This is an article that was written a month after my high school graduation and published in The Richmond Times Dispatch. Andy Thompson, the writer of the article, met me out riding the James River trail system a couple weeks before the event. I knew he was a sports columnist because I had read several of his articles and we ended up riding for several miles together, conversing the whole way. He came to the event to spectate the pro race. But, when I crossed the finish line first in the sprint race, I managed to attract his attention to write a column on another story. I hope I can satisfy these expectations established when I was such a young athlete.
Just the beginning for Cobb?
By: Andy Thompson/Times-Dispatch Columnist
When the Sport distance XTERRA off-road triathlon was over last Sunday, Grayson Cobb may have been the only person surprised that he took the top spot on the podium.
“I told him he was going to win it,” Mike Harlow said. “I was pretty confident.”
Harlow, owner of Endorphin Fitness, is Cobb’s coach and training partner. He’s worked with the recent Collegiate High grad for three years on honing his triathlon skills.
Before the race, Cobb wasn’t so sure. He entered the race only the Wednesday beforehand after Harlow convinced him to give it a shot.
“I really didn’t think I stood a chance,” said the rising freshman at Virginia Tech. “I just wanted to go out and have some fun.”
That quickly changed as the race unfolded. He was fifth out of the 500-meter swim. He left the transition to the 19K mountain bike ride in second and overtook the leader soon thereafter. Knowing the 7K run would be his strongest leg, the former cross country and track runner figured he had the race in the bag. But he had forgotten that a second wave of athletes entered the water two minutes after him. Someone could finish after Cobb and still beat his time.
“I wasn’t thinking about the second wave at the time,” he said. “The thought hadn’t crossed my mind for the whole race, and when I crossed the finish line, my dad suggested it to me. I was pretty nervous.”
Cobb ended up sweating out a 14-second victory over Ryan Trebour.
As impressive as Cobb’s victory was, it’s likely a prelude to successes to come.
“To be quite honest, Grayson has more potential than any kid I’ve ever coached,” Harlow said. “We’ve done [fitness] tests on him, and he’s right up there with the pros. Even beyond that, he’s just the strongest mental athlete that I know of.
“He’s one of those 1 percenters that will race better than he trains, and he trains hard. If he decides he wants to go pro and race with the best in the country, I think he has every possibility to do that.”
It doesn’t take long talking to Cobb to see what Harlow means. He may have the potential to be a world-class triathlete, but it isn’t his talent that makes him unusual. What makes him exceptional, especially considering he just graduated from high school, are statements like these: “I live such a life of pleasure with my nice house. I’m not a starving child. The ability to overcome the pain that is there [during training and races], I love having to do that, and the ability to do that is a skill that everyone should have to learn.
“If other people are going to have pain forced upon them, I just feel like it’s something that humans should learn. We should learn to embrace it instead of wanting to get rid of it.”
Embracing pain is what successful endurance athletes do every day. Few figure that out in high school. Cobb has. Put that together with his obvious talent and you’ve got the makings of a special athlete.