Excited to be racing in Boulder. Photo courtesy of Lee Waldman

Excited to be racing in Boulder then, excited for the off-season now. Photo courtesy of Lee Waldman

by Lee Waldman

It’s February in Colorado. Today, it’s in the high 50s but the wind is hurricane force. There’s a branch in my driveway as big as my Subaru. I just watched an empty trash can speeding down the street going at least 35 miles per hour. Two Sundays ago it was cold – 11 degrees. If it was December, I’d most likely be getting ready to leave for a race right now. But, since it isn’t; since it’s off-season, I can be a wimp. I don’t have to go outside and be buffeted by the wind or freeze my butt off unless I choose to. And therein lies the struggle, for me; finding that balance between training outside or in.

Maybe I am a wimp, who knows. It seems that the older I get, the less tolerant I am of the wind and the cold. My body doesn’t tolerate it the way that it did when I was younger, teaching skiing for a living. I still have crystal clear memories of riding the chairlift in Breckenridge, Colorado and reading the thermometer on the lift shack registering minus 10 degrees. And that was fully in the sun! I was also twenty years old and too stupid to know that I was cold. Now my middle toes remind me of my insanity every time the weather takes a dip. Years of day-in-day-out frostbite has left them red, swollen, and painfully sensitive to the touch.

So no, I don’t mind the trainer, or the weight room. I just wish that I could get over this guilt that I feel when I look out the window and see the sun shining. Granted, today the trees are bent over almost in half from the wind but the sun is shining nevertheless.

There are also days when, from here in my kitchen, it looks inviting, almost balmy. And on those days, there’s also that telltale bite to the air that let’s me know that even though I’d feel warm for the first five minutes, soon after that I’d begin to feel my nose go numb, my feet turn to blocks of ice, my fingers lose all of their feeling. For some reason, it just doesn’t sound like a party.

Not being one to dwell on the negative though, there are some benefits to indoor training. First, I have the time to carefully analyze the technique of guys like Nys, Stybar, Albert, Pawels and the rest as I watch, for the umpteenth time, the World Cup races I’ve DVR’d over the course of the season. Being the visual learner that I am, the more times I watch someone the easier it becomes for me to incorporate what they’re doing into my toolbox of moves. So, as I pound out the pedal revolutions on the trainer I can feel my body mimicking their moves in a reasonable facsimile of what they do so effortlessly.

When it’s that cold, or windy outside it’s difficult for me to want to work hard enough to actually raise my heart rate. I’m so busy trying to stay warm or fighting to keep the bike moving against unseen resistance that I can’t actually produce a worthwhile effort. I may sweat like a pig on the trainer, but I can also focus on work load. So, Ben, if you’re reading this, I’m doing what you want me to do, even though I’m doing it in the basement.

Finally, indoor training motivates me to update my iPod playlist. The one that I’ve listened to for the month getting really old. But my new, improved playlist has a song on it by Billy Joel that got me thinking – Uh oh! You know what that means! “My Life” has always been a favorite of mine to ride to because of the beat. I can ride it double time and work on leg speed or half time and work on climbing power. But today since it was an “easy day,” I was just listening to the lyrics. And it dawned on me that Billy’s giving me permission to not only train indoors but to be OK with it.

All right, you’re saying, what in the world does this have to do with cyclocross? Just give me a minute and I’ll get there. Here’s what Billy Joel has to say, “… sooner or later you sleep in your own space, either way it’s OK you wake up with yourself.” And you have to ask yourself. Who do you answer to? So, how many times have we all struggled with making decisions for all the wrong reasons: Because someone else does it that way; because we’ll feel guilty if we don’t, because the calendar says we should … Be honest now – Have you ever gone out training when you knew you should be resting? Ridden a race that you really didn’t want to just because a teammate goaded you into it? Making the wrong decision at the wrong time in the wrong place in a race and paying for it in the end.

Go reread the lyrics again. “I don’t need you to worry for me cause I’m all right …” Trust yourself, listen to yourself. If it’s too cold, or windy, or dark to go outside and train then don’t. The more we do for ourselves, especially this time of the year when we’re recharging from a long and debilitating cyclocross season, the fresher and more motivated we’ll be for the summer.

Now go ride, or don’t, it’s up to you.