Cyclocross Magazine columnist Paul Warloski profiles his return to cyclocross after a near-devastating injury. Follow Paul as he takes us along for a ride of trials and tribulations of a cyclocrosser with a refreshed perspective. If you missed it, check out Paul’s last column, Why Cyclocross Is More Fun Than Crits.

Preparation, Waiting, and Finding Some Patience

by Paul Warloski

For Paul, back to cyclocross also means back to school. Photo from flickr via KB35

For Paul, back to cyclocross also means back to school. Photo from flickr via KB35

August 31 — Contrary to the (mis)conception that teachers sit around all summer and read mystery novels, I actually do a lot of preparation work. Mostly thinking, reflecting and planning: about the previous year and its successes and failures; about the possibilities of the upcoming year.

Tomorrow, the kids show up at 7:45 a.m., scared, excited, curious. After two days of meetings with adults, it’s the time I’ve been waiting for all summer. Middle school kids are absolutely the most fun ever, precisely because they’re nuts. If you can corral their energy and curiosity in a positive direction, watch out.

They also drive me crazy. Those of you who are parents of adolescents know exactly what I mean. They’re truly wonders to behold, but hang on to the rafters while they grow up!

This is not a column, though, about teaching. It is a column about preparation and waiting. And it is a column about new starts and beginnings.

In less than two weeks, I’ll be traveling to the first ’cross race of the season. Like you, I’ve been preparing for these races all year, training hard, eating and drinking right (most of the time … ).

But the point of this season is not September. Nor is the point to peak for nationals in January.

The point of the season this year is getting WFQ (Warloski Fun Quotient) points. Each week is a new opportunity to simply have fun riding my bike.

Of course, for me, fun means riding as hard as I possibly can, digging through the pain cave, ripping the legs off others around me and if someone is going to beat me, they are going to earn the place. Kind of like Katarina Nash talking about “murdering herself” on the bike in the last issue of Cyclocross Magazine!

I want to channel the natural enthusiasm and energy my 7th graders have into riding my cyclocross bike each week. If only now I could still have their recovery time …

The first day of school is high energy and highly emotional. That energy could never be sustained all year. All the planning and preparation are not for the first day but for every day throughout the year.

Likewise, the first few races, even though I’m so ready I could race right now, are not the season. I could not sustain the energy I feel, particularly after a great ’cross practice tonight, all season. And on Friday, Mike Heenan, mwi cross team director, and I are building our ’cross bikes up. Christmas comes early, and the excitement builds to a fevered pitch!!

Besides planning for teaching, the summer gave me time to help plan the Wisconsin Cycling Association cyclocross series, now sponsored by Crank Daddy’s Bicycle Shop in Milwaukee. As one of three ’cross committee members, I spent a huge amount of time organizing the details of the series, visiting race sites to make sure the courses met high standards and sending out boatloads of emails and texts to promoters and others.

Together with promoting the mwi cross race at Cross the Domes on October first, cyclocross became a part-time job this summer.

We have a lot happening in Wisconsin ’cross, with the 16-race WCA Crank Daddy’s series (possibly the biggest number of races in any US series), the USGP in Sun Prairie September 24-25, the Midwest Regionals, December 10-11, and US Nationals, in January, both in Madison this year. Plus there is another UCI race in Chicago to go with the excellent series put on by the Chicago Cup.

I can race every Saturday and Sunday from September 17 until nationals!

Last year, I ran a club for a short time where I taught some kids about ’cross. Kyle, one of my students and a kid who literally bounces off walls, was the most fun to watch: mostly because he had no fear, crashed often, and always got right back up and tried the move again.

For reasons not worth explaining here, last year was a challenging one as a teacher. I didn’t have as much fun as I usually do teaching.

And as I’ve written about, last season in ’cross was also challenging in many ways.

Maybe I was trying too hard in both. Maybe I was too focused on the results and not on the process.

Regardless, today I put a sign at the back of my classroom that usually only I can see. And I put the same sign in the front of the room so the kids can see.

It’s a simple poster, no pretty decorations or borders.

All it says is “Choose to Smile.”

That’s how I’m approaching each day of teaching and each day of cyclocross racing. I’m going to choose to smile regardless of what’s happening. I’m going to choose to have fun and garner huge WFQ points along the way.

All the preparation work in my training, for the series, for our race, and for the kids is worthless if I’m not enjoying what I do.

I’m going to ride like Kyle this year — without, of course, all the crashes.

Ride, go hard, rip someone’s legs off even if you’re racing for 20th place, and have fun. Remember we get to ride around on a grassy obstacle course on our bikes.

And choose to smile.

Especially when it hurts. Especially when you’re DFL. Or when the course isn’t “your kind of course,” or when you crash, or when the line is long at registration.

Choose to smile. Everyone will wonder what you’re really thinking about.

Thanks for reading.

Paul Warloski races cyclocross for the my wife inc cyclocross team in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He is 47 and a middle school English teacher. He was nearly killed in a 2009 crash when a large pick up truck broadsided him on a training ride. In this column, he is documenting a year learning how to be positive regardless of results. He maintains an irregular blog at and his race reports, along with reports from the rest of the mwi crew, can be found at