Two-time Xterra world champion and defending USA and U.S. Pro Series champ Lesley Paterson leads the list of women’s contenders at this Saturday’s Xterra National Championships in Ogden, Utah. Since finishing third in Richmond last year the “Scottish Rocket” has won every Xterra she’s entered, including the U.S. and World Championships last year, and the Philippines, West, Southeast and East Championship titles this year.
Triathlete.com: Bring us up to speed on how you’re feeling going into Nationals this weekend.
Lesley Paterson: I’ve had a very good block of training over the past two months so I’m feeling really confident. I’ve had a great first half of the season, had a bit of an injury at the end of June and managed to get over that and have some good training. I recently did a mountain bike race in Lake Tahoe [Fat Tire Festival] and managed to place second overall—I definitely feel like I’m headed in the right direction as far as being in peak shape. But I never get overly confident.
Triathlete.com: Because you’re undefeated in Xterra this season, do you feel pressure to keep winning? Is there both a good and bad side to that?
Paterson: There’s a good side in that you’ve got the experience and confidence that you can make it happen. The bad side is that if I ever get beat there is always this shock factor. As long as I don’t let that shit get in my head and I just focus on my own race then I tend to be fine. But, yeah, it’s a double-edged sword for sure.
Triathlete.com: It sounds like you’re all-in with off-road racing. Is that your continued direction moving into 2014?
Paterson: Next year I’m going to have a mountain bike focus because my goal is to compete in the Commonwealth Games for Scotland. That’s a huge focus next year, and I’m absolutely loving the mountain biking. People always say, ‘Why don’t you ever do 70.3, look at your run in Oceanside!’ but I have to follow where my passion is, because that’s where I get my results. Every week I get, ‘When are you going to Kona?’ and I have no desire to do Kona.
Triathlete.com: Does the Commonwealth Games goal mean this could be your last season racing Xterra?
Paterson: I think for the first half of next year the Commonwealth Games will be my main focus and I’ll probably fit in some Xterras because I love them and I love the sport. The Commonwealth Games are at the end of August so I can do that and then still compete in Maui hopefully. I just won’t be doing the full season.
Triathlete.com: Getting back to the race this weekend and the Utah course in particular, what do you like most about it and what do you like least?
Paterson: I actually now enjoy more technical terrain and descending, and when I was pre-riding the course I was thinking, ‘wow, there’s a lot of climbing and not really a lot of descending,’ and was kind of bummed about that because my technical skills have really improved. The other bummer side is that it’s at altitude and that can be pretty tough, especially with the swim, because I don’t live at altitude. The upside of racing here is that it’s absolutely gorgeous—you have mountains and fall colors coming. And the climbing does suit me because my power-to-weight ratio is really good.
Triathlete.com: Remind me of your racing alter-ego—it’s Paddy McGuinty, right? Will he be making an appearance on Saturday?
Paterson: Oh, yeah, he’ll be coming out. Imagine a Celtic warrior, a fighter—that’s what I visualize. I imagine him in a boxing ring quite often.
Triathlete.com: Does he have blue face paint?
Paterson: Damn right! And a sword in his back pocket!
Triathlete.com: So, on Saturday when you line up to start the race, do you have it in your mind that you will you being going all-out from start to finish, or do you have a strategy for pacing yourself on a course that’s so challenging?
Paterson: To be honest, with the standard of athletes that are coming to race, you’ve gotta go all-out. I don’t have that fear of blowing up anymore—I sort of know what effort to put out—and I’ve just gotta go for it from the start. I’m feeling pretty good, but there are some major contenders that will be there so I’ve got to put it all on the line.
Triathlete.com: You are one of very few women in the mix with the men and among the top overall finishers. That’s gotta be a nice confidence boost when you’re picking off the male competition.
Paterson: For sure. If you’re ever in that position, it’s kind of poetic. You’re really on top of your game, and I feel like I’m empowering women, you know?
Triathlete.com: I know you also have a lot of projects outside of racing and coaching—you just completed a camp for under-privileged kids, for one. What else are you working on?
Paterson: We filmed a documentary around it, so now we’re working on that. Hopefully we’re going to be doing some TV stuff in the future for a new fitness network that’s being developed. I’m still determined to get my own show. We actually had Gordon Ramsay—I know he’s on the front cover of your magazine [November, 2013]—talk to the campers during the week, which was awesome. We’re going up to his show to meet him. I would love to do a show with him—instead of ‘Hell’s Kitchen’ it would be ‘Hell’s Gym’ and we go into people’s houses and he rips apart their nutrition and diet and I rip apart their exercise. Imagine us, we’re both Scottish and he curses almost as much as me. It would be golden.