Lee Waldman temporarily trades in his cyclocross bike for a spin on his mountain bike. © Lee Waldman

Lee Waldman temporarily trades in his cyclocross bike for a spin on his mountain bike. © Lee Waldman

Lee Waldman has talked a lot lately about his off-season motivation issues. It’s been a tough year for him with work, and now he’s finally got a few weeks off to reflect on why he still manages to ride his bike.

by Lee Waldman

So, in reality, simply focusing on fun hasn’t been as easy as I thought it would be. The weather in Colorado has, as a lot of you know, been unseasonably hot this summer. Wild fires continue to be a problem all over Colorado and the West. The air quality has suffered so that at least half the time the front range is obscured by smoke. I live less than 10 miles from the foothills. Most of the time, they’re crystal clear from my back deck. This summer, it’s rare to see them without their usual curtain of haze.

As a result, every one of my training rides for the last three weeks has been more or less a suffer-fest. I start out with heavy legs and feeling like I’m breathing through a straw; most rides head downhill from there. Up until last Monday, I can’t remember a ride where I didn’t struggle to raise my heart rate. At this time of the year, when I want to be feeling rested and strong, I’ve been just the opposite.

I wonder, does age have anything to do with it? Yeah, I know I’ve written a lot about my belief that age is just a state of mind, but I’m beginning to take a different and perhaps more realistic look at that. There are, after all,  things about growing older that are givens. The number of aches, pains, and stiff muscles I feel when I wake up are multiplying. After complaining to my massage therapist about them last week, he looked at me and reminded me that for the last 30 plus years, I’ve forced my body into some very unnatural positions for very long periods of time. What, he asked me, did I think my neck would feel like by this age? And I had to admit that he was right. Does that make my neck hurt any less though? No. Does it make that crackling sound that I hear when I roll it to either side go away? Absolutely not.

I guess I’m lucky though, because for all my years of racing as well as all of the crashes that I’ve had, I can say that I’m still relatively pain-free.  Granted, half of my mouth is full of false teeth (errant pedal in my front wheel), one shoulder rides a bit higher than the other (separated shoulder), and I have a really interesting scar running across my nose (the result of a spoke that I fell on), but nothing that I’ve experienced on the bike has caused me to rethink my decision every fall to put on the skinsuit and race. I doubt if it will, at least not in the foreseeable future. I’m a stubborn cuss if nothing else.

What have I done to get past these roadblocks? Wouldn’t ya know it, I’ve found more ways to challenge myself! I figure that every time I push myself a bit further out of my comfort zone, and succeed, the better chance I have of reclaiming some of the confidence and motivation that I’ve been lacking. So, my next challenge is the 68 mile option of the Breck 100 mountain bike next week. I’m nervous!  Not about the distance. I’ve ridden close to that distance more than once. What causes me to wake up in the morning wondering about my sanity is the personal challenge I’ve set for myself, to complete this ride in a reasonable time. Because, regardless of what I’ve written, I’m still a competitor at heart, and I don’t want to line up next Sunday just to “do it.”

I’ve always believed that there is only one single way to approach life, and that is to give 100% effort. Whether it’s professionally or personally, I struggle to accept mediocrity. I don’t want to be the last guy to finish, and I don’t want to be forced to quit early because I don’t make the time cut to complete the last lap. So, I know I’ll push myself, as usual.

Speaking of pushing myself, it’s a beautiful day today. Less smoke than usual. I’m going for a mountain bike ride. I’m going to go looking for the fun factor today. You should do the same. Go ride your bike!