OGDEN — Kelsie Bingham was just looking for something to fill the void left after she finished her college basketball career.
"I was just looking for something to fill that competitive void," said Bingham, who will compete in the Mt. Ogden 100K Mountain Bike race this weekend at Snowbasin. "I was running half marathons at the time, and I wasn't really enjoying it. My brother-in-law said, 'You should try riding a bike.'"
So Bingham borrowed her sister-in-law's bike and entered a local race. She ended up taking second place, but more importantly, she found her new passion.
"I really love being in the mountains," said Bingham, who grew up hiking, camping and skiing. "I spent so much time in the mountains as a kid, that I just naturally gravitated to mountain biking."
Her natural athletic ability, which allowed her to excel at basketball at Bonneville High and then the University of Utah, paid off on those mountain trails. It was a switch to get used to a truly individual sport after a lifetime of being on teams.
"Cycling was the first individual sport I'd done," Bingham said. "Whether you're the best player on the team or a role player, when you're on a team, you've always got people to back you up … I really had to get good at self-talk and self-motivation."
She said her brother-in-law gave her some advice that she's utilized as she's progressed from a recreational rider to a professional racer.
"Mountain biking is learning how to hurt," she said. "That's the biggest thing I've learned. It's about how far and how hard can you push your body? Everyday you think you've hit you're limit and then you realize you haven't. I think that's what's so addicting."
Bingham said she'll feel at home in this weekend's race, which will feature three former Olympians and a field of 600 riders from beginners to pros.
"I train on those trails several times a week," she said. "It will be pretty fun to be able to connect them all together for a race."
While she will know more about the climbs and descents than many of her competitors, she said the race has attracted very talented riders.
"If I could get on the podium, that's my goal," said Bingham, who just graduated as a physician's assistant. "Being a PA is just as important to me, so I just want to find a balance between the two."
She said the mountain biking scene in Utah is pretty competitive and if she can hold her own in local races — and then ride in a few national events each year — she will be happy.
"I'm not really trying to be this national powerhouse," she said.
The races — a 50 K and a 100 K — start at 7 a.m. Saturday. At 10 a.m. the Expo and festival begin, which is free to the public. At 11 a.m. there is a barbecue with awards for the 50 K scheduled for 12:30 p.m. At 1 p.m. there is a kids race, followed by awards, and live music from 1 until 1:45 p.m. There are awards for the 100 K at 3 p.m. followed by a Royal Bliss Concert that evening.
The concert is $20 per carload (limited to six people) or free with race registration. The gates for the concert open at 5 p.m. with Royal Bliss taking the stage at 8:30 p.m.