He may not be able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, but Chris Lieto’s extraordinary swimming, biking, and running abilities have made the Danville resident the top-ranked triathlete in the United States (and our cover model this month).
Lieto competed in his first amateur triathlon as a high school student (athletes swam at Cal High, biked to Monte Vista, then ran to Lieto’s alma mater, San Ramon Valley High). In 1998, he won his first adult triathlon and decided to become a full-time professional triathlete. Now 34, Lieto is hitting his stride. In August 2005, he won Ironman Canada. In May, he took first place at Ironman Japan.
And in March, he placed second in Ironman Malaysia and garnered a qualifying spot in the Ironman World Championship next month in Kona, Hawaii.
"The Malaysia competition was tough. It was 100 degrees with 95 percent humidity," Lieto says. "Even the locals were complaining about the heat."
Inside Triathlon magazine ranked Lieto as the number one triathlete in the United States and number five in the world. The coveted distinction is one he works hard to maintain by swimming two hours with the Concord Terrapins and biking 100 miles four days a week, and running 40 to 65 miles each week. He loves training on his home turf. "I have traveled around the United States and all over the world," he says. "We live in the best area to ride a bike. The terrain, the routes, the riding is just phenomenal."
As for local records, Lieto posted the second best time ever (45:56) in the history of the Mount Diablo Challenge during the 2004 race (see our photo essay on the race beginning on page 68). It’s the only chance he’s had to compete in the bike race up our favorite mountain. "I was less than a minute behind the winning rider, Greg Drake," Lieto recalls with a laugh. "I made a tactical error in letting him get ahead—and those last 200 meters are so steep, there was no way to catch up."
When he’s not competing, Lieto enjoys spending time with his number one fans: wife, Karis, and son, Kaiden, who is three.
"Kaiden loves riding bikes and running around the backyard with me," Lieto says with a smile.
A future Ironman? Only time will tell if Kaiden will follow in his dad’s wake, er, tracks, er, footsteps.