Austin Tri-Cyclist Blog

Friday, October 4, 2013

Leadman Epic 250 Race Report

by Gray Skinner

Last weekend, Leah and I traveled to beautiful Bend, Oregon, for the Leadman Epic 250 and 125 put on by Lifetime Fitness. This was the second year for the Leadman 250 in Bend. The race would be twice as long as the longest race (Gray - Half iron, Leah - Olympic) either of us had ever done. Let me first say that this was an excellent venue and event. I highly recommend anyone up for a challenge to check out this race. Lifetime and the race director have done a really great job bringing together a unique and challenging course and one of the best race venues possible!

The Epic 250 consists of a 5k swim in beautiful Cultus Lake; a 223k ride starting at the lake, climbing twice over Mt. Bachelor and ending in Bend (~140miles); and a civilized 22k run through Bend.
The motivation for choosing this race was really threefold: 1) see a new part of the country we had never seen before, 2) get a taste of what racing for nine hours feels like in preparation for my first Ironman on 12/1/13, and 3) do a race that was swim/bike heavy that I could reasonably prep for during the Austin summer.

We arrived in Bend late Thursday night after making the three-hour drive over from Portland. Friday morning we went to the expo, picked up our bikes from TriBikeTransport, went to the athlete meeting, and retrieved packets. Race staff was great, and the logistics went really smoothly. That afternoon, we caught up with the Picky Bars founders and new Bend residents Jesse Thomas and Lauren Fleshman. Jesse is a pro triathlete and Lauren is a pro runner, so it was good hearing about their business and their experience in Bend over the last year. Also, I was very excited to find out that Picky Bars would be on course as the race food! If you haven’t tried them, they are excellent!

In the afternoon, we also headed up to Cultus Lake to drop off bikes and pre-ride part of the course. I like to spin the legs for 30-45 minutes with some effort at race pace the day before the race. Bike felt great, and legs seemed rested and ready to go. Weather for the pre-ride was PERFECT! 70 degrees, sunny, light wind, crisp mountain air—it would have been ideal if only we could have raced Friday! It was an uneventful evening; we dropped off T2 bags, had a pre-race meal at home, and were early into bed dreaming that the rain and cold front would hold off!

On to race morning... It was up at 4, a breakfast of eggs/avocado tortillas, and onto T2 for bus pickup. Wasn’t raining when we woke up, which was a positive, but it was COLD. Having endured the Austin summer, 40 degrees felt more like 20! So I put on my ROKA Maverick Pro wetsuit for the bus ride to the swim start. I liked the drive to the start; you knew everything was taken care of the night before, and the race morning prep was more manageable. Arriving at the swim start, it was still cold and overcast. The water temp was around 60 degrees, which wasn’t so bad, but the cold air temp made it a lot worse. I started in the first wave and wasn’t sure what to expect, but I knew that it was going to be a long swim. I kept telling myself, “If you can just get out of the water, you have 8 hours to catch everyone.” The swim was two loops of an alleged 2.5k each. The course was a bit short, more like 4.6k, which was helpful, but after the first loop, things were falling apart. The second loop was really tough, and I came out of the water with a slow time of around 1:15, 12 minutes down on the leaders.

Overjoyed to be out of the water, I sprinted into the T1 changing tent. It was a steamy mess of triathletes. Time seemed to stop in the tent, and by the time I left T1, I had unknowingly spent seven minutes in T1! Putting on socks, arm warmers, etc., was really tough with numb hands. I ended up going with compression socks, arm warmers, jersey, light gloves, and toe covers, optimistically thinking that it would warm up. Bad idea!

I started out on the bike feeling very cold, but was passing people and feeling pretty good. I had set a power goal of riding between 230 and 240 watts for the entire bike. The first hour it was really hard to keep it under 240 on fresh legs. I ended up around 243 for first hour and felt good and was eating well, but continually getting colder. The next few hours passed uneventfully, and then came the first trip up Mt. Bachelor. This is a very deceptive climb; driving it at 50 mph, it seems very gradual, but it’s a really slow grinder. Again I felt good and kept passing people, making my way into fifth place by the top of the climb. Coming over the top at 6,000 feet, the sleet started. All the body heat I had generated in the last 45 min of climbing suddenly vanished as I plunged down to Sun River. It was a 10-mile descent in sleeting, gusting wind, with a disc wheel and my arms too tired to lean over the bars in super aero. I was actually pretty scared and could have gone a lot faster here in better conditions.

Onto the climb for the second time, I passed two more riders and was second on the road for a brief period. I started having problems around 5hr 15min into the bike. Nearing the top of climb for the second time, I was re-passed by third and fourth, and tried responding but was in a bad patch. Coming over the top, things got worse. My body started shutting down on the descent into town, not what you want when you are going 45mph! My heart rate dropped to around 80, and I couldn't feel my arms. I felt as if I were falling asleep on the bike, which was very strange. Normally I would be railing and pedaling hard on a long wide open descent like this, but not today. I was happy to get off the mountain. I was passed one more time just outside town and came into T2 in fifth overall.

Arriving in T2, I was delirious. Luckily Leah had been waiting there for me since finishing her race (fifth female in her first half iron!), and was able to direct me! I don’t know how I managed to get shoes on, etc., and start the run, but the next thing I knew, I was on the course in survival mode. All hopes of a fast run abandoned, I was here to find out how my body dealt with running after 7.5 hrs of exercise. The first nine miles were ok, around 7:30 pace, but I hit the wall around mile 10 and limped in around 8:30 pace.

I ended up fifth place overall. Lots of fifths this year! (fifth overall amateur at Galveston 70.3 + State Pro/1 TT!) I’m hoping to graduate from the extended podium to the actual one at my first Ironman on Dec. 1 in Cozumel!

Thanks to ROKA Sports, Chris McDonald and Team BigSexyRacing,, Austin TriCyclist, Sol Frost and crew at Austinbikes, Noah Wright and Jack Cartwright for last-minute wheel support, Enlightened-Performance Coaching, and my amazing wife Leah for putting up with me!


  1. Nice race report. It's a dark place where the body begins to shut down for whatever reason and dealing with what I call the "demons" . We never know what race morning may bring for us but knowing that you dealt with some pretty awful conditions should bolster your preparation for the full distance tri. Looking forward to your next race report.

  2. I am doing the Epic 250 this year. What % of your FTP did you ride at? Did you think that was too high or too low?

    1. Thanks for the comment and for reading the post! It's a really great race. I want to go back this year but haven't committed yet as i think i might be too close to Kona. I rode at 240/330 so about 70% I think that was about right, you have to put some power down on that course to go fast. The first 3 hrs of the bike were more like 245, that was probably a little too hard for first hour, if i did it again, i would ride 230-235 for hour 1 and 2 and save some for the 2nd climb and finish hard on the downhill section into town. I barely pedaled on that section and was not in aero, so that brought avg down and cost me some time. File is on strava.

  3. Got another question, is there anything you wish you would have done differently during the race?