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Auburn "World's Toughest Half" Triathlon - Triathlon1/2 Ironman

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Auburn, California
United States
85F / 29C
Total Time = 7h 40m 45s
Overall Rank = 174/202
Age Group = 45-49
Age Group Rank = 30/35
Pre-race routine:

Headed to Auburn Saturday morning, picked up one of my son's friends to go with us. Had a great day, pre-drove the race course, showed my wife the swim location (so she could find her way around the next day). Waited through a very long sign in process (took almost 40 minutes), then listened to the race meeting - not a lot of new information there (most I had already seen on the website).

Spent the night at the Quality Inn, 13490 Lincoln Way in Auburn - room was clean, quiet, and they found us a bottom floor room so I didn't have to carry my bike up the stairs.

We had a great dinner at a local Italian Restaurant, then the family went out to see a movie - I opted to stay at the room, and finish packing/repacking my race day stuff.

Sleep was pretty hard to come by, with 4 people and a small dog and lots of nervous enery in a hotel room - but I did get a little sleep. Got up about 3:30 AM, started my pre-race routine. I have a very detailed checklist that I use, with every item that needs to be accomplished on the list - from my shower, to band-aids on critical areas, to breakfast to body glide to eating that last bannana and GU right before the start. This helps keep me on track, and make certain that I do not miss any critical things.

Headed out to Rattlesnake Launch Ramp around 5:00 AM, got there about 5:30 - timing was perfect. Had lots of time to double check the bike, set up the transistion area, and do a couple of warm up runs.

Event warmup:

I was in the water by 6:20, did a few swim laps to warm up, and by 6:35 AM, we were off.
  • 43m 24s
  • 2187 yards
  • 01m 59s / 100 yards

This was an interesting swim. My montra for the day was "Go Fast when you can, and slow when you have to". My goal for this race was to finish, and finish strong. With that in mind, I treated the swim as a 40 minute warm up, and kept my pace and heart-rate in check.
The first couple of hundred yards were pretty physical, and we wrestled for position in the pack. Eventually things calmed down a bit, and I was able to get into a groove. I focused to trying to draft off other swimmers, and for the first time in my triathlon career, I was able to do this for most of the race.

Since I have been having cramping problems on my last couple of long swims, I decided to try the "no kick" routine. This seemed to work really well, as I finished the swim with no cramps, and it didn't seem to really affect my time (still under 2 min/100)

What would you do differently?:

Nothing - this swim went really well. Had it been a shorter race, or less challenging course I could have ramped up the pace - but this was the right pace for me, on this course.
Transition 1
  • 02m 50s

T1- went well - fussed with the wetsuit strap a little bit, but everything else went per plan. As I was pulling the wetsuit down around my waist a "stripper" walked up and asked if I wanted help. I said sure, sat down and in one quick movement the suit was off!!! I thanked him profusely, and had my helmet on and headed to the exit.
What would you do differently?:

Nothing - this was exactly per plan
  • 4h 20m
  • 56 miles
  • 12.92 mile/hr

What can I say - this was the toughest 56 miles I have ever ridden. By mile two, my back was already starting to cramp up, and I was wondering how I was going to survive the day. Tried different positions, but my back just was not goign to be happy, with the amount of climbing we had to do. Decided to just "HTFU", and go until I fell off the bike.

Had lots of company on the intial miles, which made it easy to follow the course. Kept true to my race montra "Go fast when you can, go slow when you have to", kicked up the pace and hit the aero bars on the flats and downhills, took it easy going up the hills, hitting low gear quickly, and spinning my way up.

Some areas of the course hills were crazy - the hills were steeper than anything I have ever ridden, and there was no way to get any real momentum to help you up - so that meant a long grind up. I looked at my speedometer on one particulary nasty hill - 3.7 miles per hour. That is a new record low speed for my bike record books.

Kept grinding away, clicking off the miles. Focused on fueling and hydrating. I carried one bottle on my bike with gatorade, and my aero bottle with ice water. Fuel was an interesting mix of fig newtons, shot blocks, Cliff Bars, sport beans and moons. I put the whole batch of stuff in a zip-lock bag, and put in my little frame mounted bag. This really worked well, as there was no struggling to open bags and containers, while careening down the roadway one-handed.

Aid stations were about every 15 miles, and had cyto-max and water. I topped off almost every station.

Made it to the top of the loop, without getting lost or having any insurmountable issues. Headed into the Bear Valley loop, which I was a little apprehensive about, after driving it the day previous. The downhill was incredible, here I purposely obeyed my montra, and kept my speed in check by riding the brakes hard. Unfortunatly what goes down must eventually come back up - and after a very short 5 minute descent, we then were set up for about 4 or 5 miles of 10% plus grade. Fought our way up this, grinding away in low gear for what seem like an hour.

Finally finished that loop, and headed back "down". Even though we were theoretically at the top of the ride, it was far from "all downhill". Seems like we would be treated to 5 minutes of flat or downhill, then 20 minutes of uphill - then repeat. Over, and over, and over again.

Did I mention there were hills on this ride????

About mile 42, I remember thinking "This ride has stopped being fun".

From that point, I was ready to finish - so I tried to kick up the pace a bit - that worked for about 3 minutes, till I hit the next hill.

To be fair, there was some incredible downhills - and I let the bike fly on those. My top speed was 52 mph on one of the downhills. I remember one section where we parallel 1-80 - through my wind blurred vision I noticed that the trucks on the freeway were going about the same speed that I was.

On one of those "blurry eyed speed trips" I literally saw my life flash before my eyes. I'm careening along tucked into the aero bars, probably going 40 plus miles an hour, and out of the corner of my eye I see a car approaching the road from a private driveway. As I got closer to him, I notice that the driver is not really someone I would trust with my life - 20 something years old, cigarette hanging out of his mouth, hat on sideways, driving a beat up chevy nova or something like that. He is still approaching the roadway that I am on, and he is looking the other way, but still rolling towards the road. By now I am about 50 feet from him, I'm hitting the breaks hard but there is no way that I can stop from that speed before hitting him if he pulls in front of me. Without even thinking I started screaming like a little girl "NO NO NOOO NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO". I'll never know if he heard me or just decided to look my direction on his own - but he stopped just inches from pulling into my path. After that, I was just a little freaked out - it took a couple of miles to get my heart rate back down, and to convince myself that it was good to go fast downhill.

There was one last hill to be tackled - and I remember from my ride a few weeks ago that it was a monster. Set up, low gear, started grinding my way up, trying to pace myself. About 1/2 way up, I started feeling that crazy "OH-CRAP" twinging in my right quad, and sure enough, about 3 pedal strokes later I had a full-on cramp brewing. I hastly unclipped and jumped off the bike (without falling) and started walking up, cursing under my breath. I really had wanted to do this whole course without walking, but I guess that goal will have to wait for next year to be accomplished.

I had taken two salt tablets at that point - and would have taken my third (and last) but I was out of water. Luckily, the aid station was at the top of the hill - I loaded up with water and cyto, popped my last salt tab, and headed back down the road.

The last 10 miles were fairly uneventful, they had the course well marked, and lots of CHP's and City Police controlling the intersections - nice touch!!!!

Couldn't find the turn into T-2, had to ask some spectators - it figures I would get lost 100 yards from the end of the ride. Finally headed into the chute, and heard my family cheering for me - that was a real uplifting moment.

What would you do differently?:

Put a motor on the damned bike to go up the hills better.
Transition 2
  • 01m

T-2 went pretty well - took some extra time to spray down with sunscreen, and load up my water bottle out of the ice chest.

Knowing that this was going to be a 7 hour plus adventure, made it hard to really worry about an extra 15 seconds or so....
What would you do differently?:

  • 2h 34m
  • 13.1 miles
  • 11m 46s  min/mile

Tough, tough run. My first mile was an 8:36, and I thought to myself "Damn, that's good after the punishment my legs just took on the bike". Then I realized that we were following the flume, and the water was going the same direction we were running - so it was all downhill!!!
Sure enough, gravity (and it's affects) took over on mile 2, and kicked me back to almost a 12 minute mile. I tried to keep running on all the flats and downhills, and ended up giving up trying to run up the hills - just gave in a walked. I hate walking during a race...

I was a real challenge to keep moving - it was really getting hot, and by now I had been on the course for over 7 hours. Pounded down a few shot blocks, choked down 1/2 a power bar, and alternated between cyto max and water at the aid stations. The volunteers and aid stations were fantastic - always an encouraging word, an ice cold sponge, and something to drink.

The last 5 or 6 miles were tough - I remembered a Michael Payton story called the "Strugglers", that talked about the last finishers of a race, and the demons they had to fight off. I had lots of those demons, but there was no way I was going to not finish this race. Focused on keeping moving, running when I could, drinking as much as I could keep down, and just keep moving. About mile 12 starting getting a pretty severe headache, so I spend some extra time at the last aid station, trying to get cooled down.

Finally, made it to the last loop going into the chute - looked back to make sure no-one was going to try to pass me (don't ask me why, I guess I just refuse to let someone pass me in the chute) and ran across the timing mat. Tried to smile for the photographer, but I'm sure it will be a pretty weak effort.

The girls took off my chip, and handed me my medal - walked over to the ice water pool, and got two waters - one to drink, and one to pour over my head. My wife, son and his friend were there - I think they were all a little incredous that I had finished. My wife got a couple of pictures, and I walked and stretched a bit to cool down.
What would you do differently?:

It dawned on my this morning - I did lots of bricks, but they were all from my house - which is dead flat.... The nearest hills are 15 miles away, and even though I did lots of bike rides in the hills, lots of runs in the hills, I did not do bricks in the hills - that was a problem.
Post race
Warm down:

Walked around, light stretching, loaded up the bike and stuff, then had some BBQed chicken and a couple more waters.

What limited your ability to perform faster:

The bike ride sucked every ounce of life out of my legs - I have to get stronger on the bike, to be able to race this event (rather than "finish").

Event comments:

This is a very well run race, with a bike and ride that will kick your butt if you are not really, really well prepared, or naturally gifted (and I was neither).

Profile Album

Last updated: 2009-01-10 12:00 AM
00:43:24 | 2187 yards | 01m 59s / 100yards
Age Group: 0/35
Overall: 0/202
Performance: Good
Suit: Promotion Full
Course: Counter-clockwise loop from Rattlesnake launch ramp, Folsom Lake.
Start type: Deep Water Plus: Shot
Water temp: 72F / 22C Current: Low
200M Perf. Good Remainder: Good
Breathing: Good Drafting: Good
Waves: Good Navigation: Good
Rounding: Good
Time: 02:50
Performance: Good
Cap removal: Good Helmet on/
Suit off:
Wetsuit stuck? No Run with bike: Yes
Jump on bike: No
Getting up to speed: Good
04:20:00 | 56 miles | 12.92 mile/hr
Age Group: 0/35
Overall: 0/202
Performance: Below average
Wind: Some
Course: From Rattlesnake ramp, up various roadways, past Applegate, the around the Bear Valley loop, back to Railroad park.
Road: Rough Dry Cadence:
Turns: Average Cornering: Average
Gear changes: Good Hills: Average
Race pace: Comfortable Drinks: Not enough
Time: 01:00
Overall: Average
Riding w/ feet on shoes Bad
Jumping off bike Bad
Running with bike Average
Racking bike Good
Shoe and helmet removal Good
02:34:00 | 13.1 miles | 11m 46s  min/mile
Age Group: 0/35
Overall: 0/202
Performance: Below average
Mile 1 8.36 Mile 2 11.42 Mile 3 9.58 Mile 4 9.13 Mile 5 10.57 Mile 6 9.52 Mile 7 15.19 Mile 8 12.30 Mile 9 13 Mile 10 11.55 Mile 11 10.47 Mile 12 11.38 Mile 13 15.56
Course: From Railroad Park, up the hill to the flume trail, then down to Mauidu Drive, up through a residential subdivision, around a school track, the back through the Auburn recreation area.
Keeping cool Below average Drinking Not enough
Post race
Weight change: %
Overall: Good
Mental exertion [1-5] 3
Physical exertion [1-5] 3
Good race? Ok
Course challenge Too hard
Organized? Yes
Events on-time? Yes
Lots of volunteers? Yes
Plenty of drinks? Yes
Post race activities: Good
Race evaluation [1-5] 5

2009-06-03 6:52 AM

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Durham, CA
Subject: Auburn "World's Toughest Half" Triathlon

2009-06-03 9:29 AM
in reply to: #2191203

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Almaden Valley, San Jose, California
Subject: RE: Auburn "World's Toughest Half" Triathlon
Nice job!  Hubby was also in your event (and division!) and said it was brutal, also.  Put Wildflower to shame.  Toughest bike ever, and he's done an Ironman.

Congrats on finishing it - makes you wonder though, doesn't it, how much the (lack of) sleep the night before in a crowded room affects you.  i'm using that for at least part of my reasons!!  Cool
2009-06-04 7:33 AM
in reply to: #2191203

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san francisco
Subject: RE: Auburn "World's Toughest Half" Triathlon

Great job, Dennis!  Loved your race report.  I only did the olympic distance but it brought back memories of those brutal hills.  (Nice observation about doing brick runs with hills...I'm going to try a few of those, thanks!)  I hope you take some time to rest and recover from such a tough effort!  

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