For access to all of our training, gear, and race coverage, plus exclusive training plans, FinisherPix photos, event discounts, and GPS apps, sign up for Outside+.
2010 Xterra world champion Shonny Vanlandingham has won more races than anybody in the the National Off-Road Bicycle Association (NORBA) history, has consistently posted the fastest bike split at the Xterra World Championships and, according to Xterra, is generally the coolest cat on tour. Vandlandingham, who will turn 45 in May, chatted with Xterra ahead of her 2014 season. See the interview below.
Xterra: Safe to say 2013 was awesome? Lots of racing and adventure travel, titles in Brazil, the mountain championships, and the national championship for the fifth time in six years, and the knee is better—yes?
Shonny Vanlandingham: Yes! I had my ACL replaced with a male cadaver tendon, for which I am truly grateful. I believe my donor was a former NBA All Star. I have increased my vertical leap by five inches!
2012 and 2013 were a gradual progression to gain back my strength and speed. I was happy to have some highlights here and there in some races and pleased to be the national champion again. I’m hoping to be racing at 100% and more consistent in 2014. A big part of my continued rehab and training has been working on functional strength with Kyle at Triplex Training (Triplextraining.com) in Tempe, Ariz. Functional strength is important, especially for Xterra racing. The movements required are not all linear like in road triathlons.
Xterra: You posted the fastest bike split at Xterra Worlds for the fifth time. Where do you reel everyone in, on the climbs, descents, twisty stuff or combo of all?
Vanlandingham: Cutting the switchbacks has always been my best strategy… haha. During the old NORBA days of mountain biking we called that “the Canadian line.” That’s for you, Danelle (my fun Canadian, Luna teammate)!
It is proven that when Xterra courses have true mountain biking, the strong mountain bikers will be the most efficient. I enjoyed the new section of single track at Xterra Worlds. I’m hoping for more next year.
Xterra: You’ll be ripping it up at 45 years old this year, age is no barrier huh?
Vanlandingham: I wouldn’t quite say that age is NO barrier, but rather ANOTHER barrier, obstacle or challenge. I have learned to endure the challenges with gratitude. I certainly don’t recover as quickly as I used to so my training has changed over the years. Working with Cody at EPC (epcmultisport.com) keeps me focused on quality. One of the perks of aging is being an affiliate member of AARP. They have an informative magazine and some great travel discounts. 🙂
Xterra: Before you were an Xterra star, you were a mountain biker. What do you consider yourself now, a triathlete or a mountain biker or maybe an Xterra racer?
Vanlandingham: I played many childhood sports and progressed to collegiate basketball, USA team handball, pro mountain biker and currently pro Xterra racer. I guess I consider myself a chameleon of sport. At my age people ask when I will retire. I say, what’s next? Passion trumps logic!
Big thanks to Clif Bar and the Luna Pro team whose partnership has supported my professional mountain bike and Xterra career for the last 12 years and counting!
Xterra: Are you still roasting coffee on the Big Island?
Vanlandingham: I just closed on the sale of my house and Kona coffee farm this week. So, I am no longer growing or roasting coffee on the Big Island. Now I just drink good coffee on the mainland.
Xterra: Is your 2014 racing schedule set, if yes, what do you have on it?
Vanlandingham: I will be racing all five of the America Tour Championship races (Vegas, Bama, Richmond, Beaver Creek, Ogden), Xterra Costa Rica, Xterra Asia-Pacific, Xterra Mexico and Xterra Worlds. I will also be racing some great regional events in my area: Xterra Four Corners, Xterra Deuces Wild, Xterra Pagosa Springs. The last race on my 2014 calendar is TransTahiti, an off road tri in beautiful French Polynesia. It’s the weekend after Xterra Worlds so an easy flight from Hawaii and a wonderful way to continue the vacation at the end of the season.
Xterra: What are your goals for 2014?
Vanlandingham: I have recently been hanging out at a trampoline park. By the end of 2014 my goal is to beat my PR of consecutive back flips. This leads to my ultimate life goal, doing one back flip at the age of 80.
Or did you mean racing goals…?
Xterra: You’re part of the growing pro field headed to the Xterra Asia-Pacific Champs, why did you choose that one and have you ever raced in Oz before?
Vanlandingham: I have never raced in Oz before, but I did recently get an offer from a major shoe sponsor to race in ruby slippers. I’m a bit concerned about rolling an ankle, and I’ve never been much of a heel girl, but I am a girl, and what kind of girl says no to a free pair of shoes?
Seriously though, I am excited about racing the Asia-Pacific Champs. It looks to be a culmination of adventure, tough competition and a good time! I look forward to sharing it with many Xterra friends.
Xterra: What’s your favorite Xterra venue?
Vanlandingham: Domestically: Richmond. Especially when the swim gets cancelled! Internationally: Brazil and Mexico!
Xterra: What one piece of advice do you have for mountain bikers that have yet to give Xterra a try?
Vanlandingham: Pick a course that has a fun and more challenging mountain bike portion (Bama, Richmond, Brazil), I know what you mountain bikers like! And having fun on the bike makes you forget that you nearly drown in the swim. The swim is really nothing to be afraid of because you can always do the back stroke. I was spotted during an Xterra championship race once doing the back stroke. Oopsie.