Mau Mendez on Youth and Family Ties - Norseman

Mau Mendez on Youth and Family Ties

Mauricio Mendez is a 24-year-old professional triathlete from Mexico. Mauricio raced his first triathlon at age 10 with his father, and they’ve been a fierce coach/athlete duo ever since.

Together, they’ve won multiple XTERRAs and half Ironman titles, including Mauricio becoming the youngest XTERRA world champion at just 21, and in 2018, Mauricio won our sister race Patagonman.

Published: 06.Oct.2020

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Mauricio has his sights set on winning the 2021 Norseman World Championship.

Full of fiery passion, determination, and unwavering focus to be a world-class athlete, we can see why today’s guest is described by one of our sponsors, SUUNTO, as a force to be reckoned with. Splitting his time between racing all of the world, and training in Mexico and San Diego, US with Lesley Paterson and Simon Marshall.

Mauricio raced his first triathlon at age 10 with his father and they’ve been training together ever since, with his father being his key coach. Together, they’ve won multiple XTERRAs and half Ironman titles, including Mauricio becoming the youngest XTERRA world champion at just 21 and in 2018, Mauricio won our sister race Patagonman.

Mauricio now has his sights set on winning the XTRI World Championship at Norseman 2021

You’ll learn these four things in today’s episode:

  • How Maurico started his journey in triathlon
  • How this unique father/son duo is setting the world of triathlon ablaze
  • Best advice for coping with injury
  • Structuring training in uncertainty


Adelaide: Welcome Mauricio Mendez to Norseman Radio. How are you today?

Mauricio: Very good. Very happy to be here. Very excited.

Adelaide: It’s so great to have you. For those who may not have heard of you, would you tell us who you are and what it is you do in the world today?

Mauricio: I’m a professional triathlete from Mexico. I’m 24 years old. I’m mainly focused on XTERRA and long distance triathlon. And of course that takes me to a perfect place, which is extra serious, so that’s who I am.

Adelaide: You’re a young athlete and you’ve had some really incredible successes, which we’ll get to further into the episode, but for now, could you please tell us what drew you into triathlon and when did your passion for this incredible sport begin?

Mauricio: It actually began when I was really young. I was 10 years old when I did my first triathlon, and I love to talk about this story, because it was just me and my dad.

My dad is a normal person with a normal job, and the only time we were able to be together was doing some outdoor sports or going trekking or hiking or whatever, so this was our main place to be together.

We found triathlon at the same time. We did our first triathlon together. I did Ironkids distance and he did his age group race, and since then we fell in love with it. That’s 2006.

Since then, he’s been my mentor and coach in triathlon, because there was no one in Mexico that was able to coach kids in triathlon. It was a brand new sport here in Mexico. So he started to study and get involved, and right now we are partners in this and I just love it.

Adelaide: That’s so sweet that you did your first triathlon together.

Mauricio: Yeah and I got second place, so since that moment, I just said, “I want to go back and win,”. Since the first race I did in triathlon, I just wanted to be a professional at this.

Adelaide: Do you know what it was about that Ironkid race that made you be like, “I want to win. I want to do this,” and take it to the next level?

Mauricio: I don’t know. I’ve been super competitive all my life and since I was a little kid, even with my dad and that kind of stuff, I was just competing all of the time. Then being second place in that race just really made me angry. So I guess I just wanted to come back and win a race. So yeah, that was it. Since that moment, I just said, “I’m going for it.”

Adelaide: You’ve definitely gone for it and are doing brilliantly well. What is it like having your dad help you become this really incredible triathlete?

Mauricio: I think it’s an amazing story. I know a lot of guys that may have had these kind of relationships at some point, and they always struggle with their relationship of being a dad and then a coach, because if you tend to fight with your dad about stupid things, when he’s your coach as well, you might confuse the relationship. We’re super close and I think it was really hard for him in some ways. It shouldn’t be easy to be a dad and then a coach, so you need to be more strict with your kid.

Like when I was 15 years old and I started going to parties with my friends and everything and my dad as a coach was saying to me, “Now you need to go to bed early. It’s a responsibility you have,” or something like that. It’s not a bad thing to say at that moment in my life. And that’s just a little example. We have tons of those. So I think it was really hard, but we were able to actually manage it very well, and that’s why we are where we are right now, and we are still working together. So it’s pretty amazing.

Adelaide: That’s really incredible. How did you choose your races, and how did you go from doing this as a child, from your first Ironkid, to now doing the championships for XTERRA and racing in Patagonman?

Mauricio: When I was a little kid, I had the typical dream of wanting to go to the Olympics and race in the ITU, and I did a little bit when I was younger. However, here in Mexico we had some issues with the federation. Being honest, they wouldn’t allow my dad to be my coach, because he was not certificated by them. So when they said that, I told my dad that I didn’t want to do this without him and he said the same to me, “I don’t want you to do this without me.” It was like a mutual thing. I just didn’t want it to end, because I just didn’t see any relationship I had with my dad with any friend or family.

We started searching for something different and that’s when I found XTERRA. When I did my first XTERRA, I qualified for the world championships as an age grouper. I went to Hawaii for the first time and I had a pretty bad race. I just committed to it and also my dad. I wasn’t even a professional triathlete and I was traveling a lot to the US just to race, because in Mexico we only have one XTERRA.

In 2013, I became the overall XTERRA Age Group World Champion and then I got my professional license when I was 18 years old. Since then, we haven’t stopped at all, and it has enabled us to make my career the way we want it.

If you’re with a federation or something, you might be more restricted on what you want to do, like XTERRA, XTRI, long distance triathlon when you’re young, and just the fact of us having this relationship.

I was really fortunate to have the support of my parents, they were able to pay for all of these trips so I could just race without even winning any prize money or anything. They have been my biggest sponsors ever.

It’s a pretty awesome story now that I talk about it, because I always think about it, but never really share it like this. So now that I’m talking about it, it’s pretty amazing all the effort that my parents have done for me.

Adelaide: You have such a special relationship with your parents, which is really, really wonderful, and this incredible relationship with your father as well. So when you have an awful race together, how do you guys navigate that to make sure you go all out on the next one?

Mauricio: First, my dad needs to talk with my mom, because he’s going to leave her here in Mexico with my younger two sisters. I’m the oldest one.

I think when you are young and you have this kind of support, you need to be really racing as much as possible – in a smart way. But you need to understand the job of a professional athlete, because when you’re young and you have all of these distractions, keeping yourself motivated, racing and involved in the sport at its purest really helped me to be focused almost all of the time.

I’d rather be doing triathlon than anything else. And that’s the method we used. Just keep racing, keep staying motivated and search for new challenges and staying healthy for it. There was not a specific strategy in it. Just being able to enjoy and have a pure passion of what we were doing.

Adelaide: Having joy and passion is one of the most important ingredients. Just keeping that fire alive, which sounds like you’re doing a perfect job at.

Mauricio: Yeah. I feel that way.

Adelaide: What are some of the biggest changes you’ve made to your training as you and your father learned what worked and what didn’t?

Mauricio: There was a point when I became professional at 18 years old and we were really close to this other professional athlete, Lesley Paterson, and her husband, Simon Marshall, who is a sports psychologist.

Lesley was already a three time world champion. So we were in a race and I asked for a picture, and my dad told her, “Hey, Lesley. I know you coach people, what about all of us being a team together and show us what it takes to be a world champion?”

Lesley and Simon are like family for us now, but they are also my mentors, and help me with all of the coaching and help my dad to understand what a professional athlete needs to do to be at the top of whatever it is the athlete needs to do.

We have a lot of support from them, because it’s really changing, the whole perspective. I think I have really good talent, to be honest, and then when you apply the proper training and all these long hours and the proper sacrifices – it’s not really a sacrifice, but all the proper discipline, that’s a better word, to be a professional. Lesley and Simon a huge part of my career, helping me to understand and do things properly.

Adelaide: What have you learned that makes a world champion athlete?

Mauricio: There’s something I’ve been having in my mind for a while, and actually my dad really taught me about it. Dreaming is not for free. That’s the translation. A lot of people say that if you’re doing what you’re passionate about, you’ll never feel like you’re working, or you’re in a job and follow your passion, and everything seems pretty easy once you’ve found your passion. But actually, once you find it, you really need to commit to it and become kind of obsessive about it. You sacrifice some friendships and I think my childhood is quite unusual.

When I became a professional, I was spending so much time away from home being a professional triathlete, and the biggest challenge was staying healthy, because you’re training so much and you spend so much time thinking about only one thing.

I enjoy it, of course, but when I was younger and just starting this career and looking at all of my friends going to college, it was challenging.

If you want to be a professional triathlete in Mexico, you can’t really be in a normal college, because there’s no support for it. So I decided not to study at college, I decided to just become a professional triathlete, and there are other kinds of little things which you really sacrifice and at some point, you say, “Okay, I need to be honest, to my values and to my dreams and it’s just going to cost some stuff. It’s going to cost a lot of security in your future maybe, or something else.”

Having different things and living differently, became the biggest challenge, but once you balance the difference with society, I think everything becomes more clear to you, and I think that’s what really made me being able to win the world championships at XTERRA, and I’m just trying to keep winning more good titles.

Adelaide: That’s an amazing lesson to learn at your age and to take that risk is impressive. You said you think about just one thing. What was the one thing that you were thinking about and still think about in training, or does it change?

Mauricio: No, it really doesn’t change. It’s really fun. When I’m really tired of some training or something else, I really, really think I just want to be the world champion again, and that really fires me up, and that really gives me something.

I don’t know how to describe it, but it’s this kind of obsessive thinking about being a world champion again. It’s almost like an addiction, because I believe once you are able to feel what that means and how that feels, it really becomes something addictive.

Adelaide: Do you want to be a world champion in XTERRA or something else?

Mauricio: One of my biggest goals for this year was to do Norseman and be the world champion there, and actually that’s one of my biggest plans for 2021. I really want to go to Norseman, to the world championship, and be the world champion there. I think that’s going to be a really big achievement in my career, so that’s something I’m really looking forward to.

Adelaide: There’s quite a tough record to break. How would you change your training to achieve that goal for next year?

Mauricio: I think the biggest difference with me, compared to other long distance triathletes, is that I have an XTERRA background. I had a little injury last year and I was able to do some ultra running, because I wasn’t able to ride my bike due to this injury. So I know how to balance that kind of long distance and what you need to do to actually fight in a race like Norsemen.

I did Patagonman in 2018 and won the race, and that combined with all my XTERRA background and some of my long distance training that I have right now, I think it is the perfect combination.

The first time I heard about Norsemen and the whole XTERRA series, and all about it, I just said, “This really suits me well. This is made for me, especially, because I have all the trail running background and I have the long distance triathlon ability, so why not to try it out?” And that’s when I did Patagonman, and that was a really, really good race for me, so Norseman will be something pretty similar.

Adelaide: How do you feel the XTERRA and the trail running background helped you win Patagonman?

Mauricio: I think for any of the XTERRA races, you need to be really versatile.

You need to have a lot of versatility, because the situation really stretches you into unknown places. For me it’s not really unknown, because I’m really used to being on the dirt, on the trails, on the monster bike trails, in the ultra running world. I also know what triathlon is and how you need to pace yourself in a long distance triathlon.

So having those two special abilities of technique, because I have a lot of mountain biking experience, so I’m good on the corners, down hills, up hills. I know how to attack a hill properly. I know that kind of stuff on the bike really translates well.

I enjoy trail running the most. I think that’s one of my biggest passions besides triathlon, just being able to go into the mountain and run for as long as I can, especially going up, which is what you do in Norseman. That’s what I mean when I say I’m pretty sure whenever I race Norseman, I will do just fine. I think it’s going to be a race that works with me pretty well.

Adelaide: It’s really interesting to hear how your XTERRA and Mexican background is helping you tackle these incredible races and be very successful in them. How will your learning experiences and successes help you succeed in Norsemen? And who will you have as your support group?

Mauricio: This form of racing is made for me, because I have my dad, who knows me better than anyone. So of course we’re racing this together, so it’s even more fun for us. We even look forward for it, because in the long-distance triathlons or XTERRA your family/friends/coaches aren’t able to participate, they’re not really able to be involved in the race, but they are in races like Patagonman and Norseman.

I don’t think people realise how important these partnerships are in this kind of racing, because your support group must be someone that really knows you incredibly well. And just looking at me for five seconds, my dad knows if I’m tired, if I need to eat, if I need to drink or whatever, so he will be my support group for sure.

And about experiences, I think for Patagonman, which is a really nice race, for the last like 5KM, I was really lucky to have a proper gap to second place, but otherwise it will be a problem, because I was really empty for the last 5KM. It was a real struggle to finish that race, but I was pretty lucky to do it just fine and that was my main introduction to long distance triathlon.

I think there’s no better way to have an introduction to long distance triathlon then doing one of these extreme long distance triathlons.

Adelaide: They do really stretch you and all of that sounds really exciting! What do you feel is you and your father’s plan? How are you going to train from now until next year, especially with the current limits?

Mauricio: It’s been really hard, because last year, besides being injured, I had a hormone problem, where I was anemic for a couple months, and we still don’t know why, because I was having a proper diet and training, and everything was right. I just had an imbalance in my system. I don’t know what happened. So I was actually not as fit as I am used to, so it was a really hard year to overcome, and this year has been all about it.

It’s been really tough in the financial way to support this year, to be able to have this year with no racing. Just a few sponsors like SUUNTO are keeping me safe right now.

I’m taking this moment to build a proper base, to be back at my top level in terms of volume and strength. And once we’re able to raise again, I will just be tuning myself to this beat, I know I can handle that. That’s our plan right now, just doing some really tough weeks of long hours of training, but mostly based on strength. Nothing like really intensity work and that kind of stuff. I think it’s a really good moment to approach that kind of training right now.

Adelaide: We’re in the same storm, but in different boats, because everyone has different challenges that they’re facing, but would you say the key thing in this period of time is to develop that base and strengthen your foundation?

Mauricio: For sure. I think that’s the main focus you need right now. It’s really hard to build a proper base, because if you have work, family and you need to take care of all of that, you need to be almost training for racing all the time, not really for building your structure as an athlete.

Right now, we don’t have any races coming up soon, and we have a little bit more time to focus on training or just time for ourselves. I think it’s the right moment to focus on building a lot of strength, not like going to the gym. I mean proper strength for triathlon, like doing a lot of climbing. That will be the best training possible. It gives you some strength and power, so you can later translate that into some more speed.

Adelaide: That’s interesting. So you do a lot of climbing to build up your strength base?

Mauricio: Yeah. That’s for sure.

Adelaide: Is that outdoor climbing or indoor?

Mauricio: I’ve been mixing it up a little bit, because of this whole situation, it is quite hard to go far from where I am right now. I’m from Mexico city, which is a huge city and it’s actually hard to train. So I do a lot of indoor training, but right now I’m in a little town up in the mountains in the countryside of Mexico City, which is really nice. We have a lake here and I’m able to do a lot of mountain training stuff. I’m doing a lot of climbing and strength right now, but also I need to do a little of the indoor stuff, because some roads here in Mexico are not the best to ride the bike on, and so I just need to fix a few things.

Adelaide: Is that also why the XTERRA are especially attractive to you, because the trail riding is better than the road cycling in Mexico?

Mauricio: Yeah, I think there’s some truth about that. It’s not the main reason, but once I got involved with it, I was like, “Oh this is perfect.” It’s safer. It’s easier, because it’s just suits very well to the situation where I live and of course, I also go a lot to San Diego in the US, because that’s where Simon and Lesley are based. That’s why I’m away a lot of the time from home, because I tend to go for one month to live in San Diego with them, and then one month here in Mexico and then races, and go back to San Diego, and that’s my life routine.

Adelaide: That’s amazing! Talking about staying healthy, we’ve already touched upon your injury, and sadly injuries tend to be the reality for a lot of us, whether it’s small or it turns into a big one, but it’s good to catch them early. What would you say is your top three pieces of advice for recovering from an injury?

Mauricio: I think the main one is being patient, because an injury is always your body telling you, “Hey, I need to change some stuff.”

The main source of the injury might be your nutrition, recovery or something directly wrong. So once you have an injury, the first thing you need to think is, “I need to the patient. I need to understand what’s happening, and I need to work after it.”

Patience and having good support around you. Your family needs to understand what that means to you and you need to be really specific with them.

If you’re the only triathlete in your house and you have an injury, no one is ever going to understand what you’re going through, so you really need to be open about it and you really need to be open with your feelings too.

The other thing is to have someone like a physiotherapist or a doctor who really understands what you’re going through.

So you have all bases covered and you only need to obey what people tell you to do just to recover faster.

Adelaide: I absolutely love that. Before we start to wrap up and move on to the quick fire round, we’ve mentioned that you are a young athlete, and this can come with its advantages and disadvantages. What do you see as being the advantage of being a young athlete?

Mauricio: The advantage is the time I have. I’m 24 years old and I have another maybe 15 years of being a professional triathlete, so that’s pretty awesome. I can really try a lot of different things and see where my biggest strengths are and develop that properly to become the greatest ever in that discipline. That’s my goal. That’s my vision, and I am attempting it.

The bad thing is when I was a world champion for XTERRA, I was only 21 years old, and I think it’s pretty hard for a young kid to process that properly. You start having a lot more attention. You start to be considered a favourite in some races, so you start dealing with a lot of that pressure. You also have a little bit more support, more sponsorship, more responsibilities. All of that becomes pressure for you.

I think right now, if I win a world championship again, I will have a totally different approach to all the responsibilities that comes with it. So I think that’s a tough one. I think that’s a hard one. That was hard for me, and that’s what I really crave so much, to win a world championship again.

That’s why it’s really important for me, because I want to do it properly. I want to show myself and to show the people that support me, who I really am. Not just a talented athlete, a young kid which was able to do a perfect race for one day. I want to show my consistency in it.

Adelaide: I’m really looking forward to seeing how you race in Norseman next year and obviously wish you all the best of luck for your training going into the season, even though it’s kind of a crazy season!

We’ve touched upon your future ambitions, which is Norseman World Championship next year. Is there anything else on the horizon for you?

Mauricio: Being involved in all the long distance triathlon stuff. I want to become a really good professional triathlete and go to Kona.

Being at the other championship events and being a world class athlete.

That’s the main goal after all of it, just being a world class athlete, and in every single race I go to, being a competitive for the podium.

Adelaide: That’s an absolutely fabulous goal and and it’s been really amazing to chat with you.

Now we’re going to move on to the quick fire round.

If you were to describe Norseman in one word, what would it be?

Mauricio: Freedom

Adelaide: That’s so interesting, why do you say freedom?

Mauricio: I have always loved this connection with nature, and the connection with nature means being who you are as a person. And nature around you, I believe really gives you a true sense of freedom, and being able to push yourself to the limits. It’s freedom. So I will say being in Norseman is be truly free.

Adelaide: Fantastic! Last question, I usually ask which three athletes would you love to see race in Norseman, but as you are going to be racing in Norseman next year, which three athletes would you love to race against?

Mauricio: Kristian Blummenfelt. He’s a young athlete as well, and he’s been doing really well. He has a reputation of just going after it, so that’s someone I would love to beat.

I would love to race Jan Frodeno, it would be amazing just because of all his experience. If you describe a professional athlete, I think about Jan Frodeno immediately, so I would love to race him.

It’s hard, because I have been really lucky to race most of my idols, but it would be really nice to see Alistair Brownlee race in Norseman.

It would be really fun to have that race, because I think it really goes to something that they don’t really know. They are really good, so I would love to do that.

Adelaide: That would be an awesome race to watch. Thank you so much for coming on. Is there anything else that you would like to add before we finally wrap up?

Mauricio: Not really. I’m extremely grateful to be able to talk here. I think it’s a huge motivation for me, especially in this time. So I just want to say thank you.

Adelaide: Thank you so much. It’s been absolutely wonderful to have you on Norseman radio, and so interesting to hear about your background and your journey, and we wish you the best of luck.

Mauricio: Thank you. That’s awesome.

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About Adelaide Goodeve

Adelaide is a member of the Norseman media team and a professional mindset coach. Find out more about Adelaide here.

About Mauricio Mendez

Mauricio Mendez is a 24-year-old professional triathlete from Mexico, splitting his time between racing all of the world, and training in Mexico and San Diego, US with Lesley Paterson and Simon Marshall.

Mauricio raced his first triathlon at age 10 with his father and they’ve been training together ever since, with his father being his key coach.

Together, they’ve won multiple XTERRAs and half Ironman titles, including Mauricio becoming the youngest XTERRA world champion at just 21 and in 2018, Mauricio won our sister race Patagonman.

Mauricio now has his sights set on winning the 2021 XTRI World Championship.

Full of fiery passion, determination and unwaverable focus to be a world-class athlete, we can see why our sponsor SUUNTO say he’s a force to be reckoned with.

You can follow Mauricio here:

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About Norseman Radio

If you’d like to listen to interesting and intriguing stories around the Norseman Xtreme Triathlon and fully immerse yourself in the experience, then Norseman Radio is for you.

This podcast is not just for those who’d like to jump off the car ferry into Eidfjord and run up Zombie Hill.

You can find Norseman Radio on:

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© Paolo Avila / nxtri.com
© Kai-Otto Melau / nxtri.com

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