Thursday, December 1, 2011

Autumn Leaves, and hope

I've written here before about the motivational challenges I face in the Fall, especially now that I'm living in the Midwest. Impending cold and enforced confinement looms over October and November, and I still carry the memory of the 87 straight days we spent with snow on the ground during that awful winter of 2009-10.

But Autumn holds eternal promise for the cyclists around here, even as our training time decreases and our waistlines expand. My friend Mark Savery is crushing the Master's 1/2 category on the 'cross bike, (he was 3 for 3 at Jingle Cross this weekend) and his Midwest Cycling teammate Matt Tillinghast has also taken a bunch of USGP podiums. Mark's ramping up for Master's nats and worlds. Wow. Jeremy Cook won the Cat 3 Nebraska State Championship in 'cross, and Bryan, well--he's had all sort of news about a new member of his clan.

But I've gone down the rabbit hole these last six weeks--and come back out with 155 new dissertation pages.

Not all of it is really new. This writing is the culmination of two years' worth of in-depth archival research, sorting, outlining, fretting, thinking, and cursing. But by the end of the year, I hope to stop spending my days hip deep in sheep dip. I'll get back to writing about poetry and literary theory, not just eighteenth-century agricultural writing.

So there's a light, as my man Mozzer used to say.

And cycling hopes remain. They're based on ephemera, but without our ridiculous dreams, would any of us ever bother to pin on a number? Looking back on the season that was, I got blown off the back of half the events I entered. I lost a chance to sprint for a master's championship when I dropped my chain 300 meters from the finish line after an excellent lead out from my friend Kevin. I attacked the shit out of three crits to help teammates establish the winning move. I missed a turn in a TT. I won a road race that Shim and I pretty much controlled by ourselves. I successfully raced four 'cross events without falling on my face.

And now, it's fall. I weigh less today than I have on any december 1st in 17 years--I'm just 2 pounds above this summer's race weight. I've usually ballooned past 205 by this point in the year, but so far, I'm doing okay at reducing my portion sizes to reflect my reduced training. I've forced myself to take a few days totally off the bike, and I feel refreshed and eager to start lifting and trainer workouts.

I've said it before, but it bears repeating: if I can come into march weighing 190 (vs. my usual 210) and still pushing ~325 watts at threshold, I can certainly build on a base of fitness. I could conceivably weigh 185 and push 350-375 watts by may. Assuming I can still sprint at that weight, I should be able to help the fast guys a lot more next year. I just have to hope that I can avoid packing on my normal autumn 15.

But the numbers don't matter as much as the hope. Hope gets you out the door when it's 30 degrees outside and you have a three-hour endurance ride on your schedule. Hope forces you onto the trainer in a dark basement at 6:00 AM. Hope makes you complete another set of Bulgarian split squats when all you want to do is puke instead. Hope makes you try to train totally unlike Shim and Spence, both of whom have 20 years of riding in their legs and can go fast all the freaking time.

Hope compels you to leave Omaha at 18, and it pushes you to persevere long enough to earn three Grammy nominations:

Hope makes you scour another archive and discover a use of adynaton that makes all of the dissertation bits look like they belong together. 

So I hope. When the days grow short and the light recedes, I remember, as always, Uncle Bill:
                    we have within ourselves
Enough to fill the present day with joy,
And overspread the future years with hope.
 I hope that it's enough.

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