LAHAINA - Although she has won the last two Xterra World Championship Off-Road Tri-athlons, Lesley Paterson is about a lot more.
Paterson will try to defend her crown Sunday, beginning at 9 a.m. at The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua, and carries a seven-race winning streak in the Xterra series into the 1-mile swim, 18.6-mile mountain bicycle leg and 6.2-mile trail run.
"I think I feel less pressure this year than I did last year," she said Wednesday after a swim workout at the Lahaina Aquatic Center. "Last year, I had a lot to prove to myself: 'Can you do it again? You really want to be that kind of athlete.' So when I went at that last year, it was a big, huge boost to my confidence.
Lesley Paterson, shown celebrating last year after becoming the third woman to win the Xterra World Championship Off-Road Tri-athlon more than once, has won the last seven events in the series she has entered.
The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo
"Every year is different, you go through your trials and tribulations, and it is always special if you win. Always special."
The bike course is one loop with 3,100 feet of climbing on the lower slopes of the West Maui Mountains - several single- and double-track sections have replaced dirt jeep roads.
"It's super hard, it's such a challenging course," Paterson said. "I love it on this side of the island, lots of steep climbs, sandy, twisty turning. They have made it more challenging this year than ever before, which I think is good for me.
Multiple Xterra World Championships
3-Melanie McQuaid (2003, 2005-06); Julie Dibens (2007-09)
2-Lesley Paterson (2011-12)
4-Conrad Stoltz (2001-02, 2007, 2010).
3-Eneko Llanos (2003-04, 2009)
2-Ned Overend (1998-99)
"It's just a doggone hard course - the harder the better as far as I'm concerned."
Paterson, who turned 33 on Oct. 12, has starred in more than 20 independent films, writes screenplays and is working on producing a movie with the rights her production company owns to "All Quiet on the Western Front."
She may give mountain biking in the Olympics a shot for her native Scotland in 2016 and wants to expand into broadcasting and more movie work, while continuing philanthropic efforts that included a triathlon camp for underprivileged youth this summer where seven youngsters received mountain bikes.
All of that happens as she trains six to eight hours a day.
This week her focus is on her race and coaching one of the top amateurs in the field, 18-year-old Mauricio Mendez of Mexico City.
"By the way, he is one to watch out for in the amateur competition this year," she said. "Mauricio is an up-and-coming star. He is going to win this as a professional here in about two or three years."
Paterson has been coaching for five years - Mendez is among 20 athletes, from ages 17 to 60, whom she guides.
"I started with Xterra last year seriously, here in the worlds, the world champs," Mendez said. "When I see all her work and her performance, see her be the world champion, it is someone that I admire. So, after some races I just contact her. I think she is amazing, she is very good, always giving you everything she has."
Paterson says that coaching helps her, as well.
"Let me tell you, you learn so much about yourself when you have to tell other people the right way of doing something," she said. "I'm really introspective about my mind and my body and I take that and use it with my athletes."
Paterson can become the third woman to win the Xterra three times.
"I have a lot of confidence coming into this race, I'm fit, I'm healthy and I'm very grateful for that," she said. "I feel the more success I have gotten, the more committed I have become, so every little detail is important. I have been training very hard all year, to be honest, but especially for the last three months.
"My mantra is every step counts, every stroke counts, every pedal revolution counts and so I'm just very committed, from diet to massage to body work to every session I'm in."
Her husband, Dr. Simon Marshall, is a sports and health psychologist. He will compete in a trail run on Saturday.
"He knows the right things to say to me," she said. "We have been married now for 11 years. He's my soul mate and can just really calm me down and say the right things at the right time. He says the wrong thing every once in a while, but so does every husband."
* Robert Collias is at email@example.com