The Resentful Time of Year

4:50 AM


As I crest the hill at the end of my work commute it is still dark.  Though the eastern horizon is tinged with pink, official sunrise is still nearly 45 minutes away.  Every day we lose a few more minutes – darkness nibbling away at our daylight at the beginning and end of the day like a mouse at a cracker.  In the evening I look for bedtime earlier and earlier, my body naturally shutting down when the sun sets.

I am at my job early, often checking over my email by 7 am.  This means I am out early as well, but as we move from October to November the list of things I accomplish in my afternoons shrinks with the daylight.  In September I had ample time to get a ride in, shower, clean up the kitchen, plan a few meals, pick up supplies at the grocery store and get started on the cooking.  Now I struggle to get a ride of any quality in before dusk officially turns to dark. 

And when I look at the almanac I remember that we are a good eight weeks away from the shortest day of the year.  It no longer feels like daylight is slipping away, but rather being stolen away. 

Every year at this time I am surprised by the growing resentment I feel toward biking. 
At first it didn’t make any sense – cycling, after all, is something that brings me pure joy, every ride a magic potion that melts my stress and energizes my body – but the evidence is there in neglected maintenance, cancelled workouts, and inner haggling that rivals the best cheating-dieter-on-a-binge (“those extra miles my CX bike computer didn’t capture because I was using my trainer wheel to warm-up…that has to be enough to count for a recovery ride…”).  I look at my bikes and see responsibility and obligation rather than freedom. 

I never have this feeling in January or February, for the simple reason that my competitive season is over.  If I want to take a day or two off (or three, or five), no big deal.  But now a day off (or two, or three) brings with it a flood of doubt – what if I lose my fitness?  What if I don’t get better by the state championships?  What if, gasp, this is the first step in the inevitable decline of my aged body which will now droop and sag in alarming new ways and my metabolism will slow to that of a drippy molasses bottle in January and my skinny jeans which I’ve convinced myself I can still pull off suddenly don’t fit anymore?!

And when you have these thoughts there is only one thing you can logically do: blame the bike.

Which brings me to the resentful time of the year.

Again.

How to fight it?  The best thing to do, I find, is to remind myself of one very simple fact: I’m a middling category 3 cyclocross racer who doesn’t get paid to bike.  I’m not saying this to get down on my self, but rather to gain perspective.  When we lose it we start to give our routines a level of importance that far outweighs reality.  I don’t get paid to bike.  And my bike is not tapping its foot in judgment as it sits in the corner of my basement. 

And a day off will not result in the rapid decay of my body like an apple rotting in one of those time-lapse photography exhibits.

It’s just a day off.

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