Photo by Michael Kirby

New Owners Take the Helm at Auburn’s Iconic Event
By Tim Hauserman & Photos by Michael Kirby

It makes sense that in Auburn, CA, the place that proclaims itself as the Endurance Capital of the World, there is a triathlon called The World’s Toughest Half. At least that is what Brad Kearns thought when he started the Auburn Triathlon eleven years ago in the town that is famous for being the finish of the Tevis Cup endurance horse race and one of the toughest long distance running races in America, the Western States 100, both of which travel from Squaw Valley to Auburn.

Kearns founded the Auburn Triathlon after spending nine years as a pro triathlete. Upon moving to Auburn it didn’t take him long to decide that it was the best place in the world to train for endurance events. What Kearns found in Auburn is lovely rural countryside for the ride, beautiful American River Canyon views and steep drops for the run, and a quiet cove at Folsom Lake for the swim: the makings of a great triathlon. Since Auburn didn’t have a triathlon of it’s own, Kearns decided to start one.

May 19, 2013
Auburn The World’s Toughest Half
1.2 mile swim • 56 mile bike • 13.1 mile run

The swim lies in a secluded cove near the eastern edge of Folsom Lake at Rattlesnake Bar. There, steep canyon walls reach high above a small bay, which will hopefully lead to a wind sheltered early morning swim. The water temperatures can be brisk, but the clear water most likely will be in the mid 60s.

The bike is a challenging 56-mile out and back that includes nearly 6000 feet of climbing. It starts hard out of the gate with a six-mile climb from Rattlesnake Bar to Auburn. Then, riders enjoy a fun, on your toes ride with a variety of challenges, including long plenty of long, steady grades heading east into the Sierra (high point: 2,400’), and a brisk return to Auburn at 1,350’.

The run is a 7K loop entirely within the car-free zone of Auburn State Recreation Area. Much of it is on a series of wide paved roads. The run route gradually descends 200 feet into the American River Canyon, with breathtaking views of its namesake river. A welcome respite on each lap of the 7k course (3x for 13.1 runners) is a mile of flat, shaded, double-track trail along a small canal.

The Auburn Triathlon is the USAT Southwest Regional Long Course Championship for both the Worlds Toughest Half and the Long Course Duathlon. This will attract a number of top racers, but the event also brings in a wide range of ability levels.

There are also three shorter events including an International Triathlon, a Mini Triathlon, and a Duathlon.

This year is one of excitement and transition for the Auburn Triathlon. Tahoe Peak Endurance, owned by Colleen Conners-Pace and her husband Joe Pace, has taken over the iconic event. Kearns has decided to move on to other endeavors, mainly to focus on his other full time passion: publisher for the Primal Blueprint books and websites.

Colleen and Joe bring to the Auburn Triathlon many years of triathlon, Xterra, and other hardcore endurance experience. In 1980 Colleen completed the Western States 100, ending her very long day with a run across the bridge into Auburn. Kearns says that Joe and Colleen are perfect candidates to take over the triathlon because with the passion they have for competing in challenging events, they will look at the triathlon through the eyes of competitors.

Conners-Pace says, “We promise to continue to host the same awesome, safe, fun, scenic and challenging events you have experienced here with Auburn Triathlon over the years. Our plan is to bring back the true meaning to the “World’s Toughest Half.” There won’t be much change this year but be prepared for next year as we venture back down into the canyon for the return of a challenging tough run. This is what drew us to participate in the race in the first place. This year, we plan to have an Expo both Saturday and Sunday, including a festive finish line with music and beer! And a great Taco feast from Men Wielding Fire. Brad created a great event and it is our goal to continue this legacy with that same legendary, grassroots feel.”

To register or for more information go to, call 530-583-1806, or email

Photo by Michael Kirby