The New England cyclocross season appears to be getting longer and longer each year. While cross is tensely whispered about like a secret crush during the summer months, and off-road rides are like lost dreams, come fall our love is a raging roar. Double weekends of racing, and even mid-week races are routine. Pacing yourself does not even seem like an option. By the time you cross the line of your Sunday race you are already thinking about the next, and what your training week should include. By mid-season you are already thinking about next year, suffering from a failure to simply enjoy cross season, like you were planning on doing, Ms. “I don’t want to take cross that seriously this year.”
Several weekends of travel away from family, friends, and other comforts of home; watching yourself place the same or only slightly better or slightly worse every single time; bikes breaking, combined with a dwindling bank account…these things can just take a toll on one’s mental capacities. We become, simply, “burnt out”.
At this point some of us might ask ourselves, “why?” Why do I race my bike? For the pro’s or those in the higher categories, this question may seem always answerable, or it may never be a question at all. For me, and for others I have spoken with over the last few weeks, it has been at the forefront of my thoughts. Should I stay or go? Sign up or stay home?
Feelings of guilt for not racing or being more dedicated, shame in telling people “no I am not going this weekend”, weakness when not feeling my best before the sun comes up or not trying as hard as I could, and a sense of loss for not being around more have overwhelmed me into taking a few weeks off of racing. I’m supposed to love racing my bike, so why is it taking me so much energy to saddle back up to the start line?
This weekend, trying and muster up a positive mental attitude to do at least Sunday of New Gloucester CX (one of my favorite courses) has been tough. Reminding myself to have fun and to try my hardest will be at the forefront of my thoughts; trying to keep from wincing, and remembering that there is winter for sleeping in a bit and getting to house projects.
The strongest reminder of why we race is the one that can be hardest to get to. It’s the moment right after the start whistle blows: there’s nothing like the racing of your heart to make you feel more alive than you have all week; nothing like the pain of gasping for air for close to an hour to temporarily help you forget the other pains of life; the loud laughter as a friend mud slides right into you mid lap (because I don’t take bike racing THAT seriously).
Life balance is always hard. Throwing bike racing into the mix is only a temporary factor, but it should be seen as a release, not a burden. A wise cycling master once said to me, “you won’t race well if you aren’t happy.” So maybe if things are getting too overwhelming, taking a break is okay. Taking the New England cross community for granted is not ok, and I might miss a few things, but other experiences are there to be had. There will be a next season.
Lily Richeson lives in Somerville, Massachusetts and works at the
Embrocation Cycling Journal warehouse shipping your packages. She is
in her second New England cyclocross season and though tired, doesn’t
plan on stopping anytime soon. You can follow her personal blog here:
*Photos by Myles O’Brien