Posted by Chris Carville On August 16, 2023 at 10:43 am
I was familiar with the Rogue Racing Project for years. I generally knew about Micheal Seiler because he was the evil genius behind a novel brand of bike racing team. So, when I hung a shingle and got on Instagram for “marketing reasons” I followed him as “bike.zen.” From there I started following him and Holly Brenner on Instagram at “mettaendurance” which is their coaching business. You can find Metta Endurance here on the web and here on Facebook.
And then a strange thing happened, I saw Michael in the wild and nowhere near his home base in Kentucky. I was warming up on a trainer in a parking lot at Acrisure Stadium (aka Heinz Field) in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania for a time trial and was pretty sure his in-person appearance matched his Insta-appearance, but he was not kitted up. Instead, he had an athlete that was apparently racing the same event and warming him up. I didn’t want to fumble an introduction just in case I had the wrong guy, so I left him well enough alone.
Why am I sharing this story with you? Because as I sat on my trainer, I was struck by this thought: If I am right, and that person is in fact Micheal (he sure looks like him), he drove over eight hours and spent two nights away from home just to get his athlete ready to race! So this guy was either the Real Micheal Seiler who was investing a large chunk of his week in one of his athletes or Micheal had a doppelganger. If he was the real deal, I was impressed with the investment of time and energy he placed in his coaching business.
In the end, Michael did not have a doppelganger. I found him after the race and introduced myself, confirming that I was not crazy, and invited him and Holly onto the podcast. Micheal and Holly graciously accepted my offer and we talked for over an hour about their coaching business, how it started, where it is going, and how it is different.
If my anecdote about Micheal is any indicator, Metta Endurance is different. So tune in for an hour and learn how!
Posted by Chris Carville On July 25, 2023 at 8:57 am
I listened to The Gravel Lot podcast with famous ultra-endurance athlete, John Stamstad, a couple years back. Stamstad had some very good life advice that has stuck with me, which I paraphrase: “you can have three out of four things in life as an adult endurance athlete: (1) a great married life/great life with a significant other; (2) a great relationship with your children; (3) a great career; or (4) a passion.” If you want the advice from the Zen Master himself, go to 49:20 of The Gravel Lot’s interview of Stamstad which you can find on Youtube here or on their website here. There are certainly outliers to that observation who can balance all four, but his advice certainly rings true in my life.
My racing schedule has been curtailed so much in the past twenty years, that I can’t even call it a racing schedule any more. About five years ago, I stopped calling them “races” altogether. I started referring to them as “Projects”. And I have no more than three to five “Projects” in a given year. A Project has the following criteria: it must be fun, it must be something I look forward to, it must be realistic, and it must be obtainable or “doable” based on my training volume. The fun criterion keeps it fresh and invites variation. My Project might be a big gravel race (Michigan’s Coast to Coast) or a super hard Gran Fondo (Garett County Double Diablo) or a single-minded Time Trial.
I rarely talk about my “Projects” with friends. Most of my discussions about “Projects” occurs silently between my ears. Referring to a race as a Project in my mental dialogues took more than a little of the edge off the stress of preparing for it. It also represented a sea change in my attitude the other 364 days a year, especially when I was not training.
A Project is something I can take off the shelf and work on when the rest of my life permits. If family and career obligations take center stage, I put the Project back on the shelf. I can only be as fast as my (aging) genetics and training volume permit. If the volume goes down because I have to earn a living or be a Dad/Husband/Son/Brother/Uncle, so be it. I was never paid to race, and I am certainly not getting paid to race now.
I knew going into 2023 that it was going to be a Big Year in the Carville Household: we were looking forward to a Senior Tennis Season, a Senior Football Season, a Senior Lacrosse Season, a bunch of college visits, a long-planned Graduation Party, followed by the Grad Party Circuit, all topped off with a June 16 Wedding of a mountain biking niece in Colorado, which I had the honor of officiating. That is a lot of #1 and #2 of the four options Stamstad talked about in the podcast.
Knowing we had a full Life Calendar going into 2023, I cleared the decks.
No racing at all in 2023 until the July 13 and 14 National Senior Games for me. I qualified last year so all I had to do was get trained up for two events: a 5K Time Trial and a 10K Time Trial. I would not need big, long rides to get ready, just sharpen the sword. My structured training was focused on very hard, but short efforts, for obvious reasons. I saw some of my peak 60-second efforts going into mid-July.
However, 2023 really tested my Project-mentality. I thought we were all collectively past the Pandemic, and I foolishly surmised that 2023 would be smooth sailing into July with a lot of fun once-in-a-lifetime milestones. Karma had something else in mind.
In early 2023 my sister-in-law passed away after some lengthy health complications. Soon after that, one of my best friends in the entire world fell ill with mysterious heart symptoms and his team of doctors told him he would need a heart transplant or face certain death. To make things worse, he had to stay in a hermetically sealed, but very nice, hospital room for weeks and weeks until a donor heart was available.
Those two events, and their fallout, took over most of my nonwork life from January through May. The silver lining to those two events is that my sister-in-law, really a sister to me, died a peaceful and dignified death on her terms. And my good friend avoided a heart transplant and is now back to work and home with his beautiful wife and dogs.
To be honest, my workouts were a bit of an escape this year. But I was not going into them with fire in my belly setting PR’s with each workout. I felt like shit most days because I was very anxious and not sleeping well. I was satisfied with what I could manage on that day, no more. I was taking my Project off the shelf, working on it with what I had in the tank, then I put it back on the shelf as I focused on some Real-Life-Stuff.
The National Senior Games in Pittsburgh represented an opportunity to race just as much as an opportunity to get away from Real-Life-Stuff. I brought a cheering section with me: my beautiful wife and my parents.
When I crossed the finish line in each event, I knew I had put in a hard effort. Both courses were hilly, which made pacing more difficult. One could have easily blown up on a climb and been cooked for the rest of the course. The good news is that I took Bronze in the 5K and Silver in the 10K. I performed within a handful of watts of my training efforts in both disciplines. However, I went into both events hoping (really planning) that I would have two of my best days of the year. I didn’t. And that is a good thing. I took my Project off the shelf, worked on it, then put it back. The rest of the time I spent taking in the sights, laughing, enjoying good meals, and . . . just being with family.
Posted by Chris Carville On April 25, 2023 at 1:38 pm
Join me for a long overdue conversation with Doug McClintock. Doug is the Current Executive Director of Red Bike, the Cincy Region’s bike share system, Doug has previously served as President of CORA, and is a co-host of The Gravel Lot, alongside his partner-in-crime, Jon Wolery. Doug has never won a bike race and doesn’t care to, as it would likely inflate his ego to problematic levels. He’s a passionate advocate for the life-changing power of the bike and looks to dismantle oppressive systematic structures through transportation and health justice work. He’s a new father to his daughter Sage, a dog lover, and the proud partner of his lovely wife, Ellen.
Posted by Chris Carville On February 22, 2023 at 8:47 am
Join me for a conversation with Jason Reser, owner of Reser Bicycle Outfitters and Trailhead Coffee, and the Trail Development Director for CORA, Cincinnati Off-Road Alliance. Jason has deep community roots in the Greater Cincinnati & Northern Kentucky region. He has been a volunteer in the cycling community for over 20 years and began serving on the CORA Board of Directors in 2014. Named Trail Development Director in the winter of 2019, Jason is responsible for executing funding opportunities, creating partnerships, and working with land managers to increase access to trails so that everyone has access to trails everywhere.
We discuss Jason’s journey into the bicycle industry, current events in the bicycle industry including the effect of the COVID Pandemic, and all the good CORA does in Northern Kentucky, Southwestern Ohio, and Indiana.
Posted by Chris Carville On November 29, 2022 at 11:18 am
Join me for a conversation with Wade Johnson, the Executive Director of Tri-State Trails. Tri-State Trails is a nonprofit whose “mission is to connect people and places with a regional trail and bikeway network that enhances vibrancy and equity in our community.” Wade and his tireless coworkers: advocate for connecting and expanding trail and bikeway networks; collect and maintain data on trails; provide technical assistance to local governments and community groups; connect trail planners, trail managers, advocates, and users to share best practices; and promote and celebrate existing trails in the Tri-State region.
We discuss Wade’s bicycle journey and how it brought him to Tri-State Trails; the current “Beechmont Connector”; future planning; and safe planning practices.
Posted by Chris Carville On October 12, 2022 at 9:32 am
So, if I was a better scheduler, I would have had Will Leet of Licking Valley Velo on sooner! Evening group rides are winding down as we lose daylight. Licking Valley Velo’s now famous Tuesday Night Worlds is winding down too. However, you can still join the folks at Licking Valley Velo for Saturday morning rides.
Licking Valley Velo is the fasted growing cycling club/team in the region. Licking Valley Velo may be the fastest-growing club/team in the country! And there is a reason. These folks love their bikes and love their beer. If you want to get into more group rides, if you want to improve your skills and comfort levels in a group ride setting, and if you like beer and time with friends, check out Licking Valley Velo based out of Newport, Kentucky. If you are fast, there is definitely a home for you too!
Posted by Chris Carville On August 22, 2022 at 7:29 pm
June 22, 2022, could have been a very fateful date for me and my family. I came very close to having that date on the righthand side of my tombstone. My August Podcast is dedicated to my June 22, 2022 crash. Visual aids help tremendously when explaining anything moving and on two wheels so I would encourage you to follow the YouTube Link below for the specifics of the crash:
As I alluded to in the Podcast above, I experienced some back pain shortly after the crash. I do have a history of back pain due to “left-sided paracentral disc protrusion [that] flattens the left L5 [nerve] root.” As a result, I am no stranger to steroids, Prednisone in particular, to deal with pain flare-ups. I will not bore the reader with my medical history. Suffice it to say the low back pain associated with these flare-ups borders on excruciating and obviously keeps me off my bike as I cannot stand up or move until the steroids have run their course. The steroids basically act like super anti-inflammatories, allowing for movement in the impacted discs/vertebrae.
A curious thing happened while I was on this course of medication. Serious. Negative. Talk. Awful stuff. And when I say awful, it was stuff that you would not even say to your worst enemy kinda awful. I understand the power of the mind and both the power of positive reinforcement and the power of negative reinforcement. However, I literally could not muster a positive thought.
We all have an angel on one shoulder and a demon on the other. This felt like my angel had gone on vacation and my demon found himself a megaphone! So, having nothing else to do (this course of steroids and forced inactivity was a record-breaking three weeks), I grabbed my iPhone and simply punched in “Prednisone and mental health” and lo and behold, there was article after article on mental health and steroid use. The Mayo Clinic advised that “the most commonly reported corticosteroid-induced psychiatric disturbances are affective, including mania, depression, or mixed states.” Um, Bingo!
Fortunately, my symptoms were short-lived and dissipated within a relatively short period of time. I was unable to find any strong research on what percentage of the population is disposed to such symptoms when using steroids. All I know is that I fall into that category of patients, which both helps and haunts me should I ever (and it is most likely) need another course of steroids.
Both of my personal episodes in PTSD (detailed in the Podcast) and Mania served an educational purpose in my life. I have had plenty of clients experience the very real consequences of PTSD following a crash. I was already aware of how the mind can react to the stresses of a crash. But I had never experienced it for myself.
The mania I experienced with steroid use was a bit of an epiphany as I was able to connect the dots to similar symptoms as I looked back on past episodes of steroid use. But what stands out most to me is that these conditions are very, very real, and often, totally outside of the control of the afflicted person.
With the steroid use, there was solace as I lay in bed knowing that the symptoms would pass. For many, the symptoms have nothing to do with medication and may never end – a cross that is born for a lifetime.
Endurance athletes are conditioned to “push through the pain” or “tough out” a workout or race. While these approaches may make for success in achieving athletic goals, they are not effective in addressing mental health conditions that are external to the athlete or the patient. Simply stated, there are mental conditions that are no fault of the patient and often require the aid of professionals. I am glad to see the stigma around mental health dissipate over my lifetime. And I am thankful for the insights on a personal level gained over these last few weeks.
My training partner, Nate, suggested it on a Sunday Ride. He really dared me to say No. He tends to bite off Big Projects like TNGA, Michigan’s Coast to Coast Gravel Grinder (which he has also talked me into), Mohican 100 Mountain Bike Race, several Nue Series Mountain Bike Races, and the list goes on. So, I approached his “dare” with a bit of trepidation considering these past events.
I knew the Double Diablo had some serious elevation. Nate casually suggested that it was “around” 15,000 feet of elevation gain, but that it was “fun” with “great views.” Great Views? I thought with no small measure of skepticism. Yeah, a great view of my front tire for hour after hour. I kept that to myself.
I needed a project for my 50th Year on the Planet and I figured that a Grand Fondo was as good an excuse as any, so I signed myself up. Many sleepless nights followed. For the uninitiated, the double in Double Diablo stands for a double metric century for a total of 125 miles. The ride organizer also offered a standard century course, a metric century course, and a forty-four-mile course as well. The Diablo in Double Diablo stands for diabolical amounts of climbing. The ride organizer recently changed the course. Apparently, 15,000 feet of elevation gain was not diabolical enough, so they added another 2,300 feet (per my Wahoo Bolt) of elevation to confirm the ride’s diabolical pedigree. I paced myself based on Nate’s 15,000 feet representation – more on that later.
Northern Kentucky and Southwestern Ohio provide plenty of climbing thanks to the glaciers that carved out the Ohio River Valley. However, glaciers can only carve out so much elevation. Garrett County, Maryland sits in the Appalachian Mountain range. The region is variously known as the Allegheny Mountains, the Allegheny Plateau, and the Appalachian Plateau. I don’t care what you call it, mountains are mountains and that means lots of elevation. Nate and I did plenty of century rides in preparation. While our longest ride was 142 miles, we could only manage 7,000 feet of elevation gain. I went into the ride with no sense of how my legs would handle another 8,000 feet of elevation gain. It was probably a good thing that I never checked the website. I would have discovered that my longest ride was still 10,000 feet short. Yikes.
So how did it go?
We started out at barely 50 degrees (good thing I packed arm warmers, leg warmers and a vest) and SUPER windy – the wind did not relent. The wind farms we saw on the drive in should have been a clue. The very first climb up Overlook Pass set the tone for the day: a ten-minute climb, much of which averaged a 11.7% grade. I knew that Nate knew how many climbs we had ahead of us. It turns out there were twenty-nine more. Nate studies routes and finds those types of important details interesting. I did not bother to ask. I just could not digest that information. I wasn’t even focused on miles. Total feet of elevation gain, current power and average power were to be my only guides. Maybe that was a mistake, maybe not. Anyone who has raced a bike or been around bike racing is familiar with the term “burning a match.” This was something entirely different. You can burn too many matches in a race, and it may cost you a place or two, or ten. But you finish the race.
I wasn’t worried about winning or scorching any timed segments (there were seven). I was worried about finishing. More specifically, I was worried about finishing in under nine hours, because Nate did the 2018 route in eight hours and forty-five minutes (with only 15,000 feet of elevation gain). So unwittingly I gave myself a fifteen-minute cushion to cover the extra 2,300 of elevation totally unaware that the routes were not the same (recall I did not check the website at any point before the ride).
Back to burning matches. I think a better analogy is “making a withdraw.” Every single climb was a withdrawal. If you dug too deep, you might not have the funds to finish the ride 70 or 80 miles later. So, I hit each climb not knowing how my body would respond two, three or seven hours later. I tried to keep each climb between 240 and 300 watts, which was surprisingly hard because every single climb had a 12% to 15% ramp in it somewhere. I was also running 53/39 up front and 11-28 on my cassette, which did not leave any opportunity to “spin to win.” I also tried to keep my overall average power between 175 to 200 watts.
I was a little concerned when my average power was 220 watts for the first two hours. We did finally settle in around the three-hour mark and I was able to bring average watts down to 200 for the rest of the ride. From the three-hour mark to about the six/seven-hour mark I basically had the same conversation on loop in my head: How deep can you go and still finish? How deep can you go and still finish? How deep can you go and still finish? And so on.
At roughly six and half hours in we hit 10,000 feet in elevation gain. I guessed – wrongly – that we only had five more thousand feet and I could manage a finish, maybe around nine hours? After six or so hours the ride started to get fun because it seemed doable at that point. The next actual 7,000 feet came much like the first 10,000 feet – long hard climb followed by a crazy fast descent. One after another. I would estimate that there was a scant twelve miles of continuously flat but very beautiful miles (turns out Nate was right about those views) that we tapped out along a river/large stream.
The Double Diablo is for a specific rider-type to state the obvious. If you don’t “like” to climb, the ride may not be your cup of tea. Regardless of your body-type or preferred riding style, a compact up front and a big cassette would have helped a lot. I saw plenty of riders spinning out the climbs. Disc brakes were another advantage of sorts, the descents were fun and crazy fast. The descents were a temporary reprieve from the climbs – nothing more!
I would be remiss if I did not mention the aid stations. I have never done a ride that was this well supported. They had motorcycles all over the course. I saw at least one motorcycle with a full toolbox aboard and a bike stand which he broke out at the final aid station. The organizers even had spare tubes and tires at most aid stations. Hammer Gels sponsored and supported the ride as well.
Some final thoughts. Would I do the ride again? That would have been a hard pass for a few weeks. As I pen this blog, I can see a scenario where I would be back. I could definitely see how this ride would become an annual rite of passage for Maryland and DC cyclists. The Double Diablo is definitely a Bucket List kinda ride for the rest of us.
If you want to follow my cycling misadventures, you can find my blog articles here and my podcasting here.
Posted by Chris Carville On June 30, 2022 at 9:46 am
Steve and I had plenty to talk about, so we broke this Episode out into two parts. Enjoy Part 2 where we pick up where we left off – with a discussion of “impeding” under Ohio law. Keep in mind bicyclists are motorists and part of traffic. Just because a bicyclist is slower than traffic in most instances does not mean that the bicyclist is guilty of impeding the traffic behind him or her. There is a seminal case that Steve argue through the Court of Appeals which changed the legal landscape for Ohio cyclists. We begin our discussion with that case and move on to additional areas of Ohio law.
Posted by Chris Carville On May 27, 2022 at 10:43 am
Bike Month is quickly coming to an end. It seemed fitting to interview my friend, collaborator, and colleague, Steve Magas, Esq., the Ohio Bike Lawyer. We had a wide-ranging discussion of all things bike laws in Ohio. In fact, the interview was so wide-ranging we had to break it down into two episodes! So please join me for Part 1 of my interview with Steve!