Saturday, October 1, 2016

Sodden Impact

Go ahead, make more rain.
Are we in a weather funk, or what? In September we had 15 days with measurable rainfall, including 6 out of the last 10. And so far we’re 1-for-1 in October. This weather is killing my cyclocross season. Some cyclocross racers love wet and/or muddy conditions. Not me. The Wisconsin Cycling Association season resumed today in Manitowoc and I was not there. After working overnight and facing the prospect of racing in the rain 70 miles from home, I took a pass.

There’s more going on here than a single decision to skip a race in circumstances that would have made it impossible for me to be successful. My training has been terrible lately. On Monday, very high winds kept me off the bike and behind the lawnmower. On Tuesday, rain forced me to cancel the season finale of the cyclocross practice series at Royal Oaks Park. I did 2-hour training rides on Wednesday and Thursday, then got rained out again on Friday … and again today.

I feel like I’ve lost some of the edge on my fitness. I have lost the mental edge. Immediately after canceling practice on Tuesday, I set up my Raleigh on the trainer in the home gym. I need to make peace with it, but I haven’t yet. The ugly truth is that I am not fully committed to this cyclocross season. As much as I love the sport, I haven’t convinced myself that training and racing in cold, wet conditions is worthwhile when the result is, at best, a mid-pack finish.

I am still what I always was: a guy who just might succeed by outlasting you. The WEMS race at New Fane back on Sep. 17 provides a perfect example. I was in 11th place at the end of Lap 1 and in 10th place at the end of Lap 2, then I jumped up to 5th place by the end of Lap 3. I was still in 5th place at the end of Lap 4, but closing fast on the guy ahead of me. I moved into 4th place early on Lap 5 and held that position for the remainder of the race. But that’s mountain bike racing; cyclocross doesn’t work that way. Explosive starts leave me fighting for the scraps after the first minute. Throw in weather that I truly hate and you have a recipe for demotivation.

Next week’s forecast holds some promise and I still plan to race at PumpkinCross in Grafton on Oct. 8. The WCA season really is just getting started and I shouldn’t give up on it yet. I am hedging my bets, though, by looking for other cycling opportunities. There’s an appealing gravel grinder in downstate Illinois on Oct. 30, for example, that could be a great alternative to another weekend of rotten weather in Wisconsin. And I’m only 468 miles away from a 5,000-mile season. But that’s a consolation prize, and when I’m planning for 2017 I should look for more competition goals early in the season. Autumn is never what I want it to be. Saving myself for it is failing to make best use of my abilities.

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