Saturday, October 14, 2017

Tour de Flatirons, Finale!

SpongeBob F-ing Rules! But he's got one sticky shadow!
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Cordismo is Primo! In a fitting battle that mirrored the entire Tour, Cordis, resplendent in his authentic SpongeBob SquarePants jersey, and Kyle, shirtless of course, he is, afterall an Anton protege, traded the lead four or five times before Cordis finally stamped his name on the trophy! The pain endured by these two amazing athletes must have been intense. Kyle is finishing his first Tour and only ran one stage last year. And he nearly won it all. Cordis always had tremendous promise and he's learned a lot in his previous two Tours. And now he's the Champion. The champion of the great sporting event on earth! At least that's what's being said around my house...
Will has time to wave to the gallery enroute to fourth place.
Surprisingly, Will scooped everyone on the approach to Stairway to Heaven and arrived first. He hardly knew what to do. He'd never scrambled before without someone leading him. He wandered off to Satan's Slab or something and the young guns went by. As did Jason Killgore, a flat-out liar that says he isn't a runner but a skier. He took third place in his first Tour. That really shouldn't be allowed.

The battle for fourth place didn't disappoint. Darren was just one point ahead of Will and neither was giving an inch. Will's start was ridiculous though and Darren was in full-on chase mode. He wasn't able to claw Will back, but finishing just behind him left them in a tie for fourth! Greg, adorned in his signature, push-up bicep brassiere per the yuzh, was solidly in sixth at the start of the last stage, ran the entire stage in sixth, and finished the Tour in sixth. So, 666...appropriate for a Minion!
"Yeah, that's by bicep. God delivered it. I signed for it.'
Part-time Minion Eric Lee, who hand-picks stages that make him look good, chose wisely with stage five. He's about the size of Greg's arm yet he nearly pipped him at the line, finishing just two seconds back.

The battle for seventh was tremendous, with Danny, Ryan, and Derek tearing things up. Derek closed from behind, blazing the east slab descent from the summit and breaking logs on the descent. All three were within a few feet when they returned to Skunk Canyon. Danny turned the screws on the climb out of Skunk, broke Ryan, and safely distanced himself from Derek's wicked kick. Due to a snafu that prevented the publishing of a badly needed rule, Derek absolutely crushed his dad in this first Tour. An official, though anonymous, inquiry has been filed with the SMSC Tour management.
Danny makes Ryan cry "Uncle!"
Brendan was in sight of Derek at the top of Stairway, but Derek said sayonara there and Brendan time trialed it in. If he wasn't carrying around twenty extra pounds of muscle he might have kept up, but apparently it's swimsuit season somewhere...
"Is this the way to Venice Beach?"
The next group back included the competition for the highly coveted 12th position. Unique to the Tour, 12th is second in prestige only to the top position. Coincidently, I was current in that position. With all eyes upon me, I executed my game plan to perfection. I hung back, two minutes behind my son at the start of the scrambling. This was the ideal position in which to launch my attack. I was poised to leap ahead and join the fray for seventh place. But I surged with too much power and scrambled right out of my left shoe! Seriously. It almost fell down the rock. Stefan went by me and I had to stop and struggle to get it back on without untying it. I just got it on before Sonia went by me and she graciously let me stay in front. Sonia had been on me since the start, sticking so close I was afraid she was going to trip me.
Satan's Spawn trying to run down Danny and Ryan
I pushed myself to nearly puking in an effort to gap her and close on Stefan. I managed the former, but not the latter. Into the gap rushed Brad Bond. A couple of jump moves down off the penultimate section and I increased my lead, but he closed on the final slab as I was on the edge of blowing up. All the while I'm barely moving up the slab. The Tour is pretty humbling. I'm going absolutely as fast as I can, but I'm just crawling up the rock. I knew Brad was going to change shoes once he hit the ground and I didn't want to give him a target to chase. I nailed the north side descent and was soon stumbling down the steep, loose descent in pursuit of Stefan. Miraculously, I closed on him and he graciously stepped aside and I went by. Stefan is still nursing an injured heel and I knew descents were a problem for him. If I wanted to stay ahead I needed to put serious distance between us before the climb back to the finish.
What's this ultra-runner doing in a scramble evemt? Polishing rocks with his handy chamois, of course!
I did a controlled fall all the way down to Skunk Canyon. I had expected to fall and even wore cycling gloves to protect my hands in the inevitable slip and butt bounce. But I did not fall and made it to the bridge, still vertical. I bent to the task of climbing the steep hill back to the water tank. I wanted to walk with the white-hot intensity of a thousand suns, but with Stefan chasing and Sheri and John Black cheering me on, I just couldn't. And I use that term "running" very loosely. A geriatric with a walker could have passed me. I was glad Sheri didn't walk along beside me, taking photos, though I'm sure she could have.
"Thank goodness this dang Tour over and I can get back a real sport: skiing!"
With no sign of Stefan, I finally gave in to the pain and power hiked the last steep bit up to the NCAR mesa. I resumed running and tried to kick it in. I wasn't sure of my time, but Sheri told me I had a chance to break 40 minutes. I pushed to the line and crossed with a time of 38:13. Stefan finished forty seconds later. That just isn't right.

Sonia and Brad had quite the duel themselves. Sonia can flat out suffer and she finished with her face as red as a beet, but two seconds ahead of Brad. Well done, you two! Thanks for pushing me so hard on the ascent. Willie, Angela, and Colleen rounded out the field tonight. Four had already run the course and a few more will make it up before the results are final. The Top Ten are nearly set, but it is likely that Jason Wells will bump someone out of there when/if he runs the stage.
Two-time champion Matthias was on hand to dissect his opponents for next year. And to gleem some strategy tips, apparently.
Twenty-one scramblers have officially finished the Tour and it's likely at least a couple more will do so before the end of Tuesday, the last day to submit a time. It's been a tremendous Tour, despite the disappointing absence of the reigning champion Matthias. He came out to each stage to show his support and to stoke his engine of desire. The twenty-somethings who ruled the Tour this year will have an extremely motivated challenger next year...

Long Live the Tour! Fourteen years and counting...

Stage Five field


Saturday, October 07, 2017

Tour de Flatirons, Stage 4

Minions storm the Slab
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The Slab is a great scramble and there are plenty of fun rocks in Fern Canyon...but they have such a long, brutal approach. The real runners shine in this stage. 

Newcomer Jason Killgore took the stage win, though was 17 seconds slower than Cordis' previous time. He did beat Kyle's time. Officially, I've always stated that you can't win a stage unless you run with the full field. So, according to my own rules, Jason would win the stage. This is sort of a mess, as Jason had previously run with Kyle and Cordis and we all just assumed that they would be the top three. Except that Jason didn't do the full course and took a nasty fall, so he showed up today and just killed it. He really deserves to win the stage, but because of the previous understanding, we'll stay with Cordis in first place, Jason in second, and Kyle in third. It sucks that Kyle was out of town for the official stage today. The Tour takes place over five weeks and that makes it very difficult to complete and extremely difficult to win.
Jason arrives at the Slab with a comfortable lead that he'd continue to stretch all the way to the finish.
Jason went off the front early and ran alone and uncontested the entire way, which makes his time even more amazing, as he wasn't chasing anyone and wasn't being pushed by anyone. It was basically an outrageous time trial and super impressive.

There was a nice battle going on for second place, though, with Darren holding that position for most of the stage, before giving way, after a brutal battle down the trail, to a hard-charging Will Porter. Greg, the winner of the full-field stage 3, finished fourth.

Sonia took her third stage in a row in the women's division and appears to be a lock to repeat as the women's champion. She also ran mostly in time trial mode and alone for most of the stage, which sucks, but it goes that way sometimes. We need to work a bit harder to attract more women to the Tour. I'll start training Sheri...
Sonia on her way to another women's stage win.
My race was super fun and more interesting than I thought it would be. At the gun, I settled into my 45-minute pain pace. A bit after we hit the wide trail, Colin Simon, Brian Crim, and Eric Lee went by me. I was suffering, but slipping further and further back. Five or six minutes later I couldn't see Brian or Eric any longer, but Simon was coming back to me. He started walking on the steeper sections, while I continued running, albeit about 1% faster than his walk. But 1% faster was enough for me to slower close and then inch by. I had maybe ten seconds on him when we hit the Slab.

Whenever you emerge from the trees and see the first scramble, it's encouraging. All those scramblers that were out of sight are now in full view. And the distances are compressed as the rate of progress while scrambling is much slower than running. I could see Brian and Brendan above me and was determined to catch Brian, as I'd beaten him in the previous stages and figured I could do it again. Brendan, I wasn't sure about. He beat me in stage 3 on Dinosaur Mountain, which is usually my best terrain. But you never know, which is why we run the stages...

Me starting up the Slab
At first Colin seemed to be gaining on me, but then I pulled away again. He'd later say that he went out a bit too hard and paid the price. Then, on the run out, he missed the turn on the singletrack and added at least a couple of minutes to his time with that route-finding error. And I was closing, steadily on Brian.

When I pulled up next to him, I went a bit right and he went left. I worked really hard and just barely got in front of him by the ridge. Brendan fell in behind Brian and we all worked our way south along the ridge to the downclimb. I was hurting so bad, but I knew a descent was coming. A little ways before the downclimb, I gunned it, trying to get a gap on the tricky little downclimb and get out of sight. I sped down the steep wall to the tree and went through the tree fast. I liebacked down the steep wall below the final edge and once there just tossed my body over the edge and right onto the flake below. I squated down, grabbed the low hold and jumped to the ground. I was off, running scared and trying not to slip and bash myself on the mossy talus.
Ryan starting down the singletrack on his way to 5th place.

I did my best to get a gap over to the Goose Egg and then laboriously powered up to the base of the climb. Here was I surprised to find myself just 15-20 seconds behind Derek and Nikita. Nikita was going well and would pass Derek on this slab. I saw Derek look down and he saw me. I don't know if he was surprised or not. He'd been burying me in the last couple of stages. Seeing that I had caught up to him, he might have been a touch worried that his dad might beat him. At that point I didn't think he cared one whit about Nikita, but he'd do everything in his power, suffer any pain to beat the scrambler below him.

We stayed about the same distance apart on the scramble, but near the top Derek widened the gap a bit. Below me Brendan was coming hard. I was surrounded and fighting for my life. Well, my position in the field, but it felt like my life, because I became too frantic on the steep, loose descent. I was too intent on gapping Brendan and catching Derek. So much so that I endangered Nikita and Derek when I knocked a rock as big as basketball down the slope. I immediately started yelling "Rock! Rock! Rock!" Both Nikita and Derek avoided the rock and were not injured, but I apologize profusely to both of them and to the entire field. As the longest standing member of the Minions I should be the one setting a good example and I did not. I apologize to the entire group. I also called out to Derek, "That's a 1-minute penalty for me!" I knew I couldn't beat him on the run out, but I wasn't sure what he was thinking and I wanted him to know, so that I would no longer be a threat in his mind, if I ever was.
Derek finishing strong.
Not a minute later, Brendan made the same mistake that I did and two or three large rocks came down. It was my turn to be in the line of fire. I heard them coming and dodged to my right. Derek was further right. We were both weren't hit and were unharmed.

I took a more direct route down the steep slope and nearly caught Derek by the trail, but he immediately opened up a sizable gap. He now turned his attention to Nikita...

I sped down the trail, getting glimpses of Derek and even Nikita as we dip into Fern gully and back up to the base of the Slab. Nikita was still in the lead going over this hump, but Derek would soon get him. I had some thoughts that maybe I could get Nikita, but that was crazy and he stretched out his lead on me. I was much more worried about being caught by Brendan. He had a huge gap on me on the approach and I didn't think I'd be able to hold him off. I ran hard, but I was already gassed and trying not to complete explode too early. I didn't look back, but my ears were pricked up and listening intently for any sound behind me.
Angela still looking fresh at the finish.
I got the Mesa Trail junction without hearing anything. I knew it was exactly a mile from here to the finish. Cordis had run it in under five minutes. I knew I could do it under six and half. Six and a half minutes of pain. Could I hold Brendan off. I tried to stretch out my stride. I was still catching glimpses of Nikita, but he was running well. My feet were burning from the slight slide forward with every footfall.

I got the  junction with the sign and knew from many previous scrambles that it was the halfway mark from the Mesa Trail. Just over three minutes to go. But then I heard it. The smack of feet pounding the trail behind me. I despaired. I couldn't sprint this far out. I almost resigned myself to being passed, not wanting to hurt any worse. I dialed up the effort just a touch, wondering if I could take it. I did another minute like that and Brendan hadn't come by yet. Now I was close to the singletrack and now I was ready to give it everything. It's really hard to pass someone once you get to the singletrack, so I poured it on and got there first. I concentrated hard so that I wouldn't make any mistakes. I picked up my feet and moved them as quickly as I could, trying to flow down the trail.

This turned out to be enough. The extra effort increased the distance to Brendan and probably broke his will a bit, knowing that I wasn't giving up. I held him off. So fun. So painful.

The full field at the finish.
Thanks to Sheri for the photos and Bill Hanson for the awesome video. Just one stage to go!


Thursday, October 05, 2017

Tour de Flatirons, Stage 3

Greg, Derek, and Dylan are 1-2-3 as they start up Dinosaur Rock

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The Tour de Flatirons is so fun it hurts. Literally. It hurts so good.

Like last year, my favorite stage is on Dinosaur Mountain. The variety of rocks, the tricky links, the devious downclimbs, the brutal, rolling run out. I love it. It makes for great racing with many lead changes.

On the first try at this stage, on our third scheduling of the start, only the fastest half of the field showed up. That's not true. Two of the back half showed up: Colin and me. I was in last place when we turned onto the Porch Alley trail. Thank goodness the rain came and washed out the stage. The fastest five scramblers were already on the last rock, Der Zerkle, and elected to finish the stage. The rest of us re-ran it tonight.

This is after our aborted attempt at Stage 3 (five did finish)
This time was field was larger and, while it was close, I was never actually in last place. Already it was a better experience! And no rain. And it just got better from there. With the front of the field off doing Stage 4, the head of the race was up for grabs. David and Greg took the reins and turned up the pain dial. Derek, improving with every stage, hung on.

Back in the mid-pack, I got passed by Colleen on the flat section before the water tower hill. Sonia, detecting a threat to her female dominance, gave chase. I inched by Colleen on the water tower hill and Sonia was so close behind me I was sure if I was giving her a piggyback ride or not. It would certainly explain why Derek was sprinting away from me. 
Brenden and Jason at the top of Dinosaur Rock

I was suffering at my limit trying to move fast enough so that I didn't have to give track to Sonia, when we turned off on the Porch Alley Trail. I was trying to stay behind Jason Wells, Brian Crim, and Stefan. At the Front Porch, Jason turned it up to 11 and showed his Naked-Edge-speed-record climbing speed and that was the last time I saw him. I turned my attention to Brian. Either I've been slipping back in the field, or everyone else has been getting faster. I prefer to think the latter and Brian is a lot faster this year.

I moved on the Front Porch to the right of Brian and slowly reeled him in and then barely got ahead of him by the top. I hit the descent right behind Erik, who was held up a bit by Dave. Dave graciously crouched out of the way and Erik and I both went by. Erik and I sped to the bottom of the rock and he closed on Stefan and gapped me. At the top of the hump over to the Mallory Cave Trail, David went by me and I tried to dig deep.
Greg running to victory
At Dinosaur Rock, Stefan went up the more techy north start, while the rest of us went around to the south, where Sheri was taking photos. She tripped Erik, gave Dave an elbow, and cheered me on as I closed on them and now Nikita.  Stefan gapped our group as we queued up behind David, who once again stepped aside and allowed us all to pass before the crux. I stayed on Nikita's heels to the summit, where Eric Lee (who also rigged a rappel line on the Front Porch for us) was taking photos.

Here, without gravity to fight, I made my move. I buzzed down the descent, using Danny's lower-off/jump trick, passing Nikita, Erik, and even Stefan! I knew Stefan wasn't at the top of his game, as he's been concentrating on much more important things and still nursing a serious heel injury. Still, a heady place to be. I stumbled through the woods and tried not to slip on the mossy rocks getting down to the base of Der Zerkle.
Stefan emerging from the slot on Der Zerkle with Spencer and Willie in pursuit.
Stefan closed up behind me and said, every encouraging, "Nice job, Bill. It sure helps to know the course, doesn't it." Indeed it does. In fact, the only reason I haven't slipped further in the field is that I design the courses. In the future I'll have to keep the course secret until the gun time and then everyone will have to follow me and...I digress.

I sped up the lower part of Der Zerkle, while still giving beta to Stefan. I barely held him off getting to the Overhang Slot. I'd done this section numerous times and Stefan had only seen it once, a couple of weeks ago. I squirmed through in record times (for me) and got a gap on Stefan. He reeled me in on the upper section, but I topped out first, downclimbed the back, and then started down the north-side descent that I had done for the first time that morning. 
Derek avoids twisting his ankle here and finishes in second
I tried to get out of sight down the north descent, but Stefan was too quick. Yet, he didn't follow me. I scooted down as quick as my uncoordinated legs would allow. I hit the Mallory Cave Trail, assumed I was still ahead of Stefan and tried to work hard as I could without tripping and falling. Caitlin was alongside the trail and she urged me on. I got down to the Mesa Trail junction without being caught, but definitely running scared. Sheri was hiking out and she pushed me to keep running. I ran all the way to top of the water tower hill, albeit slowly, looking over my shoulder regularly. 

Ahead of me was Dylan. He had apparently got lost a couple of times, because he was ahead of Derek at one point. Now he was jogging it in. And I was working at my limit and still not able to catch him. In fact, he was urging me on. "Way to go, Bill! Come on, Bill!" I was gassed but now I was heading downhill and pushed to keep up with Dylan. I was so dead at the final climb that I switched to power hiking for thirty seconds to gain the mesa. I started running again, chasing Dylan, but with no chance to catch him. As I neared the finish the Minions gathered there, with a clear dislike of Dylan, were cheering me on wildly. I upped my effort and closed on Dylan who was just clowning around. He can run twice as fast as me. but it was motivating nevertheless and I finished in 43:23. 

Greg won the stage, at least tonight. Sheri remarked that Greg was "running way faster than anyone else." Impressive indeed. He didn't have much of gap on Derek at the top of Der Zerkle but then put two minutes on him during the run out. Jason Wells was third, Brenden fourth, ? was fifth or fourth, Dylan sixth, me seventh? Can that be right? It sounds like a mistake, but remember the top five were missing. Danny was missing as well. All much faster than me. 

Erik came in 58 seconds behind me and then Stefan 10 seconds behind him. Then Spencer, Willie, Ben, David, Nikita, Brian, Sonia, Ryan, Angela, and Colleen. I'm probably forgetting a few others. I'll update when I get there times.

Bill Hanson was out there shooting video with his drone and I can't wait to see that! Thanks to Sheri and Eric Lee for the photos and rigging. Congrats to Greg. Lookout Minions, Derek is moving up each week.

Angela kicking it in.
In the first try at this stage, the top three decided to neutralize the positions when the rain started to fall. Kyle was in first, so he won, with Cordis in second and Jason Killgore in third. They still ran it in and all finished under 37 minutes (sort of). These three ran Stage 4 tonight with Cordis taking it with a brilliant run out. So, as they go to the fifth stage, Kyle and Cordis both have two firsts and two seconds. That means whoever wins Stage Five will be the overall Tour winner! Exciting stuff.