One thing Lee carries while racing - his bike! © Annette Hayden

One thing Lee carries while racing - his bike! © Annette Hayden

Cyclocross Magazine columnist and Masters racer Lee Waldman feels re-enregized by spring and is picking out summer rides and races to keep him feeling alive and ready for ‘cross! In case you missed it, go back and check out Lee’s previous column on Overtrainers Anonymous.

by Lee Waldman

This is the time of the year when the pain of racing has faded and I find myself heading out to simply ride. Not that I don’t love riding my bike all of the time, but in the spring, when the weather is close to perfect – when the pervasive wind dies down – my rides are truly a joy. I can even embrace the intervals and find pleasure in the suffering of Lactate Threshold training. I’m strong and well-rested after giving my body a break from the stress of racing. The winter break has had it’s positive effects and I’m feeling great.

My focus on cyclocross eliminates the stress that I felt when I was younger to be ready for the road season. After 30 years of racing I no longer feel the pressure to show up every weekend from March through December ready to race. Now I can be particular, letting a weekend go if the race or the weather isn’t motivating. I base my decisions on which races will prepare me for cyclocross. After all, there really is no rush – the first ‘cross race won’t be till September. With that thought in the background, I can “play” with bike racing.

This year I’m racing my mountain bike more. There are three really good short track series near my house. In just 20 minutes of racing I can work almost as hard as in a 45-minute cyclocross event, and I still have time to go for a ride or make dinner. And, they’re fun in that sick, lactic-acid-induced delirium sense that all hard races are fun.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, there are a number of 50 milers I’m looking forward to riding this year. My goals are to get rid of winter weight and lower my times from last season. so the only one I’m competing against is myself. I have a feeling that I’ll be mentally as well as physically ready for another season on the cyclocross bike after a summer like this. We’ll see.

The other thing that riding my mountain bike for fun does is that it reminds me of how much I love just riding a bike. Last week I was out for a recovery ride, one of those days when I can actually enjoy the scenery. About 10 minutes in, I rode past a little girl, maybe five or six years old. She was decked out in her pink helmet, riding her violet two-wheeler (without training wheels) sporting an ear-to-ear grin. She wasn’t worried about upgrade points; the thought never crossed her mind that there might be a finish line to cross. She was doing what kids do: having fun. At that moment I realized that I too was just enjoying turning the pedals.

Author Tim O’Brien wrote a book about the Vietnam war titled The Things They Carried. In one of my favorite passages he lists all of the things, physical and spiritual, that these soldiers carried with them daily. We all carry things with us when we ride. I carry tools for on-the-road repairs, a spare tire since I’m old school and love the cornering ability of tubular tires, a water bottle (but have to continually remind myself to drink), gloves, a hat, sunglasses and sunblock that my wife reminds me to apply. In my pockets are my credit card, energy bars, my phone and my most recent addition, my iTouch. I’ve learned that music does make the time go faster.

Sometimes when I wonder if it’s worth it, at 60, to keep training. I carry visuals of friends who’ve aged much more quickly than I have, and that keeps me going. I carry the voices of students and friends who are incredulous when I tell them my age. Those things, in addition to my deep-seated need to challenge myself, keep me riding.

I carry the day’s hassles so that I can let go of them as the miles pass. I carry memories of races won and lost. I carry anger, sadness, regret and guilt. I carry ideas that I need to work out, writing pieces that I need to draft, reading that I need to process, students whose problems become mine. I carry training demands that need to be met and hopes for future results. Mostly I carry the joy of simply moving down the road under my own power, feeling the feedback from my muscles as they grow stronger. I carry a sense of control over my destination, my time and my life. It actually is, to misquote a popular phrase, all about the bike – but not simply the bike. It’s about what the bike provides for us. We all have our reasons for riding. I wonder what all of you carry with you when you ride. Care to share? Comment below!