In Depth: Penny Avril chases adventure
No one can question Penny Avril's dedication to cycling -- she races for the Touchstone Climbing Elite Women's Cycling Team
, after all. But she thinks many cyclists take the sport too seriously.
"My biggest passion is, and will probably remain, cycling," says Penny. "However, my motivation is more seeking adventure than performance." Her attitude extends to her training advice: Find a form of training that is pleasurable. If you do not enjoy it, stop. "And recover with wine," she adds.
Her own favorite training routine is to ride the mountains around the Bay Area whenever she can find time, sometimes even playing hooky a little from her job as a product manager for Oracle Corp. When it's dark and cold outside, well, that's what warm, well-lighted gyms are for. The gym also gives her a place to work on specific strength training.
Penny's quest for adventure sometimes takes her to places she hadn't anticipated. One time on a training ride in Maui she set off on a dirt path around the island's east coast. She knew at the time that it probably wasn't the wisest move, but couldn't resist. "It was a long and rough day in the saddle," she recalls. And nothing is scarier than when a dog takes off after her on a ride. "At least it makes me go faster," she says.
But don't make the mistake of thinking this 35-year-old San Franciscan can't deliver a top performance when the situation demands. Among her major accomplishments she lists the San Francisco Grand Prix, which she finished in September 2004. She calls it the "hardest race in America," more than 100 miles through the hills of San Francisco in full view of a half-million spectators. That's the memory she holds dear: "Climbing Fillmore Street to the screams of thousands of supporters, and hitting air on the Broadway descents." And for a racing cyclist, it's always a thrill to see the streets closed to all other vehicles, with the freedom to ignore all the traffic signals.
After four years of racing, some of the novelty is starting to wear off. Penny has started thinking of some other bike-related adventures. Or maybe even hiking and skiing.
But even though she says her proudest moment was wearing Touchstone Climbing kit for the first time, don't expect to see Penny climbing -- indoors or out. "I suffer from vertigo and would be a terrible rock climber," she says.