A chat with Lesley Paterson, Xterra World Champion
GT: Les, you tore up the run at the Xterra World Champs last weekend (running the 10K brutal trail run 43.54 almost 10 min faster than Lance Armstrong), but before we get to that, tell us how you felt coming into the race in Hawaii. How was your year?
I felt actually a bit demotivated to be honest. I felt a bit “over it”. It had been a long season. And I felt a bit worn out. I’d been having some issueS with my health; the Lyme disease led me to never really know how I was going to feel, so I spent a good deal of time gauging diet, and altering things to keep my body feeling good.
Just six weeks before the race I went gluten and soy free – which got me feeling better, but I was still having ups and downs. It was a challenging and depressing time.
However, when I got out to Hawaii I ended up staying with a group of British friends. They lightened the mood and I just started to have a good time.
There was no pressure about racing, it was just fun. One night we even all ended up watching Pretty Woman together! Let’s just say the Brits don’t take each other too seriously
I have to say though, the heat out in Hawaii is a bugger. I think the Lyme disease seemed to act up more in the hot and humid conditions of Maui. But after a few days of acclimatizing and tapering, things settled down and I started to feel much better.
GT: Race day arrives and you’re cool as a cucumber no doubt. (insert sarcastic chuckle here) Did you have a mental framework that was any differently this year than last?
This year, there was more of a media presence with the “Lance” effect. More people knew I was doing it. My visibility was higher, and I felt like there was more on the table.
However, I’ve really tried to learn to let all of that go a bit more and after last year succumbing to the pressure, I wasn’t going to let it get to me. Off-road races are fun for me, too. It’s easier to get into the race experience because there is so much variety to it. Still though, Simon (my husband), drove us to the start on race morning and made an interesting comment that it was like “driving soldiers to the front line”.
GT: We know and love your hubby Simon. His updates throughout the race kept us on the edge of our seats. (not to mention his witty humor making us piddle in our seats) Rumor has it you forgot a few things in your bags that he brought over to Maui for you later. How did he save the day?
Yea, no doubt. For sure! He’s my soul partner. He’s there whether it’s a good or bad day. There’s nobody who wants me to have a good day more than him. To have that unconditional support is amazing. He’s a sport psychologist by trade, so he gets it. He knows when to leave me alone. I never ever have to worry about how I am around him. He just knows and understands.
It’s tough being the partner of a pro athlete. He goes on an emotional rollercoaster during the race as he doesn’t know how I’m feeling or what’s really happening. It was the best feeling ever when I ran in the lead and he saw me out in front. He went crazy! That’s a memory I will never forget.
GT: So let’s talk race-gossip. You come out of T1 (transition to bike from swim) and you’re less than a mile into the bike. What happens?
I’m feeling good out of T1. But, I think I hit the edge of a tree stump on the first part of the trail. Suddently, I have that awful unstable feeling under me – then I look down and see the flat – the tire is almost off the wheel! I fumble around with the whole CO2 thing and eventually get the tire inflated a little bit. I’m having 300 conversations in my head about what’s happening. I go down a big descent and see the tire is still about to come off. So I grab my second CO2 cannister, get it on the tire, and then I hear a pop (a good thing!). Then, I’m off again! Now I’m about 2 min down from the top women. The funny thing is, after dealing with that adversity, my nerves vanished and I just decided to push it and have fun.
How do you come back from that and focus?
I just felt relieved at that point. Now I was just going to enjoy it, push as hard as I could and let the chips fall where they may.
So you’re not just a World Champion athlete, but a film producer, screenwriter and actress. Tell us a bit about your film career?
I used to be a dancer when I was younger. Then I studied Drama as an undergraduate in Scotland and Theatre as a graduate student in San Diego. It really has been a way for me to stoke my creative passions. I started acting in films in LA, and then formed my own film production company. With my renewed passion for life I felt the urge to get back in to triathlon. But this time under different circumstances. Now I laugh about ‘finding’ it again in the mecca of triathlon – San Diego.
This time I stuck with what I love best – off-road stuff. When I looked up Xterra, I almost fell off my chair with excitement. I just knew it was for me.
Having my career in film, I had a completely different perspective on things. It gave me something else to be passionate about, to think about. In only being a pro, you seem to have to push aside your emotions and get in the zone. Having the art in my life, allows me to refill the emotion in my life
GT: And, the coaching!
You throw in coaching – and that’s just another kettle of fish! Coaching is the hardest and yet one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done in triathlon. You feel like you just give, give, give and the life is drained out of you. I don’t do anything by halves, so when I’m involved in people’s lives, I’m all in. But when you see people go on these amazing journeys and you’ve helped them excel, there’s nothing quite like it. Suddently you realize why you got in to the sport in the first place!