by Adam McGrath
Life is full of surprises. Will my coffee be good or amazing today, will this mystery beer I’ve been handed while cross eyed blow my mind or make me blow my chunks, or will file treads be fast or make me crash? It is not often that I really know much going into the season or ever for that matter. I don’t race all summer, so my form is always a mystery. With Interbike and cyclocross happening in summer these days the question always looms will bikes be ready on time? Of course in my day-to-day life there is always the question of what on earth will the donkeys do today. Like most things all these good things come in twos.
So the start of the season has easily come and gone now. All the glory of Vegas, the year’s first C1 races and across the country all the local series have kicked off. I have also made a start of things. I’m not certain you could call it brilliant, but there were flashes. It has been good to get some racing under the belt again, and to see what questions it has called into being. The first for me is always: ok, a new season, can I still hack it? I know it seems strange because I’m still pretty good at this bike race thing, but I must be honest I’m not as good as my formal self. I once focused just on bikes and cross, hey I even went to Europe to have a go, but now the new idea teasing my brain is can a farmer hack it?
You have to understand a few things about my life for all this to make sense. One is August is BUSY, if you farm. It’s hot, it’s summer, there are 100 plus chickens, baby ducks, plants, any number of building projects happening, fire wood that needs splitting, and in general a to do list that if it gets 1/8 done in a day your exhausted, and it’s a mega victory (like getting 1 UCI point, for all you out there hunting that elusive bugger down).
Number two is bikes and gear, and getting all the new gear together for this year adds to the scramble of life. It’s very interesting because in some sense of communal suffering all the sponsors for this year were also BUSY and working their butts off to get things dialed for the year. Vision wheels built us hoops in the nick of time, and some how Raleigh pulled off the goods and got frames to me before the end of August. Top that off with new sponsors meaning new kit, and JL Velo got us stuff just 2 days before the first race. Interbike must be the equivalent of the big harvest just before the frost or something similar for all the cyclocross-loving companies. But in the midst of the craziest time of year for me two bikes happen some how, even with a little help from my puppy.
Although I was able to get two bikes together with some late nights, dog drool, beer and fried potatoes (home grown mind you), there were some 700lb things that didn’t help that progress. You see I have not just one big ass problem, but TWO. Everyday I wake up to the sound of these big beasts, Cupcake and Edith.
Everyday with them is some sort of adventure, or time suck, or lesson learned. Just like my two cross bikes are a necessity for how I race bikes, they too have grown into a necessity for how I live life. I feed them twice a day, and take them out to pasture once a day as well. Plus a few days a week we work on some kind of training. I also seem to just go visit them and hang out to “check on their water”. I have some big dreams of being able to work with them in harness and then they can help me more around the farm. So donkeys are like me with bikes at 15. I’m pretty obsessed and sometimes get in a one-track mind about them. They take my time, humble me, teach me lessons, grow my confidence, crush my confidence, and sometimes just mystify me completely. Strange that sounds just like bike racing huh. But the real lesson to understand here is that to get good, or better at this it takes focus, exactly the lessons I got from bike racing. So I try and give it some proper focus, but at a cost, sometimes to my building projects, sometimes to my cooking, sometimes to my lady-friend, and sometimes to my riding.
So this lands me at the first bike races of the year. The Farm still bumping, bikes put together just in time, and maybe a donkey training session or 10 short on top form, but I’m still pumped. Racing bikes is supposed to be fun, and well come to find out it still is. The first race of the year was our MFG number 1, and there was lots of flat sand running. I think farming makes you a better runner, chasing escaped donkeys, and chicken training is all I managed this summer, but I snuck in there for second place. Race number two was a much rowdier, harder affair.
Star Crossed is a classic here out west and this year was another good one. It was bumpy and dusty as all hell, oh and a bunch of dudes with bigger legs in length and diameter than me showed up. I humbly made the front group of dudes for about 2 laps then the slow sauntering ass in me showed itself in full force and I puttered about the course for the next 45 minutes. It wasn’t all bad though I had a good battle with our junior hot shot Nolan bringing back solid memories of doing that myself once. Plus it was like a reunion of old friends for me. I even got to give Barry Wicks a chicken I owed him for some bike parts.
So all in all I’ve got some form, but not top form, but I think that’s ok. I’ve done two races, built two bikes, and I still have two donkeys I love. This just may just be part of growing up, diversifying as person, and generally trying to be a better person on the planet. I’m not going to be an elite athlete forever. Balancing a life of goals and things that are not bike racing brings further perspective and respect for the collective cross community for most of you do much more than just pedal in circle real, real fast.