Melissa Buhl started racing BMX as a 9 year old in Chandler, Arizona. At age 16, in 1998, she signed her first professional MTB contract. Soon Melissa would be traveling the world racing downhill, mountain-cross, simultaneously earning her college education. Fourteen years later, in 2012, she retired from MTB. Since then she has moved to Georgia but the Valley's mountains still remain her favorite in the world!
Message from Melissa:
"Never give up! When I was a nine-year-old girl just starting to race BMX bikes I never in a million years thought that it would be a profession paying my bills, paying my way through school and offering me a lifestyle that gave me opportunities and experiences that I'll never forget. If I was practical and listened to whatever everyone else was doing I would not be where I am today. So take a chance, and do what you love - no matter if you're a guy or gal, broke or rich, or old or young."
TUESDAY TEN QUESTIONS:
1. What did you want to be when you were little and why?
For as long as I can remember, I always wanted to be a doctor. I enjoyed learning about exercise physiology and nutrition as an athlete and that sparked an interest in science and that became my initial interest in medicine. The more involved in medicine I became the more passionate I became about the profession. It's can be such a noble and satisfying profession applying fascinating knowledge and helping people
2. Competitively did you have any rituals before a ride?
I did not have a ritual per se, but I always had a specific warm up that took about 30 minutes and I would always have a playlist on my iPod that got me focused. Often I would do a lot of visualization of the track.
3. Currently do you have a morning or evening ritual? If so, are you flexible or strict with them?
Currently my morning ritual is nursing my newborn and taking care of her :-). When I was an athlete, I did not have a specific ritual. I love mornings so I enjoyed taking my time with a cup of coffee sitting outside in nature and enjoying some quiet time.
4. Do you think it is important to have a role model? If so who is yours and why? How have they changed your life?
Yes, I think it's important to have a role model it's always nice to draw inspiration from someone. Growing up mine was Missy Giovie. She was helpful getting me started in my pro career. She sponsored me for two years helping me out with equipment, travel and accommodation. For the years after she was there for me as a coach and friend. She taught me the importance of giving back to the sport taking time with younger athletes. I would stay with her for training camps at her house in Durango and she taught me things from meditation to how to ride a dirt bike.
5. Do you have any personal or professional goals right now? If so how is the progress going?
Yes, I am a new mother so my personal goals are to be the best mom I can be. My professional goal remain to be a physician. I am in my last year of medical school so that one is closer and closer.
6. What changes, if any, would you like to see in the bike community as a whole? What actions need to be taken for that to happen?
One thing I would like to see change at least in United States is a larger interest in female racing. It is at the lowest it's ever been since I've been competing. There's just not as many girls racing bikes yet there's more women riding than ever and more talent than ever. I think the problem is the lack of support and sponsorship.
During your competitive days…
7. What kind of obstacles did you have to overcome to stay mentally focused on riding?
When competing on the World Cup circuit, one of the biggest obstacle is the fatigue from traveling to different countries. Adapting to a new culture, a new time zone, a new track can be taxing and it takes a large amount of motivation to not lose your focus.
8. What kind of sacrifices did you have to make to stay committed to competitive riding?
Competing at an elite level in any sport takes tremendous sacrifice. I sacrificed a lot of time with my family, friends, my studies, relationships. To be the best you have to eat sleep and live your sport. It doesn't really feel like a sacrifice because you love it. But in hindsight I can see now all the things that I gave up to compete. I loved every second of it though and no regrets.
9. What other life obligations did you have while competing? How did you balance them?
While competing in mountain biking I was always enrolled in school. I finished my undergrad in Kinesiology and premed. While I was taking classes and traveling to races it was a bit of a juggling act but I was good with time management and I was dedicated to both so it worked out.
10. What strategies helped you steer clear of eating, drinking, and partying too much?
Everything in moderation even moderation! I always enjoyed being healthy and eating well pays dividends when you're training hard. So that was never hard for me. And I was a downhiller so of course we partied! I always took care of business first and didn't really go out until after the races were over.
RECOMMENDATIONS in The Valley:
I love the Vietnamese restaurant Cyclo in Chandler, the owner is an absolute riot. She is so fun to talk to you.
Best Nature Spot in Valley
I spent endless hours at South Mountain. There's a special place in my heart for that place. I love also riding in Sedona. In my opinion it's one of the most beautiful places to ride a mountain bike.
Bike alone or with friends
I think any trail can be good with friends or alone. I always enjoyed both, but I think I prefer more to ride alone. I like to lose myself in nature and let my mind go.
My favorite book growing up was Sidhartha by Hermann Hesse. I love the book The Four Agreements. And I always enjoyed reading books on sports psychology when I was competing.
I love acoustic music when I'm chilling out around the house so that's usually always on my Spotify.