Jumper: Mary Elges

Town: Windsor, Connecticut

Quote: “There are those that think they can and those that think they can’t, both are right.”

About Mary: On a bike as I descend at high speed or on a couple of skis maneuvering down powdered glade trail, time liquefies. There is no future or past, just the present. I feel ALIVE and so very lucky to live a life filled with so much excitement and ache for the ride. I was flattered and nervous when SheJumps.org wanted to profile me. I love what the organization is all about, women facilitating other women to find their passion in outdoor sports. In addition, I find so much joy and challenge in jumping my bike or on a pair of skis. It’s the closest I come to flying.

I have spent almost my whole life being an athlete, outdoor adventure and thrill seeker. As a toddler, I was thrown way up high from my daddy’s arms so he could catch me and throw me again. I remember laughter and screaming begging for more. As a young child, I climbed up everything and that got me into a lot of trouble: a cracked skull, concussion and few other close calls that my parents never were told about. Growing up in Colorado I had ample time to play in the mountains, rocks and streams with my 6 other siblings. When I turned about 10 in the 1970’s I turned to gymnastics to challenge my mind and body. When I look back to my time in gymnastics I see what gymnastics gave to me – passion for sports, the ability to work hard, and it conditioned my mind and body for a lifetime of athletics.

In 1990, I departed the US Army in San Antonio, Texas. It was there I met a group of guys that “those people” that got me into mountain biking. Bam! I was hooked! I loved the physical and technical challenge. I was enthralled with the intensity of high speed descents over rocks, shooting down steep shoots, launching the bike in the air over jumps and the pumping and rhythm of riding. I loved training with my friends who pushed me to get faster and go harder. I had found my piece of heaven. “Those People” encouraged me to race and I quickly moved up the ranks. In ‘98, I turned professional and became the Texas State Champion, a series that was both challenging and competitive.

Mary Elges

That year I also met my future husband, Daryle, and he took me on a new journey to the Northeastern part of the US. As a young couple just starting out in life, Daryle encouraged me to challenge myself in a business sense, not just athletically. With his reassurance, I stopped racing for a few years and started my own gymnastics gym called All Stars Gymnastics Academy, located in Windsor, Connecticut. To this day I consider myself a free spirited person, and business management did not come easily. It was during this time I came upon my favorite quote is “There are those that think they can and those that think they can’t, both are right.” Business struggles and coaching athletes really made me look with in to discover what made some people successful and others fail because they could not find it in their own thoughts to be effective. I had to learn through trial and error how to be a business owner, but coaching young girls into gymnastics stars became my new desire.

In 2012, I felt I an urgency to do something for myself again. I wanted to return to riding and racing. It started with my sister’s invitation to travel to Moab to go mountain biking and upon returning home I rode my first downhill bike at Highland Park in Tilton, NH – the East Coast version of a mini Whistler. I was hooked! What a great scene of both men and women. Everyone so supportive and out to have a good time on a bike.

In a few short months, my competitive nature got me racing and by the end of the season I was winning cat 1 races, so I moved to pro the following season. Last year, in 2014 at 48 years of age, I hit all of my goals and a few I did not expect. Even after substantiating a brutal training accident to my left hip that required constant care, pain management and a nagging limp throughout the season. Ten days later, I pushed through the entire trauma to raced USAC nationals in Angelfire, NM take 8th place. I was happy to finish that well, especially after an abrupt fall in the rock garden. My 8th place finish was just enough UCI points to enter my first UCI World Cup Race in Windham, NY.

The 2014 World Cup at Windham was an amazing experience racing with the world’s best, a lifetime goal of mine to race at that level. The course was Steep, fast and full of big jumps. I went on to nail my qualification run and placed 26th. I was thrilled to have had a clean run and left the race with an amazing experience that fueled my passion for racing for the remainder of the season. I finished the 2014 season winning both the Atlantic Down Hill Series and the Eastern State Cup Series and taking the title of the DPS brake women’s challenge.

Mary Elges-3

You might ask “where does skiing play into this all?” Well just let me tell you “every person” is introduced into a sport by “that person” or “those people” and I find it interesting that in being a gymnastics coach for many young people I am “that person.” But, for me “that person” was a young man from Norway, named Erlend Husoy. In 2014, Daryle and I sponsored him as a foreign exchange student. It started out with me being “that person” and teaching Erlend to ride a bike, which he loved, and proved to be a natural at. And Erlend returned the favor by teaching me to ski. That winter, I swear, I entered a skiing boot camp, led by a fun loving Scandinavia teenager that grew up skiing the mountains of Norway.

What I like about snow is that it’s not like dirt. Instead of getting smacked to the ground when you fall, it’s so much more forgiving and fun. This opens up so many more possibilities. Powder skiing is like floating; add a few jumps and trees and I am having a party. Special shout out to my friend, Erlend, thanking him once again for teaching me to ski!

This year I have been asked to do riding clinics up in the Northeast. I am so excited to be “that person” for the next generation of women. I know they too will feel “Alive” as they venture on a bike rocketing down a trail. That’s when I will feel I have come full circle.