Over the second half of the summer, I have been gearing up for my years “A” race. It has been two years since I attempted Silverman and had two DNF due to severe dehydration. After trying many different nutritional strategies, I was ready to try an Ultra Distance Triathlon again. A couple of years ago there were some talk about Bend holding such a race and even rumors about an Ironman coming to town. As I live in Bend, I was excited to hear about these possibilities but was not going to count on anything. Well, before Bend could submit a proposal for the Ironman they set up plan for the Leadman Triathlon put on by Lifetime Fitness.
Leadman was originally held in Las Vegas, and the Bend race was going to be their second location. The race was inspired by the ultra distance races held in Leadville, Colorado and looked to create a race that was not only epic but scenic. The inaugural race in Bend was scheduled for September 22nd, 2012 and was going to offer both the 125 and 250 distances. I was planning on doing the 250 distance which is made up of a 5k swim, 223k bike, and 22k run; that is 3.1 mile swim, 139 mile bike, and 13.1 mile run. Being an inaugural race and a distance I had never competed at I was unsure what to expect. I knew the course well living in Bend and was excited to be able to do a race so close to home.
The course was going to be a spilt transition, point to point race. The swim portion was in crystal clear Cultus Lake up in the Cascade Lakes. It was a two loop swim along the western shoreline. The extra challenge that the swim would pose would be the altitude, Cultus Lake sits just under 4,700 feet. From there the bike course goes out on the Cascade Lakes Highway to the south for an out and back to about mile 30. There then is a 12 mile section that goes on some of the back roads around the reservoirs before returning to the Cascade Lakes Highway at mile 43. Up until this point the course is mostly rolling on descent chip sealed roads. Once back on the Cascade Lakes Highway the route heads north and begins to climb. It is mostly gradual with some kickers thrown in and gets progressively harder until you reach Mt. Bachelor at 6,300 ft and mile 64. From Mt. Bachelor, there is a short descent to the Sunriver Cutoff Road and 11 miles more descent to a right turn onto Forest Service Road 40. This section from Bachelor down is all newer pavement and is some fast untechnical riding. Forest Service Road 40 returns to the chip seal as it heads west across the Three Trappers Climb, a 500 ft climb with only gradual grades. At the bottom of the descent off this climb the course reconnects with the earlier section of the course right before getting back on the Cascade Lakes Highway for the second climb back up to Mt. Bachelor. If you thought it was fun the first time you get to climb up it again. This time on the descent from Mt. Bachelor there is no turn off towards Sunriver and instead 22 miles of mostly descending down into Bend where transition 2 is along the river in the Old Mill District. All in all, the Bike course contained 7,500 feet of climbing and 8,500 feet of descending as Bend is 3.600 feet in elevation.
The run course, which had to be slightly altered due to some city projects not being quite finished yet. The run headed south from T2 along the Deschutes River before climbing up to the Haul Road Trail and out to the city limits of Bend. Up to this point much of the run was on hard-packed trail. Before leaving town the run course crossed over Century Drive for about six miles in the Tetherow neighborhoods. There is an out and back section that heads into the undeveloped forest section of the development before returning and following the main road with outstanding views of the mountains. The course now ran along the paved trail next to Skyliners Road back down to the neighborhoods on the Westside of Bend. The course would meander through these neighborhoods and gradually make its way back down to the river and end crossing the bridge in the Old mill District just stones throw from the transition area. The run course has some climbing but nothing too extreme compared to the bike course. Overall, this looked to be a difficult course but much less difficult than the Las Vegas course was. Temperatures are also much cooler in Bend this time of the year compared to Vegas, which was 105 for its inaugural Leadman 250.
Leadman Race Video[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E7NwnVPPYas&w=600]
I was excited to race and as the days were leading up to it; it was weird not to have the buildup I am used to for my other races. I think this was in part due to being at home and this race being much smaller than a typical Ironman. About 400 people were signed up for the Leadman races compared to 2500 typical of the Ironman races. Since the race was on Saturday, I took Friday off from work to get all my transitions set up and prepared for the day ahead. The one tricky thing leading up to the race has been the Pole Creek Wildfire that started a couple of weeks ago. If you had a chance to look at my climb of Broken Top, you could see the fire was fairly large. Unfortunately, this fire was still ongoing and the air quality in, and around Bend had been suffering because of it. I am not sure if it was the fire, or if I was getting a cold but I was not 100% for the race. I do not think this affected my race in any way though.
For the race, I was excited to have some family coming down to watch. It is always fun to have support for these races and the more the merrier. Only drawback was they were not going to arrive until late on Friday, and I decided to stay up and wait for them as I knew if I went to bed and got woken up, I would have an even harder time going back to bed. With them coming in late, me having too much running through my head, and it being hot in the house since we could not open the windows because of the smoke; I think I got about an hour of sleep before my alarm went off at 4 am. This was not exactly what I had hoped for, but once again, I did not feel like it negatively affected my race. I took a quick shower and got my breakfast ready. I was just going to do a bottle of EFS drink and a ProBar.
We were out of the house by 4:30 and on our way to T2. I had forgotten a couple of items the day before so it took a second to quickly throw them in my bag. We then headed up the road to the shuttle busses and were one of the last couple people on our bus. Melissa was able to ride with me, which was great, but it was funny as we went I was becoming increasing surprised by the route we were taking. After a while, it dawned on many people on the bus that our driver did not know the area, and we had missed our turns. We pull a u-turn on 97 and headed west from LaPine, a bit south but not too far in the wrong direction. Nonetheless, we had a bus full of A+ type personalities who were all freaking out by this time. This freak out was misguided as we got to the race start with plenty of time to spare. Turn out other busses missed turns as well so they pushed the start back a little. The extra time on the bus was no big deal to me except my stomach was not in agreement with me. This sometimes happens on race days, so I was not too worried but stomach issues have derailed my last couple of long races.
T1 was buzzing as everyone was making last-minute preparations for the race. I had it all pretty much dialed in the day before so it only took me a minute, and then I just hung out with Melissa. I had fully expected Cultus Lake to be calm on race day but there was a little chop, which surprised me. Nothing major compared to some other swims I have done but this was to be the longest yet. With an air temperature around 40 and water around 60, it was a bit cold as we waited out in the water for our wave start. Fortunately, I decided to wear my neoprene cap and booties for the swim as this made it comfortable once I got moving. Eventually, the time came and I felt fairly calm for embarking on a 5k swim. Standing out in the water I felt like the swim looked short and after my swim, I still think it was on the shorter side. I started out in the back and tried to take it easy; I ended up passing a couple of people, but for the most part, I stayed in the back. I felt like I swam pretty solid for myself but had a feeling I was near the back. I came out of the first loop, and Melissa told me I was at 40 minutes, much faster than I expected. Going back out for the second loop it gave me confidence, and I continued to swim at my relaxed pace. I definitely felt slower on the second loop but came out of the water in 1:30, much faster than expected. In my last two Ironman’s, I was near the middle of the pack but in this race, I was 111thout of 119 swimmers, ouch!
Out of the water, I nearly ran past the wetsuit strippers until Melissa yelled at me. I stopped and clumsily got my wetsuit off and headed for the changing tent. Since I was so slow there were not many people in there, and it was easy to find a chair. When I opened my bag, I was surprised to see a helmet in there as mine was on my bike. I looked around and there was a guy full dressed running around looking for something; I asked him if he had lost his helmet, and he had, so I was happy to be able to reunite him with it. It turns out it must have fallen out of his bag, and they thought it was mine. His number was 95 and mine was 96. I planned on making a full change at both transitions as I was not going to be breaking and records and was just hoping to finish. My transition was just over 10 minutes, but I was warm and dry considering it was still cold out. I even had on my windbreaker jacket to take the chill off. I was shocked as I ran to my bike to see that I was one of the last out of the water. I knew I was slow but did not expect to be in the back of the pack.
For the ride, I chose to ride my Trek road bike as it has easier gearing, and I was not confident that I could stay in the aero position for the whole ride. Once on the road I tried to maintain a solid but easy pace as I wanted to leave enough for the whole race. My computer had somehow died in my bag, so I was going totally based on feel. The first 18 miles to the turnaround point went well. I was feeling good after my swim and working on getting calories and hydration in. My nutrition plan was to alternate between EFS and Skratch Labs bottles with bananas, gels, and Bloks in between. This is similar to what I had done in training and found that it worked well for me. At the turn around I switched bottles and took off my jacket as it was warming up a bit. I continued on feeling good and realized that I was about 6th or 7th from the back. Cruising along through the back roads around the reservoirs I think I went nearly 20 miles without seeing another racer. It was a very lonely bike course, especially in the back.
The course hit the Special Need Area twice giving me the opportunity to drop off my jacket and grab some things. This is also where the climbing begins, and I once again tried to keep within my limits. On the climbs, I was feeling a bit of the effort in my legs, but for the most part I was feeling good. I was also passing some people, which made me feel like I was gauging my efforts well. Up until this point my nutrition plan had been d doing well and my only real issue was my left eye. I seemed to get something in it during the first couple miles of the bike, and it was slowly getting more irritated as I went. Just before the top of the Sparks Lake Climb I got passed by the race leaders who were already on their second loop and luckily heading back into town. At the top by Mt. Bachelor, I ran into my cheering crew for the first time; they were up ringing the cow bell and cheering me on. I felt good and headed down the first descent. I stopped briefly at the next aid station and then a couple of feet further along to talk with them. I was at mile 70 and feeling good.
The next section of the race was 11 miles of descending where I surprisingly went from feeling good to horrible in a matter of miles. By the bottom of this descent, I went from feeling good to feeling very dehydrated and my stomach beginning its revolt. I got on the flats of Three Trappers Road but was now making much worse time. I ended up stopping when I caught back up with my family and sat down for about 5 minutes. I was not doing well and decided to push on. I had to stop and dry heave a couple of times before finishing the small climb and descending to the special needs aid station at mile 92. At his point, I sat down again and after talking it over, I decided to pull the plug. I had 50 miles to go and had many of the feelings of dehydration I had had before. I was really annoyed by this but feel like it was the right decision. Live to fight another day. Nutrition continues to be the biggest hurdle for me to conquer, and I hopefully will be able to solve it for Ironman Coeur d’Alene next summer. If not, then I will probably pull the plug on long distance racing.
- Nineteen Tsunami Wetsuit – My main wetsuit. I have had this one since my first triathlon and it has not let me down.
- Mavic Plasma Helmet – As I mentioned in my review it is one of the most comfortable helmets I have worn. It was great once again.
- Mavic Helium Jersey – A tight fitting and lightweight jersey. This was almost too breathable for the race as it was not as warm as I expected.
- Mavic Helium Bib Shorts – Comfortable shorts but they do like to slide up my legs a bit.
- Giro Apeckx Shoes – None of my shoes have been a perfect fit but these have been the best. My right foot was sore after about 80 miles.
- Finis Energy Goggles – These worked great. Were comfortable and did not fog at all.
Notes on the Race
Since this was the inaugural Leadman Bend, I wanted to write a couple notes about the race for those interested in doing it. I do live in bend so I may be a bit biased, but I do believe it is a fun, difficult, and fair course. There were some last-minute changes due to some city issues, but for the most part, it is a scenic course with a good challenge. The swim course was awesome if just a bit short. Cultus Lake is clear, and the buoys were set close so it was easy to sight. The bike course is hard and scenic. With a good portion of the roads being newer pavement it made for a fun ride. The course is a little lonely out there, especially with the smaller turn out of racers. Hopefully, this will change in the future. This year we did have a local wildfire which impacted the turnout and the air quality of the run; this is not something you can hold the Leadman accountable for, of the five years I have lived in bend this has been the smokiest it has been for any consistent amount of time.
Every first-year race will have some logistical issues, and this was the case here as well. From a lack of explanations when getting our packets to bus drivers not being from the area and therefore, not knowing how to get to Cultus Lake, there were a couple of issues, but they were minor. The bike course was well marked and staffed with volunteers on every corner I got to. I cannot comment about the descent into bend very much as I did not ride it, but I did drive it after I pulled out. Aid Stations were well spaced out and well stocked. There was way more than was needed, which is good considering the bike course is a long way from everything. I heard good things about the run, but I was not able to make it that far so cannot comment on it too much. One thing the Leadman did offer up was lots of swag, I came away with a long-sleeve tee, bike jersey, visor, posters, and would have got more if I finished. The staff was helpful and did a good job answering questions at the athlete’s briefing. I think that with ne year under their belts; next year’s race will be fantastic. I definitely would like to do it again, but if I cannot figure out my nutrition, it may have to be the 125 for me. As always, your mileage may vary.