I met Heather in 2014 at the Perry Mountain 24hr Challenge Race in Alabama – it was her and I racing in the Iron-Woman Class. She seemed to never quit…I admired her then and I admire her even more today.
This year I missed the Perry Mountain race however I read that Heather and her husband Brian would be the first husband / wife team to enter the race as a Family Duo… the capper to that was that Heather had just had a baby boy three weeks prior!…I asked her if she would share her amazing story – it is an inspirational story I’m sure you will love!
- How old are you? 32 yrs old
- What is your Occupation? Director of Equestrian Operations for the University of Alabama
- What is your hometown? Chaplin, CT
- What bike do you ride? Yam TTR 230 and just got a KDX 220
- What is the best advice you’ve ever gotten about riding? If you stare at the tree that’s where you are going to go. Into the tree! Look where you want to go!
- What words of encouragement would you give to a women that has never raced before but is seriously interested in trying? Take your time, believe in yourself. You wouldn’t believe what you are capable of if you put your mind to it. Tackle each part of the track one step at a time. And if all else fails gas it!
- Do you plan to race the Perry Mountain 24hr Challenge in 2016? I plan to race the 24 hour EVERY year I possibly can! Hopefully with my son and husband on a team in the future 🙂
In Heather’s Words………
The Perry Mountain Motorcycle Club 24 hour Challenge is by far my favorite dirt bike race to compete in. It fits my over the top competitive personality perfectly, and there isn’t much more I would like to do with 24 hours then ride a dirt bike through the beautiful trails of Alabama and be among other’s with the same vision. When I found out I was pregnant in early October 2014 I of course was thrilled! My husband and I went for our first doctor’s appointment a couple weeks later and when they said my due date was May 17th 2015 the first thing my husband said was “great honey you can still race the 24 hour!” Though that may sound like a crazy thing for a husband to say, unfortunately the 2014 24 hour Challenge was the last time I had raced, because a couple weeks later I tore my ACL on my dirt bike. I was having an extremely hard recovery (and I am no weanie to pain!), and my husband knew I couldn’t wait to get back riding and racing, but it wasn’t happening soon enough by any means, and I was in a lot of pain for a long time.
Throughout my entire pregnancy I stayed very active, walking, lifting weights, hiking, and doing Pilates. Of course everything was modified for the safety of my pregnancy, but I refused to be covered in bubble wrap and sit on the couch. My doctor supported and encouraged my active lifestyle. My husband Brian was chasing points in our local dirt bike series SECCA in the XC2 class, so I went to as many races as possible with him. I watched all the riders in different parts of the trails (I did not sit down much, even at 38 weeks at one race!). Besides getting to support my husband and be among great dirt biking friends, I also got to watch and learn a lot more from the ground. I missed riding so much.
So after our series ended, my husband won his XC2 class and we got to celebrate at the banquet that was one week before my due date. Everyone there kept asking if Brian was going to do the 24 hour, and all I could think of was “hey what about me?!”
Three days after our banquet our baby boy Colton was born May 13th 2015, 8lbs, 19 inches. A great and easy (yes I said that!) labor that I do attribute a lot to staying active all pregnancy. Adjusting to motherhood has been a wonderful learning process and our son is such a blessing that Brian and I were so grateful for. At least coming home and not getting much sleep was something not to out of the ordinary (I have battled insomnia for many years.. reason number two I love the 24 hour race!!). By the time our son was one week old I swung my leg back over my bike and rode on our property as my husband sat in the hammock with Colton and watched. At first I had so many thoughts running through my head. Am I being a good mom? What if I hurt my knee? I don’t know if I could ever be in a race again I would be to nervous to get hurt! But then, it all clicked. I went around a corner and stayed in a massive rut beautifully. I then ventured into our little woods trails. I went up the hills. I smiled and giggled. I then remembered why I love riding my dirt bike so much, to conquer things I think I can’t do. My body felt good, I was a little tired, and my hands were sore. This was 20 minutes of riding! Well I hadn’t ridden in almost a year and just had a baby a week ago so I decided to cut myself some slack. I got back to doing some great walks with the stroller and Colton snoozing away, as well as our dog Kawasaki by my side. Every day I walked a little more and began to feel like myself again.
The weekend before the 24 hour they were doing an all day fun run on trails right next to PMMC. My husband and I decided it was time to get out of the house. Colton was 2.5 weeks old. It was a beautiful day to ride, and I sat under the tent watching my husband wondering if I could actually get back on my bike and ride a trail again with others on the track. My husband came in and encouraged me to go out and enjoy myself for a little. I was to nervous to go without him so our good friends came over and volunteered to help watch Colton (who again was happily snoozing) while I rode with Brian. We went on out, I kept it on 2 wheels and had an amazing time. It is so fun to ride with my husband! So in total I probably rode 8 miles that day, I felt good, but tired. The next weekend was the 24 hour. On our way home from an awesome day of riding my brain was doing work in the back seat as I starred at my son and I told my husband, “okay so I have this thought… let’s family duo the 24 hour. No pressure just for fun.” I think as soon as the words came out of my mouth I thought I was crazy! Then my husband definitely thought I was crazy! But we talked for the whole ride home and decided to make a decision by the next day to sign up. When we woke up the next day we decided to go for it, and named our duo Diaper Duty Racing. And so it was on. Everyday I pushed my son in the stroller down the road and went a little further each day, building up to a jog. I love having goals in front of me and just doing a lap or two at this race was all I wanted to accomplish. I rode a couple times during the week, but not more than 20 minutes or so and my hands would hurt. I did not really expect to much from myself at the 24 hour. The day before the race we arrived to set up camp, and we reminded why we love this race so much. The friendships and true camaraderie surrounding us was so deep and loving that we felt at home. This is why we race. And this is why we love the 24 hour challenge because we get to spend more time with people we love all doing what we love.
Race day, 10am of course my husband is going to start for us. Our plan was for him to do 6 laps and I would go out sometime after lunch when the riders were more spread out. My biggest fear besides crashing was getting in people’s way. I’m not a fast rider by any means, and really I have only been riding for about a year and a half. My husband did his first couple laps having fun and enjoying the track. I held our son and spoke with a close friend and fellow woman rider next to me. As the nerves began to run through my body I kept asking her “am I a good mom?!” of course she said yes, relax and do what you are comfortable with. I just hadn’t ridden in so long I didn’t know if I could achieve what was in front of me at Perry Mountain. On my husband’s six lap out I slowly started to get ready and calm my racing mind. Then time went by and my husband wasn’t back yet. I began to really worry until a rider friend came up and told me Brian was in the woods helping a downed rider. When Brian finally came back in about a hour later I learned that downed rider was a good sweet friend of ours who had broken his back. My heart hurt so bad for him, and I just didn’t think I could go out. I started thinking about how bad my acl injury was, how laid up I was, how I am now a mom. And I just didn’t know if I could do it. My husband reassured me that I didn’t have to race. I asked him if he thought I would be safe on the track (because that’s a fair question to ask my poor husband!) and he said he didn’t know. He tried to tell me different difficult areas around the mile markers on the 10 mile course. He was visibly disturbed by witnessing his friend crash and break his back, let alone think about his wife going out there. I took a moment by myself geared up. I prayed for an answer. I walked back out to my bike and told my husband I was going out. I put my helmet and goggles on, swung my leg over and headed out. The first couple minutes I felt like I was dreaming. “Did you really just do this?!” I kept thinking. I rode past friends that cheered me on (that really helped!) I took my time through the course and each mile marker I kept thinking OK, only 9 more miles to go… and kept counting down. I went through some very technical track but actually felt more confident than I did before my injury. I believe all the races and riders I watched while injured helped my riding. Other riders passed me so kindly. I really began to have a blast. I gased it up one really big hill towards the end and realized I was about to come out to the grass track by the pits. I did it. I did one lap, and I didn’t even go down! (OK for me I go down at least a couple times a lap…). I actually started crying as I came out to the grass field and could see our pits. What a feeling of achievement. When I got back to our pits I sobbed like a baby and hugged my husband and our son. It felt so good to be back on a bike, and I was proud of myself for getting back out there and riding. I ended up doing 2 more laps through the race, including the last one through the finish line. I never went down one time the whole race. That’s never happened to me at a race. With my son and husband by my side and our dirt biking friends, the 24 hour was truly one of the best experiences of my life, and I can’t wait to tell my son this story, and how having faith and believing in yourself can take you further than you may think possible!