It has been a long time, over a month I think, from the last time I posted. I can tell you that I did not post because of a lack of adventure. The time since I last posted has seen me travel to multiple states and a foreign country. After my podium finish at the TN state Crit championships I decided to take some time off. I was planning on taking off one week to recoup and refocus. Removing all temptation of riding my carbon steed my wife and I hopped in the car and headed towards the Atlantic Ocean. Back in March I surprised my wife with cruise tickets, in celebration of our 3 year anniversary. We were set to ship out from the hot but beautifully preserved city of Charleston, SC.
“Welcome to Charleston” was indeed a welcoming sight. I’ve visited Charleston a handful of times, whether it be for racing or for relaxation. I always get lost in the beauty of the history and architecture that makes up downtown. My wife and I got there a day early so we could spend some time actually exploring Charleston. My wife hadn’t been to Charleston in a long time (or at all) so I wanted to show her around. Charleston hotels are expensive, especially around the summer time when vacationers flock to the city and beach. Luckily for me, there is an Air Force Base just outside of Charleston that is host to a nice hotel which we could stay at for cheap. For anyone in the military, take advantage of Space-A deals! My wife and I checked into the hotel just prior to dinner. What did we have planned for the night? Some quick research on my favorite food blogs Making Thyme for Health pointed us towards CO Charleston. A modern Asian restaurant with options for the vegetarian (me) and the meat eaters (my wife). I recommend this place to anyone in Charlotte, Charleston, Myrtle Beach, Savannah, or Atlanta. After filling up on noodles and spring rolls we walked down the street to the Carolina Ale House, which is a rooftop bar overlooking historical Marion Square. We had a couple of beers, laughs, smiles, while silently participating in trivia night.
The next morning we awoke in our typical early fashion and headed back downtown to break the nightly fast. We ended up going to Kitchen 208 which ended up being somewhat disappointing, at least in the food aspect. The coffee was delicious but neither of us were happy with our food choices. Lessons learned the hard way. We couldn’t board the ship until 2pm so that gave us 5 hours to explore Charleston. We hit up the major locations like The Historic Charleston City Market, Charleston City Hall, Waterfront Park and the adjacent beautiful neighborhood. We filled the final hours by eating an amazing lunch at Carmella’s and people watching next to the US Customs building.
What I expected to be a long and painful wait to board the ship ended up being a smooth and easy process. Carnival, unlike Walmart, actually used all computers and counter space available to check in guests. The entire process took less than 30 minutes. A tip to anyone that drives down and needs to find parking; there are parking garages around King Street that charge a maximum of $35 or so for “lost tickets.” Park at one of these garages and walk to the dock. Parking at the dock will cost you $60-70. The cruise we decided on was aboard the Carnival Ecstasy, an older and smaller ship, that leaves Charleston and stops in Nassau for a total round trip of 4 days. The entire cruise experience was amazing. Choosing the smaller cruise ship for my first time was perfect. My wife and I are similar in that we enjoy smaller crowds and a slower pace during vacation. Don’t get me wrong, there was always something to do on the ship. We filled our time and never felt bored. The service was spectacular every day. The entire crew was always happy and almost felt like family at the end. We ended up getting really close to a couple of the crew members, especially the bartenders at the Alchemy Bar. We spent time really getting to know the crew members. I am always fascinated by the stories from other humans, especially foreigners (which makes up 95% of the crew). On top of the perfect service was an amazing food menu for every meal. My wife and I ate in the dining hall for breakfast and dinner every day. Every day we were astounded by the flavors, atmosphere, and selections. There was always at least one vegetarian option. We were never disappointed by the food. The only thing that we were ever disappointed by in the dining hall was the morning coffee. The coffee in the dining hall was extremely watered down. Fear not though for we purchased the drink package which allowed us to visit the specialty coffee bar. There we could get our tasty espresso and cappuccinos. Overall, I would definitely do this cruise again.
The week we returned from the cruise happened to butt up against an extended weekend for Memorial Day. I took advantage of the long weekend to put in some big rides and jump start the fitness. So, I actually had intentions to start riding immediately after returning from the cruise but a small fainting episode and a concussion prevented that plan. On the final night of the cruise I ended up fainting after standing up too quickly. I fainted hard into the closed wall closet. I definitely gave myself a concussion because for the next 3 days I could not focus and anytime I had to think my head began to ache. I took it very easy, even reducing hours at work, in order to properly recover. By Thursday I was feeling a lot better and began to train again. I ended up getting in 14.5 hours of riding into 5 days (13.5 in just 4 days). But alas the next weekend began my 2 weeks of Annual Training.
Annual Training is a 2 week period during the summer where reservists go on active duty orders to train up. This time we spend a week in the field and then a week in WW2 clam shell huts. Our objective was to practice some of our basic warrior drills but more importantly grow our unit cohesion. I believe we accomplished the mission and got some really good training. Annual Training is always a tough place to develop any bike fitness though. I ended up getting in a handful or workouts the first week but ended up getting a head and chest cold the second week. The cold was so bad it prevented me from doing any training which caused my fitness level to plummet.
Alright, so what is next for me? The peak of the mountain is the Cascade Classic. The Cascade Classic is one of, if not the top, American stage race. Just like Joe Martin, it brings the top cyclists from around the nation (and world) for 5 days of racing around Bend, OR. Currently, I have just under a month to prepare. I have used TrainingPeaks to plan out an aggressive build up but if executed perfectly will get me to where I need to be to finish in the top 10. Included in the aggressive buildup will be 3.5 race days. This weekend I am making the trip up to Cincy for the Hyde Park Blast (3/4 and P123) as well as Madeira Criterium. Once I return I will do the final Knoxie Crit (as long as I remember my shoes). The final race day in the lead-up will be Hot Doggett 100 which is a Gran Fondo that takes place just north of Asheville. Luckily, in the buildup I don’t have any weekend obligations and major stressors so all I need to do is execute and I will be ready.