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WTH = World’s Toughest Half = What The Hell?! « Jocelyn Wong's Blog

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WTH = World’s Toughest Half = What The Hell?!

so 4 weeks post Ironman and ready to rumble again. I travelled with the Stanford University Triathlon Team for the first time, driving 2 hours north-ish to Auburn, CA where ex-pro Brad Kearns was hosting his hometown event, the Auburn Triathlon. There would be an Olympic-distance race that would serve as the West Coast conference championships for the college kids the same time as the long course event, dubbed “World’s Toughest Half.” abbreviated WTH, I would always think “what the hell?!” I think this might not be a coincidence, however, as come race day there would be plenty of “what the hell?!” moments.

I had dinner with the Stanfords at Pasquale T’s, a cute little Italian restaurant in the cute little town, carbo-loading on garlic bread and pasta, and fat-loading on Kahlua-flavored gelato. We had brought our camping gear to camp out by the finish line, which was sparsely underpopulated–I think because it was a “hot” weekend, 20 deg F hotter than normal, and many of the racers opted to stay in air-conditioned hotels. “hot” in quotes because after Ironman China, no other race would feel as HOT. Turns out the medical tent by the finish came equipped with fold-up cots…there would be no pitching a tent or sleeping on the ground tonight! (I know, the irony of finishing my last race in the med tent and starting this next race in the med tent…)

I happily wiggled halfway into a sleeping bag and settled in on my cot, but barely got any sleep. A train would go by a few times throughout the night, and then the wind picked up, blowing Blue Steel (my bike) onto my shins (OW! WTH?!) and making the tent creak-creak-creak every ten minutes. 4:30am came too soon, and I finished up some leftover garlic bread for breakfast (mmm) and was already in my race kit, as I had slept in it. Just roll over and go!

auburn-transition

It was a two transition race, so we had to ride our bikes downhill for 6 miles to the swim start/T1. Remember that. Apparently a swim buoy had gotten blown off course during the night, and the swim was rather long–I believe the fastest swimmer went 31 minutes. I started off strong, but felt deflated the longer the swim carried on, as it seemed to be going on forever. WTH?! I had just done a one-mile open water swim race–no wetsuit!–the weekend before, and had a pretty good idea of how long a mile in the water should last. 1.2 miles this was not. halfway through, I opted to give myself a bitch-slap and snapped out of it. The swim was long, but it was long for everybody. I started to pick off people and passing groups of men who had been given a 5-minute head start. I hadn’t hit my watch in time at the gun, so it still said 00:00.00 as I exited the boat ramp.

remember the two transition set-up? this is so that the bike course can be a net uphill. sweet, huh? The first 6 miles were all uphill, and somewhere in there were 16 consecutive miles of climbing. It was fun having the Stanfords out on the course at the same time, although difficult to gauge my effort, as the Olympic-distance athletes would fly by, and there was also the National Long Course Duathlon Championships as well. It was very challenging, very hilly, all up and down, up and down. I remember Marilyn telling me to be patient on the bike, so patient I was, although my climbing and descending skills left much to be desired. (argh, another hill, WTH?!) For a technical course like this I could see how having raced it before would have helped immensely, but for me it was my first time seeing the course. There was enough climbing and a hot enough weather forecast that I forewent the aero helmet this time, which let me dump water over my head a couple times. The bike, much like the swim, seemed to take forever. W…T…H… It was a beautiful course and fun because of the challenge, but definitely not fast. Finally by mile 40 the road levelled out and my speed probably increased by 10mph, I started to catch people that had motored past me up the hills and just felt awesome!

it was warm–some said hot, but it was not hot at all like Ironman China, and more than half the course was shaded. the run was mostly off road and on trails, away from most spectators. I went off quickly on the run, but my stomach was bothering me (WTH?!), and then to make it worse, I forced down a gel at about mile 3 because I thought I needed the calories. WRONG! this made my stomach even angrier, and I developed a horrible stitch on my side (WTH?!) and resorted to shuffling along while holding my stomach. I switched to water only, and the pain subsided by mile 6, at which point I finished the first lap of the run, going by a ton of spectators and feeling a second wind.

I started feeling fantastic, in fact. I went back to drinking some Gatorade from my Fuelbelt and while switching out a bottle, suddenly found myself EATING IT right at mile 7. and by “eating it,” I mean the ground. WHAT THE HELL?! just a little blood, trail dust all up my right leg, two bruised knees and a bruised ego later, I stormed the rest of the half marathon. I finally felt absolutely incredible, there was a slight breeze and I began passing back tons of runners and nary getting passed. A rather long day for a half iron though, and I was happy as usual to see the finish line.

auburn-finish2

A hard-fought battle to win my age group and take 11th woman overall. The Stanfords made me proud, winning the team title, with a 1st and 5th on the girls’ side and 2nd and 5th on the boys’ side. The finish awards were fun, I got to take my pick of two items on The Big Table O’ Prizes. While some chose a bottle of olive oil (wth??), I went with a really nice technical top by DeSoto and a gift certificate to Sports Basement, which is like going to my local crack dealer.

auburn-prize

Special thanks to my sponsors teamTBB/The Bike Boutique and Mom & Dad Wong; Oomph! Sports for my cute retro tri shorts to go with the pink compression socks; the Stanford triathletes for letting me join the fun; and Brad Kearns for putting on such a challenging and stellar race venue.

oh, and one final “what the hell?!” moment…people actually thought my knee-high pink compression socks were…COOL. more pics soon.

auburn-prize3

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