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As top pro Chris Lieto’s little brother, Matt has heard people say, “It must be nice to have good genes!” more times than he cares to remember. Sure, as pro-level triathletes the siblings share some level of innate athletic ability, but their respective paths to pro status couldn’t have been more different. “Chris popped out of the womb with a six-pack,” jokes Matt, a self-described “chubby kid” who struggled with his weight and poor self-esteem growing up. When Matt flew to Hawaii to watch Chris race Kona for the first time in 1998, the then-21-year-old weighed 250 pounds. Inspired by Chris’ finish that day, he vowed to make some significant life changes. He started eating healthier and being more active. Within four months, he had shed 75 pounds, and within a few years he had earned his pro license. Today, the 33-year-old, who finished fourth at Wildflower last year, is the fittest he’s ever been. In addition to the busy racing schedule of a “poorfessional” triathlete—there are 12 half-Ironman races on his 2012 calendar as well as the Life Time Leadman ultra-distance triathlon in his adopted hometown of Bend, Ore.—he will be doing more commentating for Ironmanlive.com and coaching for Purplepatch Fitness, owned by his (and Chris’) coach, Matt Dixon. And with a nickname like “Smiley,” you know he’ll be enjoying every minute of it.
Workout song: “Bad Town” by Operation Ivy. This is an old-school one, but always gets me rollin’ and smilin’.
Swim workout: Thursday 10x4s: 10×400 with 15-second rest, building effort. Great deposit, and fun with a group!
Purchase in the past week: Lucchese cowboy boots. My last day training with pal Linsey Corbin in Tucson, we stumbled upon the coolest little boot shop this side of Chattanooga and found ’em.
Non-tri athlete or sports team: I am a huge cycling fan and in awe of the professionalism and strength of Jens Voigt and Fabian Cancellara. The local hero in Bend, Ore., Chris Horner, is proving that age is just a number. So, my favorite team is obviously the RadioShack-Nissan-Trek road team.
Pre-race meal: I’m a celiac, so I have to be pretty focused on meals. The most successful breakfast for me is white rice “oatmeal style”—raisins, brown sugar, toasted coconut and coconut milk.
Race experience: Kona ’98, the first Ironman I spectated. Chris raced and inspired his couch potato brother to drop 80 pounds. I’ll never forget that day. Ever.
Words of encouragement: Believe it, believe it, believe it. Believe your dreams are possible and achievable, then get to work. It can be done.
Spot to train: Bend, Ore., the greatest place on earth. In the summer, I cannot find a better place to be outdoors and be active. Beautiful.
Piece of gear: Well, I like bikes. That’s not true. I love bikes. The time of year usually dictates which one I love the most. Right now, it’s the Trek Superfly 100. So much fun on the Bend single-track! I’m leaving for a training camp in Kona this week, so my heart will flutter for the Speed Concept.
Coffee: Yes. Please. Now-ish. Black eye (2 shots in a cup of brew).
Cocktail: Maker’s or Pendleton, rocks negotiable. Sláinte!
Charity: More than Sport. I’m so very proud of what Chris is doing with his charity and using triathlon to affect the communities that we race in. Brilliant.
Type of music: Anything that gets me singing. Yes, love me some vocality. I’d be the guy riding his bike singing at the top of his lungs. (You’re welcome.) Rock, punk, ska, rap, emo (if [fellow pro] Jesse Thomas is in the car), dub and Americana.
Way to spend downtime: I am a road-tripping ninja. Love me some open roads and the little adventures they bring. So far this year I have put in 3700 miles in the Manvan.