Race Review: World’s Toughest Tri

Auburn Triathlon – World’s Toughest Half-Ironman (Olympic & Sprint distance events also offered)

Overview:  This point to point race takes place in late May in the Northern California town of Auburn.  Located in the Sierra foothills this race offers a very challenging course.  Although it is a small race, it is still very well organized and it definitely lives up to its name as the “World’s Toughest Half.” This race is recommended for experienced triathletes who want a challenging but laid back race.  Not recommended for those new to the sport or those merely interested in clocking a PR.

Swim: The swim takes place in beautiful Folsom Lake.  In 2009 the water temperature was in the low 70’s, perfect for the race.  New for 2009 there was a mandatory 10 minute warm up period in the water prior to the start.  This was in an effort to minimize the risks associated with the sudden shock of cold water which has been linked to some recent deaths in triathlon.  The start is a mass start from the rattlesnake bar boat ramp and swimmers can choose to start in the water itself or the on the ramp (depending on how near the front they want to be).  Swimmers head straight out and then to the right to the first buoy proceeding in a counterclockwise diamond around the lake.  There are buoys at each turn, which are clearly visible throughout the swim.  Upon completing the swim, athletes head up the boat ramp and into T1.

Bike: With over 6000 feet of net elevation gain, this is one of the toughest bike courses around.  The hills start right away, and don’t seem to let up for the whole race.  There are many challenging climbs and some technical descents on narrow curvy roads.  Leave the tri bikes at home and go with a road bike with clip on aero-bars.  The course is somewhat confusing, with many turns, so pay attention to avoid getting lost, or better yet map out the course prior to the race.  The course is open to traffic, and although police direct cars at major intersections, riders must use extreme caution.  In addition, the route takes riders across a few railroad crossings and in previous years some rather long trains have halted riders at the crossings.  At times these aspects can almost make a rider forget they are even in a race.

Run:  Most of the run takes place through a state park on trails, dirt and gravel roads although there are a few sections on pavement.  The course has plenty of great scenery to keep runners occupied, and it is even pretty shady for the most part.  However, like the bike it also features many hills.  It is a two loop course giving runners the opportunity to know what to expect on the second loop.  There are plenty of aid stations along the run that provide great race support and motivation.

Logistics:  Area hotels are all reasonably priced and in good condition, there are also options for camping in the area.  There aren’t many restaurants in town, but the race website lists some good dinning options.  Plan on getting to Auburn with enough time the day before the race to map out the locations for the start and T2.  It is also recommended that racers at least drive some portions of the bike course to get familiar with it.  This is a point to point race so participants need to stage their run gear at T2 the night before the race.  In addition, there is no parking at T1 on race day and athletes ride their bikes from T2/Finish to T1/Start.  It’s mainly down hill and a short 20 minute ride, but pack accordingly so that everything can fit easily int


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