Lee is starting the season strong in the Masters field. Photo courtesy of Lee Waldman

Is the season over yet? Not quite. Photo courtesy of Lee Waldman

Last week, Masters racer and Cyclocross Magazine columnist Lee Waldman philosophized a bit about  some life lessons and how they transfer into cyclocross. This week, he’s looking ahead toward the end of the season and what that means.

by Lee Waldman

Now’s the time in every cyclocross season when, even though the most important races loom large on the horizon, my body starts to wear down. I need more rest. The workouts seem harder. My legs ache more. I long for September and even October when I could leave work at four with enough daylight left for me to fit in a decent ride in the sun; sometimes even in shorts. These days I’m literally in the dark and the fun factor is gone. In short, motivation is at a premium.

I do believe, though,  that the Universe gives me messages; sometimes in the most direct and often painful ways. A couple of weeks ago, I stupidly pulled a muscle while training on an icy, snowing Saturday morning. Not paying attention, I  caught my front wheel in the seam where the dirt and the cement separate. With no warning, and no time to prepare myself and went down hard. I knew immediately that this wasn’t just road rash. The end result has been two-plus weeks of stiffness, soreness, visits to the massage therapist and my chiropractor and lack of motivation to train or race. That’s sad, considering the fact that Louisville is looming larger every day.

So, for two weeks, instead of racing, I nursed the injury and worried about how much fitness I might lose. Then that message from the Universe that I spoke of. Just when I needed it the most: I’m walking through the parking lot at my local Whole Foods Market and I read a bumper sticker on the car parked next to mine. “The only things that are important aren’t things,” it reminded me. And it strikes me that I need a reality check: that this really is what life, and bike racing should be about.  Not the tangible “stuff;” the goodies we all want that we’re sure will make us better and hence happier. The truly valuable things in our lives are the intangibles.

Some of you might be in the same situation or you might know someone in a similar situation. You might be struggling to find the motivation to race. It’s possible that you’re wondering if it’s worth it to soldier on till the season’s end. Should you pack it in, you might be wondering. Well, I can’t cajole the Universe into talking to you, but here’s something you could try.  It helped me.

Spend some time with an older person. When I say older, I’m not talking 30s, 40s or even 50s. December 9 was my father’s 87th birthday. This time last year, I was convinced he’d be dead by Spring. Everything about his body was shutting down and his doctors told me not to expect much. Yet, there he was, walking erect, talking to me, focused and looking pretty damn good!  I took the day off from school and took him to lunch. We talked about lots of stuff – his health (a constant topic for him these days), my job (he worries about me), his growing up in the Depression, the rest of our family. Just your basic father / son talk.  I told him I loved him. I told him he was truly my hero. I pointed out that he’s not only liked but loved, respected and almost revered by everyone he meets.

My dad isn’t the most animated person in the world so the smile on his face was, as they say, priceless. And for as much as it benefited him, it did me wonders as well. Our afternoon together reminded me of what is truly important in life. I love racing my bike. Cyclocross is and always will be my passion. But looking across the table at this man who dropped out of school before he was 16; worked his way through the Great Depression to support his family; fought from the beaches of Normandy to the Rhine; established himself as a master of his trade; I realized that I was looking at someone who had transcended the need for victories. My father loves life. He’s ready to leave it when his time comes; knowing that he lived a good life, not a perfect one, but a good one.

And as so often happens when I spend time with my father, I was humbled and reminded that there are bigger things in life than bike racing.  My dad was a good athlete. A nationally ranked racquet ball player. A good golfer. An amazing bowler in his time. And he played all of these sports simply for love.

We all need to spend some time with someone like my father to help us get our heads right. It’s the holiday season and daily we open our mailboxes to a flood of catalogues trying to convince us that happiness is directly related to how much we spend on ourselves and on others. Not true. We can spend all the money we want but if it doesn’t help to bring us joy does it really matter.  Take some of that money and buy someone with the experience of age, coffee or a meal. Sit down with them, talk to them and then really listen. When you go out to ride, and I know you will, remember what’s really important – living our lives to the fullest.

Enough, go ride that bike.