Sunday, November 13, 2016

White Rim Take Two

Strava - coming as soon as Garmin improves their crappy software!

You’d think riding the White Rim Trail in a day once a year or maybe, if you were really into it, once a season (Spring and Fall) would be enough, but when circumstances aligned for a couple of back to back rides I jumped. The first was when I rode it with my buddies Mark and Dan. We had it planned for a couple of months. Then my brother invited me on a trip with his work group and I didn’t want to pass up a chance to ride it with him. I was vastly undertrained for the first ride, but at least the second ride I knew I could do it, as I had just done it two weeks before. This second ride was with a large group and involved a sag vehicle, which made things much less committing and more decadent, supply-wise. The presence of a vehicle also allowed me to invite my son Derek.
Chris, Liz, and Derek atop Murphy's
Derek is 18 years old and a fit, strong athlete, but he had never really done a mountain bike ride. He didn’t own a mountain bike and the total extent of his riding since he got his driver’s license has been biking around the CU campus. Hence, the prospect of him riding 100 miles of steep, bumpy road in one go was out of the question. Still, he loves the desert and wanted to come along and see what this was all about and if he might be interested in doing more of it in the future.
Riding the one paved section to the top of the Shafer Trail
Derek had an electronics lab course from 3 - 5 p.m. and we weren’t able to leave town until 5:30 p.m. With a stop for dinner, we didn’t get out to the Mineral Road camping location until just before midnight. We bedded down  quickly and met the crew the next morning. I was proposing a 6 a.m. start time because I knew from last time that it was going to take 12 hours or more, depending upon the fitness of this group. I figured a work group from an oil-field-services company would consist of at least a couple of burly dudes who were tough, but not super fit. I was wrong  about that. Even the burly dudes were super fit. And everyone was very mentally tough. Plus, these are all pretty smart guys. They knew what this involved. And there isn’t a lot of quit in this group, as you’ll see.

The group decided to push the start time back to 6:30 a.m. which had the benefit of starting in the daylight. Of course that just meant that the night-time riding would be at the tail end when we were the most tired. We rode clockwise, the direction I’ve gone every time but once, I think. We did it in the more conventional style, of starting on top of the mesa. This meant that we’d finish with the biggest climb on the ride, but it probably doesn’t make a huge different. Either way you have to ride 100 miles.
Heading down the Shafer Trail
Ron was the breakfast chef and he took this job seriously. I’d never seen anything like it. I’m used to getting up, downing a Frappuccino and a couple of Poptarts and hopping on the bike. Ron got up much earlier than the rest of us and made at least a dozen Egg McMuffins. Yes, these were nearly indistinguishable from the real thing, only much better tasting. He had a special pan where he could cook eight eggs at a time in perfectly round forms. He then had the cheese and Canadian bacon. It was so delicious. Fueling excuses would not be tolerated. 

We rolled out in a loose peloton and soon split into smaller groups. Derek rode my 26-inch 15-year-old Trek (which, by the way, I bought from Greg LeMond the day after I rode the White Rim with him, my brother, and a few others). I rode Chris’ old 29-inch mountain bike. Derek used my old pair of biking shoes. It is so convenient that we basically have the same-sized foot. Derek tipped over pretty early on, climbing a sandy section and he’d do this a few more times before the ride ended. He rides pretty much like I do, though I have more experience. We tend to stay on the bike too long going up tricky climbs, and then frequently tipping over before we can unclip. And we tend to be more conservative descending, knowing that a crash at high speed might end more than our day of riding.

We regrouped at the top of the Shafer Trail, just 8 or 9 miles into the ride. I didn’t shed any clothing here because of the 4-mile drop we had down to the start of the White Rim Trail. The Shafer Road immediately drops a hundred feet or so and then traverses for more than a mile with sheer cliff both below and above. It’s a spectacular section with incredible views. You know immediately that you are on a very special ride in a fabulous, unique landscape.

Our group consisted of two clans, loosely connected by Chris. One was the Liberty Oil Field Services employees - guys dedicated to extracting oil and gas out of the earth at the cheapest possible price in order to enrich themselves and despoil the earth. Sure, sure the low prices enable just about everything we have in the modern world, including the ability to ride the White Rim Trail in a day from our homes in Colorado, New Mexico, and Idaho, but their driving force is the root of all evil: profit! The other group was led by Whit, a friend of Chris’ that has ridden the Leadville 100 more times that it’s actually been run. Okay, that estimate might be a touch high, but suffice to say all his pants are held up by enormous buckles. Whit isn’t as tough these day, though, so he kneecapped his right-hand-man Jim, another 10+ time finisher of Leadville, so that he couldn’t ride and hence would drive the sag wagon. Great thinking, Whit!
Liz at the bottom of Shafer Road
When we got around to Musselman Arch, I headed straight for it, as I love the thrill of riding across it with 200-foot drops just a few feet to my right and left. As I approached Whit called out, “Don’t ride the arch, Bill. It’s illegal.” First off, I’ve never heard that it was illegal before. Secondly, Whit said this? Let’s just say that Whit isn’t the type of person that worries much about offending people. But maybe I’ve misjudged him. Maybe this arch is sacred to the Sioux Indians, of which Whit is 1/15th (do the math!) and should only be used for his semi-annual naked fire dances. Alas, I pretended not to hear him, not an uncommon strategy for many when around him, and just rode it. While the others moved on, I encouraged Derek to ride it as well. It’s a rite of passage for the tribe of White Rim mountain bikers. Of course, when Derek looked a bit shaky at the start, my heart skipped a beat. I mean, I do have another son, but this is the only one that talks to us! My wife would be pissed! Thankfully he righted his line and cruised across without any more near heart attacks for his dad.

Derek and I were now the lantern rouge and the broom wagon wasn’t far behind us. Ack! We couldn’t get swept up already. We pressed on and caught the others when they stopped to take a breather. One of Whit’s friends left the group early on, intent on doing the loop in the light and we didn’t him again until dinner. I think a few others also struck out on their own, all from Whit’s group. Clearly Whit’s circle of friends lacks cohesion. To Whit’s credit, though, he recognized their shortcoming, and dropped back to be with our group, at least until lunchtime at Muphy’s Hogback. Perhaps he knew the smorgasbord that Liz had prepared. 
Luke and Jeff, father and son
Liz herself, was riding entirely on fat and protein.She’s recently converted to a low-carb diet and now looks like an Ironman competitor. Oops. IronWomen competitor. I don’t mean to be sexist toward our long chick. I mean, skirt. I mean she-can-do-anything, all-powerful woman. But back to the diet. Liz runs completely on fat stores and only munched minimally on macadamian nuts. But with her lean build the only fat left on her was in her butt and boobs. I took at look at the 30-mile mark and wondered if there was 70 more miles left there...

We rolled along, but Chris was struggling a bit. He’s diabetic and despite having done many long, hard adventures, it’s still quite a challenge to get insulin/calorie intake just right. In this case his blood sugar was 40-50% for the first three hours. When I or Derek have a serious bonk and can hardly move, our blood sugar is likely at the 70% range. In attempt to fix his blood sugar and not hold up the crew, Chris hopped in the support truck for about ten miles to correct things. This got him to the top of Murphy’s for lunch and he was just fine afterwards.
Derek riding Musselman Arch
Derek and I rode a bit with Whit before Murphy’s but when we stopped to wait for the others, Whit continued. He didn’t want anyone else watching him push his bike up Murphy’s, I guess. After a pretty long wait, Chris and Liz didn’t show up, so Derek and I moved on. We were closing in on 50 miles and Derek had only drank 20 ounces of Gatorade, a Honey Stinger waffle (160 calories) and a flask of GU (400 calories). I had about the same amount of calories and just my 24-ounce bottle. Needless to say, Derek was ready for some more fuel. We pedaled over to the start of Murphy’s and Derek stopped, saying that he was going to wait for the sag wagon. He’d already done a very impressive ride, but I encouraged him to continue moving, slowly and easily, to the top. I told him to ride when it was easy and push when it wasn’t. He was non-committal on this when I left, but I know Derek. In this situation, maybe even better than he knows himself, but he did exactly that.
Me riding back across Musselman Arch - love that shadow
I continued on up Murphy’s, telling Derek I”d walk back down and help him out with his bike. When I caught up to Leen, he was tooling along just fine, saying, “I tried keeping up with Chris and Liz, but they are too fast. I just need to go my own pace.” I told him that Chris and Liz were behind him, but he was sure they were not. Leen’s known as “The Doctor” because he has a Ph.D. and is a brilliant guy, but he must have been working hard to lose track of these two. I inched on by Leen and huffed and puffed my way to the top of Murphy’s. A number of strong riders were already there including two young guys, Tyler and Howard. I staggered over to a boulder and laid down my bike and then, as promised went back down the hill to check on Derek. I found him just above the lower crux and offered to take his bike for him. He thought that was a great idea and so I hopped on and rode his bike to the top. When I got there a couple of the guys noticed and, not wanting to give the old guy too much credit, said, “Two times, huh? No big deal. Now three times and I’d be impressed.” Ever looking for validation in such a strong group, I headed back down again to see if anyone needed help. I found Liberty’s Short-order Breakfast Cook, Ron. Sure he some other title at Liberty, President or Imperial Grand Poobah or something like that, but I knew him as my Breakfast Chef. Wanting to return his kindness, I asked if could help his bike. He graciously let me take it and when I noticed he had Crank Brothers pedals, I hopped on and rode it up to the top as well. The others on top pretended not to notice when I arrived and this was probably a good thing. I didn’t want my head to swell any as my helmet was already pretty snug.

Not bad scenery...
The amount of food supplied and consumed on top of Murphy’s could have probably altered the power structure in Somalia. I know it greatly enhanced my attitude, though it pushed the limits on my bib stretchability. Riding down the far side each pedal stroke now drove my thigh up into my distended belly. Liz sliced up fresh watermelon which was the best I’ve ever tasted. There were hard-boiled eggs, meats, cheeses, yogurt, chocolate milk, chips of every kind. The only thing missing was a milkshake and that’s probably a good thing, as I’ve have been sleeping there that night if we had them. Jim, our driver, on the other hand, flaunted his beer to the rest of the riders.
Liberty Strong!
We descended off Murphy’s with 45 miles to go. We all got a boost from the rest and the fuel, but was short lived. This route wears you down. There are no easy miles on this ride, besides the Shafer descent. We did groupings of easy tenths, but broken up by punchy, energy-sapping steep hills. Derek tipped over again and I switched bikes with him. I found the 26-inch bike much tougher to ride and was once again impressed with Derek perseverance and toughness. Unfortunately, Derek wasn’t in condition to appreciate the lower rolling resistance of the 29er. When he tipped over a second time he said, “Let’s just switch back. I don’t want to damage this bike.” We switched and continued on, but I could tell that Derek had passed the fun point in this adventure. He'd tipped over three or four times now, always to the left, but that's understandable given that he's a freshman at a liberal university. Each time he'd unclip his right foot because he's more coordinated with it, but failed to realize that he needed to lean right as well. With forty miles to go, it was too far to urge him to suffer it out. I never expected him to get this far. When the sag vehicle caught us I made the call for Derek to get in. If it was left up to Derek he might have ridden too far into the unpleasant region. 
Lunch atop Murphy's
While Derek hopped in, I continued on, trying to catch the others and to stay ahead of Jim’s Broom Wagon. I caught up to a couple of chicks, oops, young ladies, first. They heard me behind them but didn’t move out of the way. I followed patiently, not in a big hurry, but looking for an opportunity. I said, “Hi Ladies,” and one responded, “Eat my dust, tortuga!” I immediately thought of Nana, of course, as that is her nickname. I replied, “As delightful as that sounds, I was hoping to maybe squeeze by.” She then realized I wasn’t who she thought I was, and I moved on by.
Monster Tower (left) and Washer Woman Tower/Arch
First I caught Leen and assured him that this time Chris and Liz were definitely ahead. I then caught up to Chris and Liz and rode with them for a bit. We also had Howard I think with us, but he went off the front. I rode a stretch of this section with Jeff and his 13-year-old son Luke. By the time I finished this ride, I was thinking that Luke is going to be the next Greg LeMond. I’d have sold him Greg’s old bike, but he would have disdained that ancient 26er. This was one tough, strong kid. I”m sure that’s because of his genetics. Jeff looked like a favorite at Paris-Roubaix. I saw him top out Murphy’s and he wasn’t sweating and hardly breathing. He’d never done a mountain bike ride this long, yet he looked like he could do the RAAM.
Howard still having fun while dropping down off Murphy's

As we approached Hardscrabble Hill, Luke was feeling the effects of 75 miles. He really wanted to finish on his bike, however, so he planned to get in the sag for a 10-mile rest before the final, biggest climb up Mineral Bottom Road. I was in the lead group (of our remaining pack), as we headed up Hardscrabble. In the group was Howard, then Chris, Howard, Liz, and Leen. The road’s dramatic tilt sorted us out in dramatic fashion and put Howard in the lead with Chris riding strong on his tail and me lagging a bit, trying to conserve my energy. At the crux section, the steepest, loosest part of the ride, Howard got within two feet of getting it. He unclipped and put his foot down. Chris faltered just a tiny bit lower, unclipped and put his foot down. I didn't make it either, but I also didn't unclip. I think I was still pedaling as I crashed into the ground. Damn Hardscrabble...

With me blocking the best line, still sprawled across most of the road and struggling to unclip, along comes Roubaix Jeff calmly pedaling by us all as if the climb was paved. From my vantage point on the ground, covered in dirt, it was particularly impressive.

We regrouped a bit at the top and then a bit further long when Jeff and I took off earliest and rode together to the base of Mineral Bottom. Here we took a short break to pee, grab some extra clothes, and Jeff wisely grabbed the lights. I wasn't as wise. Here Luke got out of the truck, threw his leg over his bike and absolutely crushed Mineral Bottom. He was out of sight so fast that Jeff wasn't sure where he went. Jeff and I rode together up the climb and it was a bear, for me at least. It felt way harder than when I rode it at the start of the ride two weeks before. Turns out that having 85 miles in your legs makes this climb a lot harder.
Derek showing off his intimacy with the White Rim dirt...

Jeff and I crested the climb to find Luke waiting for us, but when Jeff decided to pee again (Jeff is big on hydration), Luke took off once again. Perhaps he feared he'd have trouble keeping up. He did not. Jeff and I gave chase. Well, Jeff gave chase. I sucked his wheel for all I was worth and then fell off the back. He'd ease up and let me back on. It wasn't like he was trying to drop me. We weren't going all that fast, I just didn't have much left. It then got dark, but we had a full moon and a smooth dirt road. Even with my poor night vision, we continued without lights. Luke eventually got tired of riding alone and stopped again, as that was the only way we were going to catch him. I then got the opportunity of getting dropping by dad and son. It was also getting cold. I only had my armies for extra warmth and my bare fingers were chilled. Luke put on his jacket and we continued, with me barely keeping contact. Luke wanted to stop and stretch his back but I was so depleted that stopping would have made me very cold. I continued on alone in the dark, with no lights, checking my computer every tenth of a mile so that I didn't ride by the camp spot. I was dreaming of taking off my shoes, putting on my down jacket, and lying down.
Chris at the top of Hardscrabble Hill
A little bit after I got to camp someone in a vehicle returned and said that everyone else was going to ride it out. Cool. I was planning to head back in my truck, but was glad I didn't need to. Tough crew, as it was dark and cold. Jeff and Luke rolled in about ten minutes after I finished. I heard from the sag crew that when Liz and the others arrived at the start of the Mineral Bottom climb and they asked what the riders needed, Liz answered, "A new butt!" Apparently she had used that up in the last 85 miles and it was going to be up to her boobs to get her home.... Boob power. You go, girl! And she did...

The crew inched up the climb and onto the long, dark road above. Chris bonked again, just a couple miles before the finish. Leen dropped off the back and finished alone, but came by me looking quite pleased and not defeated in any way. I suspect if the end was 30 miles further he'd have just kept on chugging. I think that is a key aspect of doing long hard days: a positive mental attitude. It's tough to have that when you are tired, but I've found that the people who are best at this sort of thing just love it and, no matter their current speed or state of fatigue, still seem to be happy doing it.
Luke leading dad Jeff
We had a campfire that night and burgers and brats and beer and soft drinks and... I was really thirsty, but not nearly as hungry as I'd thought I'd be. Derek had no trouble sucking down a burger, a brat, and a third of my burger. Teenagers...

The next morning Leen was the breakfast maestro and the Dutchman was determined to outdo the Canadian of the day before. He started off with some Dutch pancakes - thin, limp, definitely tasty and with some style, but then moved on to the sturdier, substantive American pancakes, which probably contribute to our world-leading obesity rates. Or does Samoa still have the title? Look out you Pacific Islanders! We're coming for you.
What a place...
We were all too tired from the day before to do any climbing and so packed up and headed for home. I consoled Derek somewhat about not doing any climbing, saying, "We'll be back out here plenty more times." He responded, "Yeah, we will. I have to come back and finish this ride!" I was glad to hear that. A lesser kid would have thought, "Dang, that hurt. That was unpleasant. I had to quit. I won't be doing this again." Alas, that isn't Derek. He might not be challenging Luke in the Tour de France, but I wouldn't bet against him versus the White Rim Trail...
SpaceX heading for Mars?

Sunday, October 30, 2016

White Rim Trail In A Day

Riding Musselman Arch

My best friend Mark Oveson has had a very tough year, physically. He got a severe infection in his ankle and wasn't able to walk for a couple of months and then only able to limp. He was on antibiotics for over six months. He can walk fine now, usually, and even can run a bit, though that will cause him two days of limping and increased pain. A two-time Hard Rock finisher and a top-30 finish, this was tough on him. He turned to mountain biking for some solace. We usually do a few big adventures together a year and I didn't want this one to pass empty. I suggested we ride the White Rim Trail in Canyonlands. This is a very famous, very popular, 100-mile mountain bike ride on a 4WD road. The scenery is spectacular on this ride.. Doing this ride over three days and camping is probably the ideal way to do it, but time-consuming and getting camping reservations, in season, are extremely difficult. The solution is to ride it in one day.

Now 100 miles is a long way to go on a mountain bike. Besides the distance, the biggest problem is water. There is none available on this ride. The ideal solution is to have someone drive a sag vehicle. Then the ride isn't very committing and you have supplies galore. Of course the problem is finding someone to drive 100 miles of 10 mph road. Rotating drivers is a common solution. Another way is to go unsupported. That's a much more difficult task.

Nowadays you even need a permit to ride the trail in one day. They don't cost anything and no one checked us for a permit, but the idea is to limit the number of people out there. We saw a number of other people but it never felt crowded and nearly the entire time we were alone.

Mark invited his good friend Dan to join us and he headed out a day early. Having two cars gave us a significant advantage, as we stashed one vehicle 18 miles into our ride. With a cool shortcut that Mark found using Google Maps, our ride was 96 miles. Hence, we only had to ride 78 miles unsupported. To handle this distance on a day forecasted to get into the high 70's we carried 150 ounces of fluid each. That's a load.
Starting out at 6 a.m.
Which way to ride the loop is the first question. I'd previously ridden the White Rim Trail four times, including unsupported, in a day, both directions. For this ride, we chose what is maybe the easiest way to do it, though it does involve riding into the wind. We started from the river on the Mineral Bottom Road. This allowed us to do by far the biggest climb of the ride first thing in the morning. This climb goes from the lowest point on the ride to the highest in one 14-mile climb of about 2100 feet. Doing this climb early in the morning when it is cold is also nice. First, you aren't getting cold while coasting downhill to the White Rim. Second, you get the climb out of the way when you are at your freshest and while it isn't hot. The drawback is that you have to drive 15 miles down to this position and then have to drive out, but it's probably worth it. I know others who have taken this approach and stashed their water at the top of the Schafer descent when they only had one vehicle.

By the time we met Dan, stashed the vehicle, and got down to our campsite it was midnight. Dan tested out his bike and promptly endo-ed when his front tired dropped into a foot-deep ditch. He was shaken up and went to sleep with a stiff neck. Our plan was to be riding by 6 a.m. via headlamps and we snuggled into our sleeping bags. My phone was buried in the pocket of my jacket and I didn't heard my alarm. Dan was sleeping fifty feet away and he did. I didn't wake up until I heard the other two getting their gear together.

We turned the pedals right on schedule. I had a $10 Target headlamp and clustered around the two so that I could see. Mark's light was as bright as a car's high beams. The climb up to the plateau is only a mile and a half and went by relatively easily, steep though. Then we rolled along for nine more miles, climbing gradually, until we came to our shortcut. It was light at this point and we turned off our lights. The shortcut road is much more fun to ride and more representative of the rest of the ride. It's highly recommended.

We took two hours to get to Dan's car, where we took a 20-minute break to refuel, shed our warm clothes, and take on our full load of food and water. Then we dropped in...

The White Rim Trail is so named because it follows the rim of the plateau that is a thousand feet above the Colorado and Green Rivers, and 1500 below the Island-in--the-Sky plateau where the paved road is. The trail is mostly level, with some rolls, except for two significant climbs: Murphy's Hogback and Hardscrabble, not counting the giant climb out, which we'd already done.
Dropping down the Shafer Trail
The descent of the Shafer Trail was really fun and really fast. We caught and passed a vehicle here. Every vehicle we encountered was super cool about moving off to the side and stopping whenever we approached. It was great seeing that courtesy towards us riders.

We stopped, briefly, at Musselman Arch because it is so cool and such fun to ride across, as it looks spectacular, though not hard to do. Dan took the photos because once his wife saw a photo of him riding it, she banned him from ever doing it again.

We cruised around, catching other riders and chatting them up a bit before moving on by them. Forty miles into the ride, Dan went through a rough patch where he was bonking a bit. With more than half the ride to go, this caused him some concern. We slowed down a bit and he hung tough. Dan had ridden the White Rim in a day a half dozen before, so he knew about rough patches and how to get through them.

Five miles before Murphy's Mark and I were having some fun riding fast and rolling through descents and short rises. I got pumped up a bit, spotted some riders ahead, and gave chase. Why? Just for fun. I caught and passed a couple of riders and then set my sights on a fit, fast guy ahead. He appeared to look back at me a couple of times, which only increased my motivation. When I caught him, I eased up and rode along next to him. We were still moving plenty fast enough. He was part of a 7-rider group doing the trail in a day, with a support vehicle. We'd seen the support vehicle earlier, when we passed it. In it were two chicks, one a young, leggy blonde. We nicknamed them the PYT group, after the Michael Jackson song.
The White Rim is very sharply defined
I rode with the rider I caught, he was from Salt Lake, until Murphy's and then climbed up it with him and another in his group that we caught on the climb. These guys were both fit, good riders and they cleaned this climb. I did as well, but was absolutely at my limit. A number of times, I thought I wouldn't be able to continue, but barely pushed on through. At the top I was hyperventilating for a couple minutes.

I ate my sandwich, drank 24 ounces of Gatorade and waited for Mark and Dan. These two wisely saved their strength, not burning any matches, and pushed their bikes to the top. We rested for a bit. Dan hydrated and downed a 5-hour energy drink that he found, yes, found, on the shortcut road four hours earlier. This stuff apparently works, as Dan was a new man after this climb, riding off the front of Mark and I for most of the next twenty miles.
The team at the top of Murphy's Hogback
From Murphy we only had 32 miles to go and only Hardscrabble to get over, but we were all feeling the affects. I trained by riding five days in a row, starting eight days before our ride. My longest ride was less than 30 miles. Mark had ridden a lot more, but probably nothing over 40 miles. Dan had the most miles in his legs, but the White Rim wore us down. My butt and the bottom of my feet were really sore and my energy was fading fast. The ride was ten miles too long...

We stopped in the shade of the final outhouse at the foot of the Hardscrabble climb. We had only ten miles to go, but we were fading fast. After some hydrating and food, we mounted for the final push. Almost immediately, Mark bonked, though we didn't know it at the time. The rejuvenated Dan led me up the climb, while Mark faded. I barely made it up the first steep section, working hard in no small part because Dan was cleaning it in front of me. The crux section is the steepest and loosest of the entire ride. Dan made a valiant effort, but no dice. He dismounted. I didn't make it either, but instead of dismounting, I tipped over. Mountain biking is not my forte.
Views on this ride are pretty amazing...
I pushed ten feet up to where the trail flattened out before final steep section, mounted, and rode the rest of the way to the top. I think Murphy's is a much tougher test of stamina, but Hardscrabble is tougher to clean because the steepest part is so loose. I waited on top and soon Dan arrived. We waited a bit more and when Mark didn't appear, I walked down to check on him. I found him two switchback down, sitting by his bike. I asked if he was okay and he shook his head, "My heart is racing. I'm completely bonked and any movement causes my heart to race. I've already sat down four or five times." I offered to push his bike up for him, but he wouldn't have it. Though he'd ridden most of the White Rim in a day twice before, he'd never closed the loop. Dan hadn't closed the loop either. Many White-Rim-in-a-day riders don't close the loop if they have support at the rim. Mark knew he had less than ten miles to go and he didn't want to give up now, despite his heart trouble.

I stayed with him and we made it to the top of the climb together with just one more rest. There Mark got a lot more liquid down. This would help immensely, but would take awhile to get into his system. For the next thirty minutes Mark had to push his bike up any rise in the trail. Once we started the descent from Hardscrabble for good, though, Mark was able to ride all the rollers. He was still tired and certainly not fully recovered, but he did fine finishing the ride.
Dan atop Hardscrabble
After 96 miles, we arrived back at Mark's truck, just under twelve hours after leaving it. It was a great adventure not despite the challenges, but because of them. We were lucky to have no mechanical problems and we had just about perfect weather, though we did fight some headwinds. We changed, piled in the bikes and drove up to the top. Back at Dan's car, we said goodbye and Mark and I headed home, arriving at 12:40 a.m.

And Mark and I got in our big adventure for 2016... Hopefully we do more in 2017.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Tour de Flatirons - Stage 5

Here's some advice for any local outdoor athletes: don't enter the Tour de Flatirons if you're looking to feel good about your fitness. This event isn't for the casual. Since I moved back to Boulder in 1994 my motto has been "Move to Boulder and be humble." Now I'd tack on: "and stay away from the Tour." Unless, at least, your ego doesn't bruise easily.

The Tour has grown considerably in the past few years and this year's final stage was the biggest ever with thirty-six starters. The growth in the field seems to have been heavily weighted toward speedy. While age and an excess of ice cream is inexorably increasing my times, it isn't doing it nearly as fast as the field is causing me to slip to the rear.
Record-breaking Matthias Messner!
Matthias finished off his clean sweep of the Tour with his fifth victory, the first time every stage has been swept. He also ended by breaking Dave Mackey's 33:17 12-year-old record on the Third Flatiron when he finished in 32:56. Congratulations to Matthias on an absolutely incredible season.

Dylan finished with his best effort ever in the Tour, matching Dave's previous time. Cordis finally lived up to his amazing potential and made the podium for the first time. David Glennon, for the first time, fully unleashed his phenomenal running ability, going out hard and immediately separating himself and Matthias from the field. He got swallowed up by just three scramblers on the face and finish in fourth place. Stefan, still the holder of the unsupported Third Flatiron record and a Tour legend, finished in fifth.

We never had an all-star rigging team for this stage. Internationally renowned athletes Anton Krupicka and Joe Grant, along with Jon, did a fabulous job rigging four very independent lines. It was the best rigging we've ever had. Mauricio was high on the third shooting photos, Jeff Valliere was shooting video and Darren's dad was doing the same. Stuart Paul, injured in stage 3, was out shooting some amazing photos as well. Sheri shot the finishing photos.

Alas, I had my comeuppance, big time. My main rivals, Danny, Buzz, and Willie, all hit the face before me and then just stretched out their lead. My only advantage in the previous stages was intimate knowledge of complex courses. Here there were no secrets and pure fitness won out. I actually ran pretty well and have no excuses. They are simply faster than I am. In fact, twenty scramblers were faster than I am. When I ran my first ever scrambling race on the Third Flatiron back in 1999, the field was small, the field was slow, and I won. Since then I've gotten faster, but I and other Minions have also recruited the fastest scramblers I could find. I love what we've built here.

Thanks to everyone that competed, rigged, and documented the best Tour de Flatirons ever. At least until next year.
The entire 2016 Tour. Left to right: stage 4, stage 3, stage 1, stage 5, stage 2.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Tour de Flatirons - Stage 4

Official Tour de Flatiron Scrambling Uniform

I've tried in the past to avoid using the word "race" in these reports... That's getting increasingly difficult for me. My biggest rivals this year are Danny, Buzz, and Willie. Each stage I've been behind but each stage I've been able to edge ahead. I feel somewhat bad about this. Danny is fitter and always gets to the rock before me. Buzz frequently scrambles faster than me and beat me to the Slab today. Willie refused to pass me on the run out from Stage 2 (I started late here, but if he put enough time on me, he might have taken me). So, how do I get in front? A lot of it is luck. Some of it is experience. Today, it might have been being overly aggressive and that isn't cool. Yet, every time, they are such good sports about it. If these were separate time trials, I'd surely lose to them. But they aren't. They are chaotic, competitive events that, to the non-Minion, would look like...a race.

Stage 4 Course
Despite the reschedule due to adverse weather/conditions on Wednesday, twenty-two scramblers toed the line at 5:15 a.m. Brian had run earlier and gave me a time to shoot for: 1h03m. Dylan had to start early as well and he'd come tearing down the trail cheering us all on as we labored up the steep approach. Angela started about ten minutes early to ensure more daylight. Still,  twenty-two is a big group and we quickly spread out. I start at the front only because I'm the starter. I then try to stay to the far right as all the big guns go by.
Nikita on the Slab
Danny passed me early, as usual, but I kept him in sight. Buzz went by earlier than usual and, almost feeling guilty, says, "You have a handicap, since you fixed the lines this morning." A nice gesture, but I went easy in the morning and felt no effects of it. I'm getting slower and lots more fast, young guys are joining the Tour, but the field is also getting broader and larger, so I'm barely hanging onto to the top half of the field. At least when it comes to the finish line. On the approach, I'm probably in the middle of the back half. We have so many Minions that can go uphill so fast... Inspiring to be in such a group.

Willie arrived just before the start, so had no warm-up. In a show of camaraderie he saved late-arriving Greg by letting him borrow a harness and a rappel device. Without that Greg probably wouldn't have broken the top ten for his first time. Adam offered an extra pair of gloves to Jason. I love seeing that.

Willie was glued to my backside once again. He could have gone by, but he specifically did not. His plan was to follow me everywhere and then hopefully run by me on the descent. Not surprisingly, I know these courses well. Duh. I create them. So this strategy isn't knew to me, at least for people close to my fitness level. I tried to gap him on the Slab and did a bit, but he closed things down on the Fiddlehead.

Lead group on the Slab
I hit the slab a bit after Buzz and Danny and closed on them. I just followed Danny's lead and all of us got a bit off track. You'd think that I wouldn't get off track, but I was redlined and it is so much easier if you can just follow someone. It indicative of how hard we're going when the course creator strays from his best route. Near the top I corrected earlier than Danny, though, and I hit the top of the Slab ahead of all my rivals. Doing so left me in considerable oxygen debt though, and I ceded the lead to a faster moving Buzz on the ridge. We'd gapped Danny and Willie.

Buzz and I caught someone unfamiliar with the downclimb and directed him to it, with us following right behind. Once on the ground it wasn't long before Buzz graciously stepped aside and I was once again in front of my rivals. In a minute or two Danny was on me and then passed me on the steep climb up to the Fiddlehead. As he went by he said, "I think today's my day, Bill." I thought so as well and said, "Right on. Be careful up there." He responded, "I'm going far." Indeed he wasn't. He was ahead, but the four of us hit the rock very close together, probably within twenty seconds. Danny then said, "This is going to be a photo finish." I couldn't respond. Danny, Buzz, and Willie all seem to have a lot more breath than I do. I'm maxed. I can't talk. My mouth is completely occupied with sucking in as much oxygen as possible.

I scrambled the lower part well and took a more efficiently line than Danny and got in front again, with Buzz on my tail, then Danny, and then Willie. I had the best line and was maxed out, but the other three all closed right behind me. Our speeds were close enough, I felt, where I didn't need to step aside. There is climbable rock on both sides of me, but I'm definitely on the easiest, fastest line. Should I have stepped aside? I don't know.

Near the top, I cut hard left on my regular route out to the ridge. There I caught up to Nikita and Jed. I found out later that Jed had started five minutes late and was actually catching all of us. I just barely slipped in front of Nikita where our routes merged. I even slipped a bit here, making this move. Was I being overly competitive? Maybe. Uppermost in my mind was to get to the top of the Fiddlehead before all of my rivals, so that I'd be first in line for the rappel lines. Getting in front of Nikita and Jed, and having them between me and my rivals effectively ended the race with these three. That was just luck, to encounter them at the exact time where this could happen. Yes, I was in front at that point, but the meeting of our group of four, Nikita and Jed, and the top of the Fiddlehead turned out perfectly for me. Unless I was rude or too aggressive to any of these other five. I've talked with most of them and they are being gracious, but if anything I did was uncool, I will penalize myself 5 minutes.
Buzz trailed by Danny on the Slab

At the top, behind me, there might have been some overly aggressive action. We have to remember where we are and that we are all friends. Being a gentleman or a lady and being kind and gracious to your fellow competitors should be more important than our finishing position. I'm calling out myself, mainly, but let's all remember this. I'm going to be very explicit about this in my directions for Stage 5.

Anyway, I hit the ropes first and, having fixed them myself, I knew the best line was the yellow rope. Thankfully it was free. Two of the three lines were free when the six of us arrived and Jed got the other one. I zipped down the line all the way to the very end, going off the end of the rope on hiking terrain, with no down scrambling to do. I sped down the slick climber's path next to the Pellaea with Jed on my tail. When he closed up tight, I stepped aside. He quickly gapped me and the gap would grow, but I kept him in sight most of the way out.

I was acutely aware of the others behind me. I knew Nikita was the next to the top and that he was the fastest runner behind me. Nikita is fitter and he beat me in stages one and two. I figured he'd come by me. I calculated that when he did, I should still have a minute gap on Danny. I ran as fast as my clumsy legs would allow, trying to get close enough to the finish so that when Nikita came by I'd have the mental toughness to endure the pain of holding off Danny.

When I got the 3-minute-to-go trail junction and a quick glance didn't reveal Nikita, I switched my goal to holding him off. I endured even more pain and when I turned off the trail for the final, steep, 90-second section I spotted Jed ahead. Still not knowing that he started 5 minutes late, I pressed, trying to close that down, thinking it was possible. Alas, it was not. It wouldn't have mattered anyway, as his total time was six minutes faster than me.

I finished in 56:22 and a minute later Nikita came. Then Danny. Then Buzz. Then Willie.

Once again Matthias crushed all and locked up his second consecutive Tour title. Congratulations, Matthias! He's also re-writing the record books. He'll take aim at Dave Mackey's Third Flatiron record next week. It would be fitting end to win all five stages and get the record at the same time.

In second was Ryan, followed closely by Stefan. These two have been stalwarts of the podium for many years and they stamped their authority on this stage by beating Will Porter. Will, though, has nearly locked up second place in the Tour. For Stefan to sneak by him, he'd have to win the last stage. Beat Matthias. Stefan is probably the most amazingly overall outdoor badass I've ever met. His range of mastery is staggering. Yet, I fear, that task before him is too great. He'll have his hands full finishing third with Ryan his chief rival. Here I'd bet on Stefan. He's never failed to make the podium.
Me on the Slab with Willie on my heels
Newcomer Greg made a strong showing, finishing solidly in the top ten. Following Scott Bennet on the way out he got a lesson on how hard you have to go to play with the big boys. Trying to pass Scott, he caught a toe and went down in a heap, sustaining abrasions on this legs and torso. He's okay, fortunately, and got a taste of the kamikaze effort put out by the sharp end of Tour.

One stage to go. One stage and the 2016 Tour de Flatirons, the 13th annual Tour, will be in the books. We are already guaranteed to end up with the most Tour finishers (at least four stages must be completed to be a Tour finisher) ever.

Thursday, October 06, 2016

Tour de Flatirons - Stage 3


Each stage seems to be more fun than the last. And bigger. We had 30+ tonight and there seemed to be such a glow of positive energy all over Dinosaur Mountain. Afterwards, I didn't want to leave the "after party" at the trailhead. I felt a kindred spirit with everyone there. The Tour de Flatirons is, to my knowledge, unique in the world. To be fair, there isn't many places that could stage such an event. The Flatirons are just such unique, magical rocks. I love them. And I love this group.

My new best buddy this year is Danny Gilbert. We're so evenly matched that it makes every event so fun for us. I hope everyone in the Tour has a close rival as well. The difference with the Tour last year and this year, is the numbers. At no point during this entire hour-long stage was I not very close to another scrambler. This doesn't feel like a boring, painful time trial. This is a very exciting, very fun, and, yes, very painful race. I try not to use the "r" word, but I can't help it here. These things are an order of magnitude more fun than a trail running race, precisely because of all the different skills necessary for these courses.

Driving to the start I had a mixture of dread and excitement. Dread for the pain to come and fear that I wouldn't have the toughness to endure the pain and my friendly rivals would leave me far behind. Excitement because, in the end, it's the most fun I've ever had racing. 

I got there early and jogged just a little with Matthias to warm up. I had a lap up Green Mountain in my legs from the morning and I felt heavier and more sluggish than usual. A huge group (thirty is huge for the Tour) massed at the start and I gave some final reminders. Page, Angela, and Brad had taken off a bit early and would be some carrots to chase.

Here's the course description I sent out to the group:

A couple of key notes:

1. Once you downclimb off the backside of the Front Porch head immediately west, to the right of a very large boulder. Don't head down between the boulder and the backside of the Front Porch. Down that way is a ground nest of hornets/wasps/yellow jackets. If you go west, just a few tens of yards, you'll be against the Lost Porch. After you descend a bit you'll re-intersect the normal descent trail and should be fine. EVERYONE needs to do this, as once those stingers are stirred up, they'll range far and wide. The first guy through will be fine regardless, but the rest of us won't be.

2. After descending off the Hand ( you must touch the very summit) and doing either the exposed chimney/arete slide down or the tunnel, head DOWN. The rock immediately south of the Hand is Der Freischutz. You'll goal is to descend down between these two back to the Mallory Cave Trail. Once on the ground you'll see a pine needle covered, steep, loose gully that will quickly lead to a steep, smooth slab. Because of the danger from rockfall from above NO ONE can climb down this slab. Instead, once you get to the rock slab, head to descender's right and get on a rib/ridge of rock that you can downclimb to the ground. The climbing here takes some care, but not too bad. You are safe here from any rocks from above. Once down this climb, follow your nose and the faint climber's path down to the Mallory Cave Trail.

Full Course Description:

As usual, it is highly recommended to preview this course to make sure you locate the start of each rock. It starts with the usual route on the Front Porch - NOT TipToe Slab. This route is just right of a prominent gully/canyon and I think almost everyone knows it well. Once off the downclimb (and avoiding the wasps), you'll head down the trail until you can see the saddle off to the right. Climb up to and over the saddle and then down to the Mallory Cave Trail. Head up that, staying on the regular trail, until the very base of Sunnyside II. Climb up that and off the back side. We do NOT go to the summit of Der Zerkle. Head west to the Mallory Cave Trail. For the Hand you must start at the big tree which is almost at the very base of the rock. So, once on the Mallory Cave Trail after getting off Sunnyside II, you'll descend a little bit. It only takes about ten seconds or so. The Hand is the technical crux of the stage. It is thoughtful climbing and has a couple of crux sections. There is some crumbly rock here, but not much and easily avoided. As always, slow down and take what time you need here to be safe. At a slow enough speed, this is solid, fun scrambling. Make sure you have a good safety margin. You must touch the top of the Hand and then do the descent described above. If you want, though this will take WAY longer, you can still go up and over the backside of the Finger Flatiron and down the trail up by the Box. You must start at the bottom of Der Freischutz and you'll head up a ramp just right of a right-facing corner. There is something that looks somewhat like this a bit higher up, pass that by. The trail will practically touch this rock at the right location. Ascent Free Shot (easiest route to the summit) and touch the far summit of this rock. Then head down the somewhat tricky downclimb to the north. It's steep here for a bit, so be careful and take your time. Plenty of time to hurt once you get on the ground. Once off the downclimb you go down into a tunnel and work your way north to intersect the trail you've already come down once before. Now run back to NCAR and try not to puke.

I said "Go" and we took off. I always start at the front, just because I'm the starter, but I quickly drift to near the very back. Danny was just in front of me and Buzz soon was right behind me. My other friendly rival is Willie, but unfortunately, he arrived five minutes late and would be a chaser. I passed one scrambler as we headed up the Mallory Cave trail and then caught up to Tony on the Porch Alley climbing trail. Tony would throw in some fast bursts when the trail flattened out and I didn't have the fitness to move by. I hit the Front Porch about twenty seconds behind Danny, two seconds behind Tony, and Buzz right on my tail. We passed a few scramblers on the ascent and eventually moved by Tony. Danny, myself, and Buzz hit the top all within a couple seconds of each other and in that order.

A scrambler was just starting the descent and graciously stepped aside for us three. Danny takes this steep descent a bit higher than I do and I went low right at the crux and slipped on by. That move had me gap Buzz and I never saw him again. I sped down the descent and gapped Danny, with him cheering me on. Got to love that. I slipped a bit at the very bottom, worrying Danny a bit, but I was fine, with only a little abrasion on my palm. I sped down the loose trail as best I could and over the saddle down to the Mallory Cave Trail. Danny closed on me and I urged him by at a switchback, but we hit Sunnyside II right together.

I scrambled just a few seconds faster up this route and moved just ahead of Danny once again. I scrambled off the back and over to Hand and started up. Above me was Galen Burrell, who had started this stage like he was shot out of a cannon. Reports from spectators said that when he hit the steep climb up to the water tank he actually accelerated. His speed on the trails might be the fastest in the group, certainly rivaling Matthias, but his scrambling confidence is still evolving. I followed Galen for a bit and then he stepped aside for me at the crux. He also let Danny go by, making it harder for me to open a gap on him. At the summit I caught...someone. I was too oxygen starved to recognize who. It might have been Nikita. I scrambled down just ahead of that person and caught someone else, Max I think, at the tricky ramp section, with the tunnel alternatives. The ramp is serious, with a fifty foot cliff immediately to your left if you slip off that direction. The person in front of me took one look at it and then at my closing speed and said, "I'll let you go first." I flew down this ramp and that was the move that got me the key gap on Danny.

Once in the gully I was down the pine needles and then over onto the rib of rock. Here there was a slight traffic jam with Angela, Page, David, and Jon. I couldn't fall in line behind them, I had Danny behind me! I scrambled a bit further right (descender's right) and passed Jon and David and then when I had to come back left, I was able to slip by Page and Angela. In the gully between the Hand and Der Freischutz I found the dim light of the late afternoon a challenge, but I pushed and tried to increase my gap.

As I started up Der Freischutz with David right on me. Once the terrain opened up for easier passing David went by and I tried to keep up, failing. Max closed right on me and passed me just before the summit, but I slipped by him at the start of the descent. Max, Jon, and I were clogged up a bit behind David on the descent but it was only a few seconds, though it seems much longer when in the heat of the battle. 

On the ground for the last time I tried to keep David in sight on the descent. Max was right behind me and I asked a couple of times if he wanted to go by, but he demurred. We took the climber's trail down and intersected the Mallory Cave Trail not far behind David, but he'd pull away pretty quickly. Down at the switchback by Square Rock, Jon caught up and went by. Max stayed behind me until the uphill started to the Water Tank and he went by for good. I was running scared of Danny or Buzz catching me and nearly hurled on this climb, despite my pedestrian pace.

I ran down the switchbacks, seeing Brad, an early starter, ahead of me. On the flat section before the final climb up to the NCAR mesa I looked back up the switchbacks and saw no one. I felt I was safe from behind. No one could close that gap in the 2+ minutes I had left to go. I inched by Brad and urged him to come with me. I was barely able to run the steps up to the mesa and then had just 90 seconds or so to the finish. I was hurting, but still running along fine. After thirty seconds or so I heard footsteps and figured Brad was kicking things in, but then I heard "Sorry about this, Bill" and Galen flew by me. Nice. I had completely forgotten about him. Over this last section he had to going twice my speed. That's impressive.

I finished in 53:57, but the time wasn't that important. It rarely is, because the courses are frequently unique and I don't even know what is a good time. I was doing about 90 minutes when previewing so I figured I had a shot at breaking an hour and I did. Cool. But what really matters is how I did against my rivals and I was able to stay in front today. Once again, I caught and passed David and Jon and once again they passed me back. I love that give and take. Same thing happened with Galen and Max. Fun stuff. If I could only stay ahead of those guys...I'd, I still wouldn't be a contender. But I'd have a better chance of making the top ten.

Matthias won with an amazing time of 41:40. Will took second. Dylan smoked it and finished third. He ran up behind me as I was headed to Der Der Freischutz yelling, "I'm going to lap you, Bill!" But he didn't. He was just behind me when I turned off for the climb and he continued out to the finish. That means Matthias and Will did lap me, though. Stefan, out last week with a cold, finished a solid fourth.

In the field were some world-class alpinists and I think all of them beat me. Scott Bennett finished fifth and Jed Brown was sixth or so. Colin Simon, who last March soloed the Diamond, setting the FKT for a winter solo, was in the field as well and I'm not sure of his finishing position or his time as yet. 

Just a complete blast. We had a couple of photographers out there and hopefully we'll have some photos to share soon. Two stages to go!

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Tour de Flatirons - Stage 2

Chaos. That sums up tonight pretty well. Rangers, cops, DNFs, off route, and even a serious fall on rock for the first time ever.

My buddy Jeff V. was running on the Amphitheater trail around 4:30 p.m. and noticed rangers near the Amphitheater itself and even a police cruiser down at the trailhead. Did someone talk? I got there a bit later than I had hoped and recruited Ryan to run over there with me to check things out. We didn't see any official presence and I decided to go on with the stage, but we started in a few waves to make us less noticeable. Most of this route was well off trail and by the time we were coming down the First Flatiron we were spaced out nicely, of course.

Here was the course description:

We'll start down at the Baseline Trail at Chautauqua and follow that trail over to the Amphitheater Trail (slight descent to get to this trail, don't head up the Bluebell Trail, which you get to just before the descent to the Amphitheater Trail). Head up this trail for about two very hard minutes a nice climbers trail (not blocked by branches like one slightly lower) will go off to the left, just before the first really steep section of trail flattens out). Follow this to a talus field and go up there to get to a saddle just beyond a very prominent and cool tower. We are NOT climbing this tower.

Once at the saddle on the uphill side of the prominent tower, you must start scrambling and not hike up next to the ridge. This ridge seems very solid to me and I have not encountered any lose rock, but others have noticed a few loose blocks. This will be a no-pass section because it is very narrow. No one get pushy here, there are plenty of other places to pass. Stay on the obvious scrambling ridge until it ends.

Then head up towards the bottom of the Spy. You can scramble on rock slabs on the left or hike up terrain on the right. Either one is fine here, just make a beeline for the bottom of the Spy, which you'll clearly see above you. There is a steep wall before the last bit of the Spy. You can go over this any way you want, but it is easier to get over it on the left.

Scramble the Spy to the top and off to top back to the ground. Now hike up steep terrain directly adjacent to the First Flatiron. It is possible to get on the First Flatiron almost immediately and you can do this, but it is not recommended or required. The rock there is covered in lots of lichen and the climbing is a bit too dicey for a stage. So, hike up steep terrain to the normal North Ridge start. This should be pretty obvious and will be about 2-3 minutes of hard hiking above the Spy. Once on the First, follow the North Ridge to the summit. From there downclimb or rappel off the top.

Once off the First, head to nearly the very base of the Sunset Flatironette. There is an easy way to gain the rock just about ten feet up from the very bottom. Follow the obvious ridge to the very summit. This has outstanding scrambling and a couple of interesting sections where previewing might gain you a few seconds. (emphasis added post stage)

Downclimb off to the northeast, down the ridge. Once on the ground follow the First Flatiron Trail to the usual finish for the First Flatiron. You CANNOT cut any switchbacks. This trail is a total mess and we're not going to contribute to that. This stage will be towards the end of the daylight, but there could be many other hikers on this descent. Be cool and try to give the other hikers warning of your coming and/or a good berth around them. Some won't like our speed no matter how nice we are, but let's try to leave as good of an impression as we can.

The first group went off with the big guns, including Matthias, Will, and Ryan. Stefan was under the weather and sitting this one out. I hope he recovers fast and can join us. Also in the field was world-famous Anton Krupicka. He owns more than a few Flatiron speed records and would be a threat to win. Alas, despite Anton's amazing speed over short distances, his speciality is long courses, as he's probably still most famous for his 100-mile running prowess. Matthias is just possessed this year. It appears he not only wants to win this second Tour or even to win every stage, but to annihilate the field on each stage. His times are mind-boggling.

It was great to see a recovered Joe Grant back for stage two and doing very well up near the front. Speedsters Jed and Darren, who weren't at the first stage, made their presence known here, clocking very fast times. Newcomer Erik, in his first stage ever, finished in the top half, way in front of me.

The wave start did prevent me from mixing things up with two of my favorite scramblers to be around: Buzz and Jon Sargent, but I think those two mixed it up nicely.
Matthias with a gap near the top of the First Flatiron
Ali G, a newcomer to this year's Tour, but very fast (6th last week) fell off the lower section of the Gregory Ridge. He hurt his ankle in a fall of about four feet and had to limp back to the start, where it swelled up rather nastily. Will was right behind Ali at the time and offered his help, but Ali G told him to go on and that he was okay.

This was our first ever injury while on the rocks and he was lucky to limp away from it. I think we are all humble enough to know that this could happen to any of us. I just want to reiterate that these events, while so fun and so comfortable for us almost all the time, are quite dangerous and should never be taken lightly. You all know this and I'm not trying to be patronizing, as most of you are safer, better, stronger, better looking than me. Just want to use this opportunity to remind us all to always take care in tricky spots and always emphasize safety over speed. One of the best examples in our group, I believe, is David Glennon. This guy can flat-out fly! He won the 2015 Rattlesnake Ramble. He was 4th at Imogene this year. Footspeed-wise, he's the fastest guy in the Minions. Yet, he knows not to scramble like Matthias. He puts his fitness ego aside and takes the climbing at a speed that is always safe for him. I sometimes come across him in these stages and that's one of things I love about these events. They are so quirky that an average Joe like myself can come across an elite athlete like David in the midst of an event. That's only because these are NOT running events. These are scramble events. And it's a different, much more serious game. Remember the first rule of the Tour: No Dying. Dying gets you disqualified. From the Tour and from living the rest of your great life.

I started off dead last due to having to run back to my car. When I got back to the start one scrambling was waiting to start with me: Danny. He and I were very close in the last stage and he wanted to go head-to-head again. So cool! He seems to be a touch fitter than me and was in front of me all the way to the top of the First. I was able to move in front only because I rappelled and he downclimbed. Did he tell me at the finish that I had only beat him because I rappelled (which is undoubtedly true)? No, he did not.
This shows Angela rapping off the First Flatiron and you can see many scramblers in the background on the Sunset sunset.
When I caught some scramblers, everyone let me pass. Because I asked to pass? No! They offered me the pass and stepped aside. I love that about this group. Everyone does that. Everyone is trying to do their best, but they want everyone else to do their best. I'm going as hard as I can go to beat as many people as I can, but I will gladly step aside for anyone on my heels. I don't want to hold anyone back.

I caught Willie at the top of the First and we stayed together until near the top of the Sunset Flatironette where I got a slight lead (because David was super cool in letting me pass on the downclimb). I booked down the trail as fast as my geriatric legs and limited agility would allow. David passed me in about a minute. Willie caught me in another minute. I asked if he wanted to go by. He said no. After five minutes of him being on my heels I told him to go by. He refused. It was super fun running out with him, but I'm not sure I understand that. I'd have gone by! I ended up being 2 minutes faster than him because I started two minutes later, but who knows how much time he could have put on me if he went by. I suspect a tough battle with him in Stage 3, along with my real rival this Tour: Danny.

Once again we had three chick scramblers: Sonia, Sara, and Angela. What tough, fast ladies these are. I passed all three...barely. Inching by them, going about 0.1 mph faster. This group gives you a skewed view of reality. My bet is that they are faster than 95% of all climbers. I mean, this isn't the way most of the world climbs...

A bunch of people did not do the full course, including, maybe the winner. Here's the mistake a bunch of people made:

Obviously I'm disappointed that my directions were not clear enough. I'm not sure what else I could have done. I announced a preview of the course and you could have gone with me. I said in the description to start "ten feet from the very bottom of the rock". I posted a Strava track showing the correct route, which, when compared against an erroneous route, clearly shows the difference. I didn't mention the route "Going to the Sun" as this is the one of only two routes that I know of on the Sunset Flatironette. The other is a short, steep route on the west face. I do apologize to anyone that feels this wasn't sufficient. I want everyone to have a great time and I had no intention of leading anyone astray. That said, I do like to put somewhat of a premium on really knowing the Flatirons and getting to learn them and previewing the courses. I'll try to post a more detailed description for the next two stages (I don't think anyone needs directions for Stage 5), with photos. I've done that in the past and was just lazy this year. Sorry.

What to do? I've decided instead of marking these scramblers with a DNF, to add a time penalty. Danny went back up there and timed the difference of getting on the Sunset early vs. the bottom. For him it came up to almost exactly 3 minutes, so that's what I'm adding to anyone that didn't go to the bottom. Anyone disagreeing with this assessment can go measure the time difference for themselves and I'll adjust their time accordingly.

Looking forward to Stage 3. I'm hoping we have a stage with no injuries...