Tan lines fading. Motivation too. Mornings cooler, darker. Days shortening. Summer fades so quickly into autumn, an annual event that somehow manages to surprise and disappoint us. Ahead, only darkness. Nine months into the year and the dear cyclist begins to think of hibernation.
The paradox of fitness peaking, body stronger than ever yet oh so tired, weary, continually on the limit. Limbs lighter, mind perhaps wiser, most importantly you’re a quicker rider. Yet probably still not satisfied. You can always be quicker.
Brief memories of cold winter base miles long since passed, eight-hour days reduced to moments. Low hanging mist, the sun setting, a flapjack here and there, especially that big piece you dropped in the road when oh so hungry. The early tempo interval sessions easy, enjoyable almost, unrecognisable to the sufferfests you now dread.
The distant Spring adventures to lands anew, beautiful rides stirring the senses, recall aided by Strava statistics and heavily filtered photos. Satellites always watching, recording your many paths. This is my land and I have conquered.
A spreadsheet captures each and every ride, an annual training schedule defined on a grid, the bars from which you cannot escape. Pride at your progression. I did this. I actually did this.
Average speeds increasing by the month, legs strong, confidence growing, you’re racing only against yourself, your most formidable opponent, one you’ll never beat but will never stop trying.
Peaking in time for summer, for forays into beautiful mountains or across arduous cobbles. Form fleeting, like a pleasant dream from which you never want to leave, your decline as inevitable as the sun rise.
Limbs not so long ago shining with sweat now pimpled with goosebumps. The morning chill forcing you to dig deep into the archives of your Lycra wardrobe, fingers fumbling for the thick stuff, for the lovely smooth fleece lining. You inevitably dress for December in September and overheat. Every year the same, fear of cold trumping accumulated experience.
Autumn and all change. Winds blustery, somehow always against you. Leaves fading, falling, a metaphor for your form. Speed means less for now is the time to eek out simple pleasures, riding like a child and enjoying every moment before winter reduces cycling to a contest of keeping warm.
Next year I’ll be stronger you think, swallowing a huge chunk of cake before opening a new spreadsheet, the empty template somehow thrilling. Beware! Vague plans become actual adventures the minute they are typed.
Next year planned before the current one ends.
Better get training.