I had already scarfed three and half by the time I got to the car. My shirt was covered in sticky sugary finger marks. My wife asked me to save her a few, but there were no guarantees the nine remaining Krispey Kreme original glazed donuts would survive even half the trip. Or even out of the parking lot.
This is how I have ended my racing season for four years. So when I found myself inside a Krispey Kreme, pressed against the glass, watching as hundreds of unfinished treats inched in slow motion across the rollers and past the “hot light” under a cascading sheet of hot glaze, I knew it must be the off season.
Both a joyous and stressful occasion, the beginning of the offseason is for many a conflict of emotions. It’s a time to reflect on the last eight months, but also a time to forget it. While racing and traveling, “normal” life is often placed second. Now, home for the cold months, we get to play catch up and put everything else in front of racing. At least for awhile.
The first few days at home I can’t help but look back on the season and ask myself if I’m ready to let the bike collect dust. Did I do enough? Could I have done more? How can I improve? Racing is inherently a long road of peaks and valleys and it’s hard not to forget the great achievements, the friends made and thousands of laughs along the way. It’s even harder to forget the poor performances and mistakes made.
Thankfully, my wife loves to bake and has provided many distractions; pumpkin pie, pumpkin bread, pumpkin cookies – sensing a theme? She can tell my mind isn’t entirely home yet. It’s still somewhere on I-81 in the team van. She says the reason bike racers have trouble letting it go is because we are competitive mostly internally and not with the others guys on bikes. We always want the best out of ourselves, even after we’ve gone above our own expectations. Perhaps that reminder every September, along with the baked goods, is the first true step in ending the year.
With no races in sight for months, training comes to halt. A week or two, maybe even three, off the bike are normal and healthy. With extra hours in my day, I’m catching up on projects I’ve neglected over the summer months. I can visit family and friends, go to dinner with my wife, actually attend weddings, run errands, or walk downtown a tad faster than a snails pace. I can hike, run, and mountain bike without worrying about it affecting a race. (And of course by mountain biking I mean crashing frequently and death gripping the brakes. I think my forearms get a better workout than my legs.)
During the season I travel a lot and get to see brand new places. But more often than not, when the views are pleasant, my heart rate is too high to think or even notice the lava field to my left. In the hotel room I’m mindlessly watching HGTV and learning how to install a tile backsplash (it looks easy enough). I discover more in my home region than anywhere else. Living in the Blue Ridge is not only fantastic training, but in the offseason I get to enjoy many of the other activities this paradise has to offer.
Minutes from my home just outside of Charlottesville, there are many local breweries like Blue Mountain, Wild Wolf, Starr Hill, 3 Brothers, and Devil’s Backbone – I’ll be sampling the seasonal flare. There are extensive hiking and mountain bike trail networks in the Piedmont and Shenandoah Valley. Visiting historic monuments like Monticello, apple picking in the orchards, enjoying live music, browsing famers markets and festivals, and heckling local racers who’ve decided to extend their season into cyclo-cross – these are all things I have on my to-do list.
Even though I’m taking a few weeks off, I’ll still sneak out for some road rides. Instead of a tightly fixed gaze on my Garmin, I’ll soak in the views as the leaves begin to turn. Up against the Blue Ridge mountains, my roads are abundant, my loops are infinite and the vistas never get old. I just can’t stay away!
Though I’m not entirely over the 2013 season, I’m working on it. Please follow me this offseason in my adventures off the bike and preparation for next season.
Those donuts never did make it home, by the way…I guess we’ll have to go back.
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If you are ending your racing season, some time completely off of the bike is encouraged. Indulge a little bit, treat yourself. But be careful – it’s easy to get stuck and difficult to get back on the horse. Take this time to enjoy yourself and to re-find your love of the sport. If you’re like me and can’t sit still, run, hike, golf, play racquet ball – do something else just for the fun of it!
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About Curtis Winsor
Living in Crozet, VA, at the base of Afton Mountain, Curtis Winsor is a second year professional cyclist riding for Team Smart Stop. Though he have been racing and training for over 10 years, it wasn’t until Curtis moved to the Shenandoah Valley that he actually learned to love riding. When his best friend introduced him to the beautiful mountain views and hidden fire roads the Blue Ridge had to offer, it was easier to turn a two-hour training ride into a six hour adventure.
While working his way up to the professional level, Curtis also graduated from JMU, helped produce and promote an award winning cycling documentary, Chasing Legends, began Winsor Creative – a full service design and identity solution for small businesses and began coaching junior and senior cyclists. Curtis also has a passion for junior development hopes to help grow the Virginia High School MTB League.
When not riding, Curtis and his wife Alexa love to cook, hike, play board games (I will crush you in Settlers of Catan) and find eclectic restaurants.