I just finished my last race of the season and promptly transitioned from obsessing over training, equipment, nutrition, vices, and other scheming to remaining only seven miles per hour over the speed limit, so my mother didn’t get nervous as we drove from Wisconsin to Colorado.

For two days of driving, I savored the enormous vacuum of purpose, enrolled in several convenience store reward programs, and ate like a construction worker mending the endless slabs of pavement connecting this vast country.

As the mountains rose towering above the plains, my pulse quicked and I fell into an old feeling, that offseason feeling, the feeling you can only get with a long unbroken runway of potential ahead of you where you can land any utopian version of yourself ahead of the trials of 2023.

By the time I pulled into my driveway and met the squeals of my son, my jaw was already set, and I had fallen into all the superstitions of a bike racer, trying to get every action right, weighting them like they determined the outcomes of secret ambitions I had barely admitted to myself in seven months.

It's hard to switch off when you define yourself by switching on.

Two things can be true at once – without obsession, you’ll fail. Without breaking from it, you’ll burn out.

That’s October for you, that’s November, or whenever the natural arc of your competitive year finally descends to a conclusion.

How do you fill it?

Left to your default, your neurosis will shape the weeks. You’ll try to keep what you’ve gained. You’ll try to work ahead of the work as if unseen suffering in the pit of early November guarantees some glory next June.

Or, for many, the offseason is a collapse, an empty release where every day drives you further away from the sort of person you need to be to be what you don’t really want to be.

And for a few, it’s a break, a deliberate, brief separation from the actions that define them. What they find in that separation might lead them back to who they were. Or, sometimes, it leads to revolution, a renewal to return with even more fire or take the first steps down another path.

The offseason is tough. So what should you do?

Honestly, I don’t care. I take pains to tell every athlete I coach that this is YOUR path, not mine.

I have a very specific vision of what it means to be an athlete. To me, it’s a long, mechanical, beautiful, sometimes tortured existence that is all a response to something inside you you may not have even articulated or controlled.

It’s not my job to help you make sense of that. Sometimes we should leave parts of ourselves untroubled by logic, twist wildly, and play out for its own sake, without the shallow satisfaction of twisting it to fit our own designs or someone else’s validation.

It’s OK not to know why you pedal, except that when you do, you feel better somehow.

If you brought me a six-pack of Millers and forced me at gunpoint to say what I think the offseason is for, I’d say it’s for not making sense. I’d say it’s for feeling good but skipping your ride to go blow a beautiful afternoon on a boat instead of your bike. It’s waking up after a bender and deciding to ride into the jaws of an oncoming Fall snowstorm. It’s fasting for 22 hours just to remind yourself what it feels like to actually be hungry just as much as it’s eating an entire pie at the local diner because if you finish it, it’ll be free.

Stop trying to make sense all the time. You’re an animal. You have impulses. All of your life, you bend yourself into a shape to become what you think will make you happy, but something of happiness is found outside those boundaries, at least for a little while.

The work will be waiting for you when you return in a few weeks or months. Until then, stop making sense.


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