The XTERRA World Championship race is Sunday, October 23, 2011. Everyone is in Maui getting checking out the new course and getting ready for the big show including Lance Armstrong. The folks at XTERRA caught up with Armstrong on Wednesday in advance of Sunday's XTERRA World Championship at the Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua in Maui for a brief interview:
XTERRA: After your first XTERRA in Utah, what has that given you in terms of experience?
LA: It definitely gave me a little bit of experience, not compared to a lot of the other guys who are still here, but that was a complete shock to me on many levels, whether it's the intensity of the race, the transitions, definitely the competition. But, I would much rather have one under me than none.
XTERRA: So it was definitely helpful?
LA: It was definitely helpful, although I think it seems to me a lot of these races are different from race to race, whether it's the course on the mountain bike, whether it's the fact that it's at altitude, some of them are wetsuit swims and some aren't. It seems to me they vary a lot, but still, just the idea of transitioning from sport to sport to sport is something you can only get from racing.
XTERRA: What's the swim here going to be like for you?
LA: Well, I grew up in Texas, so there's not many waves in central Texas or north Texas where I grew up. It also can vary from day to day. Some days are bigger than others. Also I think it varies from where you start. You almost have to be lucky, depending upon how you get in the water. If you have a misstep and fall down, people come over the top of you, you're losing 10 seconds right there trying to make it back up.
XTERRA: You see any turtles out there?
LA: I didn't today. I was here about six weeks ago for something else and swam out there and right when I got in, I saw a big turtle. But not today. I think there are too many triathletes.
XTERRA: What are you expecting on the bike course here?
LA: Obviously it will be very different from what we experienced in Ogden. That there you have your typical Rocky Mountain single track mountain bike circuit with a lot of climbing. I suspect this will be a lot more undulating. A lot of varying conditions ... whether it's wet or whether its dry or whether it's some other obstacle that's been thrown out there.
XTERRA: What is your bike selection going to be?
LA: I have both here. I brought the same setup I had in Ogden, the superfly 29er hardtail. But I also brought the top fuel dual suspension which is a 26 inch. I need to decide whether or not I need dual suspension.
XTERRA: What do you expect on the trail run?
LA: A lot of up and down. When I was here a while ago and swam the course, I ran the course as well. Very technical. A lot of fast downhills with off camber type turns at the bottom which you have to be safe on. You have to be careful. You have to think about those things. You can't make a mistake. Sounds funny, but you can do some damage just on these runs here just with a run crash. You have to factor in that it's technical and that you're tired. You're two hours into the race and it's easy to make mistakes. Your legs don't lift as high as they did if you were just out for a regular run, so it's easy to hit things, you can trip and fall. You have to keep your eyes open.
XTERRA: What are your expectations for this race?
LA: I didn't have any expectations, really, in Utah. I didn't know exactly what I was getting into. I certainly hadn't trained for it. I had been too busy. And at the end of the day, I didn't really enjoy it because I suffered so much. I thought this is terrible, why do I want to go through this? I could be doing other things.
But I took a few days and thought about it, went home and started training again and said maybe I should at least focus on this. Do some interval work, at least adapt the training to what the race is like. I started getting into that. I didn't travel for literally a month except for one trip.
I think my condition and form will be completely different from what it was in Utah, but then again, Conrad (Stoltz) can say that and Dan Hugo and Josiah Middaugh can say that ... all these people understand that this is the world championship and they had a month to prepare and a month to raise their game. Nobody peaked in Ogden; everybody is peaking here. I'll be happy going out there and giving my best and maybe that's top 5, maybe that's top 10, could be better, I don't know. That's why we have the race.
XTERRA: Would you be surprised if you won it?
LA: I'd be really happy if I won. So I guess that means I'd be surprised. Maybe shocked is too big of a word, too strong of a word. But yeah, I'd be very pleasantly surprised.
XTERRA: If you were watching this race from the sidelines and had to pick a winner, who would it be?
LA: We'll see on Sunday morning what those swells are like. If that sea is rocking and this is a really extreme swim, then you take guys completely out of the race. Done. This is just me speaking as somebody that doesn't have any experience and really speaks from no position of knowledge, but if that sea is rocking, I think it's over for some guys. I'm not a gambler, but I wouldn't bet against Conrad Stoltz. He understands this game and he 's won this race four times and this is his job. This is what he wants to do and this is his passion, so I'd put my money on him.
XTERRA: What do you think of XTERRA?
LA: Utah is really all I have to go off of and reading stories online and reading press clippings, watching XTERRA TV videos. The vibe here is a little more laid back, a little more relaxed, which is good for me. It's not like I'm jumping into full-distance Ironman in Kona where everybody wants to kill the guy next to them. It's good that this is a little more laid back.
XTERRA: Is it fun for you?
LA: It wasn't fun in Utah, only because I suffered so much. Most people would have that reaction. But if I didn't enjoy the racing and training I wouldn't be here. Nobody is paying me to come here. Nobody is saying you have to go there. This is something that I choose to do. This is a choice I made. I want to be a fit 40 year old guy who trains on his own time.
Don't forget to visit www.XTERRAMaui.com for more information and race coverage on Sunday.