The Auburn Pain Train

Swim start & end 
Rattlesnake Bar, Granite Bay

What’s remarkable about the Auburn Triathlon is how deceptively difficult it is. The longest version of the race is dubbed the “World’s Toughest Half,” composing a total of 70.3 miles of combined swimming, cycling, and running. That’s got to be marketing though, right?

The swim starts out in the North Fork American River, a northern river-like part of lake Folsom. The water will be great. Pre-race jitters will be fun and exciting. But, before you know it, the swim’s over. And you better have enjoyed that swim … because that’s about where the pleasantries stop. Welcome aboard the pain train to hell.

From there on out, it’s a grueling hour and a half of climbing on the bike (for the mid distance race, not the long version, which I didn’t do), with enough minor downhills and flat spots to let your heart calm down enough to lure you back into not giving up. An hour into your ride, every little muscle fiber in your legs will just be begging to cramp.

If you haven’t given up by the time you reach run transition (the last part of your race), you have a difficult decision to make: should you give up? It’s a real decision, don’t take it lightly. First of all, you need to assess yourself and your fitness. Nobody likes a dead triathlete in a race. That kind of spoils the party for everyone. Bike-to-run transition is an excellent spot to seek-out medical attention.

If you are in good enough shape to continue … awesome! You are lucky in a very unlucky way. Surprisingly though, the run lets up a little and you get to take in some spectacular views of the old-time gold rush mining canyons in the area. Absolutely spectacular. It’s an excuse to walk, and take it in, right? But … fat chance you will be doing much enjoying after all that climbing on the ride smashed your legs to bits.  If you screwed up your nutrition intake thus far, you might as well just walk, nobody wants to see a wrestling pig. And those smiles and pleasantries you share with your fellow runners will be fake. Everyone’s a hurt puppy, just moments away from lashing out in a fit of rage, controlled only by exhaustion.

But eventually, and time cut-off limits permitting, the finish line will come. And it will be sweet.

So, some words of advice on this race if you chose to ever do it, and you should: dig down deep in the face of adversity and find a reason to keep going. What kept me going on that day was was reflecting on the insanely hard efforts that our service men and women endure every day out there on the front lines protecting us, so that we can be out here doing things like ultra-silly hard triathlons, for fun. Makes it kind of hard to give up and stop.

What are the things you think about that keep you going when the going gets tough?


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