The LeadmanTri Life Time Epic 250 and 125 will debut in Bend, Ore., this Saturday, appealing to the strong swim-bikers—or, alternatively, the run haters—with a focus on the first two triathlon disciplines. The 250 distance includes a 5K swim, 223K bike, 22K run, while the 125 is comprised of a 2.5K swim, 106K bike and 16.5K run. Because these distances aren’t the norm, pacing and nutrition are a bit more in question. To help strategize for this unique event, we enlisted the help of 2011 Las Vegas LeadmanTri 250 winner Jordan Rapp and two-time Leadman winner Angela Naeth. Rapp will race in the pro field at this weekend’s event—Naeth is still recovering from a crash at the 70.3 World Championships last week.
Don’t underestimate the following unique characteristics of this race.
The length and difficulty of the bike. “In Vegas, the bike was insane. The wind, the heat, everything,” Rapp says. “I drank 20 bottles on the ride. TWENTY. I’ve never just wanted a ride to be over that much. I’m not sure there was any way to really prepare for that. But I don’t think I had any real concept of just how hard that ride would be.”
Although the heat and wind will likely not be a factor in Oregon, 138 miles is significantly longer ride than the Ironman 112. (You know that feeling you get at mile 90? Yeah, you’ll have 48 miles after that.) In Matt Lieto’s race preview, he warned of some big climbs with steep sections, totaling nearly 6,000 feet of climbing.
The higher fueling requirements. A 5K swim is more than 1300 yards longer than an Ironman swim, which means you can’t fake your post-swim nutrition.
Once you get into T1, Rapp warns: “You need to get on top of your calories ASAP. Once you are there, fueling is basically the same as Ironman. The bike is longer, so it’s less forgiving of mistakes, but the run is shorter, so it’s more forgiving of fueling mistakes on the bike. Overall, if you have good Ironman nutrition, it will work here, but if your nutrition is a weak link in Ironman, don’t expect that extra time in the saddle to be pleasant. And it’s still a long enough run to suck if you screw up on nutrition. Be conservative. Be smart. It’s a long day. Fuel well.”
Naeth says she underestimated the amount of calories she needed in Vegas. Although she ate close to 3500 calories on the bike, she wished she had a chocolate bar or two in her special needs bag (the Epic 250 athletes are allowed a Special Needs bag at mile 70 of the bike course). “You crave real food! For a race as epic as this, bring extra calories and in your special needs, and fill it with more than you would think you’d need,” she says. “I think for Bend, the coldness will be a factor so having a solid plan for this in T1 will be very important. I’d go with the higher end of the amount of calories you feel safe to ingest and be sure to include real, solid food.”
The importance of smart pacing. Rapp says to pace the 250 bike a bit slower than an Ironman, the 125 a bit slower than a 70.3 “It’s longer, so it’s necessarily slower, but they all really fall into the category of ‘long’ races, so there’s not as much of a drop off as you add distance as there is with something like a sprint versus Olympic,” he says.
He suggests focusing at the percentage change rather than the absolute change in distance. “Even though sprint to Olympic and 70.3 to 125 has roughly the same increase (of 20km) on the bike, it’s a much smaller percentage change in the total bike, and even more so it’s much less of a change to the total race duration in general. For a 125, the total race time is very close to a 70.3, so you spend your energy in much the same way—likewise with the 250 as compared with an Ironman. You can go harder on the bike because the run is shorter, such that your total output for the day is pretty similar.”
The cold. Highs in Bend are predicted around mid-70s for race day, but lows are in the 40s due to the altitude. After a brisk swim at 4,700 feet in Cultus Lake, the start of your bike ride could be a little chilly. Pack the usual cold-weather options: gloves, arm warmers, toe warmers, etc., and check out the temperatures around biking time the day before to assess.