Charlie (C)- Hello everyone! This is Binger Jerry Chinchilla, AKA, Charlie Harrison.
Speight (S)- Hey Chuck! For people who don’t know you, tell us a little bit about yourself please.
C- Where do I begin? I guess I’ll start with my adventures when I was a young up-and-comer. The chronology of Speight and I as friends pretty much describes me in a nutshell. We grew up skiing for a program based out of the Dartmouth Skiway, in Lyme, NH known as Ford Sayre. We knew and competed alongside some of the fastest skiers in the world right now. Both of us ended up at Cardigan Mountain School together in junior high, where we fell in love with mountain biking. For high school I attended Burke Mountain Academy, where I continued ski racing and mountain biking. Afterwards, I was recruited to ski race D1 for Williams College, where I continued my athletics and embarked on new intellectual adventures as well. So I guess "adventurer" more or less sums me up.
S- Skiing and biking let you go Hella fast, when did you decide you wanted to go faster than everyone else? Were you born that way?
C- You know, it’s probably innate, but I don’t always need to go fast. However, I do typically like to ride faster than I did the previous day.
S- So let’s tell the viewers exactly how many sports you do.
C- I’ll list them in order of the total duration I spend doing each of them. I guess mountain biking is my number one at this point - I do it year-round since I can’t ski all year. Then, skiing comes in 2nd, hiking 3rd, rock climbing 4th, nordic skiing 5th, and then the occasional pond hockey with the boys.
S- Tell us a little bit about your D1 ski racing career.
C- I’ve been on the Williams ski team longer than most people since I’ve had a lot of issues with injuries. I ended up deferring a year of eligibility and taking time off school to deal with some of these challenges. As a result, I've been around for a hot minute. It's definitely been great, but also beaten me to a pulp quite literally. It has broken me physically and mentally figuring out how to be a student-athlete at Williams. But it’s great to finally be here in my final season, to be really confident, and to be having a blast with a solid group of teammates, the purple cows. Go Ephs!
S- Ha! You defiantly look like a purple cow. So why do you think you do these particular sports?
C- I sure do love adrenaline, but I think that a lot of people who don’t know me super well might say… "He’s that guy I know who’s a shameless adrenaline junkie." But I think that many of my motives run a bit deeper than that. I love being outside all the time, and I love pushing my body to overcome physical challenges. I'm always one upping myself, whether in physical challenges or learning new skills. Like, when I think of mountain biking I want to progress my riding, going harder with more tricks and speed then I did the day before, maybe even beating some folks on Strava if I'm feeling competitive. There’s a lot of motivation behind it that isn't just based in adrenaline.
S- I’m going to chime in there Chuckles - I don’t know too many people that get on a bike and want to do a backflip right away. You're a total adrenaline junkie!
C- Yeah, that’s true, but I think that if I was a purebred adrenaline junkie I wouldn’t be biking with you anymore. I'd be jumping off huge cliffs, jumping out of planes and maybe even skiing off cliffs. RIP Shane McConkey, man that guy was a visionary. You know what’s messed up? He’s not even on the list of notable alumni from Burke Mountain Academy. For instance, some of the people on that list are Nolan Kasper, Mikaela Shiffrin, and Diann Roffe, but no Shane.
S- What’s Burke Mountain Academy?
C- It’s a private ski academy in East Burke, VT. It’s probably the preeminent ski academy in the country in terms of concentration of fast skiers produced per year. It has state of the art training facilities and one of the best practice slopes in the world. It’s like a mini ski racer factory.
C- But back to Shane McConkey - he went there in high school, and if you read any the publications or ads featuring BMA notable alums there's of course the "Mikaela Shiffrin blah blah" but no Shane McConkey.
S- So for people who don’t know Shane, he was one of the most bad ass human beings ever when it came to skiing.
C- He invented wing suit ski base jumping, which is basically where you ski off a massive cliff and release your skis in the air, then fly away using a wing suit. Shane actually died while performing a ski base jump. He spiraled in the air and was unable to get his parachute released in time, and ended up smashing into the ground.
S- Yes that was so sad about Shane…..
S- So Charlie, how many hours a week do you train?
C- On average 10-12 hours a week, usually 6 days a week and about 2 hours per day. During ski season, I ski 5 to 6 days a week including both training and race days. A training day is normally a 4-hour block of time, but really feels like 2 hours due to all the logistics, equipment prep, and riding the lifts. A race day is more like a 6 to 8 hour block, and I race on average 3 days a week during the 6 weeks of the EISA carnival season.
S- So what does your summer training look like?
C- I end up cross training quite heavily unlike most of my peers, but typically about two hours a day. My sport's focus is on strength, aerobics, agility, flexibility, and mobility. We also need a lot of explosiveness in our specific strength program so I end up doing lots of different sprint work. Unfortunately in skiing, you have a limited amount of time on snow, so you have to be able to make the most of that time and be aerobically fit in order to handle as much practice as possible.
S- So where have you traveled to ski in the world?
C- I have a list of all the ski mountains I have been to and it clocks in around 70. I've skied in a few different countries including Canada, Chile, France, and Switzerland.
S- What’s your favorite event?
C- Slalom - it's quick and agile, plus you get to punch things. I like to let out all of my energy and anger out on those gates!
S- Haha! I remember you having a little bit of an anger problem growing up. I definitely had some fists flown at me back in the day. So how did you land the nickname Chuckles anyway?
C- I don’t remember where it came from, but someone started calling me Chuckles in middle school, and I didn't like it one bit. I thought it was a childish name that I didn’t deserve because I felt I was coming of age. Speight especially thought it was really funny to call me that name so he recruited his father to make a bunch of custom 'Chuckles' stickers. He acquired this little army of Charlie aggravators and went around and put Chuckles stickers on all my shit, including my skis, my textbooks, my computer, my room, my bikes, and just about everything else I owned, and I was sooooooooooo mad! I’ve never been so mad in my life!!! But eventually I ended up embracing it and even cherished those last few Chuckles stickers.
S- Those were great times. So, have there been any books that have influenced you athletically?
C- The one that comes to mind is Full Catastrophe Living, which is a mindfulness stress reduction book that I’ve read in therapy and in a meditation theory class. It has helped me detach from my thoughts and put them into context, sifting through all of the bull shit. It’s helped me as a whole person and so by extension, my athletics and training. Though a lot of these techniques are rooted in traditional Buddhist practices, they are also popping up more and more frequently in Western medicine. Some other books that come to mind are romantic environmentalist treatises like those by Henry David Thoreau and Aldo Leopold. That stuff makes you want to go outside and be in wild places, which is a huge inspiration for my athletics.
S- What’s the best purchase you’ve made that has affected you athletically?
C- It’s a future purchase, and it’s a Cannondale Fat CAAD. My dad bought two fat bikes at Drummond Cycles last year, and it was a eureka moment for me. I was like holy cow, I can bike year-round now! As a result of trying them out, I was motivated to be even more athletic in the winter. To be honest, I don’t love going to the weight room, but I will tough it out with enough added motivation. The idea of having a fat bike in my quiver helps motivate me to get outside even more than I normally do in the winter. Having the opportunity to spice things up from skiing will certainly be a huge motivator for my well-roundedness.
S- How has failure set you up for later success?
C- Failure has come up in just about every area of my life. I have had serious troubles with academics that revolve around deadlines and caring too much about my writing, which is an ongoing struggle. Also, my terrible luck with injuries including 2 wrist reconstructions, a shattered hand, and an ACL reconstruction in the course of two and a half years of college. Those failures have set me up for success in that they really made me realize what was important to me and forced me to be less reactive to my situation and proceed each day with more mindfulness. They inspire me to want to seize every day and every athletic situation, ultimately to not get too caught up in results and performance, but just enjoy each opportunity for itself.
S- What’s the best investment you have made via time or energy?
C- Definitely choosing to study philosophy at Williams. I can't stress this enough, especially given our discussion about failure and delayed success and gratification. But I won't bore you with too many details...
S- Do you have any unusual habits?
C- Listening to metal music, going to metal shows, and participating in mosh pits are an area of my more unusual habits. I believe there’s a metal genre for almost every person out there.
S- What advice would you give to the everyday athlete?
C- If you are an outdoor athlete or adventure athlete, think about how lucky you are and about everything that enables you to participate in these amazing sports. Think about how the woods, the rivers, and the mountains are all fragile, and consider giving back to the earth. Outdoor athletes have a major capacity to support necessary changes that will allow us to continue thriving in wild places. If you are not an outdoor athlete, keep killing it, but I would recommend trying an outdoor sport, maybe as a form of cross-training. They're pretty rad!
S- What sport would you recommend?
C- Mountain biking. It’s accessible to all and it isn't as dangerous as skiing. Plus, you can do it year-round!
S- If you could send a text message out to every athlete in the world what would it be?
C- I’d send them a quote by one of my new favorite philosophers Baruch Spinoza: "Everything noble is as difficult as it is rare." In summary: work really hard for excellence but don’t expect to achieve it all the time.
S- Who’s one of your biggest athletic role models?
C- My friend from high school, Myles Trainer. That guy knows how to have fun on the bicycle. He basically taught me how to dirt jump and ride fast in high school, and now he’s probably one of the best riders in all of Jackson, Wyoming.
S- What’s your personal mission statement?
C- All I can think of is my Instagram caption, which is a Thoreau quote: “In the wildness is the salvation of the world.” So I guess you could label me wild, and thus my mission statement would be “be more wild.”
S- If today was your last day on earth, what’s the one thing you would do?
C- I’d probably want to run up the highest mountain I could find with my family and loved ones.
S- Well, that’s a wrap Charlie. Thank you for taking out the time to be interviewed. I hope to see you and my readers on the trails. Stay tuned for more action soon!