Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Leadman 250

Drawing on Endurance Corner's collective years of experience and access to an extended network of some of the most knowledgeable racers, we wanted to provide our best recommendations for approaching some of the biggest races around the world.

Here, we profile the Leadman Tri Epic 250 in Bend, Oregon.

Lifetime’s Leadman Tri Bend Epic 250 is an ultra distance triathlon which takes its name from the combination of the Leadville Trail running and mountain biking series, the seemingly inescapable need for race creators to call any long course triathlon “something-Man” and the race distance itself: 250km.

If you’re looking to do an event outside the now standard half ironman or ironman distances in a scenic location on a challenging course, this is a must-do race.

The Leadman 250 is in its third year in Bend, Oregon, and the surrounding mountains. The course has been adjusted over that time, with the major alteration being a run location change between its first and second years, resulting in a tweak to the bike course. In 2014, the course remains largely the same as in 2013.

Travel and Accommodations
Travel to Bend is relatively easy by plane, although it will likely require a connection through one of the major western airports such as Denver, San Francisco or Seattle if you’re not originating from those cities. Technically, you’ll be flying in to Redmond, which is a short drive from Bend itself. Alaska, American, Delta and United operate flights into Redmond.

There are many accommodation options in Bend itself, but none by the main race site at Northwest Crossing (as of 2014 anyway). Bend is an easy enough city to traverse by car though, so you can find a hotel that meets your budget and needs.

Pre-Race Workouts
The riding is excellent in and around Bend and it’s a very cycling-friendly city. It’s worthwhile previewing at least some parts of the bike course to get a sense of the climbs.

Bend is located in a high desert, so it’s a good chance you won’t encounter much rain fall. That said, the bike portion of the 2013 event occurred almost entirely in the rain, sleet and snow (at the highest point on the course), so be prepared for anything. Regardless of precipitation, Bend and the surrounding area experiences wide temperature swings through the fall, with a likely race day morning temp in the high 30s or low 40s (F) and up to the high-70s at the hottest point of the day.

Race Morning
The race is a point to point event, which requires a race provided shuttle from the finish area to the start. The day before the race you will be required to drop your bike off at the swim start location at Cultus Lake, about a 40 minute drive from Bend. No spectators are allowed at the swim start on race day as parking is limited, so plan to carry your own T1 and Dry Clothes bags. It’s usually a chilly start (air temps in the high 30s to low 40s) -- some racers opt to wear their wetsuits on the bus to cut down on gear and to stay warm waiting for the race to start. If you plan on doing any sort of dryland warm-up, bring appropriate clothing with you.

The swim is essentially two times a straight out and back with a small “J” hook into a cove between loops and at the end leading into T1 to equal roughly 5km. The water is crystal clear, but very chilly. Neoprene caps are recommended. If you are a smaller athlete, consider wearing a rash guard under your wetsuit to gain an extra few degrees warmth. Given the length of the event, the nature of the “straight shot” course and the typical number of participants, the field gradually strings out during the first loop, so be prepared for a solo swim with potentially limited drafting opportunities.

Consider a complete clothes change (or very thorough dry off with a towel) in the heated T1 changing tents as the temps at the beginning of the bike will almost assuredly be cold.

Regardless of your expected race time, dress warmly to start the bike. Full finger gloves, arm warmers, knee or leg warmers, shoe covers and a good wind or rain jacket are the way to go. You can always ditch clothing later at the aid stations if conditions warm up. In 2013, the conditions did not warm up and some of the racers at the front of the field were riding in their Special Needs bags.

The bike course amounts to an early out and back, followed by one and a half loops around Mt Bachelor which includes two climbs up Bachelor Pass and a long descent back into Bend, totally roughly 223k (138 miles). Aid stations are positioned about 10 miles apart and feature the usual event nutrition.

The first 16 miles of the course on Cascades Lake Scenic Byway trend down with a few small rollers to the turnaround near Davis Lake. The false flat nature on the return leg is deceptive and you could potentially torch yourself early if you try to maintain speeds from the beginning of the race.

The course turns right onto S. Century Drive, where you’ll experience the flattest part of the ride, with a few small rollers as you wind your way north on E. Crain Prairie Rd to NF-40. Shortly after turning left on NF-40 you will encounter Special Needs (roughly mile 45) which you will be able to access again on the second loop.

After Special Needs, the course follows NF-40 to Cascades Lake Scenic Byway, where you’ll turn right and begin the long climb up and around Mt Bachelor. The climb is about 23 miles with some steeper pitches, but mostly it’s a slow push for the whole distance to the top. The steepest section is the roughly 4.4 miles from Sparks Lake to the Mt Bachelor Lodge. Bring climbing gears and a compact crank.

Once you reach the apex of the climb, the course quickly turns right onto FSR-45, which features a sweeping 14 mile descent. If you’re comfortable in your descending skills, you can really open it up here. If you’re not comfortable, the descent is made of wide, sweeping turns and excellent road surface so you don’t have much to worry about. The course turns right on NF-40, and while you can maintain most of your speed through this section, the road surface is the worst part of the ride and you should pay attention for cracks and potholes.

After passing Special Needs a second time, you’ll return to Cascades Lake Scenic Byway for another crack at Bachelor Pass. After reaching the peak of the climb, there is a screaming 15 mile descent back into Bend on excellent roads. In the last few miles leading into T2 as you enter the housing development and country club where the run takes place there are a few short, steep climbs into the end of the bike. Be geared appropriately when you see the turn leading into the development as it’s a sharp turn that immediately winds uphill.

One note on the weather: In 2012, the race warmed up throughout the day. In 2013, what started as a cool morning turned to sleet and snow at the peak of the climb. Dress appropriately and consider having additional wet/cold weather gear in your Special Needs bags. After climbing through the rain and snow, you won’t have any fun on the descents if you’re wet and shivering uncontrollably.

Whatever the weather brings on the ride, Bend, on the other side of the mountains, will almost assuredly be sunny and temperate.

After the 2012 event, the run course changed to a new location at NorthWest Crossing in 2013. The course in 2014 appears to be the same as last year. The course is made up of a roughly 7.5-mile hilly loop that you will complete twice which winds its way through a housing development and around the Tetherow Golf Club. Aid stations are roughly every mile.

As the area is under development, you’ll find yourself transitioning from sidewalk to asphalt to dirt many times through the course. Also, consider tossing a small headlamp in your transition bag for the run -- if you’re caught out on the course after the sun sets, some of the descents on the run get challenging on the dirt path sections as there are no streetlights on the back half of the loop (or at least, there weren’t in 2013).

Bend is an awesome town with excellent local food and beer options. Notably, check out the Deschutes Brewery, as well as many other local breweries.

Nick is Endurance Corner’s content editor. He got clobbered by the weather at Leadman in 2013 and made plenty of tactical mistakes like deciding not to put on his jacket until after riding through the sleet. You can contact him via e-mail or follow him on Twitter @nick_mathers.

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