Well it is officially "that time of year". The time of the year where, for me at least, everything starts to come into question. Overall fitness is usually at the core of the debate, but of course there is motivation and overall attitude which are all intertwined with environmental factors that we who call New England home, face on a daily basis. In reality, I usually have at least a few of these periods a year, depending on how things go.
Lets break this thing down and detail what I feel are some of the contributing factors in the equation. I think that starting with the obvious environmental factors is a good place to start. It's the fall and in reality, we just turned about at the corner for late fall. We all know what is right around the next bend. So what is the real issue with fall? After all, it is arguably the most beautiful and enjoyable season in the northeast. The bugs are gone, it is cool and crisp and the leaves, underbrush and poison ivy start to thin making for some excellent mountain biking conditions. What's not to love about that?
Nothing, except for the fact that I rarely get to ride the MTB in the fall any longer as it is rapid-fire no holds barred and non-stop cyclocross season from September through December. I think that it is one of the unfortunate truths about racing cyclocross, it wrecks the best season of the year in terms of being free and clear to just ride for fun. Take it as it is, that is just the trade-off that we all make when we get serious about racing bikes.
Along the environmental issue front, the bottom line is that this time of year in the northeast is dark and cold. The sun is setting by 5PM and by 5:30PM you need lights. With the setting sun, the temperature quickly plummets. This makes for cool to cold weather riding. Worse is the fact that the ride may start with reasonable temperatures but end significantly colder. You deal though. Besides, riding in the dark is sort of different and fun. The same old roads or trails seem fresh and new, primarily because you can't really see them all that well and you get a bit of tunnel-vision defined by the reach of your headlight. Most employed people also don't really have the luxury of riding during the day when it is light and warmer. Theoretically, I could bring all of my junk to work and then ride at lunch. This however poses enough issues that I'd just rather ride in the dark after I get home. When I'm an work I want to work, so that I can go home at a reasonable hour. I'm not a fan of extending the work day whenever I can avoid it.
I think that one of the most obvious yet difficult aspects of this point in the year, stems from the fact that I am really, really bad at training. Couple this with the fact that I'm not getting any younger and bang, I'm always effing tired. You can understand it earlier in the season when you are really ramped up on training and putting in the big time and mileage. However, at this point things have tapered down in prep for cyclocross, right? Well, for the smart bike racer yes, they have. They are into very targeted training sessions that fit with cyclocross efforts and race schedules. I too have cut back but realistically, not as much as I should. For instance, I'm spending between 8 and 11 hours a week on the bike. During the summer I spend more like 11 to 15 hours a week on a normal week and in the spring I'd average a little more. Why can't I pare it down some more? Simple, I'm a junkie and am addicted to the miles. I've tried to kick the habit but just can't see to make it work. That yearly total just keeps looming over my head and I certainly can't ride less this year than last year.
It has been a long season of racing. As a master of really ineffective training, I tend to be one of those that has one peak in the season. It starts about May and ends about November. Graphically speaking, it's a very mature looking peak, if you think of it in geological terms. Much like the local New England hills and mountains, it has been worn and eroded by time into a choppy series of shallow ridges and valleys. There is some variation but the peaks are fairly low and the valleys are fairly high. This makes for little variation between off and on, which results in consistent mediocrity. It is indeed an ignorant man who knows not his flaws but it is a foolish man who chooses to ignore them.
Yep, I am what I am.