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Auburn Triathlon

Triathletes mourn loss of Larsen

Last year’s World’s Toughest Half winner recently died of heart failure during a workout
By: Todd Mordhorst, Journal Sports Editor
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Around 700 competitors will test their limits at today’s Auburn International Triathlon. Many will do so with vivid memories of a fallen champion. Steve Larsen won the 2008 World’s Toughest Half triathlon in Auburn. He would have been back to compete this weekend, but he collapsed and died during a workout in his hometown of Bend, Ore., on May 19. Larsen was 39. “It’s a huge loss,” said Brad Kearns, the race director and founder of the Auburn triathlons. “I got to know him a little bit last year and he kicked butt here. “He’s one of those guys that had super-human strength. He raced Giro d’ Italia when he was young and then he started doing triathlons and added a lot of legitimacy to the sport. He came out and was breaking records on the bike courses and really made a good name for himself.” Larsen, who grew up and spent much of his life in Davis, was an incredible endurance athlete. He competed at world championships in six disciplines: road cycling, mountain biking, track cycling, cyclocross, road triathlon and off-road triathlon. He ran a bike shop in Davis for many years and teamed with Diana Hassel to start the Mad Cows Racing Team, which will be well-represented in Auburn today. Hassel will pay tribute to Larsen before today’s competition at the start of the swim at Folsom Lake. The competition will continue on the bike for triathlon participants while duathlon competitors will hit the trail for a 3-kilometer run. About half of the field will be taking on the World’s toughest Half, swimming 1.2 miles, then riding 56 miles on the bike before a grueling 13.1-mile run finishing at Railhead Park. International triathlon participants will swim 1.5K, bike 40K and run 10K. The new sprint-distance triathlon, which Kearns added to attract beginners and local participants, will include a 500-meter swim, a 13K bike ride and a 5K run. Larsen sped through the World’s Toughest Half in 4 hours, 48 minutes last year, clocking a remarkable 2:32 on the 56-mile bike ride. The cause of Larsen’s death is still unclear. He suffered from heart failure, but doctors have not determined what caused it. He was running laps on a track with a group of about 40 other people when he fell to the ground and stopped breathing. Kearns said he’s heard of several elite endurance athletes that have suffered similar fates. He said nine triathletes died in competition last summer — many from mysterious heart failure. “It seems like these incidents are becoming more and more frequent,” Kearns said. “He had a heart problem, but they don’t really know what’s going on. “He pushed the limits of endurance probably as hard as anyone in the world. No one else has really been at that level. It’s sobering.” AUBURN TRIATHLON Events begin at 6:30 a.m. at Rattlesnake Bar Park at Folsom Lake and finish at Railhead Park in Auburn. World’s Toughest Half — 1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike ride, 13.1-mile run. Auburn International Duathlon — 3K run, 56-mile bike ride, 13.1-mile run Auburn International Triathlon — 1.5K swim, 40K bike ride, 10K run Sprint-Distance Triathlon — 500-meter swim, 13K bike ride, 5K run