Friday, November 16, 2012

Making Your and #CXWorlds Work Together

I Would Sob 10 Seconds Later courtesy CX Magazine
I broke down after the finish line.  I remember the low winter sunshine.  Hiding my face under my arms and between the hoods of my handlebars so I wouldn’t freak out the daughters congratulating their father and fellow racer next to me, I cried for a moment, big soppy man tears.  My chest shook.  Uh huh huh.  Uh huh huh.  I could see my breath in the heat reflecting off the blacktop below me.  I smiled as I wiped my eyes.  I did it.  I raced the World Championships.

A guy 29 places ahead of me would pull on the rainbow stripes.  Crossing the line were a Belgian, a pair of Englishmen, a few Canadians and a couple guys from Coloradostan.  Sure it wasn’t the most representative international field, but the Belgian guy did take 2nd.  II was incredibly happy, 30th in the world.  I had reached the top of my sport, or as close as this black balloon birthday aged rider could get.  I raced fast, clean and finished on the lead lap with the best 45-49 year old cyclocross racers the world could deliver, provided they had enough vacation time and discretionary income for plane tickets to Louisville last January.  You gotta pay to play.  Still more than two months away, I’m struggling to muster a second summit bid.  Maybe you are too.

Masters World Seeding Race 2012
The problem is the road to Worlds can feel like a Pisgah National Forest fire road: twisty, steep, life sucking and potholed.  The other problem is last year was pretty stellar.  There’s a stained wooden shelf high in my mind with all the memories of a great push to the World Championships carefully arranged on it: trading icy caution tape crashes with my teammate Mike at Nationals, New Years Eve intervals in my dark and cold garage, the luck of a good call-up for the seeding race, my wife and I chuckling while I dirtied the floor cleaning my bikes in the Madison hotel room, a friend lending me his pink Specialized Crux pit bike when Worlds starting flinging mud, the stern call of the UCI officials, working the Worlds pit for friends racing and of course the bib number and finishers medal.  It makes me happy to close my eyes and look at it.  While I felt different earlier in the year, I find myself struggling to find room on the shelf for more.

Go out on a high note.  It’s a quote I use when practicing cyclocross or touching my monkey.  I’m kidding!  Whether its barriers or starts, get the work in, but make sure your last effort is good so you go home feeling confident.  That’s sort of how I am now.  For the first time ever, I notched series points for an 18th and 20th at USGP this past weekend on the Worlds Course in Louisville.  Nine of the top 25 ranked riders in the US were in the field, five of the top 10, including 2ndand 3rd place.  Four of the top 20 guys from Worlds last year were in the field, including 4th and 9th place.  The competition doesn’t get much stronger than that.  I’m feeling pretty good about my season.  I could hang it up right now, be satisfied and turn my attention to other Masters pursuits, like getting the yard ready for winter.

One Footer at Masters CXWorlds 2012
Having never climbed but having read a library full of mountaineering books on the toilet, I look for a correlation.  If you already summited at Everest, I don’t think you have the same drive the second time around.  I think pure adventure takes a backseat.  You’re more calculated and realistic about the pursuit.  Not achieving is no longer a failure.  It’s easier to let go.  After you’re acclimated, the camp 2 tent can feel pretty cozy.  You see others on their way down and consider how nice it might be to join ‘em for the hike back to basecamp, taking a few photos and sharing conversation along the way.  However, maybe I didn’t quite get to the summit the first time.  Maybe I haven’t seen the full 360 view.  Maybe 30th isn’t my top.  That’s what has me strapping on the crampons this year.  That and I can see the mountain from my living room.

CX Masters Seeding Rce Start Line
It’s more of a second in a lifetime opportunity.  Still, if I pass, I’ll likely never race a World Championship again unless I travel internationally.  This year again, Worlds is 24 songs on the iPod away in Louisville, an hour and a half from Cincinnati.  It’s low hanging cowbells, but between here and there is a daunting 8 weeks of hard work on the bike, holidays, expenses and arrangements: the last four OVCX Series races, a new license, Thanksgiving with friends, a new crank arm for the pit bike, Christmas in Wisconsin, New Years in Ohio, more garage intervals, another couple car washes, more derailleur cables, hotels to book, more bike cleaning, gas to pump, the Chicago Cup, Nationals, more intervals and a Worlds warm-up at KingsCX in Cincinnati.  Entering a credit card number on the registration page is more of a commitment than you think.

Friend & Colleague Amy Tobin
A conversation I had with culinary expert Amy Tobin gave me food for thought.  She’s probably one or two degrees from Guy Fieri, Gordon Ramsey and Rachael Ray.  She’s done some Food Channel and TLC.  Her cookbook is at Barnes and Noble.  She develops recipes and endorses products for food companies like Dole Salads and Jif Peanut Butter.  She runs a cooking school and has a radio show.  That’s how I know her.  She records her show segments with me at the radio station I work at.  Immediately you wouldn’t grasp the similarities, but between guests we’ll talk shop on common ground.  I’ll show her something I wrote for CX Magazine.  She’ll confide that she may have a new book brewing. 

Last week between guests she mentioned she’s not doing the little things this coming year.  She’s going to focus on the big.  I raised an eyebrow.  That’s pretty philosophical and a mite pretentious.  She explained it’s her way of keeping focus and shedding her life of the time and energy sucking endeavors with meager payoffs.  At the time, I sort of brushed it off.  My life isn’t that busy.  For goodness sakes, I don’t even have kids mucking up my work, writing and bike pursuits.  In the light of Worlds however, maybe it’s time to focus on the big things.  More importantly, maybe it’s time to let go of the little things along the way.  After all, having been there once, I know what they are.

My wife’s been on a business trip for the past week.  Frankly, I miss her.  The house is missing a spark and our cats seem preoccupied with kitty agenda rather than focusing on their job description of keeping me company.  More than racing again at Worlds, I look forward to this Saturday’s long ride with her, close friends and teammates.  We’ve got tickets for a night out and a party to attend.  I’ve already made up my mind, I’m casting off one little thing and forgoing Sunday’s OVCX race in Lexington.  This weekend, my Worlds are at home.

Should Your Worlds Road Go Through Wisconsin 
There’s more than one road to Masters CXWorlds.  Choose the one fits your life.  Having done it once before, I advise to take inventory of what is really necessary to the pursuit and what little things make the journey more difficult than it needs to be.  For me, with a Christmas trip back to see family in Wisconsin on the horizon, I think a second trip America’s Dairyland to race Nationals is unnecessary.  Despite Madison being an awesome town and the incredible CX scene up there, for me the stress and expense of a 2nd long trip outweigh the benefits of racing.  While I think it’s important to keep racing up to Worlds, the Chicago Cup is a more logical choice to keep the legs fresh and skills sharp in the weeks leading to worlds.  However, I think two days at the Chicago Cup can be cut back to a single day trip, especially with the Cincinnati Worlds warm-up date the weekend prior to Worlds.  You see where I’m going.  Take a look at your schedule, your life, your commitments and make your worlds work together.

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