Racing is about so much more than just physical exertion. Competition reveals our true selves and often shows us we are capable of more than we would have imagined. Often this discovery resides more in the mental aspect of competition than the physical. Yet, they are deeply entwined.
This week Jordan Winar explores XTERRA World Champ, Lesley Paterson’s approach to the psychological side of racing.
The XTERRA World Championships 2011
Lesley could feel her heart pulsating and her lungs forcefully inhaling while stomping on her pedals and throwing her weight from left to right just as she had planned. Just two miles into the bike leg she peaked back and with her passionate Scottish accent, in fury, she screamed “Oh fuck it!” Lesley didn’t apologize for those words then or now, all five feet of her. On one side she’s approachable, loving, and funny but when that cannon fires she turns into someone or something else, like a starving lion pursuing its prey in order to survive. As you can imagine in most races she leaves a trail of carnage on her way to victory and after she crosses the finish line before anyone else, she transforms back into that approachable, loving and funny person again that we all love and know as Lesley Paterson, two time XTERRA World Champion.
Only this year was different, there she was, at the XTERRA World Championships in perfect position out of the water. She had executed her transition with surgical precision and now just two miles into the bike her front tire was punctured and “oh fuck it” came roaring out of her verbally corrupt mouth, what a nightmare! She was done for, dead, put a fork in her. All the preparation, training, money was out the window. However, it was something out of her control and we can’t blame her for the flat. I suppose she could just easily chalk this up to experience and use it as a tool to teach her athletes at Brave Heart Coaching. She could tell them that races don’t always go as planned even with the perfect conditions and mental techniques leading up to a big race, right?
It’s her experiences like the one described above that led her and her husband to write a book called The Brave Athlete. You probably know Lesley because she is a two time XTERRA World Champion and has also won the ITU Cross World Championships along with a laundry list of other gold finishes. Now as a coach, Lesley doesn’t just train your body to reach new peaks, her husband, Dr. Simon Marshall, utilizes the perfect training algorithm for your brain giving your mind and body the complete package.
I read The Brave Athlete and it delivered on everything regarding the mental side of sport that you can apply to everyday life, training, and racing. It was the huge bonus I was searching for written by an XTERRA professional. Dr. Simon Marshall takes the daunting task of describing our complex brains into three simplified categories: the chimp, the professor, and the computer. They describe the brain in such a way that you can immediately see how each component is impacting your life, your training, and your racing and then take immediate action to adjust and become better. Whether you are a rookie or a seasoned pro you should buy a copy or listen through audible if you are: new to racing, someone who loves racing, you want a breakthrough this season, and of course, the rest of the story.
NEW TO RACING
If you are new to racing, The Brave Athlete will give you tips and tricks to help you train smarter. Lesley and Simon give practical tips such as tapping your fingers or counting at different cadences to take your mind off the pain and suffering. They also give you the best preparation with processes to remain calm and not forget anything on race day. It’s loaded with tips and tricks that you won’t want to miss and will put you at ease when the big day finally arrives.
Lesley, why should someone try out an XTERRA race?
XTERRA is kind of like family. Other forms of triathlon are elitists, and they can judge, and they have all the gear but they don’t offer the support of each other like XTERRA. In XTERRA, you aren’t racing against the clock but the terrain. XTERRA trail run series are a great place to start and will show you what being off-road is all about.
SOMEONE WHO LOVES RACING
If you love to race, you probably take your sport seriously. You are a dedicated athlete and some people might think you may be addicted to training but how do you know if you are? Simon and Lesley help you decipher if you might have a problem. They also walk through image issues which is very important, and more common than you know, for men, women, boys, and girls alike. For both of these scenarios they walk you through how to communicate with your friends and family to help them on their journey if you think they might also have image issues. In addition, they will help you train your brain so that you do not sabotage all of your hard work on race day. They can help you confront anxiety, jitters and give you a process to deal with it because they have been there in that moment and have overcome.
Lesley, what is your favorite memory of sport(s) (not including a World Championship)?
A memory from Rugby. I played along side the grandson of legendary rugby commentator Bill McLaren and we would hear him on the tele all the time. We won a particular tournament and Bill gave us our gold medals and I slept with it under my pillow for 6 months. I was only about 9 but it meant so much coming from him.
YOU WANT A BREAKOUT SEASON
The Brave Athlete book was written to create a more holistic athlete. They want you to succeed and have your best season yet mentally and physically. They walk you through what racing is really all about and the psychology of racing and how you can use racing in your life to become a better person. This book will make you a better person and racer. Lesley had to break out and she walks through that incredible process and the tools that Simon gave her to stay on top.
Lesley, your coaching marries the physical and mental side together. How does that work since you are “LITERALLY” married to the scientist?
A lot of our dinner conversations are about our athletes. How we can make them better when we put my experience and his science together. I can understand the fears and the setbacks of an athlete because I am one. I have also coached over 300 athletes and have a rolodex of past doctors, coaches, physiologists that I can connect with that I know or have used in the past. Simon comes to the table with science and can know what is going on with the athlete and prescribe ways to overcome obstacles. We play off each other by giving our athletes workouts that are both physically and mentally focused and they won’t even know it! No one person or coach has all the answers so we are continually learning from each other and our athletes.
THE REST OF THE STORY
Getting a flat wasn’t ideal especially at the XTERRA World Championships but here is THE REST OF THE STORY. Lesley hopped off her bike and watched the leader pull ahead and others pass her as she grabbed her CO2 cartridge and tried to repair her tire. She got back on the bike and with every ounce of strength she pedaled harder than ever before but just one mile later it went flat again. She hopped off and with her last CO2 cartridge she tried to fill it up. Determined not to give up, she pressed on and fought through the bike and flew into transition six and a half minutes behind the leader. She would need somehow find a way to run a full minute faster per mile to even have a chance but she wasn’t giving up. She started out on the run and Simon from the side of transition yelled on the top of his lungs. She started passing other PROS and with 1.5 miles left on the course she saw the leader and locked in like a fighter jet and made up her mind that she was going to make the pass. She dug deep and caught the leader. There was no one left behind her, she came across the finish line and had just run the fastest paced run in a race of her career. She was the 2011 XTERRA World Champion!
Lesley knows how to win because she has won in some of the most unique ways. Simon gave her the tools so that her chimp brain would emerge, her professor brain help her execute, and he made sure there were no viruses on her computer brain. Even after those two flats she could go back to coach at Brave Heart and teach her athletes that races don’t always go as planned but if you’re prepared for all surprises good and bad, you can emerge as a Champion! So get prepared for this season for the good and bad surprises and pick up or listen to The Brave Athlete today or take the smog test on their website and get a phone call directly from Lesley to review your results together (try it here).
About Jordan Winar-
Jordan competed in his first ever triathlon April 22, 2017. Prior to this, he had never competed in any triathlons, bike races, or outdoor swimming competitions. Jordan competed in 12 XTERRA events over the following 5 months, eventually qualifying for the XTERRA World Championships in Maui, Hawaii.
Jordan attributes his success to his newly found Vegan lifestyle and The Gazelle Mindset.