Waldman pushing himself to a new level of 'cross prowess © Annette Hayden

Waldman pushing himself to a new level of 'cross prowess © Annette Hayden

It’s down to the business end of the cyclocross season as Master’s racer Lee Waldman fine-tunes his preparation for the Colorado state championships and master’s nationals. This is installment #7 of Lee’s regular column, catch up on #6 here.

by Lee Waldman

One week until our state championships, two weeks ’til Nationals. Cyclocross season seems so, so hard: just surviving from week to week and then, it’s over. Now is the time when I start to ask all of the rhetorical questions. Have I trained hard enough? Did I do enough lactate threshold training, enough intervals? How are my starts? Are my transitions quick enough to keep me in contention when I’m racing against the best in the nation? Have I eaten well and rested enough? All of the pieces that need to fit together to make up a complete and comprehensive program are overwhelming.

And… it’s too late to worry about any of it now. To use a cliche, “it is what it is.” For the next two weeks, it’s all about being tough mentally: believing in myself, my preparations and my abilities. Doesn’t matter who the competition is.

I’ve challenged myself this year, racing with the best 45+ masters men that Colorado has to offer. I’ve held my own for the most part. As one of my old team managers used to say, “You do the best you can with what you’ve got and leave the rest to God.” That’s where I’m at now. I’ve worked as hard as I could. I’ve raced each race, not just ridden them. My technique has become solid in every condition we’ve seen this year – and we’ve seen a lot, from hot and dusty to cold, sloppy and greasy. The only thing missing has been frozen icy ruts. Hey, there’s still one more race before Bend, so who knows.

Today’s race felt great! For the first time in at least a month I didn’t have to go directly from the race to the car wash. We had a completely grass serpentine course. I lost track of the number of times it doubled back on itself, soaking the power from my legs in a completely different manner than mud.

The resting that I’ve done has helped. I can always tell at the start how my race will go. Today was one of those days when I was nose breathing rather than gasping for every available molecule. Every time I needed to pass someone, I did. Each time I needed to get out of the saddle and power out of a corner and up a steep climb I had gas left in the tank. I caught riders that have ridden away from me all season. I don’t want to jinx myself, but for today at least it felt as if I may have timed things right for states and nationals.

Now, every time I get on the bike I visualize riding at the front,something that I can be hesitant to do, especially when there’s a lot on the line. I imagine chasing down the front of the race and then rolling through. You know that feeling you get when you’ve ridden everyone off of your wheel and it’s just one lap between you and the finish line? I’m spending a lot of time trying to live in that reality and own it. I can feel it, sometimes, and sometimes it’s elusive, just out of reach. But I’ve got three weeks to become comfortable with the feeling.

How many times do we give up not because we can’t do it but because we don’t believe that we deserve it. Every one who throws their leg over the top tube and lines up for any bike race deserves it. We’ve all suffered to get to this point in the season and now it’s not about fitness or about technique, it’s about believing. I’ve got two and a half weeks to work on that.

Thanks for reading. Next time you hear from me will be after states, and then Bend.