Meet Iowa's extreme cycling women
Two Iowa women recently raced in a competition longer than both RAGBRAI and the Tour de France combined.
Driving the news: Race Across America (RAAM) is a 3,000-mile ultra-endurance event spanning 12 states that's dubbed "the world's toughest bicycle race."
State of play: Heather Poskevich, 43, of Polk City, is no stranger to long hours or handling unexpected events. The ER doctor competed solo in RAAM last month and won her 18-49 age division in 10 days and 22 hours.
- Meanwhile, Urbandale's Michelle Pohlmeyer, 56, raced in a relay team with three men. Her group rode in honor of Dr. Bob Breedlove — a Des Moines orthopedic surgeon who died when a vehicle fatally hit him during the same race in 2005.
How it started: Poskevich was inspired to race RAAM after seeing Urbandale athlete and mom Sarah Cooper win it in 2017.
- She worked a nearly full-time schedule but still sometimes trained up to 35 hours a week.
- At times, she found herself cycling on a trainer in her basement for up to seven hours.
Meanwhile, Pohlmeyer, a Des Moines teacher, found extra time to train over the summer and followed a coaching plan. Her group carried Breedlove's gloves and called themselves "It's Another Day in Paradise" in honor of the surgeon's frequent saying.
The biggest challenge: After extensive training and research for the race, there were few surprises for Poskevich, who prepared four different bikes for the event.
- She slept only three to four hours a day during the race, planning her rest times in the afternoons and gaining distance in the middle of the night.
- For Pohlmeyer, the biggest hurdle was the mental aspect.
- "I just didn't know that I could do it," Pohlmeyer says. "For a while, I was doubting everything that I was doing."
Yes, but: They each had crews in vehicles following and supporting them along the way, whether it was massaging an achy limb or putting on a funny costume to break up the monotony of the road.
The big picture: When it comes to ultra-endurance events, research is starting to show females assigned at birth may have an advantage over men.
- While men generally have larger muscles and more aerobic power, women have better-distributed slow-twitch fiber muscles, which are used to resist fatigue. according to the BBC.
What's next: For Pohlmeyer, riding RAGBRAI, which starts this weekend, will be nothing.
- "Oh, it's going to be a cakewalk," she says.
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