Chef Matthew Accarrino’s Ride to One Million

Life is perpetual motion, something known quite well to Chef Matthew Accarrino. From his hometown of San Francisco, his restaurant SPQR has collected many Michelin stars over the years, just as Matthew has received a dozen years of accolades for his work in the kitchen. But it doesn’t stop there, he’s a race winning cyclist as well. With the 2022 calendar year coming to a close, Matthew set about an incredible challenge for himself. You’re not going to want to miss this.

We were watching from afar. Please tell us about the challenge itself.

Well, 2022 was another tough stretch in the restaurant business, staffing, supplies, we all know the story. It put a big demand on my time and balance with the level of cycling to which I aspire was difficult. I reached November 15th, which is the time on the calendar I traditionally turn my entire focus to the restaurant and holiday demands. I happen to look at my Strava to see I only had 700k of vert for the year (that is, 700,000 feet of elevation gained since January 1, 2022). I always try for 1 million, for no particular reason, just a rough benchmark. Hmmm… it planted a seed. Could I reach one million?

I asked a few friends who all basically said “with your schedule and the holiday rush looming, no way.” That was fuel for the fire! I set to it to cover 300k in 7 weeks! No biggie, just 43k or so a week, LOL. It was going to be tough. I reconciled the most efficient way to get this done was to head across the Golden Gate Bridge to the nearest hill, Hawk Hill. Giving about 600 feet of gain per ascent I spent some long big days climbing up to 15,000 feet per session in a 5 hour ride. Steady progress and the ability to find gaps in my schedule made some big dents in the massive goal. It was interesting to tickle the Strava Local Legends who seemed to make efforts initially to reclaim their wreaths (editors note: that’s virtual Strava hardware) but after hundreds of laps I ended the year on top. A wreath I will now gladly relinquish.

You even ticked off the 1,000,000 mark with a week to spare on Christmas Day! Was that part of the plan, given traditional added mayhem of the end-of-year holidays?

Yeah, with about two weeks to go, I had planned to finish on December 31st, but Bay Area winter rain loomed. I accelerated my pace and with the help of lots of friends I finished up the last 7k on Christmas morning complete with roadside cheering and a champagne toast at the top of the last lap. After that day it rained and I worked a lot. I didn’t ride again till new years day 2023. But I got it done.  

Your bike sponsor Ventum helped launch a stunning short length film about you. This game of life is often about find balance. What are your tips or tickets to balance the day-to-day of a professional in the kitchen with the elite pursuits on the bike too?

That was such a great project! They followed me around for several days and it was really fun to share my story, what drives me, how I get it done, but also to talk about where I ride here in the Bay Area and the incredible cycling community here. It turned out really great and I’m very proud of it. I urge you to take a look. (Editor’s note: please enjoy the film, found here.) Ultimately my big takeaway is that balance is really just an illusion. I have no balance, most of us don’t. For me the two passions of professional cooking and cycling are massive time grabs. In the end it is all about flexibility and constant motion. If I find I have time to ride, I go. I wake up everyday and just get going. The days I get to rest are all the more sweet. One of my big goals for 2023 is to be better about finding and making the time, even just a few hours in a day to connect more in personal relationships and with friends. But that too means you just cannot stop. You have to set big goals and then keep them off in the distance and just live in the day. It’s the now that defines the future.  

Sooo, 2023… do you front load the training to get ahead of the million foot challenge, recover from a busy end of the year, or set yourself a new goal?

Hard to say, technically I’m already behind. I think I’m going to plan some big trips like the Coast Ride (an unofficial ride about 500 miles from San Francisco to Los Angeles along the California coast) and elsewhere and spend some time focusing on big rides. But also make well sure I don’t end up in the same place in November! You get one shot at life, I try to never forget that. You have to make the most of every moment, those build into days, weeks a year and ultimately life. But you never know when the music stops so I keep that in focus too and will always push to grab at every experience. The memories are what you get to keep most, make them good ones.

All photos courtesy of Daylen Yang, @daylenyang.