BRNW Rider Focus: Chuck and Danita Pfliiger

This month we hear from Chuck and Danita Pfliiger… living proof that the benefits of cycling go way beyond heart rate, blood pressure and great photos.

Names, hometown, ages:

Chuck and Danita Pfliiger, Silverton, Oregon, 57 and 48

What’s your BRNW history?

Danita’s first year riding BRNW was 2007; Chuck’s first BRNW ride was 2009. Danita has ridden 9 times not counting 2017, Chuck 7 times.

We hear you have a cycling-related “meeting story”?

We met briefly during the Century Ride of the Centuries (CROC) in Pendleton in 2010. We became inseparable riding partners during the 2012 OBR Prineville ride. We came back to Portland from that ride and started riding together; in September we realized we were more than great riding partners—we were partners in life. So BRNW holds a very special place in our hearts.

Why do you ride a bike?

What other exercise makes you feel like a kid even when you’re climbing up a cliff?

How many bikes do you own, and is this a problem?

Chuck has two bikes and Danita has three, including a Pedersen.  The only problem is for Chuck—needing one more to catch up.

What is the most unusual or challenging place you’ve ever ridden?

We rode over Beartooth Pass in Wyoming, elevation 10,947 feet, in August. At the top it was snowing and 31 degrees. We highly recommend checking the weather forecast before tackling that amazing climb.

What is your strongest memory or impression of your first BRNW event?

The sense of common purpose of the group—usually that purpose is to just make it over the next mountain and enjoy the ride! Being in the middle of nowhere and feeling comfortable, being comfortable being a little uncomfortable.

The other thing that made a huge impression on us is that we thought we were doing something amazing by completing the ride—and we looked around and people who were 20-30 years older were completing the same ride. We realized this is something we can do for a long time!!

Which has been your favorite BRNW ride, and why?

We really enjoyed the Athena ride in 2013, which included Wallowa Lake and Rattlesnake Grade.  Chuck grew up in the area and Danita’s grandmother lived out there, so a lot of the roads and areas we were familiar with but had never ridden before.

Why do you keep coming back?

We love summer camp for adults.

What did you see on a BRNW ride that you never thought you’d see? 

(Chuck:) Since I got carsick riding up Rattlesnake Grade when I was a kid, I never thought I would be riding a bike with my wife up that grade.

What’s the most breathtaking scenery you’ve encountered on a BRNW ride?

Stanley Lake and the Sawtooth Mountains during IBR in 2011.

What is the single most important item you bring on a bike tour?  For Chuck, extra gears to keep up with Danita on the hills.

What advice would you give a first-time BRNW rider?  Ride your own ride.

May Training Blog: Get On Your Bikes and Ride!

If you’re like me and live in the Pacific Northwest, you’re excited about the upcoming weather. Finally, it’s sunny and warm! Time to get a little color on those white legs, and do most of your rides outside.

No more of this!

The goal this month is to maintain the endurance base you’ve been working on all winter, and to do some harder efforts. Don’t do the harder efforts if you haven’t been doing the tempo intervals from last month. (Instead, go back and read my previous blogs from January through April, and follow the first few months of training guidelines.)

It goes without saying that if you’ve not been cleared by your health care provider to do intense exercise, then don’t do these. Also, if at any time while doing these you feel chest pain, lose sensation in any part of your body, or get blurred vision or dizziness, stop immediately and contact your health care provider. And since we will be adding in intensity, I thought this month it would be very important to talk about recovery.

What does recovery look like? Active recovery is where you do an easy activity such as walking, swimming or riding at a very easy pace and low heartrate. A cycling recovery workout usually means spinning a very easy gear with high rpms and minimal pressure on the pedals. This allows blood to flow into your muscles and clear out any toxins left over from the training. Usually soreness will improve after a recovery spin if you go easy.

Inactive recovery is a natural process that happens when you let your body rest. I also include recovery nutrition in this category. You can refer to my April blog for information on proper nutrition for recovery. If you want to see more about recovery, there are some nice articles in Bicycling magazine.

Recovery will be particularly important during your week-long BRNW rides, so that you can continue to go long day after day.

Did you know that you get stronger and fitter/faster when you’re recovering, not when you are riding? The science of training shows us that the way we improve our fitness is by functional overreaching. That is, increased training leads to a temporary decrease in performance/fitness over days to weeks – but improved performance after rest. This phenomenon is called super-compensation. If you increase your intensity or volume too quickly without allowing time for recovery along the way, you run the risk of overtraining. I like to call overtraining “under-recovering,” since taking adequate recovery time will keep you from overtraining. To avoid this I suggest that every 3-4 weeks you have an easier week where you decrease your intensity and volume a bit. Everyone is different in how much recovery time they need, but I find a “3 week on/1 week easier” pattern can help with the recovery process and allow for super-compensation to happen.

Intensity can still look relaxed.

What does the intensity look like this month? You can add in one day a week where you do some shorter hill repeats (3-6 min) at a harder intensity (sub-threshold) where you’re working hard and breathing hard. These should be done at a level just below where you feel burning in your legs. The rest time after the intervals should be the length of time of the interval – so one minute of rest for each minute of interval. Start with one of these the first week and increase to three total intervals by the end of the month. For this month, you can alternate these short sub-threshold hill intervals with the longer tempo intervals from last month on your interval days.

As with any interval workout, you want to be sure to include a good warmup and cool-down in your workout. Since these intervals are harder, you may need a little more warmup time. I recommend at least 30-45 minutes of easy riding, getting a sweat going, before you do the intervals.

Once you add in the harder intensity this month, I suggest decreasing your strength maintenance work to one day a week of full-body/light weight, at 10-15 reps, two sets; and another day doing a core routine. If you have not been doing a full-body strength routine, just continue with your core workout twice a week. This can be replaced with yoga or Pilates.

Here is a sample week this month:

Monday: Off

Tuesday: Core + endurance 1-2 hours

Wednesday: Harder shorter intervals, alternating with tempo intervals every other week

Thursday: Core strength plus 1-2 hours endurance or recovery ride the day after you do the shorter, harder hill repeats

Friday: Off

Saturday and Sunday: Back-to-back endurance days. Continue to build up your long endurance ride once a week, by 10%.

Again, for your endurance rides keep your HR under 75-80% of your max; recovery rides should be at an HR of less than 68% of your max. Your hard rides should be at or close to your lactate-threshold HR or power, if you know that, or just to the point right below where you feel burning in your legs and are breathing hard.

If you’re unsure of your HR zones, you can find instructions on measuring them here.

Find sun. Ride there.

I would also encourage you to find some longer organized rides to do, as they’re a good way to get in some great endurance work with aid stations along the way. A group of us from Bend did the Wildcat 125 in Chico, CA, on April 30. I’ve included a photo of myself with my friend John after the ride.

Here is a link for rides in and around Oregon.


Ride on!


If you have any questions, feel free to contact me at or go to if you want more in-depth coaching and/or training plans.

BRNW Rider Focus: Sherry Sisson

Name, hometown, age:

Sherry Sisson, Corvallis, OR, age 74.


What’s your BRNW history?

I started riding in 1992. My son, Mark, had taken up collegiate bike racing and told me I would like cycling. I also worked with a group of avid cyclists who annually took a week off to go on Cycle Oregon. I went on my first Cycle Oregon in 1994. That work group also had great comments about Oregon Bicycle Ride, so I decided to give that a try in 1997. I became hooked on Oregon Bicycle Ride (BRNW) and have only missed two years since then.


Why do you ride a bike?

Besides giving me a workout, riding gives me time to reflect on whatever currently is at the top of my mind. Exercise for me is a great stress reliever. Riding gives me the opportunity to see great scenery and meet and make new friends.


How many bikes do you own, and is this a problem?

I own three bikes. I can always use one more.


What is the most unusual or challenging place you’ve ever ridden?

My most challenging climb was “The Wall’ on the Tour of the Unknown Coast century, a one-mile climb at an 18-percent-plus grade.

I ride up Mary’s Peak, a 4,000-foot climb, several times every year. As long as I can make it up Mary’s Peak, I figure I’ll be able to enjoy another good year of riding.


What interesting thing do most people not know about you?

I am a pilot and frequently fly to BRNW rides. Flying, like cycling, is a great way to see a place from a different perspective. In 2015 I flew by Alpe d’Huez in a Cessna and was rewarded with a great view of the Tour de France climb. When my sister and I flew to Blackfoot, Idaho for a BRNW ride, we used a retired Blackfoot city police car to haul our gear to the camp site – generating a few comments from the support staff.


What is your strongest memory or impression of your first BRNW event?

I joined my first OBR ride on a Sunday in Adel, OR. My late husband, Bill, flew me to Adel, but we could not land there because there were cows on the runway. Bill dropped me off in Lakeview, and I rode my bike to Adel. I got caught in a thunderstorm, and was just hoping I would not get struck by lightning on the way to the bike ride. I made it and had a great ride to the coast via Crater Lake.


Why do you keep coming back?

The overall BNRW support, the great scenery, to catch up with cycling friends I see only on these rides, and a chance to visit rural areas I would likely never see if not on these rides.

Many times other members of my extended family come on the ride, and it’s a chance to spend some time with them. My sister, Nancy, does these rides almost every year. When she comes, she makes “Team Smith” jerseys, shirts or hats with a design for the ride on them.


What did you see on a BRNW ride that you never thought you’d see?  

It has to be the fire that was descending to our campground just as we were about to have a salmon dinner. I had never seen firefighters work a brush fire.  The caterers and staff did a great job of feeding hungry riders with snacks, and preserving and serving dinner.


What advice would you give a first-time BRNW rider?

Ride year round, especially if you are older, even if it’s on a trainer or in a spin class. Doing so will keep you fit enough to enjoy the ride. And take your time on the ride to enjoy the scenery.