We had a conversation with Chris Lieto as the 2007 Ford Ironman World Championship race in Kona, Hawaii is now just days away.
ST: Chris, we have not heard much about you this year, where have you been?
Chris: This year started out well, but then I went through a period of time with no racing do to a small injury. Because of that it disturbed the rest of my schedule. My focus this year has been on this race so I didn't want to just go out and race races that would help me in my prep for this Saturday.
ST: You finished 9th in Kona last year and that gave you an automatic qualification for this years race. Did it take pressure of you not to have to qualify?
Chris: Yes, it definitely releases some pressure during the year. With the injury didn't have to worry about cramming in an Ironman somewhere to qualify that would jeopardize my performance here.
ST: What have you done this year to get ready for Kona?
Chris: I have focused on the training as does everyone, but I have spent extra time focusing on the stuff you can do outside of the training. This includes recovery, core, and nutrition. I also spent 3 weeks in Hawaii last month. I love training in the Island and the heat and the humidity is not much of an issue for me anymore. I also did some more bike racing and did the Mount Hood Classic. The stage races have been a good fitness builder for me and I enjoy the break in the triathlon training.
ST: The legal distance for pros this year has been moved up to 10m, what are your thoughts here?
Chris: I am glad the WTC has decided to extend that distance for the pros this year. The sport is a sport of your own efforts and I think the new rule will help ensure that is more true.
ST: Are there any specific weather conditions you are hoping for or are you taking it as it comes?
Chris: The conditions won't change my approach to the day, but a tougher day may stretch the field out a little more and make it more of an individual race instead of a tactical race that it has been the last couple years. Take it as it comes.
ST: I know it is tough to make predictions, but I’ll ask you for some anyway. What is your goal for the race and who’ll have the fastest bike split?
Chris: The top 5 is wide open and so is the fastest bike split. Anyone could have a great day, and I am out there to have an overall great day. The fastest bike split could be anyone and I may or may not have the fastest bike split.
ST: How are things going for you in terms of sponsorship?
Chris: I have been blessed to find an incredible new sponsor this year, K-Swiss. K-Swiss is new to this market but they are here for the long haul and they are committed to the sport. They have been incredible to work with and it has truly been an exciting process to be part of their product development team for this market segment. Next year I will have my own shoe and I am working with them on an apparel line as well. You will start to see K-Swiss everywhere in the sport of triathlon. They are committed. They are here to stay and I am lucky to be part of that.
Astavita is an antioxidant supplement company and love their product. I am passionate about nutrition and health and the free speed you get from treating your body right. Astavita is a key part of that.
Trek has the best bike on the market. I know you expect me to say that, but it truly is the fastest and most comfortable bike I have ridden. They are interested in new developments and respond to my suggestions.
I love working with people and sponsors that want to change and have a progressive attitude and I have been blessed to be surrounded by all these great companies.
ST: Would you actually like to see a different venue for the Ironman World Championships, or is Kona the place for it?
Chris: Kona is the ultimate place for the World Champs, but it would be great to see a traveling World Champ. New location each year to where there can be a more spectator draw and media interest. I think WTC could still keep Kona as a annual Ironman and they would still get an enormous turn out. They wouldn't lose anything there, and they could add a World Champ race that was in a different place. Could you imagine a World Champ in a big city. There would be so much press and I feel a larger interest from Companies to sponsor the race and the athletes. Even if they decided to do something like this it wouldn't happen until after I am done racing, but I think it would boost the sport to a new level.
ST: Should athletes previously found positive for doping be allowed to return to Kona?
Chris: I think they are hurting themselves as much as the sport. They have served there time, but I think there needs to be more done to stop the doping before race day.
ST: It appears you have come to Kona with your family. How big of a group have you brought here?
Chris: It is a pretty big crew and I am very fortunate to have the support of my family and a group of great sponsors. My Wife Karis and son Kaiden are my biggest supporters and my mom has been here for every race I have done. Astavita, Trek, and K-Swiss have sent over 20 people to watch and experience the race. We are all looking forward to a great week.
ST: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Chris: I am passionate about triathlon but I am an entrepreneur at heart. I am looking forward to combining the two with the launch of my new company Base Performance Nutrition. We are launching our first product this November and you can check it out at www.baseperformance.com. In 5 years I hope to have grown the business substantially and I hope to have learned a lot along the way. I’m excited to be working with some of my mentors and I know the next 5 years is going to be about me learning as much as I can from them in the business and nutrition world.