Mirna Valerio is a native of Brooklyn, NY, a former educator, cross-country coach, ultramarathoner, and author of the bestselling memoir, A Beautiful Work in Progress. Although she began running in high school, she recommitted to the sport after a health scare in 2008 and started her blog Fatgirlrunning—about her experiences as a larger woman in a world of thinner endurance athletes—while training for her first marathon. Mirna's athletic story was featured in the WSJ, Runner’s World, on NBC Nightly News, CNN, and in the viral REI-produced documentary short, The Mirnavator. Her writing has been featured in Women’s Running Magazine, Self Magazine Online, Outside Online, and Runner's World Magazine. In 2018 she was chosen as a National Geographic Adventurer of the Year, and most recently appeared on the Kelly Clarkson Show and Access Hollywood. She came back to the sport of cycling after a running injury and is now ALL IN.
I got the nickname "The Mirnavator" because I used to try to inspire my colleagues to do crazy stuff like marathons, or gently trick them into doing more than they thought they could. I want to continue spreading the message that anyone can be an athlete!
WHAT KIND OF A CYCLIST ARE YOU?
A new one! Well, I’m the kind of cyclist that didn’t have much appreciation for the sport until I needed it while rehabbing a running injury. I didn’t know that it would become an almost obsession. Why am I lying? It is an obsession!
WHAT IS THE CYCLING ACCOMPLISHMENT YOU ARE MOST PROUD OF?
I’m still pretty new to almost everything in this sport. The folks that introduced me to Salsa Cycles invited me on a very hilly ride that I was not mentally prepared for, although I had developed enough skills to do it, I petered out and didn’t finish all the miles in one go. And then, after I remembered that I was indeed an endurance athlete, I ate a bit and took a break and then went back out and finished the miles. It wasn’t much, but this ride made me remember who I was.
HOW LONG HAS CYCLING BEEN A PART OF YOUR LIFE? WHEN DID IT BECOME MORE THAN JUST “RIDING A BIKE”?
I was actually kind of angry with myself that my injury had gotten so bad that I would need to DO SOMETHING ELSE with my time. My coach, an accomplished runner and cyclist, suggested that I get on a bike. So, reluctantly, I did. After riding a Journeyman 700c for a few weeks on loan, I was hooked. Like, HOOKED.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PLACE YOU’VE BEEN ON A BIKE SO FAR?
There’s this covered bridge ride which takes you across beautifully restored red-paint bridges over the Dog River in Northfield, VT. It’s not incredibly long, but it’s full of hills, and incredible vistas!
WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PLACE TO DAYDREAM ABOUT WHERE YOU HAVEN’T YET RIDDEN?
Everywhere! I’m so new at the sport that everywhere is where I want to be. I’m particularly interested in the New Hampshire Adventure Trail and all of the Vermont Rides detailed in Vermont Sports Magazine!
HOW DO YOU DESCRIBE WHAT THE BICYCLE MEANS TO YOU?
It was at first a means for me to get through an injury and now I realize that it has given me so much more than a way. It is a destination that I look forward to. The whole process of mounting the bike is so incredibly empowering.
HOW DO YOU SEE YOUR FUTURE AS A CYCLIST UNFOLDING?
I see adventure. I see touring all of New England, whilst getting stronger and more agile, more trusting of the machine, which makes me trust my own abilities more and more. I see bringing folks along with me—perhaps those who had been afraid of cycling and all it entails. I want to be the person, that when people see me, they say—HEY! I can probably do that too!
WHO INSPIRES YOU AND YOUR RIDING?
A huge inspiration for me is the person I hired to be my cycling instructor for the summer. I asked Max Jennings to teach me all he could about riding and he took up this project with a level of enthusiasm that really cannot be matched by many people. I love the way that he teaches me, how he gently corrects form, and how he coaches me on various techniques on differing terrains. His love of the bike is pretty intense and I would like to have even a smidge of that!
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE SALSA BIKE MODEL AND WHY?
Right now it is the Salsa Journeyman 650b Claris but I just got the Beargrease so who knows?
WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE PRE, DURING, AND POST RIDE/RACE FOOD AND BEVERAGES?
Pre-ride: toast and nut butter. But honestly sometimes I don’t remember to eat—I should know better.
During—I usually carry a Powerbar Sport Mojito Gel or two with me!
Post ride? Spaghetti with meat sauce and parmesan, of course!
WHAT ARE YOU DOING WHEN YOU AREN’T CYCLING?
Strength training, writing, teaching Antiracism workshops, and doing some motivation speaking.
WHAT DON’T YOU LEAVE HOME WITHOUT ON A RIDE?
My GoPro. Full stop.