Newsletter - 2006 Archive

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Spring Training: Building mileage and confidence at the inaugural PacTour's Women's Week
by Melissa Friesen


Many of the best adventures are unplanned and spontaneous. My adventure started with a brief note on a long distance cycling forum from Seattle randonneur Amy Harman who said she was registered for the upcoming PacTour's "chick week" and that I should come. A phone call to my husband asking him to talk me out of going only encouraged me further - "Of course you should go, it sounds great! You can't miss this." Next I was searching for airfares on-line and on the phone to Amy and to Susan Notorangelo, of solo RAAM and transcontinental record fame and the organizer of the event. By the next day I was a registered participant for a week long women's cycle camp only three weeks away (April 2-9).

Beyond the opportunity for long miles in a sunny, warm climate, I was drawn to the event by the accomplishments of the coaching staff. Susan Notorangelo, Anna Catarina (Cat) Berge, Michelle Grainger, and Lon Haldeman. All had successful completed RAAM (Race Across AMerica)! The plan for the week was six days of riding with distances of 80-140 km, with an optional 200km brevet, plus an unorganized shorter arrival day shakedown ride. There were plenty of opportunities to expand my fascination and knowledge of ultradistance cycling. Each late afternoon was filled with coaching clinics, including topics such as bike fit and maintenance, nutrition, resistance training, overtraining/burnout, climbing/descending, etc… Our evenings were filled with documentaries of RAAM and transcontinental record crossings, including the as of yet unreleased documentary of Cat Berge's successful 2005 RAAM. The massage slots quickly filled. Morning yoga sessions really helped loosen our muscles for another day of riding. We also had a special guest, Tucson-based Elaine Mariolle who was informed that she would be inducted into the UMCA hall of fame that same week. In addition to completing and winning RAAM, Elaine co-authored a book with Michael Shermer in the late 1980s called "Woman Cyclist" that includes chapters on endurance cycling and RAAM. Scott couriered me my copy of her book and was fortunate enough to have Elaine, Susan, Michelle, and Cat sign it. I hope to eventually meet other women RAAM finishers and have them sign this book, too.

What made the week very special was the camaraderie amongst the women riders. Most of us were not ultradistance racers, though a few of us were randonneurs, and others had never heard of randonneuring or RAAM. When I first heard of the training camp I was intimidated and not at all confident that I would be able to keep up, hence the phone calls to Amy and Susan who both reassured me that I would fit right in. They were right! Cycling with these women was a joy, as we worked together rather than racing each other to the next stop, top of hill, etc…. The riding paces of the women were not all that different, so over the course of the week I had the privilege of riding with almost all the women. The group ranged from a beginning rider who started cycling just a few months ago (Anna D.) and who completed her first century on the last day of women's week to experienced cycle tourists such as Susan C. who had ridden her bike almost all the way around the world on the Odyssey tour and Anne Marie who had completed several PacTours and Mavis who has the Furnace Creek 508 in her sights.

By the end of the week I was sunburned and tired from 750 km of riding and amazingly I began wishing for a bit of rain. Perhaps the miserable cold and rainy weather on our spring 200 was my fault? But it was very hard to say good-bye to all the new friends I made at this camp. Each of these women -- the participants, coaches and crew -- are extraordinary role models. Most importantly, I came back more confident in my own riding abilities, having tackled multiple 10km climbs and descents, 25+ mph headwinds (Thanks for trading pulls, Gary!), navigation, riding alone, and trying to hold my own in bike talk while riding with Lon Haldemon on his Rivendell Quickbeam singlespeed.

Also check out the PAC Woman's Week video
13 minutes - lots of Melissa content !

April 25, 2006