Meet The MIRNAVATOR: Introducing Mirna Valerio

Today we are pleased to introduce Mirna Valerio, the newest member of our Sponsored Riders team. Mirna is an experienced ultrarunner who is rediscovering her love of bicycling. On any given day, you'll find her putting in a workout (and having plenty of fun doing it) on the roads and trails around Montpelier, Vermont. We can’t wait to share her stories with you! Get to know Mirna in our interview below and follow her on Instagram (@themirnavator).

Mirna stands over her Salsa Journeyman bicycle along a gravel road on a beautiful sunny day.

SALSA: Please tell us a bit about yourself, your upbringing, and where you live now?

MIRNA: I’m originally from Brooklyn, NY and currently live in Montpelier VT, and I plan on never moving from Vermont because it’s such a great place to live and be in all seasons—with the exception of the black flies in the mid-summer! I’m mom to a 17 year-old son, a public speaker, antiracism educator, ultramarathoner.


SALSA: You’re an experienced ultrarunner but are only recently entering the cycling world as an adult. Was bike riding part of your childhood?

MIRNA: Bike riding was definitely part of my childhood! I rode one of those 80s kid bikes with the very long seat and glittered streamers on the handle bars. I remember the moment I rode on my own without training wheels! It was incredible. The next time I rode regularly was in college because we had a beautiful path through an arboretum and I couldn’t get enough of it.


SALSA: How did you get started in ultrarunning?

MIRNA: After I finished my first trail marathon in 2012, the race director put my finisher’s medal over my head and then without verbally congratulating me, said “50K next year”. Well, that planted a seed, and then I did my first 50k the following year on the same course. After that, I was HOOKED. So far, I’ve finished 14 ultras and will hopefully get my hundred miler at some point!


SALSA: And now, why bikes?

MIRNA: I’ve been contending with a running injury for a while and was desperate to find something to do that would keep me training, albeit differently. I sidled over to my neighbors who happen to be outfitters with an incredible bike shop and asked for help with a bike. I needed help, I said, because I KNEW NOTHING about current bikes. They lent me a Salsa Journeyman to test for a couple of days, which turned into a couple of weeks. I hired a cycling instructor to teach me everything from mounting the bike to braking, to powering uphill, and coasting downhill on bumpy gravel roads. I was hooked. I’m still hooked.

Mirna rides her bike past cornfields bordered by dense wooded hills on a beautiful sunny day with few clouds in the sky.

SALSA: Humans seem to have an exceptional talent for overcomplicating most things, including bikes and bike riding. Has this seemed true to you as you’ve taken up cycling?

MIRNA: It definitely was overwhelming at first. Which bike? WHAT IN THE HECK IS A GRAVEL BIKE? How do I used the gears? Why is the seat so skinny? Who are all those guys in fancy kits? Do I need a fancy kit to be legit? Also do I need all the bells and whistles to be a cyclist? WHY ARE THERE SO MANY DIFFERENT BIKES AND STYLES? Am I in over my head? These were all the questions I had in my head when I approached my local retailer. Fortunately, they explained everything, led me in the right direction for my level of riding and spotty experience as cyclist in adulthood. And I’m still learning. I will always be learning, and I’m so excited to continue.


SALSA: Can you tell us how “The Mirnavator” came to be? And what The Mirnavator is working to accomplish?

MIRNA: After a health scare way back in 2008, I took up running again, and that blossomed into a lot of things. My identity became intertwined with running and everything fitness related, including swimming, cycling (yes, I had one of those big box store bikes which I didn’t even know was a mountain bike ….), tennis, and anything that got my body moving. I lived and worked at a boarding school and so my colleagues and students saw what I was doing and would join me for my workouts. One of my colleagues in particular came up with THE MIRNAVATOR because I either inspired them to do crazy stuff like marathons, or gently tricked them into doing more than they thought they could. The name stuck!

I live a pretty incredible life—it’s due to a lot of events in my life, but the thing that started it was realizing that I needed to change my lifestyle. I took it seriously and without even intending, engaging in the type of self-care called TYPE TWO FUN, changed my life and opened up the world to me. I want to do some multi-sport adventures, travel the world when it’s safe to travel again, and continue spreading the message that YOU CAN BE AN ATHLETE NOW.


SALSA: Right now, someone somewhere is sitting on a couch and thinking about trying something new. They’ve been thinking about it for quite some time but they’re just stuck on the couch. What would you say to them?

MIRNA: Life is short, and you can make your short time on this earth a little sweeter by doing the thing that maybe you’re afraid of trying! Sometimes it’s a matter of confronting that doubtful voice in your head, or of someone in real life. You can hold that doubt, while trying that very thing. Fear and uncertainty can be really powerful motivators, spurring you to attempt something new, or something that you haven’t done in years. Here’s a tip—don’t have any expectations of yourself to be an expert right away, or to know how to do something effortlessly. Let yourself be a learner, and have fun with the goofiness that comes with it!


SALSA: It’s a beautiful Saturday morning in the fall. The air is crisp and clean. Fall colors are going off. The sun is shining and there’s hardly a cloud in the sky. What’s your plan for the day?


Wake up without an alarm.

Lie in bed thinking about how I’ve had to wait so many hours to have coffee again.

Drink coffee.

Read a novel for a few hours.

Leisurely get my cycling outfit on, while drinking more coffee.

Ride through Montpelier on my way to my favorite dirt road, up to the bakery that has the best baguettes and galettes!

You guessed it—drink more coffee.

Take lots of pics of the fantastic fall colors and force whoever I’m with (probably Max!) to take lots of pics of me—and them too, maybe…

Return home.

Practice whatever opera aria I’m working on/practice piano.

Make chili—beef and black bean!

Eat chili and drink Malbec/Cab/Pinot Noir.

Read or watch Schitt’s Creek.

Drift off into beautiful pre-next day’s coffee-slumber.


SALSA: Being based in Vermont, how do you make it through winter’s short days and cold weather? What does your training look like?

MIRNA: I LOVE the winter and it is part of the reason I moved to Vermont! I already have plans to do tons of cross country skiing, snowshoeing, and hiking in general. Now that I have the Beargrease, I will be scouting out trails to ride on with my pal Max! We’re so excited! I know that the more time I spend outside in the winter, the happier I am when it’s dark and dreary, so I will do just that!

I’ve got a crazy running coach who was also a competitive cyclist and he is SO EXCITED I’m riding now, so I fully expect to be going a little nuts with both running and cycling training. This is exactly the kind of life I wanted and was looking for in Vermont!


SALSA: Any additional thoughts to all the folks out there reading this?

MIRNA: I never envisioned myself as a cyclist—I was kind of a one-sport gal who dabbled in other things but mostly just ran. But now I have bikes, and I will never be a one-sport gal again.  (CUE AGGRESSIVE TRIATHLETES WHO ARE TRYING TO BRING ME OVER TO THE DARK SIDE…..)

Mirna rides her bicycle down a gravel road toward a low-hanging sun, casting long shadows onto the ground.


This post filed under topics: Gravel Journeyman Road Sponsored Riders

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Harrison Maddox

Harrison Maddox

I’m a jack-of-all, master-of-none sort when it comes to the outdoors. Riding, climbing, paddling, skiing or hiking—everything has its own appeal. All that matters are the effort and the solitude. I’m not competitive but I enjoy a good challenge, and I’ll say “yes” to anything that puts me in over my head or involves type 2 fun, as that’s where life’s spicier moments seem to live.


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