Jocelyn Wood - A Rising Star
By Austin Lesage
Call her a natural. Call her gifted. Call her crazy. Call her whatever you want. The fact is that Jocelyn Wood has been nothing short of dominant in the South Central region of the XTERRA off-road triathlon series since making her debut on June 7, 2008 at XTERRA Eureka Springs.
In that first race, she was the women's overall winner. She went on to win two more at XTERRA Dawg Days and XTERRA Iron Will, then capped off the 2008 season with a third-place finish in the 30-34 division at the XTERRA USA Championship. Not bad for someone who rode a mountain bike for the first time a few months before her first race.
"When I first jumped on a mountain bike, and proceeded to crash constantly for the next five months, I fell in love," said Wood. "You couldn't pull me out of the woods."
Wood's newly formed love affair with mountain biking paired with her past experience as a cross country runner, swimmer (she swam at the University of Arkansas for a season), and road triathlete make her a perfect fit in XTERRA's adventure off-road triathlon series.
The Oklahoma native who carries the nickname "Wild Woman" has been nearly inseparable from her mountain bike, which she named Sybil, and Mother Nature for the past year and a half. After working during the day as an outdoor programmer in Tulsa, Okla., Wood can often be found mountain biking somewhere on Turkey Mountain, testing her limits as she pushes to increase her speed and level of comfort.
Her success in XTERRA events has not come without an internal desire to push her limits and a few bumps in the road. Throughout her brief amateur career in XTERRA Wood has broken three ribs in separate crashes and crashed countless times that have left her doctoring bumps, bruises and trail rash.
"I had to quit wearing skirts on account of all my trail rash," said Wood. "I crashed a lot, but always with a smile."
Wood's outdoor passion, positive attitude, resilience, and flat-out toughness are a few of the reasons she has experienced so much success. During the 2009 XTERRA season thus far, Wood has won her age division in every race she's entered and won the women's overall amateur title at XTERRA Red River, XTERRA Eureka Springs and the XTERRA South Central Cup.
What's more impressive is that the day after her South Central Cup win, which was an absolutely grueling race that featured temperatures in the triple digits, Wood went on to win the 17-mile Three Legged Dawg Mountain Bike Race, an event that is part of the USA Cycling American Mountain Bike Challenge series.
"XTERRA has taught me a lot about myself," said Wood. "They are my best wins, because they are not given, they are earned, and Mother Nature likes a good challenge.
It's pushed me to limits I didn't know I had in me. I probably experience about every emotion possible during a race: excitement, exhilaration, fatigue, frustration, joy, anger, and the ever deadly breaking point. What pushes me to excel is not my drive to win, it's my drive to beat my demons, those evil little creatures that sneak up in your subconscious when you're racing, telling you that you can't go on, that you should quit, give in. I've learned that you can beat the demons. You just have to talk louder, run harder."
As the XTERRA season moves past the halfway mark Wood has her sights set on XTERRA Iron Will in Jonesboro, Ark. on August 9. A win at Iron Will would earn Wood the XTERRA Arkansas Triple Crown title (best combined performances), matching the feat that she accomplished in the 2008 season.
After the regular season Wood is planning on making the trip to Ogden, Utah for the XTERRA USA Championship, the climax of the America Tour where athletes must qualify in order to compete.
"The thing I like best about XTERRA is traveling to new places and riding new trails," said Wood. "Having come from the road [road triathlons], the people in XTERRA are some of the nicest athletes ever. I love the environment, the atmosphere, the friendliness from all athletes, pros to newbies. It's like a family."
When the family gathers for the National Championship in late September, there will be a high level of camaraderie and friendliness among the athletes who have qualified for the event. They will attend the banquet the night before the race, tell stories from past experiences, see old friends and make new ones. There is a feeling of belonging and acceptance in the participant field that comes with qualifying for the event. Many of the participants will have raced in the Championship before; many will be first timers. They will all go to sleep the night before the race wishing time would pass faster, that they could be standing on the starting line waiting for the gun to release them. Once they do get to the starting line, a burning competitive passion will take over. They will push themselves, and their limits, as they compete against their rivals, past personal performances, or their own personal demons.
And when the sun goes down on September 26th in Utah, Wood wants to be called something that she hasn't been called yet: an XTERRA USA Champion.
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