It’s official. I’ve reached the low point of winter training, the nadir of the year, an occasion so bleak my own mother opened an upstairs window to mock me:
I am riding the trainer outside on the deck.
Lindsay Bayer / Images: Brett Rothmeyer
This is what happens when you are a professional cyclist but also a team owner and a Business Development/Proposal Manager for an IT company. My training schedule can’t stop just because I have a long to-do list, but my to-do list (and my employer) doesn’t give a shit that I need to ride. It’s a halfway decent day outside and since I’m grasping to hang onto the final shreds of sanity, I figured the least I could do is ride in the sun. On the deck. While fielding work emails.
In the last nine weeks, I have ridden indoors for a total of 70.2 hours. That is nearly three days, the same amount of time it would take to drive across the country and most of the way back. It should come as no surprise that by this point, I’d rather leap headfirst off the deck than keep pedaling on it.
When I launched my winter training program in late November, I was excited and motivated: regular trips to computrainer class were stimulating and I kept pushing my threshold for intervals further and further. “Don’t get greedy,” my coach said, as I begged for harder workouts.
But what did she know? (Everything. This is why I hired her to be smarter than me.) I kept smashing out rides, putting in extra time on the bike and patting myself on the back for being so tough and awesome. Other pros were posting lovely photos of training in Tucson or racing in Australia but I scoffed at their luxurious fortunes and kitted up for another sweatfest at computrainer class. I was going to win winter one indoor workout at a time.
Meanwhile, I juggled the joys of a full-time job and the business end of launching the team’s season. I dialed into teleconferences during workouts, trying to hide my dying animal gasps when it was my turn to speak. “I’m in a class right now,” I told coworkers, breathing so hard they probably suspected I meant Lamaze. Another rider made a comment about me being on the phone during a workout and all I could do was stare blankly in response, because stabbing her with a skewer would not be socially acceptable and I didn’t have the energy to suggest that I’d be happy to quit my job if she’d be happy to pay my bills.
The reality of professional cycling for all but the most elite riders is that the only way racing pays a living wage is if you are content living under a bridge. Even if you can work out the financial aspects of surviving on a tiny salary, there’s the whole insurance thing. In a career where death is a genuine occupational hazard, it’s critical to have health coverage. I don’t love trying to balance a full-time job with a full-time cycling career, but in the absence of winning the lottery, I make the best of it. Thus taking calls and sending emails while pedaling in one place. This is also the time of year when new team payroll begins, sponsor relationships kick-off in force, and the minor details of questions like, “OH SHIT WHAT ABOUT BUSINESS TAXES?” arise. While the team has been smashing it at races in the Australian summer, I’ve been learning how to win at QuickBooks.
By the end of January, it starts to add up. My body feels like I’ve been run over by a bus in forward and reverse, my patience is worn thinner than the chamois I save for the trainer, and the slightest upset moves me to tears. I literally wept onto my stem during class the other day while also on a work call talking about deliverables to the government. I couldn’t decide whether to congratulate myself for toughing it out or get off the bike and start drinking right then.
But a smarter head prevailed. No, not mine; it’s pretty clear that’s not my best asset. My coach came over to say: “Winter training is like doing a five-mile climb. You are almost at the top now. Keep going. It’s the final 500 meters.”
As usual, she’s right. Winter is hard and draining for us all – cold weather, grey skies, and short days are undeniably crap – but it’s also finite. While I might want to lay down on the side of the road instead of finishing a climb, I’d never actually do that, just like I couldn’t imagine giving up now. Nothing bad lasts forever.
That thought gives me enough motivation to get on the trainer today and laugh at the ridiculousness of riding on the deck. This insanity is my life. We are all dealt a hand that includes some good and some bad and what counts is how we play it. I’d regret stopping now a lot more than I’d enjoy sitting on the couch inside eating my feelings.
Besides, there’s always time for that when the ride is done.
You can follow Lindsay and the entire Hagens Berman | Supermint team at @supermintusa.