Colorado’s Lee Waldman aims to bring more content for our masters readers through a regular column this season as he builds towards his goal of a national championship. It’s been a while since installment #2, but we’ve got a double dose below to get you caught up.
by Lee Waldman
Cross and Tango have much in common. Tango is all about the love/hate, the push/pull between two people. Don’t most of us have that same relationship with cyclocross? We love the challenge of discovering the fastest and best lines through each corner, the chase to get stronger, faster, smoother. We willingly embrace the suffering because, let’s be honest, it sets us apart from those riders who only race on the road. At the same, time we hate it. Rolling across the finish line totally knackered, covered with mud, sweat pouring out of our helmet liners, drooling like one of Pavlov’s dogs after the dinner bell, we look like death warmed over. For the next hour we analyze how much it hurt, how much it truly sucked. And then we come out the next day, or the next weekend, and we do it again.
Isn’t that the definition of insanity – doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results?
Cyclocross truly is a cruel lover, luring us into her clutches with promises of easy races and high placings. She builds up our egos with the occasional effortless race or workout. She makes us feel like superheroes for weeks and a time. We fly up hills, jam out of corners, accelerate over barriers. Nothing gets in our way, nothing feels hard.
And then. . . when she has us believing in ourselves, hoping that she’ll make it a permanent relationship. . . she drops us like a bad habit, leaves us dangling off the back of the pack. Without even a backward glance she moves on to the next unsuspecting fool. We get lapped, we get pulled. And there we are, alone with only our aching legs swelling with our lactic acid and our memories.
The first month of the season has been good to me. I’ve consistently finished either in the top half or just barely outside of it, meeting the goals I set for myself. It feels like I’m on track for a good ride at Nationals.
Like all good cross racers, I’ve suffered through my share of dropped chains and crashes right in front of me but, hey, it’s the nature of the sport. The cool thing about mishaps is that when you can channel the adrenaline that naturally follows, you find yourself flying back through the field feeling superhuman. Bad luck will find all of us eventually. The choice is to either give in and quit mentally and physically, or just keep on racing. I choose to race in the belief that in the end the Universe evens it all out, and that there are lessons to be learned in even the worst race day.
The days that I hate, though, are the ones where you line up feeling good and 30 seconds in you know it just isn’t going to be your day. Even then, some good can come from the experience. If you can make yourself keep going you learn a lot about perseverance. “If it doesn’t kill you it makes you stronger,” especially in cyclocross.