America’s best off-roadie, Josiah “Beast Mode” Middaugh, returns to the XTERRA U.S. Pro Series for his 12th year Saturday when the season gets underway at the West Championship race at Lake Las Vegas Resort in Henderson, Nevada.
While that’s great news for the sport, it’s bad news for the competition.
In 10 of the last 11 years Middaugh has finished as the top American in the Pro Series, and the year he didn’t, in 2006, was because he broke his knee-cap in the second race of the year (still managed to finish fourth at XTERRA Worlds that season).
The 36-year-old father of three from Eagle-Vail, Colorado has been particularly good at the opener in the desert. He's won the last two, three of the last six, and finished second (by less than a minute to seven-time World Champ Conrad Stoltz) in the other three.
We caught up with the 10x XTERRA National Champ this week to see what’s new as he enters another year of racing off-road...
XTERRA: How'd the "off-season" go?
Josiah Middaugh: I had a great off season mainly because I remained injury free and was able to put in some consistent training. I decided not to travel to race this winter with Ingrid working full time and the kids pretty busy with school.
XT: Did you treat this off-season any different than others before?
JM: I stayed close to home this off season and spent a lot of time on the CompuTrainer at Dogma Athletica like I always do, got out on my Felt Fat Bike several times, and traded some long runs for snowshoeing. I like to keep my fitness at a very high level year round. If you're always ready, you never have to get ready.
XT: How's your coaching/training business going?
JM: Very well. My big brother Yaro and I are in business together and he will be coaching full time starting in June. We subscribe to a similar philosophy that I describe concisely as evidence-based. We both have spent our lives pursuing athletics so the experience is there, but our coaching is rooted in science. I have two degrees in the field with a Masters Degree in Human Movement and I have been coaching and personal training for 15 years with people of all abilities. This is my 13th year racing professionally and part of the reason I have had consistent performances is the training philosophy that we both have developed. It has been great to have him to consult with and now collaborate with. We can be contacted through my website at www.josiahmiddaugh.com.
XT: How'd you feel in the steamy jungles of Costa Rica, where you finished 2nd to Rom Akerson?
JM: I was feeling very fit going into Costa Rica but the environment was 180-degrees from what we had in Colorado so I suffered in the heat along with everyone else. Rom was in amazing shape and was the deserving champion.
XT: What’s the goal for 2015?
JM: The only thing missing on my XTERRA resume is a world title, so that has to be the ultimate goal. Of course there is only one world champion each year so that means there are quite a few disappointed folks. It's also about the journey and the process, so if I can continue to improve and put it all out there on race day, I am not disappointed if someone else does it better.
XT: Have you figured out the kink in two-time World Champ Ruben Ruzafa's armor yet?
JM: Honestly I don't spend a lot of time thinking about my competitor’s strengths. I don't spend time looking at race results, but rather shuttling kids to after school activities or helping with homework. I'm sure Ruzafa is doing his thing and will be prepared once again for the season. He's a smart guy and has the talent, resources, and time available to put himself in position. XTERRA is not just a race against other competitors but also a race against the course and anyone can be beaten on any given day. I used to have the mindset that I wasn't that talented, but just worked harder or trained smarter than others, but screw that. I'm as talented as anyone and I love to compete.
XT: What do you think about having some of the top international guys like Kiwi’s Braden Currie and Olly Shaw, Aussie Ben Allen, and South Africa Bradley Weiss coming over to race in the U.S. Series?
JM: I like to see the U.S. Series as competitive as possible and an international pro field does that. I'm excited to see Braden Currie, Ben Allen, Bradley Weiss, and Olly Shaw dropping in for some of the U.S. races. I remember when Bryan Rhodes "retired" from XTERRA because every race in the U.S. was so competitive it was like the "damn world championships."
XT: You’ve been getting stronger and faster every year, is there still room for you to grow?
JM: Of course I can still get faster. The cool thing about triathlon is that there is always room for improvement, especially with XTERRA since there is even more of a technical skill component. I have focused most of my training career on increasing the size of my aerobic engine and there is still lots of room for improvement in biomechanics and technical areas. Many training abilities are cumulative which I recognized early on and many of injuries I had early in my career I viewed as extending the time it would take me to reach my peak. I've had 5 knee surgeries so that means it might take me a little longer than some. Maybe I will just try to outlast these other guys and eventually it will just be Lesley and I duking it out on crutches.
XT: Anything in particular you like about this opening race in Vegas?
JM: I'm looking forward to racing at Lake Las Vegas. Even though the course landscape is pretty barren, it is a good fitness course and works for some of us who are just now getting on the dirt. The bottom line is that I am always looking for a challenge and this course delivers.
XT: What’s your schedule look like this year?
JM: This year I plan to race the US Championship Series with Las Vegas, Alabama, Richmond, Beaver Creek, the Nationals in Ogden, Utah and of course the World Championship in Maui. I am undecided on the ITU Worlds in Italy and I have a big hole in August, but I may just stay high in the mountains and work on my beard.