It is autumn in Illinois. One of my favorite times of the year. The leaves are changing color, the humidity has finally gone away, skies are blue with cirrus clouds.
Weather has been perfect this week for peak week. Warm, sunny, light winds. My legs have felt great. Put out is the tunnel of fire, lit back up is the fire in my legs. For someone training for a late season race in Illinois, it doesn’t get any better than this. Out there riding today and thought to myself these are the workouts and days you want to bottle up forever to bring back any time.
But for as much as I love being able to train in autumn, there are some warnings that need to be made.
Warning #1: The squirrels
WATCH THE SQUIRRELS. Right now that are freakin’ fearless. Not only that but squirrely. Can’t make up their minds. Will dart into the middle of the street in one direction only to do a 180 and dart back the other day as you approach. This might make you swerve into oncoming traffic, nearly roll over the walnut they were carrying across the road, or find yourself riding through gravel in the shoulder after responding to one said squirrely squirrel who changed their mind in the middle of the road and came towards you instead.
Warning #2: The chipmunks
Not to be confused with the squirrels. Also busying stashing nuts. But much more consistent than squirrels. Do not generally dart across the road – seem to know better. Need to pass this sense along to their brethren, the squirrel. Not as fast as squirrel either, so more likely to be dead in middle of road per chance they did run into it. Generally harmless, will not run you off the road. Also cannot carry large nuts so smaller acorns and seeds not much of a hazard.
Warning #3: Cobs of corn
Fields have been plowed, corn has been cut. Cobs are finding their way into the middle of the road. Might have something to do with squirrel. Kind of like rolling over a stick but thicker, more damaging. Can cause the most inflated tire to blow upon impact. Also tend to richochet from cars that roll over them as they ride by. Watch out for the cob.
Warning #4: Acorns
Oaks drop acorns every other year, this is their year around here. Not really a problem when riding but turns the running path into a marble maze. Kind of like running on hot coals. Just not hot. Still hurt though.
Warning #5: Walnuts
Black walnuts – actually in little green fleshy packages when they drop. ALL OVER THE ROADS right now. Very mobile, agile, dangerous. Will roll right in front of your front wheel with NO FEAR. Possibly looking for you to help free them from their green fleshy prison to set free the nut inside (the walnut, not you). When running will get under your foot like a skateboard and cause your ankle to roll.
Warning #6: Dead frogs
Not sure what happened here. Perhaps another sign the apocalypse is coming. Dead frogs all over the path lately – black, leathery, kind of weird. Counted four on the path today – perhaps the squirrels know?
Warning #7: Falling leaves
Will scare the sh*t out of you when cycling. Nothing like something coming flying at your face – if you weren’t so in the zone while riding you might notice it was just a leaf and not a four-winged freaky thing ready to take a bite of your ear. Leaves also camouflage potholes, acorns, walnuts, and squirrels ready to play chicken with you in the street.
Warning #8: No more corn
Not to be confused with cobs of corn. No more corn – problem here is that all summer corn was your friend. Corn offered a little break from the gusty winds. Corn broke things up. Corn is down and nothing but barren fields. As bad as riding by soybeans. Both make for lots of wind, nowhere to hide. Also, no corn means nowhere to take a quick pee on a ride.
Warning #9: Disappearing sunlight
Evil trick of autumn. You go out for your after ride work and forget the sun is going down like 30 minutes earlier everyday (feels like it, doesn’t it?). So you’re out there in the dark, temperature has dropped about 20 degrees.
So heed my warnings. Lots of autumn riff-raff out there to mess with your rides and runs but I still can't get away from the fact that this is the best time of year to train. Just beautiful out there. Hickories, sumacs, maples - they are all starting to show their colors. Get out there and enjoy this weather while you can.