Danville Express

Sports - August 10, 2007

Becoming a man of iron

Danville guy goes pro with Ironman Triathlons

by Geoff Gillette

For a lot of guys, a weekend means taking care of yard work or tackling the "honey-do" list. If they're lucky, they might get to the gym or out on the bike.

For Danville resident Chris Lieto, weekends are a bit more challenging. For the past nine years Lieto has been taking part in Ironman Triathlon competitions all around the world - and he is a three-time champion.

The 35-year-old triathlete is a graduate of San Ramon Valley High School where he played water polo, volleyball and was a member of the diving team. While in high school, Lieto competed in his first triathlon, but it wasn't until much later in his life that he began to seriously consider the sport.

After graduating Long Beach State, he married and moved back to Danville where he worked as a mortgage broker and his wife sold real estate. It was the search for a physical activity that led him back to triathlons.

"When we moved back to Danville I couldn't really get out and surf so I was looking for something else to do as exercise," Lieto recalled. "Around that time I met a triathlete who got me thinking about doing triathlons."

Fate continued to lend a hand as Lieto happened to witness an Ironman competition and the allure drew him in.

Triathlons involve swimming, running and bicycling. They come in a variety of lengths, with the most difficult being the Ironman competition. In an Ironman event, participants will swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 miles, then run 26.2 miles. All in the same day.

"I did my first triathlon in 1998 in Napa, the Vineman Half Ironman," Lieto remembered.

From then on, he competed as often as possible, while at the same time maintaining his job and trying to spend time with his family. After four years of competing as an amateur, Lieto made the decision to turn pro.

"In order to turn pro you have to 'place' in a certain percentage of races, then petition for a pro license from the U.S. Triathlon Association," he said.

Plus a pro must find sponsors.

"The first year I still had to work some, and I started looking for sponsors," Lieto said. "I sought out the companies that I wanted to be with, utilize their products, and I think I've had a pretty good response."

Currently Lieto is sponsored by K-Swiss, Astavita, Trek Bicycles, PowerBar and Oakley. Eventually Lieto was able to stop working and devote himself full time to training for each event.

"I get out and work on all three parts of the event. You have to be good at all three in order to remain competitive," he said.

During a week's training, Lieto will run 60-70 miles, bike 400-500 miles, and swim up to 20,000 meters, depending on which component he is focusing on at the time.

"I don't do all that in one week. I work on different things and alternate," he said. "I also will vary the terrain for biking and running so that I am ready for any scenario."

In addition to training in the events themselves, he also does core training, strength training and pilates.

"This helps me with speed and endurance by building up my strength," he explained. "I am not trying to add muscle, just tone what I have."

Lieto is also launching his own company, Base Performance Nutrition, to sell products he and his team of experts have developed for more effective training and proper recovery.

"Base Performance Nutrition will be launching its first product late fall," he said, "and I'm really excited to share with others the products that I use and train with so that they can see the same results." Its Web site is www.baseperformance.com.

On July 21, Lieto competed again in the Napa Vineman competition, the site of his first-ever triathlon. The effort and training seem to have paid off as he finished fourth among the field in Napa that day.

While he travels around the world to compete, there is one championship that he focuses on and trains for each year: the World Ironman Championship. Set for Oct. 13 in Kona, Hawaii, it is the race that Lieto really wants to win this year. Last year, he finished in ninth place but was unsatisfied with his performance.

"I didn't feel I competed to the best of my ability last year. This year I'm going out there with the mindset that I'm going to win," he said.

E-mail photos to Editor@DanvilleWeekly.com.


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