20 Questions with the reigning and 2x XTERRA World Champ
On Thursday, May 7, 2020, XTERRA caught up with Bradley Weiss, the 31-year-old phenom from South Africa, at his current stay-at-home headquarters in Boulder, Colorado.
Here’s what we learned:
His fiancé is a great photographer. His Corona time theme song (Flora Cash - Missing Home) is awesome. Altitude is his Kryptonite. He’s ready to race, but not in a mask. We should be kind and gentle with our own emotions. Connecting with friends and family online is one thing about social distancing he’d like to keep. He’s a gentlemen, a professional, a champion, and he’s having good days and bad days just like the rest of us...
XTERRA: Look into your crystal ball and tell us when and where you will race next?
Bradley Weiss: Wow, that’s a tough one to start with and the answer is usually very dependent on my mood and time of day. On a slow grumpy morning the answer is usually “never,” and I might as well stop training and get fat. But post training when the endorphins are flowing I am usually my most optimistic self, then the answer to this question is a lot more hopeful. Potentially as soon as XTERRA Beaver Creek in July, however, after racing there back in 2013 for the last time I promised myself I would never go back...the altitude completely hammers my ability to compete but if this is the first race back on the schedule, I may have to break that promise with myself!
Photo: Nina Orzechowski
XT: You traveled over to Boulder just before the hard lockdown hit Stellenbosch, right? Was that a lucky move or a strategic one?
BW: A lucky move indeed. Our original plan was to travel out to Taiwan in March for the XTERRA Asia Pacific Championships in Kenting as well as Ironman 70.3 Taiwan, but sadly these were the first of many races to be cancelled thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. Optimistically, we decided to change our travel plans and head to the USA as we had high hopes the virus would be contained in the east and racing would continue unaffected in North America (sadly my optimism is usually very wrong at the best of times). In hindsight we are still grateful we made the trip over as here in Boulder, Colorado we have been lucky enough to continue training outdoors throughout the lock down period maintaining some level of sanity. Should we have stayed home in South Africa we would have been subject to a much stricter lockdown and unable to leave the house for five weeks but for essential items.
XT: Corona time skill you never knew you had?
BW: Balancing on my stomach on a Bosu ball while simultaneously using stretch cords to simulate swimming in a horizontal position (it’s quite a sight).
Photo: Nina Orzechowski
XT: Corona time mantra?
BW: Tried a few but none are working.
XT: Got a favorite – easy – recipe to share with the Tribe?
BW: Breakfast smoothie bowl! We always make sure to have plenty of frozen fruit in the deep freeze. After a morning workout there is nothing better than blending up a combination of your favorite frozen fruits along with a simple plant based protein - add some fresh banana/strawberries/blueberries as well as a sneaky granola topping and you are all set for a delicious and nutritious breakfast bowl.
XT: It’s been hard not to connect with people in real life, but seems we’re all doing quite a bit of connecting online. Have you found any joy in connecting on facetime/zoom/skype?
BW: It’s likely the most amount of time in my life I have spent connecting with friends and family via online video chat. It's no shock to my community back home to see me spend months abroad each year chasing my athletic goals, but usually very few take the time out to invest in a long overdue catch up. Either we all suddenly have too much time on our hands or this pandemic really has brought us all a little closer. It has been wonderful staying so connected and once we all go back to the hustle and bustle of our daily lives I do hope this is one element of social distancing we decide to retain.
Photo: Nina Orzechowski
XT: Our own Dr. Simon Marshall has been preaching “schedule/routine/reward” as a way to cope. Agree? Have you found any specific things that work for you?
BW: I agree with Mr. Marshall 100%, however, practicing what he preaches is proving to be a lot more difficult than originally expected! I have found this time of isolation to be a bit of a rollercoaster of emotions to be honest. One day I’m on top of the world making the most of every training session and really determined to make the most of this 'opportunity' to improve on the small details and come out of isolation a much better athlete. And then there are the bad days... which I hate to admit but likely outnumber the good ones at this point. These days include lying in bed until about 10am scanning social media aimlessly until the desperation of caffeine is too strong to ignore and I peel myself from my sheets to get lost in the process of making the perfect cup of coffee. I hate to admit it but sometimes I crawl back between the sheets to enjoy said coffee and then consider if a second cup is simply a want I should ignore or a need which I cannot resist. What I have come to realize is that we have to be kind and gentle with our own emotions through this unprecedented time we are living in. On the days that I feel positive I embrace it and try to soak in the fresh air, count my blessings and maximize whatever training I had planned for that day. On the bad days I have come to accept that I do not have to be the absolute best version of myself each and every day. Some days will slip by un-profound and forgettable but that’s alright, those days are equally important and giving yourself some time to breathe and truly accept the situation we find ourselves in is as important as knocking out the Strava KOM you have been gunning for. The most important thing is to realize is that we are all very different individuals and we will all have our own unique coping mechanism to see this thing out, embrace your journey and stop comparing yourself to everyone setting PRs in their basement.
XT: Does training set you at ease or is there no real relief there without the goal date/race/challenge?
BW: Until Covid-19 I don't think I truly realized how much of a goal orientated person/athlete I had become. When I started triathlon about 10/11 years ago all I wanted was to improve in training and hopefully those improvements would result in better finishing positions at races. I loved the process of getting better and seeing the results of my hard work materialize into faster times at a lower heart rate, that improvement in efficiency at high intensity was addictive and gave me a deep sense of satisfaction. But as my passion slowly became my job the focus slowly shifted and performing on the big day when it really mattered was the thing that really began to drive my motivation. I was determined to be the best and although I still find racing an incredibly daunting prospect, it’s what I live for and without that goal leaves me pretty deflated. I cannot wait to have a race back on the schedule!
XT: Who is capturing all those great images of you for your Instagram page, is that Nina?
BW: Photo credits go to my lovely fiance Nina Orzechowski. We have been threatening to buy some decent camera equipment for her for some time now and finally we cracked and invested in an awesome Sony mirrorless camera which Nina has taken to very well. I look forward to seeing her grow as a photographer and yes, it doesn't hurt the social media content that’s for sure!
Photo: Nina Orzechowski
XT: Binge watching anything on TV?
BW: We are currently watching a series on Amazon Prime called 'The Test'. It's a documentary which follows the Australian cricket team from their fall from grace after being caught on camera in South Africa tampering with the ball using a small piece of sandpaper to scuff the surface of the cricket ball causing it to swing. This was obviously highly illegal and controversial and three of their top players were banned for 12 months and their coach was fired. The documentary follows their efforts to rebuild a broken group of players. It’s really good and I would highly recommend it. Nina hates the sport of cricket, but she couldn't get enough of this series. We did also binge watch TigerKing which was our guilty pleasure about a month ago. It’s certainly the most TV I have watched for some time!
XT: If you could be any animal in the world, what animal would you be and why?
BW: Probably a bird... flying looks pretty awesome! Or a Tiger, hanging out with Joe Exotic all day seems pretty entertaining!
XT: When’s the last time you heard someone say Branora?
BW: Wow, there is a blast from the past. Probably Maui 2014... the last time Dan traveled as an athlete.
XT: Coronavirus theme song?
XT: Finish this sentence, I’m grateful for…
BW: Nina Orzechowski (Soon to be Weiss)
XT: Eight years ago this month you won the ITU u23 Cross Tri World Title at Oak Mountain State Park in Shelby County, Alabama. What do you remember about that day? Where do you rank Oak Mtn trails through all your worldwide travels?
BW: Special memories for sure! That was my first trip to America, and it was a lot to take on board for this kid from Africa. The deep south of the USA is certainly a very unique place, but everyone was wonderful and couldn't have been more welcoming! I really didn't know what a special XTERRA course we had there in Alabama at the time but after being on the circuit for many years now I cannot wait to get back and rip through Blood Rock. I would so love to go back and win on that course, 2020 perhaps!
XT: Let’s get back to racing. Seems everyone has a say in what’ll take to let a race go on … the city, the state, the nation, the governing bodies, the hospitals, volunteers, event directors, etc. What would it take for YOU to feel comfortable mixing it up?
BW: To be honest I think my personal feelings likely differ from most. If they announced a race next weekend I would probably be on a plane and taking my chances. It’s not because I don't have respect for this virus, I do, I just feel our community has a higher resilience than most so should an athlete want to compete and feel healthy enough to do so I would trust them. At some point we need to get back to normal life and I hope this happens sooner rather than later. Of course, we all have to take the necessary precautions but if we do it in a safe and responsible way I believe we can get back to racing soon.
XT: Could you wear a mask or a buff and cover up when passing. Is it possible?
BW: In a racing environment, absolutely no chance. Unfortunately, that is just not a reasonable way to try and stop the spread. In training I wear a mask while running in public areas but even at slow speeds it inhibits your ability to breath properly. At race pace this would be impossible and even if the rule was there, athletes would get lost in the heat of battle and forget to put the mask back on when passing. Wearing a mask before and after the race is possible, but not during.
XT: Are you going to be able to get in a pool or open water soon? How big of an issue is lack of swim training for everybody out there?
BW: Here in Colorado the pools will be reopening this weekend which I am thrilled about. It has been six weeks of no swimming now so I cannot wait to have some consistency in the water again. We will have very strict social distancing protocols and only one hour per athlete but that is better than nothing. Coming from no swimming background I lose my feel for the water very quickly. This is the longest I have been out the water since starting triathlon, so I am expecting a bit of a battle to get my swimming back to the level it was prior to COVID-19.
XT: Nov. 8, 2020 is XTERRA Worlds in Maui. Nov. 29 is IM 70.3 Worlds in Taupo, NZL. Dec. 6 is Challenge Daytona in Florida. Three big races in five weeks. Let’s assume they all go, how are you tackling that – physically/mentally?
BW: This is a situation I thrive on. Maximum focus, maximum preparation for a very specific goal and then a big holiday after! I am building my entire season around these five weeks and is the main reason I will be taking the next month almost entirely off besides some swimming and gym work in an effort to be fresh and ready for these late season goals. If those five weeks go my way I can save the 2020 season and that is incredibly motivating for me. Let’s hope all three go ahead as scheduled!
XT: What are your thoughts on qualifying procedures for all these events IF there are no qualifying races available?
BW: This is definitely the hot topic in triathlon at the moment. To be honest, I really don't have a good answer on this one and thankfully, it's not in my hands.
XT: In a nutshell, the difference between road triathlon and off-road triathlon?
BW: Off-road is way more fun and the pain just seems more tolerable when you are lost in nature!
XT: Maui. If you could pick any guy from any year go head-to-head with – both in your primes – who would it be?
BW: It would have to be Conrad Stoltz. He is the greatest of all-time in our sport and I actually think about it often. I would have loved to have raced him now in my prime. But that’s the beauty of sport, we all have our 5-minutes of fame and you have to maximize the opportunities you are given.