A shiny nickel to the first person to be able to provide 2014 NACAC XC results! I’d love to put together a more informative editor’s note to introduce this interview with champion Joe Gray, but I wasn’t at the race and can’t even seem to find much info on what happened there. Even if I were on a need to know basis, I’m pretty sure I need to know. Anyway, Joe Gray is the champion and in the process he has become the first person to win both mountain and cross country titles in NACAC competition. Amazing feat!
I believe I saw that you made a comment about the degree of difficulty (or lack thereof) of the USA nats course. How was the NACAC course? Was it sufficiently challenging for you?
The course was very similar to what you would expect in a trail race. No joke. There were alot of roots and some tight turns. Some long descents and ascents (a mountain runner who can run XC-type of course). I was definitely challenged. The heat made it rough as well. We were delayed by about 20 minutes too so the heat really baked us before we even started. The Nationals course was challenging in a different way however; it was flat. The mud and the competition made Nationals an entirely different challenge in that in the closing stages of the race instead of worrying about 1 or 2 guys you had to watch your back as 5-8 athletes could easily pick you off before the finish if you crumble.
What does it mean to you to be the only person to win a NACAC title in XC and Mountain racing?
That’s a huge accomplishment, I’m very proud of myself because its always an honor to be the first to accomplish a competitive feat.
Did you have a different approach against international competition compared to the US championship?
I would have to say yes. I knew Chris Derrick was fit so when he made his move I never expected him to come back especially on a flat course. At NACAC the course was so challenging that time could be made up so when I fell back I knew I could rally. I wasn’t certain I would win but I figured I would get the Silver at the least and lead our team to a Gold.
At what point did you know you were going to win it?
I really had no clue I was going to win until around the last mile when the gap I had created opened up a bit more with a major descent and ascent left before the flattish finish. I knew the Mexican athlete behind had some good speed and also has run strong on the roads so I figured if he was close with 800 to go it could get interesting but with 800 left I felt confident as we entered some of the tougher portions of the course before finishing that I could maintain my lead without much stress.