He flies in a modern jet airplane to get to his races in Europe, but if there were a bridge across the Atlantic Ocean, he probably would cycle there.
That’s just how much Charlie Rowland is into two-wheel transport, be it competitive venues, training miles or just out to have a good time.
Actually, the third option is a bit of a misnomer because the 1976 Pennsbury High School graduate seldom does anything on a bike that’s nice and easy.
“I like competition,’’ says Rowland, who travels world-wide to participate in seven-day stage races that last up to 650 miles. “I’m not one of those people who can just exercise. I have to have a goal. The goal makes me train. Without that, it’s easy to say I’ll just work out tomorrow or on a nicer day.
“But if I have a goal. . .I have a coach that I work with. She won national endurance races. So even if it’s raining, I’ll take the bike out and do it.’’
There’s one more component. It’s that old axiom “rage against age.’’
“Once you hit 60 (he’s actually 61), there’s sort of the age group thing,’’ he says. “So while I haven’t raced as well this year as I have in previous years, it probably keeps me racing hard for another year.’’
Once upon a time, Rowland was a standout cross-country runner for Pennsbury. He was able to run with purpose until his late 40s when the bones in one of his feet finally gave out.
Enter the bicycle alternative.
Rowland’s line of work, serving on the boards of biotech companies and raising money for research studies, allows him to travel the globe in search of new challenges.
He will finish this year having ridden 9,000 miles and that’s not even his all-time high, which is 12,000.
“I get busy two weeks per quarter and everything else is spread out,’’ he says. “A lot of it I can do remotely. The way it worked out, all my board meetings worked around my racing in Europe.
“And so I either flew over, did a race and then went to the board meeting. Or went to the board meeting and then did the race.’’
Rowland competes in races sponsored by an organization called Hot Route. In one of those races, he placed second in his age group in a stage race in Norway.
“I want to place well in my age group in a lot of these races before I get too old,’’ Rowland says. “The Hot Route races are either three- or seven-day stage formats.
“On the three-day, it’s two days with a lot of hard climbing and then a time trial, which is usually uphill.
“The seven-day ones are six days with a lot of climbing and then in the middle there will be some time trial up some really famous cull from the Tour de France.’’
The demands of cycling up and down the Alps and Pyrenees mountains are daunting enough, but things got tougher when Rowland came down with a case of the shingles. That put him on the shelf for the better part of three weeks.
No doubt Rowland’s running heritage works in his favor.
“Part of it is my endurance background,’’ he says. “I recover faster than a lot of people do. And I train a lot. I do a lot of intervals and things like that. And that all sort of helps with the recovery.’’
While there are no official rankings world-wide for guys in their 60s, Rowland figures he’s somewhere among the elite.
“I’m finishing in the top five in my age group in almost all my races,’’ he says. “So I’ve got to be up there. But it’s just one of those things where it’s kind of hard to gauge.’’
Charlie and his wife Donna (maiden name Gardner, who won the first two PIAA girls’ state cross-country championships in 1974 and 1975) live in Furlong and have a son and two daughters, with two grandchildren and two more on the way.
These are exciting times for Charlie. One company he works for is about to get clearance from the FDA to market a new drug to combat lupus disease.
Another is making breakthroughs in the battle against cancer.
“They’re having incredible results,’’ he says. “I’m pretty well connected to innovative science. I help them make the right connections to raise the money they need.’’
Charlie, Donna and their daughter Kim were over in Africa to hike up the 19,300-foot Mount Kilimanjaro.
“I ended up with GI problems,’’ Charlie says with a chuckle. “So I turned around at 17,300, went back to base camp, curled up in a ball and slept.
“They made it to the top. When they got back and realized I was feeling better, I sure heard about it.’’
Next time maybe he should try to make the ascent on a bike. It’s probably one of the only places on this planet he hasn’t seen on wheels.
Run for Research 5K, Warminster. Contact www.runsignup.com
9/11 Run for Heroes 5K, Doylestown. Contact www.travismanion.org