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Racer Chat with Cheryl Sornson

Posted by: Shannon Boffeli |July 21, 2010 9:08 PM
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Team CF rider Cheryl Sornson is one of the most successful and accomplished ultra-endurance riders in the country. In 2008, Sornson won the National Ultra-Endurance series title and has won many of the nations toughest 100 milers. Yet many mountain bike fans don't know much about this soft-spoken champion.

MTB Race News rider Karen Potter spent some time with Sornson to learn more about her competitor and friend. Read her interview below.

MTB Race News-  So, how long have you been riding? racing?  Do you remember your first mountain bike race?

Cheryl- I always rode a bicycle since I was a kid, but did not think about it seriously until I was in college and got a bike for commuting.  It was then that I caught the bug and met others who were into the riding and racing scene and I was sucked in.  I started riding and racing in 1989. 

My first mountain bike race was the mothers day mauler in Patapsco State Park in MD.  I totally remember it.  I raced in the sport class and won.  I remember it being muddy and grueling, but so much fun and it was there that I knew that mountain biking was something I enjoyed very much. 

MTB Race News-  What got you into biking and racing, in particular, endurance racing?  

Cheryl- Once I got the bike for commuting to classes, I realized how much I enjoyed riding and how it helped keep me healthy and fit.  It also introduced me to great people who I still keep in touch with today.  Particularly my best friends and owners of Gettysburg Bicycle and Fitness Jes and Thora Stith.  I went to undergrad at Salisbury State College and they had a very active bike club, which also grew my enthusiasm for biking.  I then continued racing cross country events and some 24 hour team events up through 1997.  After that I rode only for fun and fitness and took time out to start a family and pursue a graduate degree.

My first endurance ride was on the eastern shore back in the early 90's when I rode in the first Seagull Century on my road bike.  Since then I logged miles on my road bike, but it was not until 2004 when I first began to put big miles on my mountain bike.  That was when I was introduced to the Tour de Burg in Harrisonburg VA.  The Tour de Burg is a 6-day road and mountain stage race that logs many miles and lots of good times.  From there I naturally got sucked into doing the Shenandoah 100.  Then in 2008 the idea of doing the NUE series came up and I thought it would be a great adventure.  Now here I am again in 2010 taking on the challenge once again. 

MTB Race News-  What's the craziest ride/race you've done? 

Cheryl- My years of the Tour de Burg* have to be the craziest times ever.  I would also have to add in the last three SDS (2 day)* rides.  Both are grueling, venturing on the side of stupid, but always fun events that push your body to its limits. 

*For explanations visit

MTB Race News-  Where's your favorite place to ride?  

Cheryl-  Michaux State Forest, PA

MTB Race News-  What's your favorite race? 

Cheryl-  Michaux endurance Series with the Curse of Dark Hollow being my favorite of the three events. 

MTB Race News-  So how important would say mental toughness is to being successful at racing?  What tricks do you use to stay focused?

Cheryl- Mental toughness is important to being successful.  You have to believe in yourself and overcome doubts and pain while in the event.  As I have learned and have been told, it is ok and definitely needed to be out of your comfort zone.  Not sure of what tricks I use other than keeping my self talk positive and or maybe playing a soundtrack in my head.  

MTB Race News-  Do you spend a lot of time dialing in your bike for each particular event? 

Cheryl- I do give it a good cleaning and once over prior to each event.  I also rely on the folks at Gettysburg Bicycle and Fitness to double check that all is in working order and to take care of any issues if they are found.  I like to have things done in advance and hate to deal with last minute problems. 

MTB Race News-  How much do you think bike handling skills play a role into giving you an edge?

Cheryl- I would have to say that in my case it does give me an edge since it is my strength.  It helps me not have to expend too much energy in the techy sections and allows me to be fast on descents.  This in turn gives me more energy for the climbs which can be challenging for me.

MTB Race News-  What does a typical training week look like for you?  Do you work with a coach?

Cheryl- Yes, I do work with a coach.  Chris Eatough provides coaching for Team CF.  A typical week depends on the time of year.  I work full time as a School Counselor so from late August until June I am limited.  However, starting in June thru September my race schedule is full.  I am also also a mother and wife.  Therefore, I do not log in big hours and typically do the low end of 10 and the high end of 20 hours a week with most weeks being about 15.  My workouts include endurance days and interval days. 

MTB Race News-  Is your family very supportive of your racing?  

Cheryl- My family is extremely supportive of my racing.  My husband and son definitely make sacrifices that allow me to compete at the level I am currently at.  We do our best to find a balance that works for everyone.

MTB Race News-  Does your son think it's wicked cool to have a mom who is a National Ultra Endurance Champion?

Cheryl- Yes, he is proud of his mommy.  I wasn't sure, but the other day while out on a ride together I overheard him talking to another cyclist and telling him about me being a NUE champion.  It made my heart swell.

MTB Race News-  What advice would you give to someone just getting into racing ultra endurance races? 

Cheryl- Be patient with yourself and ask questions, but remember that you are unique and what works for someone else may not work for you.  You really have to get in tune with your body, its abilities and its needs. 

MTB Race News-  If you could tell one story that captured everything about mountain biking, what would that be?  (I know, this one is a bit "big" of a question, feel free to taylor it if need be or skip it) 

Cheryl- I think the best way to caputure everything about mountain biking is to look at the faces of those that are riding.  More than likely they have huge smiles on there faces and are giddy with excitement and satisfaction. 

MTB Race News-  Do you see yourself continuing to race 100s for a long time? 

Cheryl- That I am unsure of!  One day at a time.



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