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Rachel Long began her running journey casually and quickly became immersed into the sport. She started running competitively, even competing in a 107 mile ultra marathon! After developing a chronic injury, she picked up cycling to stay fit for her planned return to competitive running. Sometimes things don’t go according to your original plan and now Rachel spends much of her time biking and has all but stopped running. Luckily, cycling provides many of the same things that Rachel enjoyed about running, including the endurance challenge, seeing progression in her riding, and the joy of conquering new terrain.
Where are you originally from and where are you residing currently?
I am from Morrisville, Vermont and I am currently living in Jackson, WY.
When did you start running and how did you get into the sport?
I completed my first marathon my senior year of high school because I was dared! Before that I HATED running but after my first marathon I became increasingly competitive with myself. I ran 1-2 marathons a year through college and completed my first ultra marathon the year after I graduated. I’ve run distances ranging from 32 miles to 107 miles!
How did you get into competitive running?
I started working with an awesome coach and was also working at the San Francisco Running Company in Marin, CA, AKA the running mecca for ultra runners amateur and professional. I was submerged in the ultra world and the longer I worked with my coach, the more I realized my potential. I started running faster and winning races… It was really an empowering time.
What made you transition from competitive running to cycling?
Unfortunately I have dealt with chronic achilles tendonitis for the last couple of years. At first, I was able to train and race through it but it eventually got to the point where I couldn’t walk normally in the mornings and was in pain for most of my runs. My body really needed a break, like a total break from running. I started biking 2 years ago but it was to stay fit while not running, but I always was plotting my comeback. Last summer, I ran rim to rim to rim of the Grand Canyon (48 miles) and soon realized my tendonitis was still lurking. I continued to push through the pain and completed a couple more races until I finally stopped running in July of 2019. Since then I’ve been pretty committed to biking.
What was that transition like?
I have this natural affection toward endurance activities, suffering, and seeing progress. I also have an intense drive to be my best at any athletic activity I do… I’m pretty competitive with myself. I now do anything from logging lots of XC miles to riding downhill trails and jumping. It’s fun to engage in an activity that pushes me to improve daily, that is what I love about biking. Needless to say, I’m pretty full on at this point!
What do you find most challenging about cycling and how do you overcome those challenges?
Sometimes, just like in running, I have days where I feel off and like all progress has been lost. Those days usually come after a crash or when I’m fatigued, which is totally natural, but sometimes it’s hard to keep perspective. I’m learning that I don’t need to crush every single ride or always go my fastest. Sometimes slowing down and keeping it chill is what I need.
What do you love most about cycling?
The constant learning curve! For me, it is never ending and there is always a section or trail, a climb, or a jump that I can improve on.
What advice would you have for a female rider who is new to cycling or wants to take her riding to the next level?
The more you ride, the better you will be. When I first started learning how to hit jumps, I would session them for hours… like literally 3-4 hours every Saturday for a couple of weeks. Same goes for riding tricky trails, the more you ride that trail the faster and more confident you will become. Also, riding with other ladies is a serious confidence builder, you will start to see and take lines you normally wouldn’t. It is pretty powerful and I highly recommend linking up with some local lady riders.