There are contenders, and then there are THE CONTENDERS.
While Ruben Ruzafa and Flora Duffy stand alone atop the XTERRA World, impeccable credentials and crowns in hand, Josiah Middaugh and Lesley Paterson patiently wait for their chance.
"Strength does not come from winning. Your struggles develop your strengths. When you go through hardships and decide not to surrender, that is strength." - Arnold Schwarzenegger
Middaugh and Paterson know this truth, they are living proof of it.
We caught up with both this week as they prepare for the greatest challenge of their respective careers … next Sunday’s XTERRA World Championship in Maui.
XTERRA: Josiah, you always say 'you never need to get ready if you're always ready' so, we know you're ready, but what are you doing to really be ready for this one?
Josiah Middaugh: The way my training is organized is to allow for multiple peak performances in a calendar year, so I like that saying "If you're always ready, you never have to get ready." That said, there is one race on the calendar that is a higher priority than all the rest, that race being the XTERRA World Championship. For this race, I train the most specifically and reserve the most potent forms of training for my final training block between Nationals and Worlds. For me the two biggest issues for prepping for this race is that the race is at sea level, and the heat/humidity. Both factors are very different from my training environment, but there are ways to be prepared, and I have always tended to race well in the heat. I pull out all the stops for this race such as VO2 max interval workouts with supplemental oxygen on the CompuTrainer, allowing me to push watts that I will be capable of on race day. I also follow a specific heat training protocol that I have used and refined over the past 10 years.
XT: Do you think the tight racing you had this year with Rom Akerson, Braden Currie, and Francisco Serrano is going to help you (maybe mentally) heading into this one?
JM: Yes, I think I have had some good tests this year and I have learned the most from the races that I did not win. That was really the best scenario for me, to start the season with three second place finishes. I always say that you don't learn much from winning. In each of those cases I was able to have a rematch in the second half of the season and systematically defeat each of those who bested me earlier in the season, winning in Richmond, Beaver Creek, Mexico, and Utah. I feel like I have been tested and learned a lot about myself in every race.
XT: Anything different about this year and your lead up to it?
JM: Every year is different, but I have been following a very similar training philosophy for the past 3-4 years. One big difference is that I have been injury free for about 2 years which is huge for me. After 5 knee surgeries I know how well I can race when I have a stretch like this. I have been a little more disciplined since May with my key workouts, avoiding excessively long training days, challenging myself in mountain bike races with world cup level competition, and putting in the really challenging work that I know works very well for me. Additionally I have been consistent with my a-lactic drills and strides that can make a big difference for a sea level competition. With a little more time between Nationals and Wolds I have been able to top off my training, really polarize my hard and easy days, and have time for a proper taper. I have been consulting weekly with my brother Yaro to make sure that I am adapting to the training load and keeping training stress in balance. We have had the best fall weather I have ever seen in Colorado which has allowed me to stay on the mountain bike and find Maui-specific climbs on both the bike and run. The keys to a good taper are to keep two major concepts in mind, cumulative training effect and residual training effect. These concepts dictate my final 4 weeks of training to arrive me rested, but ready to perform.
XT: Do you have any traditions on Maui, you've been coming every year since, what, 2002, 2001?
JM: This will be my 15th XTERRA World Championship so I feel very comfortable in Maui. As a family we look forward to it every year and since our third child we have been trying to travel the whole family every other year. This is an odd year so our big family of 5 will be there.
XT: Are we fearing the beard this year?
JM: No beard this year. It was fun for a while, but no sense trying to look any older than I am at this point.
XT: How are you simulating ocean swells in your swim prep?
JM: I think ocean swells are overrated. I love swimming in the ocean, especially in Hawaii. The water is warm and clear which makes it very comfortable to me. Swimming is the most unnatural sport for me as an adult learner so I have no delusions of leading out the swim, but I do feel very prepared this year and I have very high swim fitness right now. I have tried to approach every single swim workout with more purpose and have also been very consistent with the Vasa ergometer and stretch cords that can help with the open water stroke.
Lesley Paterson is a real-life Braveheart. She’s been broken, yet overcome and through it all has stayed outrageously positive.
This year she crushed it on the XTERRA scene with wins at Costa Rica, Vegas, Cali, ‘Bama, and England.
XTERRA: Lesley, tell us the story of 2015. You did a little XTERRA, a lot of mountain biking, and went through a whole lot of adversity. What’s the take-away and how are you feeling today, you’re first day in Maui?
Lesley Paterson: First of all, I am feeling great. Fit and ready to roll. Just beyond grateful that I’m here and healthy - I simply cannot put it in to words. This island has so many amazing memories for me and to be back at "home" with my XTERRA family is like a dream come true. This is where I feel the love. This is where the magic happens.
It’s been an incredible but challenging year so far. I have seriously had highs I've never experienced before but then I’ve had absolute soul crushing lows as well. I’m a woman of extremes so this suits me well! I spent November and December of 2014 getting treating for Lyme's disease in Florida and that brought with it many challenges but also many ‘ah ha’ moments. I started off the new year with the lowest fitness I think I’ve ever had but the highest spirit I’ve ever had too! I did a combination of XTERRA races and US cup mountain bike races and almost the first one out of the gate, I managed to break my shoulder! This led to me competing in XTERRA Costa Rica with 1 arm! 1500m is a long way with a single arm but I kept positive and ended up biking and running through the field to win. I guess the Braveheart brand is very much alive and kicking!
I then spent a month sweating it out on my trainer in the garage, swimming masters with 1 arm and running with a sling. I came out and won XTERRA West and East champs, plus won the overall (beat the boys too) at the Laguna Beach XTERRA....that was pretty cool! My focus was then set on mountain biking and picking up valuable UCI points for Olympic qualification. I went on to win my first US Pro MTB race and the week later, days before heading out to Europe for my world cup debut, I crashed out and broke my left wrist and right hand. Devastation again! After surgery I spent the month up in the mountains, back on the trainer, learning how to brush my teeth and wipe my own arse with no hands! Only 11 days after surgery I won the June Lake triathlon in Mammoth and another week later, came 3rd overall in the Leadville qualifier 100k MB race in Tahoe. Crazy, I know, but hey, that’s me!
I then did my first world cup MTB race in Windham. I seriously got my ass whooped and struggled to find any form. Determined to give it a good go, I then headed out to Italy for my second world cup. I managed to go from 65th to 38th and had a blast doing it! This world cup shit is a helluva journey and one that will take a good few years to master!
Finally I finished off the summer with a glorious win at the XTERRA European Champs in England. Joy of all joys!
After a great block of training in SD, my sights have been laser focused on being in the best shape possible for Maui. Flora has been simply unbeatable this year so I hope to at least give her a run for her money. She is an incredible athlete and has motivated me to train harder and stay committed this last few months.
More importantly though, I’ve realized with all that I have been through, that all I can control is my attitude. I can't control how anyone else will go on the day, I can’t control what anyone else thinks, but I can control my attitude towards this race. It will be one of joy and celebration. XTERRA is my soul and that will never change.
XTERRA WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP ELITES
Bib # (place at last year’s WC) - Name - Age, Hometown
1 (1) - Ruben Ruzafa - 31, Malaga, Spain
2 (2) - Josiah Middaugh - 37, Eagle-Vail, Colorado
3 (3) - Ben Allen - 30, North Wollongong, NSW, Australia
4 (5) - Mauricio Mendez - 20, Mexico City, Mexico
5 (9) - Rom Akerson - 31, Tambor, Costa Rica
8 (13) - Jim Thijs - 35, Huldenberg, Belgium
9 (14) - Ryan Ignatz - 37, Boulder, Colorado
10 (15) - Albert Soley - 27, Barcelona, Spain
11 (19) - Jan Pyott - 33, Stechelberg, Switzerland
12 (23) - Chris Ganter - 37, Boise, Idaho
14 (32) - Arthur Forissier - 21, Saint Etienne, France
15 (34) - Yeray Luxem - 29, Merksem, Belgium
16 (35) - Branden Rakita - 34, Colorado Springs, Colorado
17 (37) - Rory Downie - 26, Edinburgh, United Kingdom
18 (39) - Olly Shaw - 23, Rotorua, New Zealand
19 - Rodrigo Altafini - 41, Sao Paulo, Brazil
20 - Fabien Combaluzier - 38, Ardeche, France
21 - Braden Currie - 29, Wanaka, New Zealand
22 - Pierre-Yves Facomprez - 32, Nievre, France
23 - Nicolas Fernandez - 32, Pelissane, France
24 - Damien Guillemet - 29, Normandie, France
25 - Ben Hoffman - 32, Boulder, Colorado
28 - Juan Carlos Gracia - 33, Cordoba, Spain
29 - Sam Osborne - 24, Rotorua, New Zealand
30 - Cameron Paul - 25, Taupo, New Zealand
31 - Will Ross - 26, Anchorage, Alaska
32 - Jens Roth - 27, Trier, Germany
33 - Francisco Serrano - 35, Monterrey, Mexico
34 - Noah Wright - 41, Austin, Texas
35 - Courtney Atkinson - 36, Mermaid Waters, QLD, Australia
36 - Brodie Gardner – 29, Marcoola, QLD, Australia
Bib # (place at last year's WC) - Name - Age, Hometown
61 (1) Flora Duffy - 28, Devonshire, Bermuda
63 (4) Emma Garrard - 34, Park City, Utah
64 (5) Helena Erbenová - 36, Jablonec, Czech Republic
67 (9) Jacqui Slack - 32, Stoke-On-Trent, United Kingdom
68 (10) Carina Wasle - 31, Kundl, Austria
69 (15) Lizzie Orchard - 29, Epsom, New Zealand
70 (18) Susan Sloan - 34, Benoni, South Africa
71 (19) Maia Ignatz - 35, Boulder, Colorado
72 (20) Kara LaPoint - 28, Truckee, California
73 (21) Sara Schuler - 34, Boulder, Colorado
74 (30) Debby Sullivan - 34, Rocklin, California
76 - Renata Bucher - 38, Lucerne, Switzerland
77 - Fabiola Corona - 35, Mexico City, Mexico
78 - Myriam Guillot-Boisset - 36, Brindas, France
79 - Christine Jeffrey - 42, Guelph, Ontario, Canada
80 - Lesley Paterson - 35, Sterling, Scotland
81 - Jess Simson - 31, Wanaka, New Zealand
82 - Alena Stevens - 33, Tatranska, Slovakia
83 - Elisabetta Curridori - 24, Sardegna, Italy
84 - Verena Eisenbarth - 30, Passau, Germany
85 - Laurel Dudley - 34, Honolulu, Hawaii