Talya Dodson has quite the athletic resume, from racquetball to surfing to soccer, softball, water polo and more.
For the past four years, however, the 33-year-old Truckee resident has spent much of her free time honing her skills in motocross and cross-country dirt bike racing. Remaining consistent with a trend dating back to her childhood, Dodson is on her way to polishing yet another athletic endeavor.
“It doesn’t matter her sport, she’s just a great athlete,” said Mike Harrity, a Truckee resident and close friend of Dodson’s who trains and races motocross and cross country with her. “I’ve seen her progress through her dedication and skill level. She keeps getting faster and faster and faster. Now she’s got a two-stroke bike and she’s flying.”
And she’s having a blast doing so.
“I definitely like the competitive nature of the sport,” said Dodson, a real estate agent at Keller Williams Boice who races nearly every weekend in the Northern California District 36 Series. “I like to go fast and I like the adrenaline rush, for sure. I like being on the edge of speed versus not crashing.”
In her most recent race, Dodson helped lead her six-person team, Fremont Honda, to a first-place finish in the women’s class of the eighth annual HYR 24 Hours of GHR Grand Prix last weekend. Of the 80 teams entered in the race ” most of which were men ” Dodson thinks Fremont Honda placed in the top 25 overall (the results have not yet been posted on the race Web site).
Held at Glen Helen Raceway Park in San Bernardino County, the 24-hour, relay-style race took place on a 10-mile course with varied terrain consisting of motocross and single track.
There was also an “extreme section” with boulders, a series of large logs spaced several feet apart and a steep, 10-foot drop-off to negotiate, Dodson said.
Besides having to maintain her energy and focus during each hour-and-a-half stint of racing ” or three laps around the track before alternating riders ” Dodson said the most difficult aspect of the race was dealing with the fog.
“I think the main challenge was either overcoming the fatigue or riding in thick fog at night. On the ridges the fog was really, really thick. It was a little bit spooky,” she said, adding that visibility ranged from between 5 and 15 feet. “I kept saying to myself, ‘Ride fast and remember every second of this.’ I wanted to be sure I soaked in every second of the experience just in case I don’t get the opportunity to race the 24-hour again.”
Dodson learned just a couple weeks before the race that she had been chosen to join Fremont Honda, a hand-selected team picked by Mark Martinez, the father of 14-year-old racer and Fremont Honda team member Kacy Martinez of Pleasanton, Calif.
Also selected to the team were Brooke Hodges, 15 of Brentwood, Calif., Heather Pickering, 18 of Grass Valley, Maria Forsberg, 20 of Seattle, and Amanda Mastin, 25, from Whitehouse, Ohio. All are national-caliber motocross or cross-country riders, and Dodson said she was grateful to join their company.
“It was one of the biggest compliments I’ve ever been paid in my life,” Dodson said of being invited onto the team, an honor she believes she received because of her long-distance racing experience in cross-country events. “I was extremely flattered.”
Dodson is no rookie when it comes to athletic competition, against either sex.
“I basically grew up competing against guys in different sports,” she said. “My mom encouraged me to do whatever I wanted.”
So for her fifth birthday, Dodson convinced her parents to buy her a dirt bike, which she often rode on the motocross track at her cousins’ San Joaquin Valley ranch.
After her young motocross phase, which included some competition in small local races, Dodson became involved in racquetball.
By the time she was 13, Dodson was a four-time national racquetball champion, winning at ages 7, 10, 11 and 13.
She also had started playing Little League in her hometown of Modesto, where she excelled by setting a single-season home run record that stood for 10 years, she said. Dodson doesn’t remember the exact number of homers, but guesses it was somewhere around 12 or so.
When Dodson entered Beyer High School in Modesto, she tried out for soccer, water polo and softball. She made each squad, then went on to start on varsity all four years in each sport.
Her senior year, Dodson was voted most athletic by her peers ” as well as homecoming queen ” and had collected a number of all-state awards in softball and all-county awards in soccer, she said.
So when it came to choosing a college, Dodson was not short on options as both Ohio State University and the University of Hawaii offered her scholarships to play softball. She also received a scholarship offer from Brigham Young University to play water polo.
But she had her mind set on going to Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, a Central California state college that several of her friends attended.
There, Dodson walked onto the softball and water polo teams, then went on to play three years of softball as the Mustangs’ shortstop and cleanup hitter and four years of water polo.
In addition to her two collegiate sports, Dodson ” a business major ” said she also played racquetball on the side, competing in Bay Area and Southern California tournaments to earn money to help pay tuition.
Then there was surfing and hockey.
With San Luis Obispo located within a 20-minute drive from the ocean, Dodson learned to surf in nearby towns Morro Bay and Pismo Beach. She also dabbled in ice hockey “just for fun” in the Bay Area.
After graduating from Cal Poly in 1997, Dodson moved to Santa Cruz and began to surf competitively as part of the Santa Cruz Longboard Union, which traveled up and down the state for contests.
Five years later, Dodson made the move to Truckee, where she returned to her athletic roots by picking up motocross again. And, of course, she skis.
Dodson’s goal is to continue to ride while passing on her knowledge to a younger generation of dirt bike riders.
“I just want to keep racing as long as my body allows me to,” she said. “My goal really is to keep having a great time at it and be the best role model I can be to the younger girls …
“I’m actually in the process of buying a smaller bike just for teaching young girls and women how to ride. If anyone wants to learn, they can e-mail me at Talya@outdoorestates.com.”