Adventure training with Adam McGrath
by Adam McGrath
After my last column and, well, pretty often I get the question: What’s the secret to being a pro, especially when you’re so busy? There are a lot of typical answers that people give: proper training, good rest, solid diet, good coaching and diligent workouts. All of these hold an element of truth, if not the whole bloody thing, but what I’ve come to realize is it all comes down to maximizing potential for adventure.
You see there’s a lot of talk about “getting motivated” in ’cross. I hear that all the time and it’s so awesomely vague. Are we talking about motivating to get up, are we referring to a bowel movement, are we talking finishing a task or homework assignment? I often don’t know or use all of the above in context. But honestly, what it most seems to refer to is, “Did you find enough self worth/hate to train hard this week?” This is always the great struggle, so the obvious question here is: What motivates me? Coffee, obviously, but you probably already knew that since I race bikes in Seattle and if I didn’t like coffee or beer, gravity would simply stop working. What really motivates me is doing something with a bicycle that I wouldn’t otherwise generally do. This fortunately goes really well with the human problem of, “What the heck is going on over there? I’ve got to go find out.” I’m talking about that sense of adventure. I’m pretty sure you are familiar with it deep down there somewhere.
Anyway, I don’t get out to ride every day , especially in summer with everything that is happening on the farm. Then, there isn’t time for just a lovely three hour ride on the country lanes. So this leads into the maximizing potential category. There is always something I’m working on. Always. This means there is always something that has to get done (another thing we could use our wonderfully vague Motivated term on). These things are very situational, you see, but many situations lead to bicycle-powered problem solving. So alas there is my secret: Double Motivating. Motivating to get a task that needs doing done, and motivation to train on bike to get task done. There are many great farmer secrets to this one, like delivering eggs by bike with a meeting on the other end in one hour. You have to be fast and smooth! Haul feed in the bike trailer uphill both ways. Strength training! You’re getting the point.
By now you’ve probably thinking, “He’s lost the plot, what the heck does this have to do with adventure?” Well, you see, as there are tasks that need to be done, and there is a bike to do said tasks, and well sometimes there are places that you must go that are far and unknown. So I have a short story to tell about boats, singing, shiny bits, intervals and geography.
First, let’s understand where I live. In the woods, in swamp, in a hollowed out tree, right outside of a perfectly modern place called Port Townsend. PT is on a peninsula on a peninsula. Like a little thumb sticking off a big fisted hand in the Salish Sea. So from my house, as the crow flies the ocean is only about three miles away in three directions. Pretty neat, but also fairly isolating. This is usually not a problem for me because most people scare me, but alas, I must still interact with humanity. This time it was my call to duty to get to Full Speed Ahead the next day. Well there were two ways this could happen. Drive off the thumb, onto the fist all the way down to the elbow and then head back up to the main land (this part is where Google maps will really help my story) or use bike and many other modes of transit to brave the seas, cross an uncharted (by me) island and skim across the Puget Sound to the Mukilteo on the mainland. Bike adventure for sure!
So the route was set. Bike to Ferry. Ferry to Whidbey Island. Ride part way down Whidbey. Bus South end Whidbey Island to Ferry. Ferry to Mukilteo. Pick up at Ferry by Steve. Arrive FSA. Reverse, Repeat, Arrive home. Looking at that doesn’t that sound neat? Easy to motivate for that sort of thing for me, plus I’d never road down Whidbey before. With my route set, I got up the next day real early to catch some early ferry, but I lingered a little bit with my coffee and secret training mode was activated, Time trial to not miss the ferry. Objective 1 reached.
Ferrying to the mainland.
For those of you from Washington, you’ve probably come to hate ferries. Well, I still think they are neat. I mean, lots of cars and lots of people floating across the big scary ocean complete with monster, algae, and octopi, what’s not to get excited about. Plus, every time I ride the ferry, especially on sunny days, I’m blown away with where I live and filled with gratitude for it. Where mountains meet the sea is probably already a great cheesy love song, but if your looking for motivation perhaps I should suggest a ferry ride in Washington. Objective 2: complete concur the high seas, arrive island.
Getting off the ferry by bike is great, they roll out the royal carpet for you and you get off the boat before all the cars. So after gloating about my personal success of beating the sea monsters, all I had in front of me was miles of uncharted roads, hills, farmland, forest, and some scary fast highway. Having never ridden south on Whidbey, I did not know what to expect, but I got delivered the goods. I had only certain amount of time to get south to catch my needed bus, so again it was a hustle. Not full TT mode, but certainly on the gas, not soft pedaling any of the hills. Whidbey is great riding. Lots of rolling terrain, great small roads, ocean views, beautiful farms, lots of cows (I love cows!), big trees. There were those crappy bits too; five miles on the busy main highway, glass on the road, the sense of getting lost then fear of missing your connection. But in the end great ride lead to on-time bus connection.
Buses on Whidbey are free. Crazy, but neat. You know what else what’s on the bus. People who are slightly crazy, myself included. But the bus trip on Whidbey was most certainly highlighted by my friend wearing headphones and singing Prince, loud enough for most of the bus to hear. Then there was the bus driver chiming in on his favorite Prince songs; nothing like two people singing! Priceless! Who knew the bus came complete with reality TV. Any way our singing friend exited the bus a bit before the last stop in Clinton and the driver cheerily sent her on her way, certainly they had ridden together many a time. A second sweet thing about the bus is its in communications with ferry to the mainland and when the bus is a little late they hold the ferry a minute or three. This also gives clearance to the bus driver to get into full rally mode. For some reason, rallying the bus seems just hilarious to me, and yet another thing I found very entertaining.
With the ferry held up for us walk-ons, I was nearing the objective. Shiny secret treasure that only Steve had the map to. Well, the second ferry from Clinton to Mukilteo is less eventful and very short, but still plenty pleasant and interesting. I’d say mostly for the people watching and the cheap coffee. Every adult on the boat in Puget sound region has one of three things. Thermos, coffee, or smart phone. There are no exceptions to this rule. I had a thermos of tea and happily took in peace signs in Japanese tourist photos, and two brothers mercilessly kicking each others shins under the table while mom looked at smart phone and dad gazed off sipping coffee. Oh, children, how wonderful!
With the last crucial time crunch leg in the books, I simply strolled off the ferry and into the plush seat of a mid-nineties car. This is also an adventure into the future, since my car is older than me, has no road sound insulation, and only two gauges in front of the driver, one of which is bust so I essentially have one gauge: speed. Plus, it’s a diesel so she rumbles mighty fine. So stepping into the future in Steve, or rather Ivy’s (Steve’s lady friend) car, we literally silently blasted off. Steve, like a good adult, used the iPhone secret maps app to get us to the FSA headquarters.
With little poking around we finally found ourselves exactly where we needed to be: Friday, high noon, company lunch, fancy espresso machine. Choice! Anyway, we came to the office to meet up with everyone, have some grub, talk ’cross and the MFG Series and get product sorted out for the season. Working with FSA is great and their conference room, if you ever get a chance to see it, is where the shiny bits of buried treasure are at, in case you were wondering. They were courteous enough to provide us with pizza, fancy coffee, and a backpack preciously packed with enough bits to put together two bikes. For such a big company, I’ve never been treated kinder or worked with better people, especially ones that really take in interest in both the local ’cross scene and what I’m up to as a person individually.
At the end of the lunch meeting, with our treasures intact, it was time to reverse the adventure. Steve took me back to the boat to the island, with no one the wiser I had a pack full of bike treasure and a whole island and ocean to muster solo on the other side.
Crossing the ocean.
The time and support for these columns is provided by Raleigh Bikes, HiFi Wheels, FSA, JL Velo, TRP, Feedback Sports, and Giro. Also thanks to the kind folks at CXM for edits and credits.