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Leadman Bend Course Preview From Local Pro Matt Lieto

We recruited Bend, Ore., resident Matt Lieto to give us a preview of the upcoming LeadmanTri Life Time Epic, which takes place Sept. 22.

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We recruited Bend, Ore., resident Matt Lieto to give us a preview of the upcoming inaugural LeadmanTri Life Time Epic 250 and 125, which takes place Sept. 22, 2012. “I am absolutely in love with this town and am stoked to share it with the triathlon community for this tough event,” Lieto says. “Fortunately this course consists of all my staple training grounds and runs within feet of my house on several occasions.” Below is Lieto’s description of the beautiful course and tips to help you prepare. It’s not too late to sign up!


The 5K/2.5K swim takes place at the high-mountain Cultus Lake. Pristine mountain views and crystal clear water fed by the Cascades, Cultus is at a bit of altitude—4,700 feet—and will likely be pretty cold swim conditions. Being later in the year, the ambient temp in the area could also be in the 50s and possibly 40s when the gun goes off.

Course Tips: Work in some hypoxic training in the pool to get ready for a bit of exposure to altitude and restricted breathing while swimming. You can do this with some sets with a snorkel, or by maybe doing some descending breathing sets in the pool, such as breathing every third, fifth or seventh stroke, or something along those lines. For race day, be prepared for the cold and dress warm (like really warm—I’ll be the guy in the swim parka) and have a race strategy that allows you to build into your effort. Combining anxiety, the cold and a fast start at altitude can be a recipe for disaster about 100 meters in, so have a plan to relieve some of those stresses. Get out and enjoy this beaut of a swim venue!

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The 223K/111.5K bike course will be exactly what the name of this series alludes to… epic. This is the locals’ weekly base ride which, when ridden from town, involves 6,000 feet of climbing and some great scenery and empty roads. For the event we will be starting up at Cultus, which is helpful considering we end at T2 at 3,300 feet. It involves two laps of our mountain loop. The route wraps clockwise around the magnificent Mount Bachelor while twisting through tall pines and rolling by crystal-clear mountain streams. Each lap will involve a climb that cruises by Elk Lake and Sparks Lake, and rolls up the steepest part on the course, known as Sparks Grade. This climb is quite steep at the last third, and can be quite difficult. It will require some out-of-the-saddle climbing for most, and even a “paperboy” for the lucky few. The killer part of this course?  The second time up Sparks Grade comes at its steepest section—about 112 miles in, which is usually when we are hitting the run in most long-distance triathlons. Besides its beauty, the redeeming quality of this course is the fact that what goes up, must come down: There are two descents of more than 15 miles, one of which basically takes you into transition.

Course Tips: Ride your bike in training! It’s almost 140 miles with some big climbs. Must. Ride. Lots. I would pay attention to gearing selection as there are steep climbs but some fast descents too. The smart athlete lasts with proper clothing selection and a solid nutrition plan.

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The 22K/11K run is indeed beautiful, starting out along the lovely Deschutes River. Sorry, no free descents on this leg—you’ll have to earn ’em! The run starts with a short section of flat, but then cruises up, up, up for almost 4 miles into the Tetherow Golf Club. The route is a mix of dirt and pavement, with some pretty steep pitches and some gentle rollers.

Once you get up into Tetherow you will be greeted with some insane vistas of the Cascades—the Three Sisters, Mount Bachelor and Broken Top. The course continues to roll up and down until you make your way into the Northwest Crossing neighborhood. Here you will make a quick jaunt through Compass Park, and then your return trip into the Old Mill where the finish awaits. Nothing too steep on the way down, just a good opportunity to get the pace back that was lost on the way up the hill.

The finish line is across the bridge at the Old Mill, which is, you guessed it, an old mill. It is now turned into a cool little shopping and movie center—just a hobble away to a cold bevy and good treats, or maybe a new belt for your Leadman buckle.

Course Tips: Your run is obviously going to depend on how honest you were in your bike training. Those unprepared for that long of a ride is going to struggle on this run, even though it is shorter than most. It is tough, and will sting from the very get-go. Besides that, make sure you throw some hill strides and efforts into your training, inclusive of some bricks. Some treadmill speed work as well will help you with your turnover for the fast downhills. Make sure your nutrition is dialed in—don’t ignore it just because it’s 13.7 miles and not 26.2.

Get ready for a supreme challenge with some beautiful surroundings! Be prepared for the weather to throw anything your way, and be smart about your calorie intake. It’s going to be a long day out there, but for the well-prepared, glory and Bend’s finest microbrews wait for you across the finish line.

PHOTOS: Inaugural Leadman Triathlon

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