The Bike: 106K (65 miles)/223K (138 miles)
Jene: You’d be hard-pressed to find another bike course that offers the kind of unspoiled forest scenery that this one does. Around a lot of corners I found my jaw dropping in disbelief, thinking, “Am I seriously riding here right now?” You pass sparkling alpine lakes, log cabins and open fields, and there are barely any cars to speak of until the very end of the ride. The best part? The roads are smooth—the 15ish-mile descent (yes really) back into town was freshly paved before the event, which was a dream for downhill bombers.
Julia: Normally, I would have been lonely/bored/antsy during a long ride with such a small field, but I was honestly so absorbed in the scenery, I was one happy camper in the midst of such a stunning landscape. I thought the chip-seal roads were in really good shape, and then I got to the last segment of the bike leg, where you could barely feel the road beneath you. If you rely on crowd support to power your pedal strokes in a race, you won’t find many cowbell-yielding spectators on these remote roads. It’s all you. And here, it’s a beautiful thing.
There is some climbing, but nothing ridiculously steep or long. Mostly just rollers. Wheeee.
The Run: 16.5K (10 miles)/22K (13 miles)
Jené: The run started on a quiet trail alongside the Deschutes River. If it weren’t for the aid stations and mile markers every half-mile, I would’ve felt like I was out on a solo jog. It moves to the Tetherow Golf Course, which would be a tough place to run if you’re suffering. The hills are manageable, nothing major, but it’s quite exposed.
Julia: The run course was mostly well marked, though there were some sketchy crossings at traffic circles (why are there so many traffic circles in Bend?). The highlight of the run course was the first two miles of trails hugging the Deschutes River. The aid stations were well organized, with a “spotter” calling out to you as you approached asking what you wanted so that a volunteer had it ready and waiting. The cold towels were a thoughtful touch on such a warm day.
Upon crossing the finish line, we were handed a heavy, rectangular-ish black medal. There were bagels, oranges, sandwiches, water, etc., but most importantly they had Deschutes beer on tap! Life Time has a rule against the “Dirty Seven” food additives, so none of their race food includes high-fructose corn syrup, trans fat, artificial preservatives, hormones/antibiotics, bleached flour, artificial colors or added/process sugars. (Was that Coke at the aid stations natural soda? Either way, we were glad to guzzle it.)
You could get immediate results on a handy touchscreen kiosk, and the overall finish line environment was energetic, thanks to local bands playing live music, and family (and dog) friendly.
• Sheer beauty of the course, the perfect small-town outdoorsy location of Bend
• Relaxed vibe of the entire event, from the easy check-in to the chill finish line
• Frequent buoys on the swim
• Heated changing tents in T1 (temps were in the low 40s out of the swim)
• Post-race craft microbrews, handed to you in a new yours-to-keep pint glass
• The shwag: long-sleeve tech t-shirt, visor, Leadman jersey, pint glass, awesome medal
• Results were quickly available at the finish line via an iPad kiosk (four sides!)
• The distance makes it ideal for late-season Ironman preparation
• Recovery time is faster than an Ironman—and maybe even a 70.3.
Every first-year event will have its kinks to work out, and thankfully it sounds like the Leadman crew is open to suggestions. This is what we’d change for next year.
• The lack of signage to Cultus Lake made bike drop-off a little difficult, and the bus drivers on race morning weren’t all too familiar with the exact location. Also, there could be more signs to registration and the shuttle stop in the morning, as well as on the bike course—a few top pro women made wrong turns and it ended their races.
• Less than 500 people signed up for the first-year event, which had some positives (being the first to race it, less competition!), but it would have been nice to see more people out on the course. I’m sure word will get around after this year and the numbers will be higher in 2013!
All in all, it was a memorable and positive race experience. We’re putting this one on our 2013 race calendar.