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June 28, 2006

The narrator in "The Rider" starts his career at the age of 29 and races more than 200 times in his first two seasons. I, too, started my career at 29, but in my first two seasons I've raced only 44 times, including alley cats and practice time trials.

Even so, I'm beginning to think I've raced too much.

It's hard not to. The winters here are as hard as they are long. Racers emerge in April desperate for action, hopeful to never ride the trainer indoors again. Skip a race? Ha! We waited five months to race, so once the snow melts, of course we spend each weekend driving across the midwest, springing for hotels and tanks of gas and abandoning our friends and families. (We'll reacquaint ourselves with them in November, unless we do cyclocross instead.)

I raced three times this weekend and despite plenty of hills, spills and chills -- and my first in-race shouting match! -- I lack the energy to write about it here. The minutiae and trivia of every turn and attack don't excite me like they used to. If I'm not burned out, I'm very close.

The state championships are this weekend. Supposedly they're the most important races of the year, but I'm not as excited as I was for the throwaway races of April. My heart doesn't skip when I daydream of the tactics. I haven't even shaved my legs for them yet.

Ironically, all the racing has seriously cut into my training. I used to love leaving the house with pockets full of Clif bars and nowhere to be for six hours. I can't remember the last time I logged more than 50 miles at a time. There are good cycling friends with whom I haven't ridden at all.

I'm also sad that two of my favorite teammates may be done for the year. One is running out of money. The other is running out of knee. A part of me regrets encouraging them to race so much with me early in the season. (I offered Superweek fees to the first; he declined. I'd offer my knees to the second if I could.)

That said, there aren't many races I regret having done. Each one has at least one moment that makes me smile weeks later. Each one has in some way made me a better rider.

On the other hand, there's not much racing left. I'll do the road race Saturday, and then I'll do four races during Superweek. After that? Maybe a crit here and there, but I'm also due for some non-cycling fun. Summer, my favorite time in Chicago, a time of bare feet and naps in the park, a time of kuchens and fresh basil, a time to sit contented on the back porch and say, "Oh, right, this is why I live here," is speeding by. It's almost July, for heaven's sake, and the hammock remains in the basement.

Photo taken by E. Wight: June 25, 2006