It’s been a tough year for XTERRA fans without Lesley Paterson in the line-up. The “Scottish Rocket” – a beloved and dominate force in off-road triathlon – was forced to watch this season from the sidelines while battling with injuries and a nasty auto-immune disease (Lyme disease).
Paterson was on her way to a three-peat at XTERRA Worlds last year – having already captured the XTERRA U.S. Pro Series and USA Championship title in Utah – before Nicky Samuels spoiled those plans. She was still able to chase down Flora Duffy in the finish chute to finish 2nd in Maui last October. And that was her last big XTERRA … until now.
The Braveheart is back, ready to tackle the rigors of sport once more and defend her USA Championship crown. There is no doubt Paterson embodies the spirit of a Scottish warrior, and she’s needed every bit of that unrelenting fight just to get through this past year.
Here’s how she explains it…
“How you feel is how you feel right? It’s tough to compare yourself to others because how we feel is relative and as a professional athlete, the emphasis is always on suffering through, pushing the limits and overcoming adversities.
As I got back in to racing after I retired as a junior, I would frequently have bouts of nausea, fatigue and just general strange symptoms (muscle weakness, neurological ticks etc, etc.) I didn't think too much of these as all athletes have some kind of ailment given how much we push our bodies. After getting a bad parasite infection in 2010, the symptoms of nausea, fatigue and anxiety seemed to rise to a new level. I went on heavy antibiotics for a month and that seemed to clear things. After abusing the body again throughout the season with tough training regimens, the neurological ticks got greater and my general fatigue come in some pretty bad waves - and not your typical fatigue, almost like having light doses of flu symptoms. A training partner suggested I get tested for Lyme as her friend had suffered for years and was finally diagnosed with it...I did, and low and behold I had it.
Now testing for Lyme disease is very contentious, in fact the entire disease is contentious. Google it and a whole host of crap will come up. Generally you contract it from a tick bite but given the length of time I've had these symptoms, the myriad of tests I took suggested I contracted it a long time ago and thus it had become a case of a chronic Lyme infection.
Lyme disease is a bacterial infection that hides itself with many other co-infections in the body. It pervades your entire system and is incredibly difficult to get rid of. Symptoms are different for everyone – some people are completely bed ridden, some end up in wheelchairs, some are fine and don’t notice it. Research and treatments are complicated, expensive and scientifically challenged.
What this means for me – well it basically means that my immune system is compromised so whenever I push it just a little too far, I can get my Lyme symptoms (ear ache, sore throat, muscle aches, nausea, stiffness, anxiety). So it’s a constant up and down such that when I feel amazing I really do feel amazing and when I feel shit, it ain’t no fun at all! The 6-month injury I suffered from at the beginning of the season was definitely made exponentially worse by my Lyme disease. Given that muscle stiffness and nerve inflammation were the primary culprits of my injury (piriformis syndrome), these are the very things that Lyme disease causes.
I manage it well and it ultimately just makes me tougher….as I love to quote “be kind to those you meet because everyone is fighting a battle you know nothing about.”