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We Raced It! Life Time Leadman Epic Tri Bend

  • By Jené Shaw and Julia Polloreno
  • Published Sep 27, 2012
  • Updated Oct 31, 2014 at 4:39 PM UTC

Triathlete magazine editors deliver a first-person account from inside the field.

After winning the 2012 Leadman Tri Epic 250 in Bend, Ore., pro Jordan Rapp spoke about how the inaugural event differs from “the establishment” that triathletes are used to. “I don’t mean that as a bad thing,” Rapp said. “I think it’s great that there are established races and established distances. But there’s room for something that’s different, and it gets to the root of what it means to be a triathlete and what triathlons stem from.”

Saturday’s event, which included a 125K and 250K distance, put an emphasis on the swim-bike portion with a shorter run. Because the distance and this course are new, there are only personal bests to be created, not measured against. “When you go to the start line of the race you have a lot of expectations on yourself, or other people put expectations on you,” Rapp said. “But when you come to a race like this, those expectations go out the window. And that’s something to be celebrated. I think it’s great to have those chances to race against your prior best performances but it’s also remarkable to have a chance to just do something that you didn’t know if you could do.”

Editor-in-Chief Julia Polloreno and Senior Editor Jené Shaw raced the 125K distance on Sunday. Below are their thoughts on the event.

Jené: At the awards ceremony, race announcer Jerry MacNeil asked for a show of hands, asking: After doing this race, who has entertained the idea of moving to Bend? My hand was definitely in the air. I had heard that Bend rivals Boulder, Colo., as an ideal training ground for triathletes, and it’s clear why. The seemingly endless forest, the snow-capped mountains, the waterfalls—it all makes a stunning background for long rides. And the countless craft breweries and local farm-to-table restaurants make recovery just as fun.

Julia: It’s true: This event is a big fat, beautiful advertisement for the Bend Visitor’s Bureau. I was so swept up in the scenery, at times I forgot I was actually in a race. As for pre- and post-race enjoyment of Bend and its bounty of local brews and off-the-charts eating establishments, we had the insightful guidance of pro and Bend native Linsey Corbin, who tipped us off to the must-eat/drink spots in town. They did not disappoint.

Jené: We’ll be the first to admit we did not come as prepared as we should have for this race, with house renovations and post-Ironman burnout giving us reasons for not taking training too seriously. Let’s just say we made a few mistakes…

How NOT to race:

• Arrive at 12:00 p.m. the day before—particularly coming straight from Interbike in Las Vegas

• Eat a late pre-race dinner with (two) dessert(s) and wine (weren’t we kind of on vacation?)

• Expect to find your go-to nutrition in town, and when you can’t, just wing it and use something new

• Buy race morning breakfast at 9:45 p.m. the night before

• Wait for the last shuttle to get to the swim start

• Forget a bike pump and stealthily borrow a neighbor’s

• Leave the bike prep stuff until the last minute, such as finding a bike computer battery or buying CO2

• Miss the swim schedule announcement so that you’re standing on the beach when your wave starts in the deep end

• Put sunglasses in T2 bag so that you ride 65 miles in the sun and wind without any eye protection. (That’s a lot of squinting)

Pre-Race Logistics

The host hotel, the Hilton Garden Inn (think upscale yet casual mountain lodge), was steps away from the Old Mill District, a cute area made up of outdoor shops and restaurants along the Deschutes River. Packet pickup (held in an old Ann Taylor store), T2 and the race finish were all right next to each other, making for a simple registration. An REI next door was convenient for last-minute nutrition needs.

Because the race is point-to-point, you have to drop your bike off at Cultus Lake (about a 45-minute drive from town) the day before. Allow time for this round-trip adventure, and bring your camera for epic sunset shots over the lake and mountain shots on the way home. Don’t forget your jacket—it’s cold up there at almost 5,000 feet.

The morning of the race, you take a school bus to the start. We recommend finding the shuttle pickup location the day before, because it’s hard to find in the morning dark. We thought we’d rely on signage and a stream of other racers heading to the shuttles, neither of which we actually saw. It was only a stroke of sheer luck that we spotted a local racer who literally lit the way with his headlamp (smart).

The Swim: 2.5K (1.5 miles)/5K (3.1 miles)

Jené: Most athletes, including me, were slightly nervous about how cold Cultus Lake was going to be, especially given that the air temperature in the morning was in the low 40s. Once I got in and got over the initial cold-face feeling, it was surprisingly tolerable—almost refreshing. The water was so crisp and clear that you can see the bottom of the lake the majority of the time. It does get fairly shallow in sections, to the point where you could walk if you had to. (Watch out for large rocks in those areas.)

The swim was an out-and-back, keeping the buoys to your right the whole time. If you’re a right-side breather, the way out can be a little blinding. On the way back, approaching the exit, the sun made it difficult to see the boat ramp, so I had to follow the kicking splashes in front of me to find my way out.

The only downside to the swim was that the wave start announcements could have been louder. It takes a few minutes to swim to the starting position by a boat, and by the time I realized it was my wave, I had to dive in and frantically swim behind the group. Also, based on talking to a few athletes, I think the course was a little short.

Julia: I also found myself on the beach trying to figure out the wave schedule as my wave countdown began. And it was a deep-water start that required an extra three to four minutes just to get to the start buoy. There was a single announcer (God bless him for fielding frantic athlete inquiries while trying to actually send off athletes) speaking over a way-too-quiet sound system, and there didn’t seem to be any race staff supporting him. None of the other racers waiting for the start seemed to know which waves had already been sent off, and I made a mad dash down the ramp once I realized my start was already underway.

After a few underwater curse words were uttered and I recalibrated my race approach (“You got this top-five swim!” to “You’re racing in Oregon!”) I settled into the swim and began appreciating the incredible Cultus Lake venue. The water, although chilly at first, was unbelievably pristine. Wetsuit or no wetsuit, I’ve never enjoyed a triathlon swim more.

PHOTOS: LeadmanTri Bend Life Time Epic 250

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