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Conversations with Crystal Pena

Today we’d like to introduce you to Crystal Pena.

Hi Crystal, can you start by introducing yourself? We’d love to learn more about how you got to where you are today.
My mountain biking journey began in 2020, at the peak of COVID. My ex-boyfriend and I decided to purchase a couple of mountain bikes as a weekend activity since everything had been shut down. We would go to some of the local trails here and there but it wasn’t until around September of 2020 that I became fully committed to the sport.

My boyfriend and I had split and I decided to start riding a bit more to fill my time. I was at a local restaurant one day and overheard a conversation this girl was having about a mountain biking group that gets together every Tuesday at one of our local trails. She invited me to the ride they were having that following Tuesday and I was immediately hooked. They started showing me around some of the local trails and provided advice to help improve my skills.

In the beginning, I had been asked a few times if I would ever race and it was a hard no. At the time, I just wanted to have something to do to fill my time and socialize. Then one day, one of the guys mentioned a gravel race that they were having at Apoxee trails that were hosted by ESP Timing. At first, I was very hesitant but eventually was talked into entering the race. I ended up winning that race and that’s when I caught the bug! Growing up riding and showing horses, I have always loved the thrill of competing. That race sparked something in me that I hadn’t felt in a while.

Shortly thereafter, that same event organizer hosted a criterium series at Okeeheelee Park and I decided to try it out.

I ended up borrowing, and eventually purchasing, a friend’s road bike for this race and did fairly well. I was finishing mid-pack. After that race, I started thinking about hiring a coach. Eventually, I did and was talked into entering the Florida State Championship series, which is a series of cross-country mountain bike races scattered throughout Florida. I remember being very uneasy at the beginning of the season. I hadn’t even been mountain biking for a year and I wasn’t sure which category I should start in. I ended up starting in Cat 2, went on to win the season, and was crowned 2021 Cat 2 Florida State Champion.

In early 2022, I ended up upgrading to Cat 1 and have been focusing on the Go Nuts Southeast Regional Series. I currently have the points locked for the season and am lined up to receive the Cat 1 Southeast Regional title. I have also been working on other business ventures this year in an attempt to promote and grow my brand. To close out the year, I will be racing our Florida Championship series, which starts up again in September, and am looking forward to a great season! You can check out my site to stay up to date on my upcoming events.

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way? Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
The road to where I am now has been far from smooth. However, I can say that I wouldn’t wish that it was any different. All the mistakes I made and the struggles I overcame all made me who I am today.

As for mountain biking.. Yes, it has been a fairly smooth road. I have learned over the years not to get too attached to outcomes or have high expectations. Just go with the flow. Follow your instinct and what is yours will come to you. Always do your best, continue to push forward and the opportunities will present themselves in ways you never expected.

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your work?
Aside from my mountain biking career, I am an outside sales rep for City Electric Supply.

Some of the characteristics that I believe set me apart from others are my strong and independent personality along with my unwavering drive and determination. When I set a goal, I will do everything in my power to achieve that goal and there are very few things that will stop me. I always keep an open mind to change as I am always learning new and better ways that I may not have known of in the past.

Being nice and showing your appreciation for those who have helped and are helping you along the way also goes a long way. Lastly, the way that I think is far different than most individuals my age. I have been called an “old soul” numerous times throughout my life.

What makes you happy?
Happiness comes from within. I truly am a genuinely happy person. I think it’s important for people to find something they deeply love, something they truly enjoy doing and make it a part of their daily life. Follow your dreams and drown out the noise, that is the key to true happiness. Have confidence in yourself, your decisions and do what makes you happy!

Always keep an open mind and follow your path, it may not always turn out as you pictured. A lot of people ignore that “inner voice” that is trying to lead them to where they are meant to be, where they can find true happiness.

You just have to listen.

Contact Info:

Image Credits
Zach King Photography, 1 Shot Media, and Ositoking Racing

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