We all want to be the best at what we do, but being the best in the world doesn’t happen overnight. So, here is some advice from Josiah Middaugh, the 2015 XTERRA World Champion, on staying focused, growing, and being a professional through the good and bad.
From #232 to #1 took 15 years
On October 27, 2002 the world’s best professional and amateur off-road triathletes stood on a beach in Maui waiting for the cannon to explode for the start of the XTERRA World Championship. As the results poured in that day, there was one particular amateur who finished in the top 100, but the word PRO was not listed next to his name. He was an age group competitor. That day he didn’t have a single digit bib number and wasn’t a part of any press conferences. His bib that day was #232. You will want to remember #232.
Every year, in Maui, Hawaii, these rare, almost super, humans descend upon the island to give their best shot to become THE XTERRA World Champion. This event is the same to off-road triathletes as the superbowl is to an NFL football player. For a professional off-road triathlete, there is no podium that is higher than the XTERRA World Championships. To be a professional endurance athlete, it’s a prerequisite to be able to endure pain, a lot of pain. At the XTERRA World Championship they will swim against the monster Maui waves, then maneuver over 30 kilometers of trails with more than 2,000 feet of climbing over rocks, boulders, rivers, logs, ruts, and 180 degree downhill turns on a bicycle. The final stretch of the race requires them to navigate 10 kilometers of off-road trails, all with the goal of simply trying to finish. Over 6 million people every year turn their TV’s on to watch who is going to cross that finish line first.
Fast forward to November 1, 2015, that guy who wore #232 in his first world championship back in 2002 came back. He came back over and over again to finish what he started, to win. (If you have the ability to turn on Thunderstruck by AC/DC, now would be the time). He started the 2002 and the 2015 World Championship the same, with his feet in the sand. Except this time his bib number was #2. The #2 signifies how he finished in 2014, which was second place. Everyone is met face to face with the ocean; those lucky enough to get the opportunity to be returning continue to get older, but the waves always stay the same size. The cannon sounded and #232 was in the water. He had a strong swim. On the mountain bike, he wiped out, not just once, but twice. He had to make up ground on the run; and he did just that. In 2015, he crossed the finish line with no one in front of him. At the end of the day, the announcer stated, “The winner of the 2015 XTERRA World Championship is Josiah Middaugh!” The celebration ensued and it had been 5,475 days since he wore #232. Click here and experience highlights from that unforgettable day.
Josiah how have you seen yourself grow mentally over the years? Any rituals you can share to help keep a rookie motivated this year or the veteran that is contemplating giving it up?
“Mental toughness needs to be nurtured just like other aspects of training. It used to be very difficult for me to stay focused for an entire 10k run. Mental toughness is forged in your training and sharpened by racing. Don’t be afraid to fail and every hard workout and race is a chance to learn something about your physical and mental limits. I like the quote “Failure is not the opposite of success, it is a vital component.”
Josiah, going into 2015, with so many close calls in years past, what was going through your mind?:
“I had been very close to the top step several times before, so I had a good idea of what it would take for me to execute on race day. Instead of thinking “I’d like to win this race one of these years,” I changed my mentality to “I am going to win this race this year.” I had a good progression all season and focused on all the little things in the months/weeks leading up to the World Championship. I knew I had very good form going into the race and I was the fittest version of myself. That said, the level of competition rises every year and sometimes your best isn’t enough. Any championship race is just a measure of who is the best on that one day. On that one day, it was me.”
DON’T SETTLE, LEARN FROM THE BEST IN THE WORLD
There is a great book I recently read called, The Ultra Mindset: An Endurance Champion’s 8 Core Principles for Success in Business, Sports, and Life by Travis Macy. His stories are a fun roller coaster ride and will keep you motivated while you’re training! He has completed over 120 ultra endurance events in 17 countries. He also set a record for Leadman, which is an endurance event consisting of a trail running marathon, 50-mile mountain bike race, Leadville 100 mile Mountain Bike Race, 10k road run, and Leadville 100 mile Run, all above 10,200 feet in the Rocky Mountains. Travis is obviously a great athlete, but in the middle of Macy’s book, #232 moved from Michigan to Colorado. When Josiah moved, he began winning every snowshoe race in the United States and went on to become a national champion multiple times over. Travis shared in his book how he couldn’t find a way to beat Josiah. So rather than competing against a world champion he decided he would hire him. He called Josiah to become his coach and learn from the best in the world. In 2018, do not try to reinvent the wheel. Hire a coach. But hire the best you can find, and who will take you to the next level because they know the pitfalls and their experience will save you years of frustration.
Josiah as a world champion and coach, what is the biggest pitfall you see amongst amateurs?
“We live in a world of instant gratification, but to be a great endurance athlete, it doesn’t work like that. It’s about consistency over time. Long term success comes with the systematic attainment of short term goals. Dream big, but take small bites.”
Josiah is it possible to be coached by you? If so, how can they contact you and what do you offer?
“Absolutely. The best way to contact me is through my website www.middaughcoaching.com. We offer two different levels of coaching and both are individualized to your training history, current fitness level, life schedule, and goals.”
IT’S NOT ALL ABOUT YOU
I was blessed enough to be able to participate as an amateur in the 2017 XTERRA World Championships in Maui. Josiah was 10 feet in front of me with his Synergy fast suit on. He shook the hands of his fellow professionals and the cannon sounded. When all the dust settled he took home a top 10 finish.
I was a fan before the race, but he earned my respect that day. Not on the beach, but at the Champions dinner that night and he didn’t even know he had just earned a lifelong fan. My wife and I attended the Champions dinner. For us, it was a once in a lifetime event. We sat amongst the best in the world. We noticed that after the pro awards were given out, many pros quietly left the dinner out the side door. In fact, a few pros that had sub-optimal performances that day, decided not to show. Admittedly, if racing were my job, I might have left early as well. No hard feelings.
To make it even more understandable to leave early, the dinner went on for about 2.5 hours as they handed out awards to all the age group champs from earlier that day. Awards all the way up to age 75. I share this with you to help you understand. Before we point fingers, we must realize that you and I might have left early as well, had we been in their shoes and this was just part of our daily jobs.
The dinner concluded. Everyone started walking out. My wife and I were in the lobby of the Ritz and here Josiah came with his wife. Josiah Middagh, the World Champion, sat through all the awards. He probably clapped for everyone of them. He probably remembered when he was #232. I couldn’t help but tell my wife how I was impacted by the fact that he stuck around to show his support. A class act and a great reminder for me to always be grateful. He is a professional athlete and had just finished his hardest day of work earlier that day and left with a smile on his face.
Josiah how do you seem to keep such a great attitude? What drives you to keep a positive attitude?
“I feel a lot of gratitude for what I have been able to accomplish in my career. I try not to take any of it for granted. It has been a long journey for me, but I don’t feel like anything is owed to me or I am more deserving than anyone else. I don’t define my self worth by any one race. I always say you learn the most from the races you don’t win. It is easy to have a good attitude when you win, but it’s your attitude when you come up short that says more about your character. My family has been a great grounding force for me throughout my professional career and help me keep things in perspective.”
What is one piece of professional advice you would give to us that we could all use this year?
“Stay engaged in the process. If you can stay present and engaged, then your goals will just be a product of your hard work and dedication. People like to talk about lofty goals and what they are going to do. They write plans and postpone them or don’t follow through. Wake up every day with a plan and make it happen!“
If you are tired of waking up early to work out and train, just remember Josiah Middagh when he was bib number #232 back in 2001; it wasn’t until he was bib #2 in 2015 when he won the World Championship. That means it took Josiah Middaugh 5,475 days to bring the XTERRA World Championship title back to the United States. So if you want to give up your New Year’s resolution on day 14,15, or 16 you might want to post a picture of Josiah on your mirror to remind you about resolutions.
LEARN FROM THE BEST IN THE WORLD
You can try and figure things out yourself, but behind every great champion is a great coach. They will take you to the next level and help you bypass the pitfalls. Search out a coach today and hold them to a high standard and expect them to deliver results for you!
REMEMBER, IT’S NOT ALWAYS ABOUT YOU
To be a professional you need to act like a professional–when you close a big deal or lose one. The one thing you can control is your attitude. And your attitude affects everyone around you; so do them a favor and have a positive one.
We can all learn from the best in the world and make changes today to better ourselves and those around us. so that when our 5,475th day comes, we won’t be surprised; we will be prepared because we have been preparing everyday.