MANSFIELD — Mickey Gilbert was 38 days into a cycling race across America when she crashed.
It was around 3:30 a.m. when she found herself pedaling on the Great Allegheny Passage, a trail that stretches from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to Cumberland, Maryland. A participant in the 3,500-mile Bike Nonstop U.S., Glibert was motivated to finish the last 262 miles over the next few days.
Suddenly, she came to a wooden bridge, traveling faster than usual — around 13 or 14 mph. Her hip took a hit and she went flying, thankfully not over the side of the bridge. The crash didn’t just end the race for her, it broke her femur where it joins at the hip and put her in a wheelchair for the next month.
The crash meant getting surgery for the installation of a 7-inch rod, a nail and a screw that early morning at Uniontown Hospital. It also meant no riding for a while.
For the next 10 months, Gilbert progressed to a walker, then to crutches and then to her feet. Eventually, she worked up the strength to get back onto a bike. Fortunately, the race director allowed her to stay in the race. She could finish when she was ready.
On April 26, Gilbert, 55, of Mansfield, jumped back into the saddle of her 2019 Salsa Warbird to finish the ride.
She finished April 26 — 10 months to the day of the crash. The last leg took her around three days to finish. Gilbert, a 26-year retiree of the Ohio State Highway Patrol, met her husband at the finish line, the Lincoln Memorial. She then visited the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial.
“I paid my respects to my comrades,” she said. Three of them were killed on the line of duty. Another died of cancer.
“It was really emotional. So that was the real finish line for me … they were there the whole trip,” Gilbert said. “And I know it’s just the lighting, but I have a photo of me kneeling there and there are three shadows on the wall. Kinda powerful … it was a way to say goodbye and to finish (the race).”
Gilbert said she is already looking to her next adventure, because, she said, “I’ve never had a bad day on a bike.”
“Even if I knew all these things were going to happen to me, I’d do it all over again. It has that effect on you. It’s quite addicting. I can’t wait to do it again,” Gilbert said.
She is considering the Northstar Bicycle Race in Minnesota. It’s a 629-mile out-and-back route that starts and ends in St. Paul in September.
“That race is relatively flat, so it’s reasonable that I could do it,” she said.