted a few hundred yards.

To be sure, the competition for the fifth place overall spot with Dave E. was a good time. We’d duke it out every race, and usually the race came down to who won our two-up competition and won trash talk rights for the next week.

Here’s the problem, though: While I have a lot of friends on the cross circuit, I didn’t go on cross racing trips with my good friends on my team: my wife inc. racers Mike and Ross traveled to Cincinnati and Louisville for races while I stayed home to chase points.

They went to Chicago for fun races while I stayed home to chase points.

For me, chasing the points wasn’t about having fun with different people. Chasing points was pressure to prove my “value” to myself; it was another way to put pressure on myself to perform.

Most of us have done the same thing, pursuing an overall points total as a barometer of our worth as a bike racer, even, like me, of our worth as a person.

That’s the whole point of this year of new post-crash attitude: this year it’s seriously all about chasing points for the Warloski Fun Quotient (WFQ).

While it’s always fun to talk with different people at races, traveling with your “crew” on road trips is something else. Our trips to Ohio and Cincinnati the previous year were epic. We didn’t party up a storm or have wild stories to tell. Those road trips are just damn fun, high on the WFQ.

And in planning the 2011 season, I’m going to race my bike as often as my body will allow. The only points I’m going to chase are the WFQ points. I’m going to find the most fun, unique courses and events and spend my time there.

For instance, on a whim last year, I went down to Carpentersville, IL for a Chicago Cup race. It was a hoot, especially an off-camber hill turn. High WFQ points.

I will steadfastly refuse to precisely define the WFQ; The WFQ is anything that makes a cross race a good time. Circles of Death are not high on the WFQ list.

The WCA series this year has a bunch of new races and as one of the committee members, I get to help “shape” the courses. My only goal will be to raise the fun quotient for everyone!

(The only downside to being on the Cross Committee is a certain obligation to race WCA races. This year, though, if the race doesn’t meet the WFQ, I’m not going! Sorry, guys…)

And if I’m tired and need a break, I’m going to take one. It’s going to be a wonderfully long season. From September to January. I can give myself WFQ points for taking a mountain bike ride in November and missing a race.

So far this year, I’ve made a schedule of all the possible road races, crits, time trials, and mountain bike races in the area. If I’ve been tired or not feeling ready to race, I didn’t go. Yes, I missed out on seeing friends at the events. But I could ride with friends in Milwaukee.

At the WCA cross banquet back in January, I asked friend Mike and and his wife Jessica to the cross banquet to celebrate my fifth place. Mike is the director of our my wife inc cyclocross team, and Jessica is the head sponsor.

Talk about anti-climatic.

I stood there with my trophy, now embarrassed that I worked that hard for this piece of ceramic or whatever it’s made of, sheepish that I dragged Mike and Jess along with me.

A week ago, sometime in the night, I heard a crash in my house. A framed poster of the mwi Cross the Domes race had fallen and knocked over the fifth place trophy. It had fallen to the floor, breaking off the man’s helmeted head.

It seemed an appropriate metaphor for my changed state of mind: The trophy was all about my head needing validation by scoring points. To continue the metaphor, I’m now just riding my ’cross bike, gaining valuable WFQ points, and drinking a beer with my friends when the racing is done.

And that is living at its finest.

Thanks for reading.

Paul Warloski races cyclocross for the My Wife Inc cyclocross team in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He is 47 and a middle school English teacher. He was nearly killed in a 2009 crash when a large pick up truck broadsided him on a training ride. In this column, he is documenting a year learning how to be positive regardless of results. He maintains an irregular blog at http://warloski.blogspot.com/.