By Lauren Hall
Greg Schott is a 19-year-old up-and-comer out of Richmond, Virginia who made a name for himself after winning the 15-19 division at XTERRA Nationals last year. That result was good enough to get him his pro card, and he jumped at the opportunity.
This year in his elite debut he found himself on a beautiful white sand beach in Costa Rica. To make it even better, his roommate for the trip was XTERRA World Champ Josiah Middaugh, and he said it was like going to an XTERRA fantasy camp.
We caught up with Schott as he prepares to race at XTERRA Pan Am Tour stop No. 4 in Pelham, Alabama this Saturday…
XTERRA: What made you decide to get involved in triathlons?
Greg Schott: I played a range of sports growing up, from travel baseball to lacrosse, and with a state park in my backyard I started mountain biking more and more frequently with my dad, who has always been an avid cyclist. I started running track and cross country when I started middle school and fell in love with endurance sports and when I was 13. I pieced in the swimming leg of the triathlon and competed in my first race with my parents (who both beat me...). It was at that first race that I met Michael Harlow, the head youth coach and owner of Endorphin Fitness, who introduced me to the fast paced racing of the Junior Elite Draft Legal circuit. After experiencing the camaraderie between my teammates, all around the same age as myself, and the adrenaline rush of fast paced racing, I never turned back.
XT: How did you hear about XTERRA?
GS: As a Richmond, VA native I had always known about the iconic XTERRA Richmond and knew the big XTERRA legends like Conrad Stoltz, who would tear up the local trails for a weekend, but I never realized how big XTERRA was on a global scale until I fell more in love with triathlon.
XT: What made you decide to race XTERRA?
GS: When I started racing triathlon I found myself falling out of mountain bike racing and becoming increasingly busy with junior racing, work, and normal high school shenanigans. In 2013 I bought my first 29" mountain bike (finally getting off of my dad's Gary Fisher) and found my love for mountain biking again. I soon found myself wondering why the heck I hadn't jumped into an XTERRA yet and I traveled down to McCormick, South Carolina in the spring of 2014 for my first XTERRA. There I found a super laid back and awesome racing community (seeming more like mountain bikers than triathletes) and after taking the overall win I officially caught the XTERRA bug.
XT: What was it like to win XTERRA Nationals last year?
GS: I was stoked to win my age group at Nationals and come so close to the overall amateur win, too. The win was even sweeter last year considering I knocked close to 40 minutes off of my previous year's finish time, and would later figure out my finishing time at Nationals would earn me my pro card. I felt like I had conquered something that had viciously defeated me before, and it felt great.
XT: Did you do anything special in training before that race?
GS: I made a handful of big changes between the 2014 and 2015 season. In 2015 I set my sights on solely XTERRA, and moving out to Boulder, CO for school definitely helped with that endeavor. I also sought out some more specialized coaching and got connected with Craig Evans, who really helped me figure out HOW to race XTERRA, sharing his experience and knowledge of courses, nutrition and mountain biking with me. With his help and some experimenting of my own I narrowed down nutrition plans and specific training for the Utah course leading up to the race.
XT: Favorite inspirational quote?
GS: "If you ain't first, you're last" - Ricky Bobby (Just Kidding :)
XT: Who are your role models?
GS: I would say my parents have been a huge inspiration in both my life and triathlon racing. They have shown me that it is possible to dedicate myself towards a job that I love and truly makes a difference, while focusing myself on what I love and enjoy doing. They have always been super supportive of my racing and have allowed me to take advantage of the opportunities my racing has put in front of me, which words are not enough to describe how grateful I am.
XT: Tell us about your first pro race in Costa Rica...
GS: My first pro race down in Costa Rica was an experience I sure won’t forget anytime soon. It was my first time traveling internationally, and experiencing another culture was an opportunity I was extremely grateful to have. I got the opportunity to room with the XTERRA World Champ Josiah Middaugh and do a little course reconnaissance with him leading up to the race. All the advice he offered was super beneficial on race day. I was blown away with just how much XTERRA cares about their athletes and it really showed at XTERRA Costa Rica.
XT: How'd you feel leading up to the race, nervous?
GS: I was definitely pretty nervous leading up to the start of the race, especially just knowing that I was going from leading the race at the front of the amateur pack to fighting for every inch in the pro field. I almost felt a little out of place lining up with the pros at the start but once the gun went off I knew I was right where I belonged. Once I settled into the race it became just another day at the office.
XT: What did you like about that race?
GS: I was most excited for the bike course in Costa Rica, it was a beautiful course that allowed me to really see a lot of the culture behind the race, taking us along the beach, on some public dirt roads (which were so washed out they felt like single track!), through a farm field in a small town, and across some technical, fresh cut single track. It was easily my favorite part of the weekend. I was dreading the heat though! I knew it was going to be hard coming from the cool temperatures in Richmond to the blazing sun down in Costa Rica. I adapted a bit better than I expected but I definitely left with some wicked sunburn and funky tan lines.
XT: Plans for this year?
GS: I plan on hitting about half of the races in the Pan-American tour this year, including all of the state side races and possibly a couple in Canada. I decided this year, since it is my first professional year and I am only 19, I wouldn't set huge goals for myself until I have settled into pro racing. My one big goal is to race my hardest at everything I enter and be competitive within the pro field. I was happy with my result in Costa Rica, even though I was last place pro male, I was seconds off of the podium at my first pro race with only a handful of minutes separating me from fourth. I decided I am going to spend this year and possibly next really figuring out how to race and be competitive as a professional athlete before hunting some big overall wins.
XT: Biggest lesson you took away from Costa Rica?
GS: The biggest thing I learned from Costa Rica is course preparation to the type of terrain the race will be held on is key. I was really thrown off when I realized almost two miles (1 mile on the run and 1 on the bike) was on soft sand. This threw off my normal T1 routine, usually I already have my shoes attached to the bike and do a flying mount and put shoes and gloves on once on the bike, but with the soft sand directly outside of transition I had to do everything before getting on the bike. This made me spend way more time in T1 doing things that felt weird to me and that I haven't really practiced. Also just the efforts I had to put out on the sand to go fast were foreign to me and really taxing.”
XT: Tell us about yourself, and becoming a certified EMT?
GS: With a type-a personality I found myself struggling to really decide on a college major and career path that would keep me entertained and not in a dead end desk job. After studying Exercise Science at both Liberty University and the University of Colorado - Boulder I found myself intrigued by the medical field but bored with what I was studying. I decided to jump into an EMT program and instantly loved the hands on atmosphere and challenge of problem solving that the career offered (and I guess EMS runs in the family since my dad is a Flight Paramedic, my mom is a NICU Nurse and my sister is also an EMT). After passing the program out in Colorado, I moved back to Richmond for a job opportunity and I now volunteer as an EMT with a local fire department, work full-time as a bike mechanic at Endorphin Fitness (the bike shop I grew up racing for and now one of my title sponsors) and spend any spare time training.
XT: What is your favorite food?
GS: Well I'm pretty much always hungry and always on the go so I'll take just about anything I can get my hands on, but banana pancakes hold a real soft spot in my heart.
XT: What is your dream job?
GS: My dream job would be an occupation that is as fast paced as I like to live, I don't think I'll ever be able to see myself in an office. I've still got some more of that whole "life figuring out" thing to do but as soon as I figure it out my sights will be set on making sure it happens.
XT: If you could describe yourself in one word, what would it be?
XT: What else should we know about you?
GS: I enjoy just about anything outdoors (snowboarding, hiking and camping are some of my favorite) and am willing to try anything at least once. Most of my adventures find their way onto Instagram and can be found at my username @greegcs.