Wendy Skean started mountain biking a little later in life than most, and in 2005 became the first woman older than 60 to finish the Leadville Trail 100 MTB in less than 12 hours. This year, her goal is to be the first woman older than 70 to finish in less than 12 hours.
You didn’t begin mountain biking until later in life at age 45. What made you decide to take up the sport?
I was recently divorced with two teenage sons. We lived in a mountain community and I was looking for something we could all participate in together. After purchasing mountain bikes, we started taking biking vacations to Utah, Colorado and Wyoming. Soon we were entering races. My sons and I still ride together and they are my support crew at races.
After missing the time limit to continue on in the 2014 LT100 MTB, what are your goals for this year’s race?
I was extremely disappointed that a mechanical slowed me down and I missed the last time cut. I will do everything I can to make sure I don’t have another mechanical this year. I have the same goal as last year: to be the first 70-plus-year-old female to finish in under 12 hours. I just moved to Colorado and live 45 miles from the course at 8,200 feet. I will be riding the course a lot this summer and hope living at a higher elevation will help.
You’ve been in the position of having to recover from an injury and go through rehab. What tips do you have for other riders who are looking to bounce back from their own injuries?
I believe anyone who mountain bikes will at some point incur an injury that requires recovery time. It is important to stay positive. The break in training can be a benefit and you can come back stronger. It is also important to keep up with any kind of training that you can. I always try to see what I can learn from the injury so I can become a better rider.
What have been some of your favorite mountain biking races that you have competed in throughout your 30 years of riding?
Wow! I love racing, but there are several that stand out:
The 2005 Leadville Trail 100 MTB when I became the first woman over 60 to finish in under 12 hours and I smashed my time from 10 years earlier.
The 24 Hours of Adrenalin World Championships in 2002 in Silver Star, British Columbia. During the night an unexpected severe weather front moved in with torrential rain, snow and wind. Nearly everyone stopped racing. I was on the course when it arrived and, upon reaching my son pitting for me, was encouraged to continue racing. I did and ended up narrowly winning the 45+ category. That race gave me confidence to race in any kind of weather.
In 2005 at the 12 Hours at the Summit in Big Bear, California, where another woman and I in the 40+ category were neck and neck in the last lap. It was exciting to be racing someone much younger. Though she eventually pulled away from me I was very happy with the way I rode.
The first Breck Epic MTB Stage Race in 2009. I had never raced for more than one day and wanted to challenge myself. All six days I rode classic Colorado singletrack. It was an awesome experience and gave me a great deal of confidence.
The 2003 and 2004 Vision Quest. This is a brutal 50-mile race with 11,000 feet of climbing. I was the oldest woman to have finished the race in the required time.
We can’t help but notice the hot pink jersey and electric green bike that you sport on the trails. Do you have a story about where that started?
When I started racing I was on a team sponsored by the Fantasy Springs Casino in Indio, California. We were riding “Kawasaki green” Turner Bicycles. After the team disbanded I kept the color because I liked it. Whenever I get a new bike I have it painted the same green. I am sponsored by Hammer Nutrition and when they came out with a pink jersey, I liked the green-and-pink combination and knew they would be my standard colors. Hammer has changed colors several times, but I stuck with the pink and green. I am pleased Hammer has had pink jerseys for the last two years.
What advice do you have for older athletes looking to get into racing or who may be discouraged from competing?
As Ken Chlouber says, “You’re better than you think you are. You can do more than you think you can.” These are words to live by. Race for yourself. Believe in yourself and have a goal to do the best you can that particular day. When it gets tough and hurts, push through it, for the pain will soon go away and you will be proud of yourself for pushing past it. Be happy with the results. After the race look back at the positives and see what you learned from it. Every race is a new, exciting experience that will give you great confidence to take into all aspects of your life.
What is your favorite mid-ride fuel?
I am sponsored by Hammer Nutrition and their products have made all the difference in my racing success. For long races I have found that Hammer Nutrition’s Anti-Fatigue Caps and Endurance Amino taken every hour to give me the greatest boost in energy. The longer the race, the more I take, the better I feel.
What’s your favorite way to celebrate after an event?
I am not a big party person, so I enjoy sitting down with my support crew and my sons and talking about the race, eating real food and taking a shower.