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!