Test Time

By: Ben Zawacki Dec 7

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Test time is quickly approaching and it is essential that I buckle down and get to business. In the past that may have meant cramming in some quantum mechanics or mathematical methods, but my upcoming test is quite different. The time scale is far larger and the physical demands slightly more imposing. My upcoming test is a season of racing, covering subjects such as the NRC, NCC and USA Crits. While I have a small base of knowledge, the real studying is looming in the near future.
I’ve never been one to just crack the books open and get straight to work; I like setting up the right environment, dialing in the proper caffeine intake, finding the perfect playlist. The first step in this process is finding the proper venue. In my time at Clemson University, I found that there are three typical choices: staying home, heading to the predictable library, and occasionally the more welcoming coffee shop. Each option has pros and cons that must be carefully weighed in order to provide the best outcome, and all the variables must be taken into account. How much time until the test begins? How important is it? How hard will I need to work?

So I now find myself asking these very same questions as I get ready for the upcoming season. The test begins in a few months, but I will need every day to prepare. In cycling class, each season is immensely important, and to ensure a good class rank, my work ethic must be unparalleled. While the locations for logging in some long base miles and studying for electromagnetics are not exactly the same, they have some striking similarities.

I’ve narrowed down my off-season choices to Winston-Salem, North Carolina, my current home base; Tucson, Arizona, or Southern California. Can you guess which place corresponds to which typical studying area? Home is still home, Tucson feels eerily like the Library of Professional Cycling University, and SoCal may as well be the hip new cafe to meet at.

Staying home should be perfectly suitable for studying or training. For one, I’m already here—there’s no strolling to the library and there’s no cross country drive. All the tools needed are easily within grasp, be it pen and paper or roads disappearing over the horizon. Everything I could want is already here. Comfort and familiarity are not to be discounted, and my house has that in spades.

Home should be perfectly adequate, yet, it’s not. There’s something missing. If I need to breeze through a quick chapter or go for a short spin, it’s the best choice, but when the real works beckons, staying home will simply not suffice. The motivation is lacking when you don’t move. There needs to be a catalyst and staying stagnant will certainly not provide you with one. Every person knows the feeling when there is a pressing matter at hand and yet you always find a room that needs cleaning, your favorite show that needs watching, and the refrigerator is begging you to consume all its contents. While all of those actions are vaguely satisfying in some form, they don’t provide any real benefit.

Change is needed and what better way than to go to a place designed to help you accomplish your task. In college that place was the library and for an American professional cyclist, that place is Tucson, Arizona: It’s perfect. The weather is downright comfortable and rain is a mythical beast, unseen and unlikely to be found. You can ride for miles and miles on dead flat roads or, if you’re so inclined, you can ride twenty six miles up a mountain, leaving the desert and finishing at a ski area. The study groups are phenomenal, and vigorous learning like this requires others to push you, and Arizona has many willing applicants. The Shootout group ride may be the best study session for winter semester Saturdays in the country. Tucson is so perfect for the task at hand, but just like the library, it’s far from a thrilling place to be. I wouldn’t want to live in either place for very much the same reasons: a lack of distractions may be great for intensive work, but it’s hard to live and breathe every second of every day with a singular focus. It’s going to take quite a while to prepare for a year of racing and I’m unsure that I want to spend the next three months in the library. A breath of fresh air might be nice, and maybe a more soothing environment would be best.

The coffee shop! It’s relatively quiet, the tunes are relaxing, and caffeine is readily available. There will be people thinking and doing the exact same thing as you. They needed a jumpstart to their work but wanted to avoid the stark, regimented single-mindedness of the library. Now, I’ve found the perfect place to set up shop. Yet something is amiss here, too. I’m having a hard time settling down. There are pretty bookish girls reading away, I’m fascinated by the barista’s methods, and this music really isn’t great. This should be the best mix of all my needs, but will I really accomplish the same quality and quantity of work? I’m hesitant. California’s roads are spectacular no doubt, but the beach is beautiful too. Those waves won’t ride themselves. And let’s be honest, Katy Perry didn’t write a song called “Arizona Gurls.”

So what does a student of cycling like me do? At this point I’m unsure. My books are prepped and ready to go, I can’t stay at home, and it’s crunch time. I think I’ll just hop in the car and drive. Maybe I’ll stop on campus or maybe I’ll go a little further down the road; only time will tell.



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