Laurel Darren-Simmons

Laurel is the owner of Wild Bunch Desert Guides, a mountain biking and hiking company in Scottsdale, Arizona.  On her own website she is described as, “[living] in a world filled with colorful, shimmering glitter, eccentric knee socks, and fun costumes.”  It’s the perfect description.  Laurel is passionate, energetic and outgoing.  These traits make owning a guiding company such a natural fit.  Ryan and I have run into Laurel and her team on the trail several times and are always greeted with big smiles from both the staff and their guests.  I love honoring people that have the courage to start their own business and pursue their passion.  It’s inspiring and I always admire their bravery and determination.  Watching Laurel’s business grow and flourish over the past two years has been so encouraging.

In addition to owning her own business Laurel has a ton of athletic accomplishments to her name; from ultra-running, Ironman finishes, Leadville MTB 100 finishes and single speed records she has too many accolades to list.  Her personality combined with her athletic prowess make her a great training partner or long ride buddy.  I am always grateful for her company on a long ride.

What I find most inspiring about Laurel is how she is so supportive and passionately helps others to achieve their dreams and accomplish their goals.  She volunteers at almost every local race and somehow manages to make an appearance on course in an outrageous costume with music or some kind of hilarious display that is sure to put a smile on every racer’s face.  She does whatever it takes to make people take a moment to laugh and keep going.  Even more impressive is the fact that she repeatedly volunteers her time and energy as support crew for endurance racers.  She has crewed for six RAAM (Race Across America) cyclists and crewed for friends and acquaintances doing twenty-four hour races.  I have several friends that continue to tell stories about moments during races where encouragement from Laurel (silly or serious) was the only thing that kept them going.

Crewing for ultra-endurance racers is difficult and can be down right exhausting.  I have crewed for Ryan at two twenty-four races and the amount of pressure I put on myself during the race was insane.  I knew Ryan was counting on me and I wanted everything to be perfect, he had worked so hard and I was there to help him achieve is goal in whatever small way that I could.  While crewing for Ryan is difficult, I have a huge advantage being his wife, I can anticipate his needs and quickly assess his mood and condition without him having to say a word.  I spend hours training with him so I’m able to make quick judgement based on experience.  I also live with him, so I know when he needs tough love and when he needs gentler encouragement or a joke to lift his spirits.  This is why what Laurel does is so amazing.  The people she has crewed for aren’t family members, they aren’t even her closet friends and she is still an invaluable resource and supporter for them.  I have no doubt that there have been moments where her feelings have been hurt or she’s doubted herself, but she’s always able to see beyond that and keep her racers moving forward.

Laurel 3

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