The very next day, Long moved to New York City to work as a teacher for Teach
for America and get her master’s degree. “I had just fallen in love with trail
running and I moved to the concrete jungle,” she says. Her first year in New
York, she completed nine ultramarathons, ranging from 50Ks to a 100-miler.
Running was the one constant in her life for the years that followed, as she
moved to San Francisco, where she worked at the San Francisco Running Company,
then back to Vermont for a year, then relocated to Jackson, Wyoming, with the
plan of training for running at higher elevations. “It was a tumultuous year
with a lot of transitions,” Long says. “I had a new job, in a new town, and I
didn’t have many friends. I was pretty solo.”
In the summer of 2019, her ankle started giving her trouble. It was acute
Achilles tendinitis. “It was something I could run through, until I couldn’t,”
Long says. “It got to the point where I wasn’t feeling good anymore. I had won
some races but running wasn’t clicking for me anymore.”
She was 27 at the time and a running mentor of hers told her that she was too
young to be punishing her body so much. “She was like, ‘At the rate you’re
going, you’re going to end your running career,’” Long recalls. “It was hard
advice. My ego was so wrapped up in trying to be a professional runner. I was
winning some races, but I wasn’t at the top.”
A gravel bike, it turned out, saved the day. “I needed to transition. I
couldn’t just stop being an athlete. I needed to focus somewhere,” she says.
“I love endurance, so I focused on starting to gravel bike.” She competed in
the Grinduro, a 70-mile gravel race in northern California. “I had no idea
what I was doing, and I was horribly slow, but I could go all day,” Long says.
A friend who worked at a bike shop got Long a deal on a mountain bike. “That
was three years ago, and I haven’t done a running race since,” she says.
Early one biking season, Long was in Pocatello, Idaho, sessioning this set of
jumps that ramped up in size. “There was this girl riding there—I never even
got her name, I have no idea who she was,” Long says. “But she was like, ‘Try
this jump.’ It was a step up, but once I got one in line, I got the whole
Sometimes it takes the words of encouragement from a total stranger to
convince you what you’re capable of. Long—who’s a Flylow-sponsored athlete—has
done a few mountain bike races, but at this point, she’s keeping things
low-key and trying to not take the sport too seriously. But she can’t wait to
see where it takes her.
“It was hard to walk away from running and try this new sport that felt really
scary,” she says. “I got caught up in my ego with running. I didn’t always
want to do it. But with biking, I’m genuinely having fun while doing it.”
Paired with a chamois, the flattering Eleanor Short is a tour de force mountain biking short.