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Beyond the Office: ADA Kvam bikes to find balance in life

In 2010, Monroe County Assistant District Attorney Christopher Kvam cycled the Tourmalet in the French Pyrenees. Courtesy Christopher Kvam

To counterbalance work stress and maintain his health, Monroe County Assistant District Attorney Christopher Kvam maintains a fitness regimen focused on cycling.

Growing up near Saratoga, Kvam played soccer, swam and skied, then ran track and cross-country in high school. While earning his bachelor’s degree in economics at SUNY Geneseo, he was a competitive distance runner.

Seeking to replace the team environment of collegiate running, he joined a cycling club in 2005, and has concentrated on cycling ever since — typically to the tune of about 200 miles a week.

“I bike to work once or twice a week,” he said. “Cycling gives me a sense of freedom I didn’t feel as a runner. Being a prosecutor can be stressful at times. We deal with a lot of people who have experienced pain and violence in their lives, and cycling gives me a way to compartmentalize the more difficult parts of the job, and to appreciate the good in my life.”

Getting to the DAs office

After completing his economics degree in 2002, Kvam attended George Washington University, earning a master’s degree in Public Policy in 2004. From there, he took a job in Boston as a research analyst at Mathematica Policy Research.

“I was doing social policy research in a think tank environment,” he explained. “I learned a lot about Medicaid and spent hours and hours a day at the computer.”

After his long-time girlfriend, Christine, completed her masters in divinity in Boston, she was ready to move back to her native Rochester. They married in 2007 and by 2008 Kvam began his three-year commute to Buffalo to earn his law degree from SUNY Buffalo Law.

“My interest in law developed out of my interest in policy,” he admitted. “I’m interested in the judicial system and the foundation of law.”

Passing the New York bar exam in 2011, Kvam is now 14 months into his career at the district attorney’s office. He is currently assigned to Rochester City Court, following Judge Ellen Yacknin as she rotates through the parts.

He indicates he has already done countless bench trials and three jury trials.

“I enjoy trials,” he said. “I enjoy putting together the proof. I’ve had some of my biggest successes with DWI cases. I also enjoy the daily interaction with my colleagues in the district attorney’s office, judges and court staff, and the defense bar. It’s a great environment to work in, and I love not being at a desk all day.”

In the community

Kvam is a member of the Monroe County Bar Association and the Parish Pastoral Council for St. Mary’s. He participates in charity bike rides and belongs to the Rochester Bike Club. Kvam serves on the board of directors for the Rochester Chapter of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

In August he will participate in the third annual Finger Lakes Aptalis CF Cycle For Life, which draws between 50 and 100 riders each year.

“There is a 30-mile flat route, or a 72-mile more challenging route,” he explained. “Both routes begin and end in Geneseo, showcasing some of the best roads in the western Finger Lakes. It is a very scenic ride, on low traffic roads.

“We are trying to raise money for drug development and research but the event is also an opportunity to instill hope for parents and their children with CF who volunteer to give cyclists water at rest stops,” Kvam said. “Each year we have a number of people with CF participating as riders, and I think that kind of participation best illustrates the progress the CF Foundation has made over the last 30 years in developing drugs and reaching for a cure.”

Kvam knows all of the details as he chaired the first Cycle For Life in 2011, and developed the two routes.

“The ride is not a race,” Kvam said, “but I would love to see some friendly competition from within our legal community. I know there are some serious cyclists out there, and I’d like to see how we match up on the hills and not just in the courtroom.”

Keeping in shape

Christopher Kvam participates in the 2012 Highlander Cycle Tour. Sorrells Photography

Kvam is a perennial participant in the Highlander Cycle Tour, a Finger Lakes region course with ride options to suit a range of abilities. He typically goes for the 105 mile route with 9,000 feet of elevation. A less rigorous route is the 100 mile ride with elevation of 6,000 feet.

The September event has additional course options and event challenges, with proceeds directed to local charities.

In 2008, just before starting law school, Kvam cycled 900 miles from Vancouver, British Columbia, through the Canadian Rockies to Jasper, Alberta,  and in 2010 biked the Col Du Tourmalet, the most famous climb of the Tour de France in the Pyrenees.

He’s completed a half-ironman triathlon, and each February participates in the Lake Placid Loppet, a cross country ski marathon based on the 1980 Olympic course.

Part of his motivation for the cross country ski event is his brother, who competes in state and regional races, and currently serves as president of the New York State Nordic Ski Racing Association.

“Last February, it was minus 3 degrees at the start of the Loppet,” he said. “After making the trip up, my brother was adamant about doing the race. He’s younger, and faster, so there was no way for me to chicken out.”

At home

Kvam met his wife through mutual friends, and despite busy careers, they make sure to have a date night each week. She does bicycle, but more for pleasure than sport. They may take a 20-mile ride together to get ice cream.

They added Hildy, a Portuguese water dog, to their household about a year ago. The dog loves to run, so Kvam makes a point of taking a 2 or 3 mile run every day.

When discussing what he’s been reading, Kvam named a couple of literary classics he never got to as an economics major: “In Cold Blood” and “The Naked and the Dead.”

“Maybe I should be reading something a little lighter,” Kvam joked.

For more information about this year’s race, visit www.cff.org and follow the links to the Rochester Chapter page.