Former pro mountain biker Shonny Vanlandingham is now focused on XTERRA racing and will be one of the women to watch at the XTERRA World Championships in Maui this year. Slowtwitch talked to this 40-year old energizer bunny.
Slowtwitch: Shonny, 2 big XTERRA CUP wins this season in the USA and that must feel pretty good.
Shonny: Yes it does. Being in only my second year of full time XTERRA racing, I am really pleased with my progression. Along with the wins I have had a few second places in the XTERRA Cup races that were very close so that’s encouraging for my future in the sport.
ST: What will it take for you to take the overall XTERRA Cup series title?
Shonny: I will need to win the last race, the XTERRA National Championship, in Ogden, UT. And the current series leader, Melanie McQuaid, would have to be well out of the top 5. Melanie has had an impressive year and has raced consistently, so I’m guessing the likelihood of that happening is slim.
ST: Well, I should have said 3 XTERRA wins because you just came away with a win at XTERRA Mexico. Talk about that race
Shonny: Well, the swim wasn't my best performance. The start was very aggressive and I got kick and pummeled in the first 50 meters. I spent the next minute composing myself, catching my breath and adjusting my goggles. But this made for an exciting chase during the bike. I was able to catch the leader just before T2 and managed to hold her off in the run by a mere 26 seconds. The race venue in Valle de Bravo was stunningly beautiful. I recommend the race to anyone wanting an adventure.
ST: Does that mean that you have walked away from mountain bike racing and you are now a fulltime XTERRA triathlete?
Shonny: Yes, I started XTERRA full time last year. I had done a few XTERRA races before that but without any swim and run training. It’s exciting to be a beginner again - in the swim and run disciplines. I am learning a lot and can see steady improvements.
ST: What is left for you remainder of the season other than the XTERRA Cup Final?
Shonny: The most important races are still to come, the XTERRA National Championship in Ogden, UT, and the XTERRA World Championships in Maui, HI. I will also do a few regional XTERRA events in Texas, XTERRA Camp Eagle and XTERRA Austin. I’ve also got the Single Speed Mountain Bike World Championships on my schedule in September. I couldn’t resist doing it since it’s in my hometown of Durango, CO.
ST: How often do you ride your single speed?
Shonny: I try to ride my Orbea Alma single speed a couple times per month. It's hard when I'm traveling and racing. When I get home I usually need a couple of recovery rides. The single speed isn't the best choice for recovery unless you're riding on the road. I love my SS rides, makes me feel like a kid riding with the boys around the neighborhood and jumping curbs. Riding SS on trails is good for your skills, makes you commit and go for it!
ST: Some folks are very passionate about single speed bikes, but others have called it a fad. What do you say?
Shonny: It's here to stay. Try riding one and you'll see why.
ST: Can you describe your athletic background and who or what inspired you to race mountain bikes in the first place?
Shonny: I played volleyball, soccer, basketball and ran track in high school. I attended college on a full basketball scholarship. I’ve played basketball internationally in Brazil. I also played with the National Team Handball team. So I have a vast history of sport and have enjoyed each of them. After college I move to Hawaii and became a bike tour guide just for fun before I would start my real career of being a Dietician. I became hooked on biking and thought, “hmm, people are doing this for a living? Maybe I can do that.” I spent the next summer in Colorado and started racing at the mature age of 28. At the age of 29 I started on the pro NORBA race circuit.
ST: Where did you go to college?
Shonny: East Texas State University
ST: Are some guys surprised when you school them on the basketball court or do you not play much anymore?
Shonny: Haha, I used to school some dudes on the court (after betting some cash of course) but I don't play much anymore, just an occasional game of HORSE.
ST: What gave you the idea to race off-road triathlons?
Shonny: Since my winter home is on the Big Island of Hawaii I decided to try the XTERRA World Championships on Maui ‘for fun’ at the end of my mountain bike season. I liked the organization of XTERRA and adventure so much that I decided that one day I would like to do more XTERRAs with some proper preparation.
ST: Are you slowly getting ill of all the traveling or are you still enjoying seeing new places or revisiting places you haven't seen in a while?
Shonny: I am fully enjoying racing a new circuit. XTERRA racing last year and this year has taken me to many new venues. Loving it.
ST: Tell us how you deal with a not so good race.
Shonny: I’ve been racing for 10 years as a pro and have had many great races and some disappointing ones too. People say you learn more from the disappointing ones and I would have to agree with that. I guess it’s easier to deal with when you have another race the next week. I just don’t have time to dwell on it. I take the lessons I can from it and move on.
ST: Is training different now than it was?
Shonny: At my age, 40, I don’t train as many hours as I used to. Quality is better than quantity at this point in my career. My coach, Rick Crawford, and I sit down and map out two weeks of hard training and one week of active recovery. The hard weeks may be something like 3 swims (2.5K to 4K with varying intervals), 4 bikes (2 hard rides, 1 tempo ride and brick to run, and one recovery ride), and 3 runs (1 tempo, 1 track w/out and one recovery).
ST: What is going on with you in terms of sponsorship?
Shonny: My long time sponsor, LUNA Women’s Pro Team, was on board to back me in my switch to XTERRA after many years of pro mountain biking promoting the LUNA brand. They have been happy with the exposure in the still growing sport of triathlon. LUNA team sponsors include: Breast Cancer Fund, Orbea, Fox, Maxxis, AVIA, Giro, LUNA Sport, Clif Bar, Mavic, Shimano, Pedros, Easton, High Sierra, Blackburn, Neve, Vetta.
I also have personal sponsorships with Kona Brewing Company, AVIA, Blue Seventy, Rudy Project, Xtenex, HALO, Inside Ride, Land Roller, HealthFx, Bike Works, and Pacific Island Fitness.
ST: Rumor has it that you are sponsored by Wahine Farms, a coffee farm in Hawaii. Any truth to that?
Shonny: Why yes. Haha Wahine Farms is actually my 100% Kona coffee farm on the Big Island of Hawaii. My partner and I bought the house and ‘gentleman’s farm’ a few years ago and launched our brand at the beginning of this year. You can order online at wahinefarms.com If you’ve never had 100% Kona coffee I can guarantee you will love the smooth rich flavor.
ST: How do you typically spend the off-season?
Shonny: I live at my house on the Big Island in Captain Cook during the off season. The fall and early winter are harvest time for coffee. So I spend a lot of time picking coffee beans and taking care of the coffee trees. Besides that, I am putting in the base miles to get ready for the next race season.
ST: Do you follow any other sports?
Shonny: I love March Madness. Basketball was my first love and I still have a lot of passion for the sport.
ST: What foods do you like and dislike?
Shonny: I love potato chips, sushi and cinnamon candy. I don’t like creamy foods like gulosh, mashed potatoes or casseroles.
ST: Can you share your music taste with us?
Shonny: Love it all! I especially like Country. Must be that I grew up in Texas. I like shooting guns too. ;-)
ST: What was the last book you read?
Shonny: Confederates in the Attic.
ST: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Shonny: Probably retired from full time racing, I will be 45. But I will still show up now then to line up with the youngsters to see what I’ve got. I may be involved in some aspect of the new LUNA Sport clothing line. Lunasport.com
Most likely I will still live part time in my home in Durango, CO, and spend the winters on my small coffee farm in Hawaii.
ST: Is there anything else we should know about you?
Shonny: I wouldn’t be surprised if I’m still racing professionally in 5 years, I’ll be 45 yrs old. Passion has a funny way of trumping logic.
Did I tell you about my hobby, doing consecutive back flips on trampolines? This one was in Valle de Bravo, the venue for XTERRA Mexico.
Image 1 courtesy of Nils Nilsen of n2fotoservices.com
Images 2 and 3 courtesy of Rich Cruse of richcruse.com
Images 4 and 5 are courtesy Shonny Vanlandingham