If you are a triathlete, there is no bigger day in this sport than the Kona Ironman World Championship, taking place this Saturday, October 9. In the world of triathlon, it is the Super Bowl, Wimbledon, World Series, World Cup and Tour de France all rolled into one. It is the race that defined the sport as it came of age and continues to be the defining race in the sport for any avid triathlete.
You can get to the starting line in Kona in one or two ways: 1) you can win a spot through a lottery or 2) win a spot at one of the qualifying events held around the world.
Tens of thousands of triathletes try to get one of these coveted Ironman spots every year. Only 1,800 succeed and get to test themselves on one of the biggest challenges the sports world has to offer: 2.4-miles of swimming, 112-miles of biking and a 26.2-mile marathon run through tough ocean waves and challenging lava-covered terrain.
Currently ranked second in the world, Chris Lieto, 38, is part of the latter group. But for the former college water polo player and surfer from Danville, California, success didn't happen overnight. He put in the blood, sweat and tears required to compete in 80-plus triathlons, 15 of which resulted in huge victories including three Ironman wins, a US Ironman championship and three top 10 finishes at the World Championship in Hawaii (placing second in 2009). “When I was starting out, I set a lot of goals—that I was going to be like Mark Allen, the top American, the world champ and on the cover of Outside—and people laughed,” Lieto recalls. “I took that as a driving force.”
In the world of triathlon, hard work and perseverance will only get you so far. You need customized guidance to break through any training barriers. Lieto approached elite endurance coach Matt Dixon in 2008. "When I met Chris, he was very fit but tired and prone to injury," says Dixon. "The benefit was he had plenty of previous experience and training. He also had the courage to change his approach and evolve his method of training."
The meeting would prove to be pivotal for Lieto. “Matt came at a perfect point in my career. He completely transformed my approach to training and racing."
Under Dixon's tutelage, Lieto's new training regime focused on technique and biomechanics (to see the running drills Dixon uses with Lieto, click here), nutrition (eating more to lose fat and gain muscle) and recovery. He also dropped Lieto's total training volume while increasing attention on intensity. And the results have been noticed by all. According to Marc Evans, former USA Triathlon head coach and the coach of two-time Ironman champ Scott Tinley, "Chris Lieto’s running over the past few years has made an astounding transformation. He is the most convincing example of biomechanics modification and re-structuring I have seen in a triathlete."
Dixon's secret to helping his athletes achieve such transformation lies in his training approach, which unites flexible periodization modeling, workout management and intensity and recovery protocols, and the best tool, he feels, for active recovery is the TRX Suspension Trainer. In the video below, Dixon takes Lieto through three of the TRX exercises he prescribes for all of his professional athletes: the TRX Sprinter Start, TRX Hamstring Curl and TRX Oblique Crunch. All have a focus on the core stability and functional strength unique to the sport of triathlon.
Will all his time on the TRX spell victory for Lieto? According to Dixon, it might. "Chris has an opportunity to win [at Kona]," says Dixon, "but so do many others. He needs to have a great day, he needs to execute the plan, and he needs things to go his way. All I know is that he can enter this race on October 9 knowing he is the best prepared he possibly can be and, looking back, we would not change a thing."
Dixon will be on the sidelines at Kona this weekend, cheering for Lieto and all of his competing athletes (including Tyler Stewart, Meredith Kessler, Luke Bell, Linsey Corbin). To get tweets of the live action from Dixon himself, click here.
Want to train like Chris Lieto? TRX has partnered with Matt Dixon to offer you a variety of interactive training plans available on TrainingPeaks.com. Check out this FREE DEMO today.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Chris Lieto finished a strong 11th at Kona. For race results, click here.