A few mornings per week, the alarm clock goes off at 4:30. After slapping it silent, I lay there for a moment and remind myself that it's not an accident. I really do need to get up. Anyway, by then one of the dogs is in my face and ready to go outside.
After stumbling through the house and letting out the dogs, I do my best to psych myself up for the task at hand. Stuff down a granola bar or something, kit up and get on the trainer. I'm usually done by 6:15. And it usually sucks. But while getting miles in last winter was great (thanks, unemployment!), the rest of it sucked. I guess I'll take this instead, mostly because the rest of it ("it" being life) is pretty great.
When the work is done, I get the coffee started and climb into the shower. As a spend a good while staring off into space, I wonder how much of a difference that workout will make. Is this work going to pay off with good legs in April and May? Will it be enough to springboard me into a whole different world of pain: an upgrade to Cat. 2?
Back when I was a Cat. 4 chasing upgrade points, I wasn't a big winner. In fact, I never won. In all of my racing career, I've won only one race — a Cat. 3 cyclocross race in 2012. And if we're being really fair, I had a span of time from August to October with ridiculous form, lots of time and a good deal of rage. Oh, and the course was wide-open with nothing technical. Those dudes didn't stand a chance.
If you look at more recent results, it's a lot of unremarkable, mid-pack finishes. I'm present, but I'm ultimately just contributing to the prize money (or maybe for road barricades or something). Going from there to scoring upgrade points is a huge jump. I'm not entirely sure I'm good enough to do it — regardless of the work I put in.
There are a number of factors that contribute to that feeling — training time, ability, sleep, nutrition. I'm going the best I can with all of them. But, ultimately, I'm 36 years old, I have a bad back and I'm going to be fighting for points in a group that features guys 10 years (or more) younger than me.
That's the reality. This might be as good as it gets. And that's what I think of when I'm psyching myself up at 4:30 in the stupid morning. And yet, I still go down and clip in. I'm either an eager optimist or a damn fool. Either way, the alarm is set again for tomorrow.