Saturday, May 28, 2011

Interview: Catherina Berge of the 4 Raw Milk Cats RAAM Team

One of the great things about working with Naturally Sports & Wellness is that I often get to meet and speak with very interesting people. Recently, I was able to have an interview with Catherina Berge. Catherina is a world class Swedish ultra-distance cyclist. Currently she is the veteran member (2005 RAAM 1st place Woman) of the 4 Raw Milk Cats, a team of age 50+ woman that are riding in the Race Across America (RAAM) this June. The other team members are Lori Cherry, Jeanine Spence,and  Isabelle Drake. Together, they plan to set a new course record for women aged 50-59 by finishing in less than 7 days 10 hours and 35 minutes.

NS>You mentioned that while studying in the USA that you could not understand why someone would want to ride their bike 100 miles. What made you decide to ride the RAAM in 2005?

CB>I started road biking in 2000, before that I was just a regular bike commuter. In 2001 I did my first ultra-distance race, the Furnace Creek 508 in California. I came in first woman and second overall with a time under 32 hours. Immediately ultra cyclists started to talk with me about RAAM. I was overwhelmed. I had just biked further than I thought it was humanly possible and was very proud of my performance. Then when peers start to talk about a race even more insane, I tried to tell them I was sane. “I have just raced the race of my lifetime, tell me why I would want to sit 10 non-stop days on a bike?”, I asked. Well, the seed had been planted by famous ultra cyclists such as Steve Born (who phoned me right after my 508). It lay there dormant for a few years during which I discovered the wonderful family of ultra cyclists, the special camaraderie and the sense of belonging and the form of racing that suited me, where the competition is not against other but against yourself and the course. Then in 2004, the RAAM seed started to sprout. I remember a day in February, my professor and I were bike commuting home from work, and we were talking about insane and extreme things. He looked at me and said ‘You are going to race RAAM, are you not? I can see it in your eyes!’. Then I just knew, I had to do RAAM, and I call it the day of conception of RAAM. From that day until the starting gun of RAAM in 2005, there was not a day that baby RAAM was not on my mind, and the RAAM pregnancy was sometimes even more intimidating than the race itself!

NS>What made you decide to ride it again?

CB>The solo Race Across America required that I dedicated a whole year to preparation of logistics, equipment and body. I had decided to do it only once, since life is too short to keep repeating adventures. Furthermore, no experience will ever be as special as the first time. 

Last summer, Jeanine Spence, a woman that I am coaching, contacted me about participating in their team RAAM. One of their team members had bailed out, and they needed another rider. The thought of going back to USA to race with a 3 great team members, Jeanine, Lori and Isabelle, and the fantastic crew (many of which crewed for me in 2005) was too tempting to resist. My answer yes, was based on the social aspects, ie. just to be able to share this experience with my California friends, to be back in the USA (I now live in Belgium), and to experience the completely different form of racing that team relay presents.

NS>How did you get connected to your current team members? This is the first RAAM for them.

CB>I have been coaching Jeanine Spence, a California endurance cyclist, for 3 years. Jeanine has soared to the elite in woman ultra cycling in California, and I am very proud of her. I knew Lori Cherry because we lived in neighbouring cities in California and often raced with Jeanine, and Isabelle Drake is a renown ultra cyclist and 508er.

NS>Your team is sponsored by Organic Pastures. How did you come to be involved with them?

CB>When I joined the team, I realized that finances would be a major issue, especially since I have very little personal funds to be used. I therefore started to contact lots of potential sponsors. I contacted sponsors that helped me in my RAAM in 2005, and Organic Pastures came to my mind. I had worked with Organic Pastures dairy in California while I was doing veterinary PhD research in California, and loved their products and concepts. They were sponsors in 2005, and this time, they immediately wanted to become key sponsors. Organic Pastures saw our team as a fantastic message to get  ‘raw milk’ across USA.

NS>What did you do to prepare yourself for this years RAAM?

CB>My preparations for RAAM started in January this year. Due to winter weather in Belgium, I had to log some hours on the trainers indoors. Since I hate trainers, I cross-trained with running. I also preferred biking outside in the freezing cold than sitting indoors on trainers. I have trained between 20 and 30 hours every week since January. I am currently riding between 500 to 700 km per week. Every day I do about 30 min of various exercises including sit-ups, crunches, push-ups and I am always on the go.

NS>What do you eat while on your trek across the USA?

CB>We have been sponsored by Hammer Nutrition and I am very happy about this, since I have used their fuels and supplements since 2001 with great success in races and training. But, to simply use these energy products becomes very monotone and boring. I do like to eat a lot of natural foods. At home I cook and bake everything from raw ingredients and I never buy ready-made stuff. During this race, I plan on using Organic Pastures raw chocolate milk (that I used successfully in my previous race) when I am off the bike. I like bread such as whole grain breads and bagels. I have a home-home made energy bar that all my friends call Catbar (and they all think I should market this bar) and it is a raw bar made of almonds, oat bran, dried fruits and berries and dark chocolate. I avoid too much fatty foods, and after a few days I do not want anything acidic or strong, because it is common for the mouth the stress that the body is in during the event.  I am very sensitive to blood sugar hypoglycemia, so I make sure that there is always some hammer gels or fast sugars available, since I get light-headed if I run low. Proteins are thereby important to stabilize the blood sugar levels, and I like peanut butter, turkey ham, hummus, cottage cheese and chicken.

NS>Thank you for sharing. We wish you the best of luck in you ride next month.

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