This Sunday at 9am Hawaii-time, the Scotland born, San Diego-based Lesley Paterson will take to the Pacific waters of Honokahua Bay as one of the favourites to steal Flora Duffy’s crown as the reigning Queen of all-things off road.
Yet Paterson’s journey to the 20th anniversary race of the Xterra World Championships in Maui, Hawaii, has been far from straightforward. Broken bones (x3) and Lymes disease have stood in the way of her race season, but she’s shown the ‘Braveheart brand’ by battling on; tackling Xterra Costa Rica with one arm and coming third in an 100km MTB race in Tahoe just three weeks after surgery.
Here the double Xterra world champ and reigning Xterra England winner talks with our friends at Xterra Maui about her love of the off road, swimming 1.5km with one arm and battling Duffy on Sunday…
ON… BEING BACK IN MAUI
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.
ON… LYME’S DISEASE AND BROKEN BONES
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 2015 with the lowest fitness I think I’ve ever had but the highest spirit too! I did a combination of Xterra races and US World Cup mountain bike races and almost the first one out of the gate, I managed to break my shoulder!
ON… ONE ARM RACING
This led to me competing in Xterra Costa Rica with one arm! 1,500m 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 one 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!
ON… BRUSHING TEETH WITH NO HANDS
My focus was then set on mountain biking and picking up valuable UCI points for Olympic qualification [in mountain biking]. 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 100km MTB race in Tahoe. Crazy, I know, but hey, that’s me!
ON… SINGLE DISCIPLINE MTB
I then did my first UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 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 (pictured). Joy of all joys!
ON… TACKLING FLORA
After a great block of training in San Diego, my sights have been laser focused on being in the best shape possible for Maui. Flora [Duffy] has been simply unbeatable this year so I hope to at least give her a run for her money. She’s an incredible athlete and has motivated me to train harder and stay committed this last few months.
ON… XTERRA AND SOUL
More importantly, though, I’ve realised 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.
You can follow the 20th Xterra World Championships online at www.xterramaui.com, on twitter @xterraoffroad and on Facebook.com/xterraplanet starting at 9am Hawaii time (7pm UK time). 220 Tri magazine has a nine page Xterra special in issue 320, out on 8th December.
Images: Light Trapper