December 2023 Rider of the Month,
Valerie Christoff

Valerie Christoff’s athletic accomplishments are impressive: She’s completed seven full Ironman races, 16 half Ironman races, seven full marathons and 10 half-marathons. She has been the first-place female finisher in the West Penn Trail Triathlon for multiple years. Valerie’s won her division of the Youghness Monster kayak race several years in a row, is the Ohio State Paddling champion for her division and was also the West Virginia State Champion.

But she’s not a former college track star or a lifelong athlete. She still jokingly claims the hashtag #notarunner. And she describes herself as a “pretty terrible swimmer.” Read on to learn about Valerie’s unexpected journey to becoming an incredible athlete and how riding an ElliptiGO bike has helped her achieve surprising victories.

Valerie grew up in northwestern Pennsylvania. She’s from a small town and a big family—she’s the fifth of six children, plus she has four step-siblings. As a kid, she had a three-speed bike with a banana seat that she quickly left behind. She played softball and basketball, but she never felt like she excelled in either sport. At 16, she injured her knee playing basketball, and that injury has continued to plague her over the years.

When Valerie was 30 years old, she got a bike. This was no three-speed with a banana seat. She rode it every free minute she had. Then she and a friend signed up to do an adventure triathlon. Valerie thoroughly enjoyed the experience: “I was hooked!” she says. She started kayaking, swimming and running. But biking is her passion. “I love feeling for the right gear to climb or descend or just the right one for a flat section. I love to chase a stronger rider and see how long I can hang onto their wheel,” Valerie says.

As for running, Valerie didn’t enjoy it, but after doing a few races, she realized that she was a decent runner. And the more she ran, the less she hated running. She notes, “At some point it became like taking out the trash; just something that has to be done.”

She ran the Boston Marathon for the first time in 2013, the year of the bombing. She still didn’t consider herself a runner, but after the experience, she felt like she needed to run Boston again, both for herself and for her young friend Maggie, who had lost her battle with Ewing sarcoma, a rare cancer. Valerie appreciated the fact that she could still run. She completed the Boston Marathon two more times.

Still, Valerie preferred multi-sport races, and she completed her first Ironman at the age of 40. As she continued on her Ironman path, each time she hurt her knee or any other body part, her coach would tell her to use the elliptical machine at the gym. Valerie often ignored the advice because she wanted to be outdoors. But she realized that running was not making her knees feel any better.

In early 2021, with a torn meniscus and torn ACL, compression in her upper back, a knot in her shoulder, and a ridiculously stiff neck, Valerie broke down and bought an 11R. She wondered if she’d really use it, and ElliptiGO Lead Enthusiast Erin Whiting assured Valerie that she could return it in 30 days if it turned out that she didn’t like it.

As you can guess, Valerie loved it. “I rode that bike so hard the first year!” shares Valerie. “Up and down hills, on flats, on the trail. I lost 15 pounds.” She was barely running at all. She felt great, but she wasn’t certain how ElliptiGO riding would translate to racing in an adventure triathlon.

As her next race, the West Penn Trail Triathlon, approached, her training buddies warned her about a new female racer who was rumored to be stiff competition. “She is fast!” they told her. They projected that Valerie would beat her in the kayak portion of the race, but the woman would beat Valerie on the bike, and it would all come down to the run. Valerie looked up her competitor’s Strava data and saw she’d been running 7:25 minute miles in training. Valerie hadn’t run in six weeks.

The race started out as her training partners had predicted: Valerie had a good kayak. Then Valerie wrecked on her bike. Luckily, she was able to keep going. When she started running, she was pleased that her legs seemed to remember what to do. Valerie recalls, “I pushed as hard as I thought was reasonable, and I finished with a 7:21 min/mile pace. Stoked! I thought that was pretty good for someone who had been doing almost all of their ‘running’ on an elliptical bike!” Not only did Valerie beat the new racer, she won the triathlon!

Later that year she competed in a half-Ironman and qualified for the Ironman 70.3 World Championships, all with less running and more ElliptiGO riding. Valerie dug into the data and realized that in the two years prior, she had run 474 and 475 miles, respectively, from May through October. And the year that she qualified for the Ironman 70.3 World Championships, she ran just 96 miles.

“Many of those miles were just one- or two-mile runs, or start-and-stop runs with my dog who wants to stop and smell or pee on something every tenth or quarter of a mile,” she notes.

ElliptiGO cycling has also unexpectedly paid off in the pool. For years, Valerie’s chronic knee injury has hampered her ability to kick in the water. “My knee pops and then it is weak for about six weeks,” Valerie explains. But this year, Valerie was finally able to start kicking in the water! “I’m convinced it’s because the muscles around my knee are so much stronger from the GO,” she says. “And my knees also aren’t beat up from the many miles of running since I’ve been riding the ElliptiGO. Win/win!”

ElliptiGO cycling also benefits Valerie’s kayak races. “There is so much core work in GOing,” she shares. “That transfers to my paddling.”

Riding her ElliptiGO continues to benefit Valerie in unexpected ways. Last month, Valerie decided to join a friend for a half-marathon. Valerie hadn’t been training or running regularly … but she has been GOing. Her finishing time was good enough to qualify for the New York City Marathon. “So, I am an ElliptiGO believer!” says Valerie.

Valerie believes so much in ElliptiGO bikes that she became an ElliptiGO Enthusiast, offering test rides in Pennsylvania. She mainly rides her 11R (“It is my jam!” she says), and she also has an 8C, MSUB, eMSUB and RSUB in her fleet for test riders to try out. Her favorite accessory is her Quad Lock phone mount which saves her from digging for her phone when she wants to take a quick picture or video on the GO.

Valerie’s goals for 2024 include balancing her ElliptiGO riding with her other disciplines: swimming, cycling, running and paddling. She projects that her big race for the year will be Ironman 70.3 Maine. Plus she may run the NYC Marathon since she did qualify to enter. “That will be a great goal!” she says. #notarunner, indeed!

She also wants to start preparing for a full Ironman, which she hasn’t done in a few years. In 2025 she’ll move up to a new racing age category. Valerie shares, “I want to see if I can be ready to take on 112 miles in 2025, when I am the ‘baby’ of the age group.”

Valerie has plenty of goals related to her GO, too. She’s planning to host a Global ElliptiGO Riders Club (GERC) ride in the Poconos in 2024. “I have made some great friends through GERC,” she says. Also, she’s ridden the Dirty Dozen ride many times on her road bike, and she wants to give it a GO on her 11R.

If you want to ride with Valerie, she’s bringing her fleet of ElliptiGO bikes and GiBoards to Camp Runabout in June. The all-inclusive adult summer camp’s typical schedule includes a morning run, and in 2024, an ElliptiGO ride will be an official alternative to a traditional run. “I encourage ElliptiGO riders to check out the camp, sign up, and let me know if you are bringing an ElliptiGO or are hoping to use one of mine!” says Valerie.

Reflecting on what she loves most about riding an Elliptigo, Valerie shares, “It’s fun! Nothing hurts,” Valerie says. “I love ‘running’ on my ElliptiGO for hours and being able to jog up and down the stairs the next day. It’s amazing!”

We think you’re amazing, too, Valerie! We’ll be cheering you on as you tackle your 2024 goals and share your ElliptiGO enthusiasm with new riders!  

You can contact ElliptiGO with nominations to Rider of the Month or share your own story. It may just be the next feature!

3 Responses

  1. Jim says:

    I am the enthused owner/rider of a Elliptigo MSUB. On 7/30/23 I got unloaded off another bike, going over an irregular RR crossing. The result was an ankle dislocation and fracture. I wish I had more detailed information about Valerie’s recoveries. I’m finding mine a hard and lengthy one to deal with.

  2. Katie Blau says:

    Wow! That’s quite a personal profile and a testimony to the benefits of the ElliptiGO!!!

  3. ashelizallen says:

    That is my sister and she is a total rockstar! She inspires me everyday to keep on keeping on and I am so very proud of her!! Love you Val!

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