Lee is ready for the season and has a few tips to share for newbies. Photo courtesy of Lee Waldman

Lee is ready for the season and has a few tips about appreciation to share for newbies. Photo courtesy of Lee Waldman

Last week, Masters racer and Cyclocross Magazine columnist Lee Waldman talks about how the season is finally, finally here. This week, he’s got a few tips for racers of all skill levels.

Although the cyclocross season is happily getting incrementally longer every year, it’s still more compact than the road season. For those of us whose passion is ’cross, that’s a good thing. For our partners, who have to suffer through mud-filled showers, mud-stained towels, abrasions, bruises and the occasional broken collar-bone, the season is probably about eight weeks too long already. Bottom line, if it wasn’t for their patience with our obsessive behavior, their moral support as we spend the majority of our time thinking about, talking about, and racing ’cross, and their physical presence at the races, racing cross would be much more difficult. So, this column is dedicated to them.

Top 10 things to remember (and definitely to appreciate) about a cyclocross partner (in no particular order):

10)  Talking about ’cross is OK. Talking about ’cross excessively and obsessively is not OK. In other words, keep it short.  Keep it occasional. I was told in no uncertain terms that my continual obsessing about racing made my wife feel less than important.  At one point, all of our conversations centered around diet, training, the next race, your upcoming season, why we couldn’t go out or why we had to be home early. She got tired, she got frustrated. She made a command decision that it had to stop.

9)  Make sure you balance training, racing and partner time. Don’t forget that a good run, a long hike, or even a walk can still be training and the added bonus is that it’s time together. For us, we also dance. It gives us time together.  (see #8)

8)  Find something to do together. Something that has nothing to do with bike racing. My wife and I dance. It’s time that’s set aside for us to be together doing something that we both share a passion for and that we can learn together. It keeps me balanced and it keeps our relationship vital. We get to touch. In fact, closeness and connection is encouraged. We are in sync … at least we try to be in sync. It makes our dancing look better. It’s healthy. We laugh (sometimes). We’re both on the same learning curve since we started together. An added bonus is that the body awareness has helped me on the ’cross bike.

7)  Invite him/her to the races but don’t ever  make them think that you expect it. They didn’t sign on to be race groupies or your pit crew. If they want to come, enjoy it, treasure it, but don’t expect it. And above all make sure that they have a cowbell.

6)  Don’t complain (too much) about the cuts and bruises that come with cyclocross. All you’ll get (unless you’re really hurt) is eye rolling and the occasional, “It’s your choice. And by the way, clean up the mud and the blood when you’re finished.” This is a no-whining sport. Crying won’t help you heal and won’t further your relationship.

5)  Take a break every once in a while. This is one of the hardest things for us, as athletes to do. I love my rest days. I love my breaks in training. But – it’s so tough to give myself permission to take them. We’re hard men and women. We race in extreme conditions and we push ourselves to the max every time we swing a leg over the top tube. So, breaks seem like we’re wimping out. It’s good for us. For our bodies, minds and relationships. ’Cross season is so long these days that a break from racing is a good thing. It helps you physically to recover and mentally to refresh the excitement for racing. Take a break and do something different.

4)  Listen to them. Really listen. Slow down (my personal challenge), live in the moment, give them the attention that they deserve. They have passions too, whether they are athletic or intellectual. If  you honor theirs, they will be so much more open to yours. ’Nuff said.

3)  Cycling is expensive. You have two choices in how you handle your spending: Lie about how much you spend or double check with them to make sure that when you buy something they know about it and they’re OK with it. Lying, we all know, comes back to bite you in the end. “Honey, I noticed that your bikes seem to be multiplying?”  Uncomfortable pause.  “Yeah – did I forget to tell you I bought a new one?” Silence. Or, “Honey, I know that we have our $100 rule (we don’t spend more without checking in), so is it OK if I buy a new set of wheels? I really need them.” Comfortable pause  “Let’s think about it overnight. Is that OK?” Yeah, we all know that for most partners a bike is a bike is a bike and they might or might not notice the new stuff, but honesty certainly goes a long way towards harmony in a relationship.

2)  If you’re going to travel to bike races, find races in cool places. That way you’ll have company and a happy partner at the same time. We’ve had some great weekend getaways for ’cross. The races are short enough that there is a lot of opportunity for quality time afterward. And, we are always refreshed to go back to work on Monday.

1)Tell them – often — how much you love them and appreciate their support, their patience and their continuing presence in your life. I don’t think I need to say more.

So, there you are. My top ten tips for maintaining a healthy relationship  I’d love to hear yours. Maybe there’s something we can all learn.

Enough, go ride your bike!  ’Cross season is upon us.