Too much spare time can be a curse. © Justin Lindine

Too much spare time can be a curse. © Justin Lindine

by Justin Lindine

The thing about ’cross races is that they’re only an hour. And when you’re racing every other day, as we are during phase two of EuroCrossCamp here, the amount you need to ride on your “off” day is limited to maybe an hour and a half recovery ride, and maybe the cruiser bike stroll to the “Carrefour,” or grocery store. This leaves a lot of available hours in the day. Now, ordinarily this time might be spent rebuilding my bike, pouring over the time-consuming details of bike maintenance. But here at camp, our stellar mechanic Dave has things pretty well under wraps, and the internal cable routing (and full housing) on my Redline is proving to be a real godsend in keeping the bike-work pretty straightforward. So on that front, I find very little to occupy my time.

Maybe if I was at home I would think about cooking dinner, prepping and readying everything I would need for a nutritious and delicious pre-race meal. But here at camp Jim, our soigneur, has been gracing our plates each night with a veritable cornucopia of delicious food, leaving us with little to manage except our own breakfast and lunch prep. So here I am, striking out again.

Laundry eats some time, to be sure. The piles of sodden and mud-stained kit that come home in the team vehicles are enough to make any Maytag repairman tremble with fear. So we pre-wash with the pressure washer, a comical display of mist and mud and trying to hold your sock with one foot while blasting it with a high-pressure water cannon. The washing machine at the house, as well as the one down the street at the Laundromat, have both been on a pretty constant cycle since the racing began, and there is barely a square inch of heater space that isn’t occupied by a medley of wet shoes, gloves, hats, rain capes and other cold-weather cycling detritus.

But really, even after the many stages of laundry, from pre-wash to folding, there is still too much time between breakfast and bedtime. Time for blog entries, and mindless banter that ranges from race chatter, to Twitter followers, to music and how much we would pay for a pizza and some burritos. I walk around the house and the snippets of conversation can leave me reeling with laughter or shaking my head – since my “old guy” status seems to mean that I am more disheartened than amused by the “I have more Twitter followers than you” conversations. But after the emails are written, and the status updates made, families checked in on and sponsors updated, there still seems to be so much time to fill.

It sounds like a trivial sort of complaint that there is just too much time in between races, but I find that thought sadly crossing my mind and somehow want to reproach myself. Truthfully though, this is part of the journey outside my comfort zone. The change-up from our everyday routines is, in some ways, just as challenging as the racing itself. Free time is an experience that I am used to filling with errands, or family time, or any number of the other laundry list of “to-do” items that pile up in an everyday life. For some of my younger camp-mates, it’s the homework, or the job, but the point is that this camp introduces the idea of “being pro” as something that affects not only your riding, but your free time as well. And while it might be a little harder trying to manage your excess time when you’re racing ’cross races, where the duration is so short and the racing so intense that the need for training days in between is minimal, as opposed to say, a road stage race, the temptation to overeat, or ride too hard on an off day, or just sit around watching one of the four English speaking TV stations is ever-present.

So, for now, I’ll eat my breakfast, do my training, do my laundry, and then settle in to write these pieces, all while trying to avoid the Nutella downstairs. If it stops raining, maybe I’ll make a trip to the Carrefour or do some souvenir shopping, but I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s race day in Loenhout, even though it does promise to be a wicked muddy tractor pull, for the structure it will bring, because thanks to all the great people here running this camp, I’ve never had quite so much time to do so little.

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Justin's new friend, the town donkey. © Justin Lindine

Justin’s new friend, the town donkey. © Justin Lindine