Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Tough Decisions

Tough Decisions

Recently I had to make a tough decision.  In many ways I feel that the decision I made was right and in many ways I feel it was wrong.  You see, in September I celebrated a birthday and I only had one wish for my birthday this year.  That wish was to get a birthday ride in with my daughter.  My birthday this year happened to fall on a week day and I mostly don’t get to ride much during the week due to long work days and a long commute that doesn’t get me home until late in the evenings.  However, for my birthday I had planned to leave work a couple hours early to fulfill my wish.  So early that morning I loaded the bikes into the car so when I picked up Addie from school we could head straight to the trails.  Everything was working out as planned.  I picked up Addie and by 5pm we were sitting at the trail-head ready to go.  We unloaded the bikes, pumped up the tires, went to grab our helmets and …. ugh…… no helmets to be found in the car!  I quickly did the math in my head and realized if we jump back in the car, drive 45 minutes home to get our helmets and then 45 minutes back to the trail it would be 6:30pm and darkness would be rolling in.  Now I am a big advocate on ALWAYS wearing your helmet when riding.  However, on this day I was going to go against my better judgment.  I looked at Addie and said “Today we are going to do something that we will never do again!  We are going to ride very slow and are going to be very careful since we do not have helmets.”  I could tell by her facial expression that she was pretty surprised that we were actually going to ride without helmets and to be honest, I was pretty surprised myself.  We actually rode for close to two hours that day and God was certainly watching over us because neither one of us took a spill.  And that is pretty surprising in itself because most of the time when we hit the trails at least one family member always seems to go down, thus coming home banged up in some way. 

(Always wear your helmet!)
In many ways I was wrong with the decision that I made.  Accidents happen all the time and you only have one brain.  Riding without a helmet is not something I practice and will hopefully never do again.  However, driving home that night I was also happy with the decision I made.  I was happy because I know that my daughter will always throw it in my face about that one time that we rode without helmets because I forgot them.  And every time she does that I will also remember that it was the night of my birthday and I got to enjoy a bike ride with my beautiful little girl. 

Thanks for reading.


Monday, October 6, 2014

Hey what's new Chas? Glad you asked...

Since I've written my last blog, I've started school here at WVU.  I moved in to a new house and really wanted to re-evaluate my well-being.  After turning 21 last fall and gaining a 10 lb beer gut, and spending the summer at home last year, it's been the first time in my life I've had to watch what I eat.  For some reason, though, it's always easier for me to ride and stay fit when I'm at school.  It may be because I don't have my mother baking delicious pies or meals that I always end up over-eating.  So this year I've really started a healthy eating kick (about 6 weeks into this).  A few of my favorite meals I've made: chicken stir fry-super cheap and easy to make, burrito bowls-just like they have at the fast food Mexican places!, and some chicken primavera- even easier and cheaper to make. 

I've also been able to get back in to riding consitently.  With my class schedule this year, it's been a lot easier to manage my time than over the summer while I was working.  I'm not really looking forward to hitting the real world.  There may not be homework and exams, but I've realized time starts to disappear.  With eating right and starting to ride more, it looks like this years base season will carry over well to next year, that's the hope.  Oh, and I have to start base season, like, last week. 

I also tried mountain biking for the first time in almost a year.  Needless to say, my technical skills were slightly off.  I fell off my bike close to 50 times (not an exaggeration), broke a spoke, bent my derailleur cage, my front shifter cable housing split open, and I cracked my Garmin screen, which I can no longer even view it.  So yeah, that's why I stick to road bikes.  The next day I felt like I played a football game the day before, and could barely move. 

But, schools been going well so far.  Nothing too hard and getting decent grades.  I got to go visit my brother and niece and nephew earlier in September and ran a benefit 5K for Team Ashlyn in DC.  I was very sore after that one as well.  I will also be joining an adult league hockey team for some fun.  Hopefully I can keep riding and possibly even get out to a cross race or two and see everyone from the team and just hang out and have a good time. 

Here's a few pictures you might enjoy:

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Fall is officially here. That means pumpkins, continuing to rebuild from my injury, WVU football, and, for everyone that knows how cold I am all the time, giant blankets. Even though Thanksgiving is still plenty of time away, I need to send some thank yous out to those around me who have helped me get to today and halfway through midterm week without going crazy.

This past weekend was also the WVU Mountain Bike Race. Huge shout out to Tess Senty for putting on a great race and the WVU team for coming out to help and support to make sure it ran smoothly.

(Adam Woods and Kyle Kukieza of WVU Cycling)

(fellow Dynamic Teammate- Chas McFarland)

And finally I again want to thank Rob Acciavatti over at Dynamic Westover and Performance Coaching for putting up with me and helping me recover since April. As discouraging as an injury can be, he has kept me motivated to continue to strengthen myself for February. Two other friends have gone through their own physical therapy with Dynamic, one with Rob and one with our fellow friend Phil Cook (below), and have had awesome experiences!! I would never suggest any other therapy team other than Dynamic.

(Kyle Blair of K. Blair Fitness and fellow friend. Go check him out!)

See you all at ABRA Cross!!


Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Mountain Biking the North Rim of the Grand Canyon

In September of 2014, Chrissy surprised me with the most memorable Christmas and birthday gift ever, a guided mountain bike trip along the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.  We've taken mountain biking trips to Moab Utah, Fruita and Durango Colorado, and Asheville North Carolina in the past.   But, we had never taken a guided trip.   Although we were responsible for providing our tent and camping gear, the tour guides would provide guided trail rides,  preparation of our meals, transportation of our camping gear from campsite to campsite, and permits to ride in the Kaibab National Forest.

The trip began in Saint George, Utah with the typical meet and greet with the other mountain bikers and our trail guides before loading up bikes and camping gear to shuttle three hours to the Kaibab National Forest on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon in Arizona.  For Chrissy and I, this trip would be a mountain bike reunion with our friends, Christian and Jen, who moved to Denver, Colorado several years.  Two other mountain bikers, Gary from Denver and Ed from North Carolina, were also on the trip with our guides Bama and Tanesha.

Mountain biking along the rim of the Big Ditch offers more climbing and descending than we had expected between 7000 and 9000 ft elevations.  The trail surfaces on the Kaibab plateau were surprisingly comprised of loose rocky sections through Ponderosa pine, Juniper, and Pinon trees.  The trails provided spectacular views of the Grand Canyon, mountain meadows, and plenty of wildlife.  Although mountain lions are known to live in this region, we were fortunate to not see any.  But, we saw plenty of Mule deer (similar to Whitetail deer, but larger), Stryker Jays (similar to Blue Jays, but larger), and black bodied/white-tailed Kaibab squirrels (similar to red and grey squirrels, get the idea...larger) that are only found on the Kaibab plateau.

We began our adventure on day one with a relatively quick out and back ride on the Rainbow Trail.   Mileage was pleasantly short, since the high altitudes made it difficult to breathe.  But, we got back to camp to take in a dinner of fish tacos before the unexpected rains from a hurricane blown in from the Pacific Ocean would drive us into our tents.  

Chrissy, Jen, Christian and Ed on Rainbow Trail.  Day 1. 

Day 2 started with temperatures in the low 50s and a steady rain.  Usually, I look forward to starting rides in the early morning.  On this rainy morning though, I was feeling pretty content to stay in the tent until the rain stopped.  But, after a blueberry pancake breakfast we were riding off on the Rainbow Trail.  Six miles into the ride, several riders decided to turn back towards the camp to get warm and dry.  Four of us continued on another 3-5 miles as the clouds gave way to sunny skies.  After lunch at a viewpoint into the canyon, Gary, Ed, Christian and I hammered back with Bama to the camp for a dinner of steak fajitas and an Apple Betty desert.  

Although we were far from Morgantown, WV, we had spotted several things that reminded us of home:

Even though Christian lives in Denver, he continues to
buy his Cannondales from Pathfinder.
(this says a lot for their products and service)
On Day 3, Tanesha sent me out to lead the group on the Arizona Trail while she rode clean up and Bama drove our gear to our next campsite.   The Arizona trail had the same loose rocky surfaces as the Rainbow Trail.  But, the climbs were steeper and longer.  And, the descents were steep and swoopy.

Christian climbing through Aspens and Ponderosa pines

One of the mountain meadows.  A perfect place to repair Ed's broken chain.
Many areas of the Arizona trail were riddled with fallen trees from storms.  Chrissy had an unfortunate experience with one of the toppled jagged tree trunks during a downhill.  Fortunately though, this was the only crash with an injury.  In her usual tough girl form, she finished two more days of riding with a contusion that got much worse. 
Chrissy leading the group up a climb before her crash.
Multicolored souvenir.

With several hours of riding, we seemed to spend time riding as a group getting to know our guides, Gary, and Ed.  Gary proved to be an excellent mountain biker and an inspiration to all of us, riding strong at age 72 and only 15 months after open heart surgery. 

Gary and Jen climbing through Aspens and Ponderosa Pine.
Day 3 ended with another amazing dinner with spectacular views of the canyon.

Camping on the edge...literally. 

Our longest and most challenging ride came on the fourth day after a beautiful sunrise.  

Day 4 Sunrise.

Warming up the Swiftwicks before breakfast. 

Even the views from the shitter are grand.
Perfect place to contemplate the meaning of life.
Just don't lose your balance

Twenty-four miles of mountain biking with four climbs hitting 8900 ft in elevation.  This out an back ride had a 1/2 mile descent at 26.8% grade with multiple switchbacks.  Bama guided us down after a brief overview of what was ahead.  As we descended, I tried staying staying on the back wheel of his rigid Surly fat bike.  But, he would lose me in every switchback by riding a nose-wheelie through the turn, then planting the rear wheel to accelerate away.
Bama showing some fat bike skills.
Since this was an out and back ride, the 1/2 mile downhill became a 26.8% 1/2 mile climb at mile 20.    This is quite possibly the most challenging climb that I've done on any bike. 

We continued on the Arizona Trail for our final day of riding.  The trail passed through more mountain meadows before another steep climb into a Ponderosa forest that was decimated by a forest fire in the 1990s.

Christian, Ed, Jen, and Gary about to enter the burned forest.

A big thanks goes out to Bama and Tanesha, and Western Spirit for a great trip with old friends and new friends.   

And an especially big thanks to my wonderful Chrissy for the amazing gift of travel. 


The Road Season may have come to an end but it's not time to be laying around!

We all plan for a road racing season months before the weather is even conducive for riding road bikes outside on the streets of the northern states. That's the reality we live in so that's what can we do to get fit for February and March. The fact is that we all want to perform well for our teams so we spend a lot time and money to ensure we are ready to compete.

If you are new to racing you probably bought the Cyclists Training Bible and/or signed up on Strava. You get on your bike as much as possible to get some training hours in. Riding is definitely better than NOT riding at all. Your new to the sport and so simply being active in the off season is OK. 

If you have been racing for a year or 2 you have an idea of what it takes to be a leader in your category. Maybe you write some structured workouts or a monthly workout plan. You base your hours off of the book the read last year. Maybe you bought a power meter based on recommendation of a friend and now your going to "figure this numbers thing out." You plan and work hard from January to March to be a great competitor and an All around Swell Guy or Gal!

If you've been racing for 3 or more years you have some idea that power numbers mean something to the coaches or to your best buddy that's a cat 1 racer. You have decided you will buy a carbon bike and a power meter (if you don't already have one.)  Before you know it you are on the 600 hour annual training plan to race the cat 3 field in your local racing scene. You prey each day your bike doesn't break because you could never afford to repair it. You drink lots of Coffee because Jens does but you don't eat because you cant afford that and bike repairs!

If you have been racing for more years than 4 you are in the seasoned rider category. You probably understand that you don't know it all. You train with power. You have a structured training plan using interval training. You probably have a coach. You train a lot. I mean lots. You never see your family. You call off from work to get in extra training hours. You wear Embro and Shammy Cream to bed hoping it will speed recovery. " WoW- I'm going Pro next season!"

Regardless of what level you ride, this time of year is the Roadies Reflection Period and time to plan for the upcoming year. For me this means that I dabble in some CX and MTN riding and prepare for an annual end of season vacation with my wife Caito. We all need some time off the bike or just some unstructured fun time on the bike. We all need to spend a little extra time with our families and show them we appreciate the months full of sacrifices they make.  After all - most of us are not being paid to race bicycles and our families put up with us acting like we do!

This is my time to give thanks. SO - Thank you Caito for putting up with the hours I put into training and competing. I can't do it without you! Thanks to all the sponsors that help support my athletic endeavors; Dynamic Physical Therapy and Pathfinder of WV- for Title Sponsorship of the team,  ABRA-for making races happen, Cannondale-for giving me a beautiful carbon machine, Kenda Tires- for giving confidence in all conditions, Swiftwick-for giving me superior foot comfort, Pro Gold Lubricants (Bruce)-because only you can satisfy EJ Hubs with the best cleaning products and lubes in the world (an almost impossible feat!), Red Rose Imports-for getting JR Petsko goods, Performance Coaching-for being TRUE to athletes of our region, Sketches by Anne- for creating monuments that last, Nalini Custom- for padding the punch, and to Apothecary Ale House & Cafe/Morgantown Brewing Company- because you satisfy so many cyclists need for great food and FANTASTIC beer selections after torturing themselves. Unfortunately I don't drink but the rest of the team would parish without you!

Monday, September 1, 2014

Rio Baby!

                It’s safe to say August has been a crazy month.  A lot happened during the second half of the month...moved into a new apartment, went to Brazil for vacation, and got a new job.  Although all of these things are positives, it was a very stressful month.  I’m looking forward to a relaxing September with lots of cross riding!  Yes, I said it.  I’m going to race cross this year.  I use the term race very loosely though.
                Brazil was the trip of a lifetime!  There is nothing like having 10 close friends from college travel to Rio for vacation.  The trip started out with a welcoming party where we got a taste of the signature drink of Brazil, capahrina.  It’s made from their most popular distilled liquor, Cacha├ža.  Man, are they dangerous!  They make you brave enough to Samba dance in front of Brazilians!  Unfortunately, they don’t make you any better at it...

              Brazil has the most gorgeous beaches and the most spectacular views I’ve ever seen!  The sidewalks are all made out of small pieces of stone with different designs in each area…so cool looking!  One of our first touristy stops was to see the Christ the Redeemer statue.  Unfortunately when we got to the top the clouds had rolled in and we couldn’t see the view.  We did get the gorgeous view from the top of Sugarloaf mountain though.  It was amazing!  I can see why people in Rio call it the best view...You could see everything! 

                The reason we were all in this amazing city was for our friend Donna's wedding.  The wedding took place in this gorgeous, small church outside of Rio.  It was a fairly tale wedding.  The pictures don't do it justice!  Brazilian weddings are a little different from US weddings.  There are no speeches and no sit down dinners.  Waiters and waitresses come around with little food trays.  It's endless tapas and, of course, endless champagne/alcohol.  I think everyone at the wedding had their fair share of both!

Best cake topper ever!
                Although the trip was amazing it’s good to be back home!  The cross bike has been cleaned…now it’s time to get it dirty and start racing!


Sunday, August 31, 2014

A year for first

These past few years, I've raced the ACA Oval series at the Bud Harris Cycling Oval (a half mile asphalt track). The series is a weekly training race that runs from April to the end of August. With points accumulating from June to the end of August. Each of these years, at the end of the series, I've finished 4th with no true individual wins. Although, I've come close a few times. With finishing 4th in the Juniors, C's (beginner class), and the B's (the sport/or intermediate class). Last year I was glad to help my teammate Devin compete for the overall (who sadly was beat out by our new teammate this year, Nate Clair), and to help earn our team the team championship (based on the points of the top three racers on a team per race). 
This year I started off actually doing both races on Wednesday nights; both the A's (the expert class) and the B's (with the occasional win in the B's). I was feeling pretty good and I thought that I'd have a chance at helping Nate and Devin in the A's. Though after a crash on a mountain bike ride, I took a week off. Then I raced the B's to see how I felt and to make sure I wasn't overlooking an injury. With a win in the B race, I was thinking I would have a chance at the overall. After talking it over with teammates, I was still contemplating whether to help them in the A's or go for the overall in the B's. I have some awesome teammates that offered to help me with the overall if I chose to.  
After racing for just over a month and a couple more wins I was sitting in 3rd overall. However; with 3 of us within 5 points (a maximum of 10 points a race) from each other, things would be interesting going into the final month of racing. With the help from some of the most awesome teammates; helping me keep calm in the race, advising on my tactics throughout the race, and ultimately providing me with a great lead out in the final lap. Without their help, I wouldn't have been as fortunate to win the overall. A big thank you to Devin, Ej, Jeff, and Nate. Thanks to Kenda Volares for keeping me rubber side down, Nalini Custom for keeping me comfortable on the bike, and for Pro Gold keeping my bike running smoothly.
Some awesome teammates take the 5 Mile Team Time Trial Champions 2014