As for Amy’s start in mountain biking, she credits her three children for putting her on a trail on two wheels. It was around the year of 1986, in New Hampshire, that her children asked if they could ride their bikes on a trail in the woods. Already a road rider, Amy used her skinny wheels on the trails that day. But two days later she had another bike, one that was referred to as an All Terrain bike. One thing lead to another and within that year, and three bikes later, Amy signed up for her first mountain bike race.
Endurance events proved to be Amy’s strength and she excelled at solo at 24 hour events, taking top places in both road and mountain bike. She rode for Kona and Litespeed who helped to make it possible for her to reach her goals, including establishing the first women’s 24 Hour MTB World Record in 1994, which still stands today at 283 miles in 24 hours.
But the true credit to her success, says Amy, has to do with the amazing support she received from others, starting with her family. “If they had not been there to cheer me on and to encourage me to keep going, I would not have done this.” Her children had a part in many miles of Amy’s training and racing routine, meeting her for a picnic during a 10 hour training ride or being a “crew” member during her races, staying up all night and doing hand-offs or hugs as needed. Because he could not be there, her son Aaron made her tapes of him talking to listen to during the Race Across America in 1992, saying, “You can do it Mom. Even though I’m not there I’m with you, I’m right by your side just like the other races we did.” Of those words, Amy says, “He pulled me though many dark miles.”
Amy’s mom and dad also played major roles; her dad stayed up all night long during the 24 Hour World Record setting, making sure all the stats were accurate. That was the first of many times he paced the ground, watching and waiting, hoping she was okay out there during those lonely hours of solo ultra-cycle racing. Mom managed the kids and Sasha, Amy’s best friend, a Golden Retriever. Both her folks drove from Maine to Utah to meet her with bikes and equipment for her first 24 Hours of Moab… which with their support, she won.
But long before that, was a man named Jack Papa. Coach, mentor, Race Across America (RAAM) Qualifier and 24 Hour Race Director and friend, he ran the ultra-marathon road races that Amy entered in her early days of racing. Jack believed in her immediately. Of her first 24 hour road race, “Jack told me I could do it. There was something about him that you just trusted… like he knew more about you than you knew about yourself.”
But she remembers well that first race in upstate New York, struggling to keep pedaling in the final hours and wondering how she could go on. With over 250 hilly miles in her legs and still many hours to go, she was having her doubts. Then out of nowhere, the Official Race Car appeared, “and this guy was hanging out the passenger window shouting ‘Amy Regan you can do it! You got what it takes!’ ” Amy wasn’t sure who it was at first, but the car came back again and again, with the same man hanging out the window, shouting, “You’re made of the right stuff!” and, “You can do whatever you put your mind to!” She finally realized it was none other than Jack Papa, and if he thought she could finish then she was going to finish.
Jack motivated and encouraged his riders in a way that is reserved for the best coaches and mentors in the world. “There is no doubt that without Jack, I never would taken this path and had the opportunity to reach so far beyond my limits.” Amy continues on to say, “he got right in the trenches with you. He knew how to reach you, he’d get into your head and your heart and pull you through the toughest of times.”
But most importantly, Amy says, Jack would not let his riders feel disappointment in themselves if they fell short of their goals, that is, if they gave it their all. “And in Jack’s races, most of us wouldn’t dreamed of giving him any less than our best.”
As for this bond with her mentor Jack Papa, it’s one that has lasted through the years, a mutual admiration that they have for each other that is as solid as they come and will last a lifetime. The biography, From Fitness to Death, was written by Papa and edited by Amy, who’s editing talents and understanding of racing – and of Jack, make for a read that is as real as it gets. The book chronicles Papa’s Race Director career from the great highs to the devastating lows that are part of ultra-marathon racing – and similarly, a part of life.
Amy retired from racing in 2002 to focus on leading mountain bike events and teaching skills clinics, using all the things that she learned over the years, and the same encouragement that she was given by her family and by Jack Papa, to help others reach their goals and enjoy the thrill and challenge of cycling. Her approach is easy-going and she makes it fun, helping students to relax and work on improving skills while reminding them to feel good about being there, in a sport that takes guts and determination.
In her teaching, Amy can be heard saying, “When it gets harder, you have to dig deeper, ” and, “if you think you can, you can.” Mountain biking can help us get the most out of ourselves. But most importantly, Amy reminds us that, “We do this for fun… so relax, and enjoy the ride!”