(2015) When I was much younger, fall was a heavily anticipated season in intramural soccer. The sole reason was preposterous, but then again it was through the eyes of a child. Compared to the spring season when one was basically given a colored t-shirt with a number on the back, fall was the season players got two heavy jersies, one pair of shorts (particularly cool if it had the number on one leg, extra cool if it were sewn on), and two pairs of matching socks. One could feel right professional with this kind of kit. Quietly though, fall also meant one other thing: after playing spring soccer, after sweating through summer soccer camps, and after playing on frozen mud late in the fall season, soccer would soon take a break. This idea would develop itself further during my tenure as a hockey player. At the highest level we were on the ice daily from Thanksgiving to February. It felt incredibly relaxing to end classes in March and remind myself that I did not have hockey practice that day. The end of seasons is just as enjoyable as a season in full swing.
Now many sports stress year-round participation. Kids who play soccer bounce from spring to summer to fall to winter indoor and repeat. There’s some belief if a kid is not in sport, the competition is getting that much better. If a kid is not in sport, he is becoming that much worse.
Cycling is creeping into the year-round pool as the Tour Down Under becomes a bigger each year. With the meteoric rise in cyclocross popularity, a cyclist could bounce from season to season, too. It’s probably based on the old adage, “The best way to get in shape is to never get out of shape.”
For me I require a season off. In seasons past I’ve ridden such a rigid schedule that it felt forced to throw a leg over the bike. I can recall immense enjoyment on the first unstructured rides of the off-season. There are no intervals to think about, there are no hill repeats to scout, and there are no motor-pacers to track down for lead-outs. Off-season rides are a go-wherever-come-back-whenever approach. It’s the season of looking around instead of staring at the front wheel.
October is routinely the month when the damper doors get closed on the furnace. It’s the season of dodging fallen walnuts in the road. It’s the time of stopping at farm markets for whatever they offer regardless of its agreement to the stomach. It’s the time of stopping for photographs for ridiculous reasons. It’s even the time to put on a little weight, to have a second scoop of pureed celeriac, and to have one more beer.
As two rides approach – one of which I am able to attend – there are multiple reasons to roll the bike out of the garage, gauge the appropriateness of attire, and point the bike in whichever direction feels right. There could be moments of sprinting, but they won’t be planned well in advanced and sustained for a planned amount of time. And with that in mind, the coffee stops will follow the same approach, too.