I had “one of those days” at the office today so I was glad to check out a little early by saving 15 minutes from lunch and using it at day’s end. It’s not a requirement in my job but it makes me feel good about the hasty exit, and good karma is hard to find these days so I take it when I can. The sun was still up as I gathered my things and headed for the door. I was greeted by a a snap of cold air and within a few steps had sized up the temperature (high 40s), wind direction (SSW 4-9) and potential for inclement weather (nil). I met big Bruce Miller at Bloomington North High School just after 5PM. We were suited up and on the bikes in 10 minutes, easing down through the golf course to lower Cascades. Our warm-up consisted of several out-and-backs on Cascades waiting for ‘the group’ to connect with us from Sample Gates. We expected them to arrive at 5:40. As dusk drifted into night we turned on our lights. Bruce didn’t know it, but I was sizing him up at the time with small accelerations and some minor half-wheeling, just to see what I was in for tonight. He was equal to the task and responded effortlessly to my lumbering cadence. We were soon met by a light coming toward us. It was Myron Lewis. We headed north on Cascades to old 37. We had a chatty ride through Audubon, catching-up, politely pointing out pot holes and alerting to traffic, etc. This is great, I thought. Just what I was hoping for. It was a beautiful night, with the stars just making themselves known. I imagined that I was navigating at sea, choosing my direction based on Orion’s place in the sky, Mars prominent in the West. My friends had different, less celestial plans, however and I was soon pulled unceremoniously from my dreaming. I’ve said this before, cycling at night has a different feel to it. Distances are more difficult to judge, speed and topography are three-dimensional, road vibration translates into a sense of where you are and comes from areas of the brain once reserved for prehistoric survival. I was third in line as we hurtled down Anderson toward Beanblossom. We had all taken a few pulls and I was clearly the weaker of the three and knew that I would soon be mercifully selected out if this kept up. I couldn’t see my computer in the dark but was counting pedal strokes to take my mind off of the pain. Bruce was setting a ferocious pace and trading off with Myron for monster pulls at scary-fast speeds, both showing great form and depth for late-November. I was realizing-like I do every year about this time-that excelling in this sport requires dedication and discipline-year around. It would be very easy to rest on our laurels from a great season and bask in the glow of those memories we’ve made. But we’ll have plenty of time for reflection years from now. When we look back on these days (and nights) make sure that you can say that you gave it your all and left nothing on the table. Train with a purpose and don’t settle for mediocrity. 2008 is only a heartbeat on these dark roads away. I was grateful when we turned for home at the base of Beanblossom. I knew that it wouldn’t be long before we were racing on these roads again in earnest.