Team Members: Pat Amato, Dan Pelner
Location: Auburn, CA
Event: World’s Toughest Trithlon, Half-Ironman
Date: May 31, 2009
Worlds Toughest Half 5/31/09 – Dan Pelner & Pat Amato
The trip started out as most of them do, with us packing up Pat’s car on a Friday afternoon at least an hour later then planned. Lucky for us the race wasn’t until Sunday so we weren’t in too much of a rush. We headed up for Northern Cali in time to beat most of the traffic and even stop at some legendary road side stands. We’ve seen the sign for the “Fudge & Pies” stand many times over the past few years but never stopped. This trip we could resist no longer and decided to check it out. Sadly they had no pies, not to fear as we bought plenty of fudge instead! After our detour we headed back on the road and into what felt like the surface of the sun. Since Pat refuses to drive with the windows up, Dan’s hair almost caught on fire and the fudge may or may not have turned into syrup. Had to be the hottest place ever, at least it was getting later and it cooled off after not too long.
Our stop for the night would be Aunt Celeste’s, in Davis about an hour away from the race site. When we arrived the whole family was there to greet us and a little surprised that D.R. wasn’t with us. When Pat told them Dan was coming they were expecting Dan Amato! Thankfully they didn’t make Pelner leave, but instead began serving us tons of food. Pat spent the night doing laundry and asking cousin Bob about his old friend Norman, who it turned out was actually named Melvin. The next morning more food appeared including some delicious smoothies laced with steroids.
Unfortunately, after eating, we had to head off for Auburn (California not the school) to check into the race and our hotel for the night. On our way to Auburn we were beginning to think that “John Denver was full of crap, man”. But as we got closer we found out he was right after all and there was plenty of rocky mountains for the race.
When we got there we checked into the hotel and went off in search of the lake to go for a swim. Naturally we got lost a few times trying to find the lake, GPS is for chicks…good thing we checked it out Saturday and didn’t wait to get lost the day of the race. When we finally reached the lake, there were a lot of boats in the water and we decided it was probably a bad idea to go for a swim. So we went to pick up our race packets at the expo instead.
Around this time we started to realize that this race wasn’t going to be like most races. It’s not organized by a big event company like most races and instead has a more laid back feel. This actually adds some interesting dimensions to the race and it is still pretty well organized. Despite being a USAT sanctioned race wearing your bib/race number was optional…this probably made it a little hard for them to enforce penalties!
Side note: Most of the girls there looked like they were carved out of granite, yet oddly had the same length hair as Pelner or Pat. So for awhile we thought we were at a lesbian tri, which worried us, since we usually judge success by how many chicks we beat in the race. However, guess there were just a lot of ridiculously strong looking chicks at this race over the age of 35. Some of those same chicks filled out their sleeveless tri tops a little better than us too.
After getting our packets and attending the pre-race briefing we went and found some food and Pat picked up some sweet Women’s shades at the supermarket. Then for the first time ever we made it back to the hotel with plenty of time to get our gear ready for the race in the morning, relax, put our feet up, and get to bed at a reasonable time.
This was fortunate since we had to get up at 4:30AM for the race. We groggily ate some food in the morning, packed up, and headed for the race. To get to the race we had to bike a good 6 miles once we parked. This was fun, since we hadn’t been up for an hour yet. It was already somewhat warm so we were getting ready for the worst, and prepared for the heat. As we slap chopped some sunscreen on each other and told each other how awesome we looked in our wetsuits, we were told there would be a “mandatory” 10 minute swim warm up. Apparently some research has shown that the sudden shock of cold water has led to some heart attacks or something so they made everyone get in and warm up. It didn’t really matter at this race since the water temperature was perfect.
True to the laid back nature of the race it started a few minutes late. Other then the usual getting punched and kicked at the start, the swim was pretty uneventful. I settled into a decent pace (for me) and was actually with a pack of swimmers for the whole race…this rarely happens unless it’s a pack from the wave after me. Though as I got out of the water and looked at the clock, I noticed that I logged my slowest swim time yet…maybe those were swimmers from the next wave after all! Either way the swim course felt a little long, later at the finish I heard a lot of other people saying this as well, so I’m sticking with that excuse.
After tearing off my wet suit I hopped on the bike. The hills started right away and I couldn’t catch my breath for like the first 10 miles…guess I need to do some more swim/bike bricks. The bike course was a pretty strange one as at one point it seemed like we were riding through someone’s backyard. Later I saw some old dude walking down the road carrying a harpoon…either that or the heat was getting to me. With over 6000 ft of total elevation gain it was a tough bike…I’m a decent climber so I was able to pass a bunch of people on the hills and make up for my poor swim. Just as things were looking good, I heard the sound of the gates closing at a train crossing…crap. I had to sit there for what felt like an eternity (after the race I would find out that it was actually 9 minutes) as what seemed like the worlds longest freight train crossed the road, giving all those people I had passed earlier the chance to catch back up to me. After the train finally passed I continued on the bike (a little demoralized) and set about making up for lost time. I definitely spent more energy then I should have in the last quarter of the bike trying to make up for that train. But my final time on the bike was decent given the challenges. After the race Brad, the race director, said he would subtract the time for the train…but doesn’t look like that’s happened yet.
The run course was also pretty tough with a bunch of nasty hills. There was a lot of good scenery though to keep my mind off the pain. Most of it was on trails…I think…which made it less painful. By this point in the race its hard to remember too many details. My run was pretty strong and in the end I was glad for it to be over, as I crossed the finish line Pat was already there getting some good pictures of me finishing.
All I remember is waking up really early then finishing 6 hours later with some chap that called himself Booth. Whether he was made up or not is unknown, I think my uncle Kelly use to have imaginary friends. I have some claw marks on my face, and I know that no cougars got to me this weekend, since I was holed up in the sticks with a small dog named Pelner.
The marks actually came from a wayward swimmer. I think he actually swam the course backwards, which is weird since no one else does that. But this guy hit me pretty solid, as u can see above my eye as I type.
The bike dominated me. It was my strong point and I think it went well. I didn’t get any flats and I rode past some hot old ladies in the race. Pretty noteworthy I know, but really the bike was just pure pain throughout. No let up on it, much tougher than the 3 century rides I have done this spring, even though it was 44 miles shorter.
Running, man, I think they should cut that part out of it. My favorite part almost ruined me. After the bike I felt pretty top notch. But honestly I think my head game is weak and I need to do some more racing and training in order to be ready for another hard race like this. Feeling sorry for yourself or worrying about how much longer the race is will not help when you have a half marathon or even a full marathon left after the seat of ur spandex jumps off the bike.
Today I am sore. Totally worth it. Looking forward to another challenge and preparing for it a little more. Going to Austin TX the week before and not training doesn’t constitute a taper week.
After the race we both agreed that it definitely lived up to its name of the “Worlds Toughest Half.” With 70.3 miles down, 400 miles to get back home, and not a shower in site we pulled a little surfer change in the parking lot. Dressed in boardshorts we hit up some sandwiches at “Mr. Pickle’s”…the favored sandwich shop of Graham and Faye. The staff there was pretty cool, or high, and let Pelner play with the etch-a-sketch, sadly they no longer sell jars of pickles so we couldn’t bring any home for Uncle Kelly.
The ride home was pretty uneventful other than some power napping by Pronk, and remembering that we had over 12 bottles of water for the day apiece, and neither of us had to drain the lizard yet and it had been 10.5 hours since we had started the race and last done that. Oh well, sleep, eat, and apparently pee when ur dead.
If this isn’t motivational you should definitely try your own and see how much you want to saw your legs off come 30 miles into “LeMond Hill”, or when the second loop of the half ironman course comes and you wish you could just hide in the grass and pretend you already ran it. The course humbles you and your mind plays tricks on you, but you know that the only way you will be satisfied is if you finish and stay mentally strong. Good luck, the payoff is totally worth