Third Flatiron Time Trial: Take Two

October 3, 2002

On Thursday, we had Take Two of the Third Time Trial – a TTTTTT or a T6. These are always fun and I love getting out with a good group of friends for a nutty adventure and pushing my limits, but it was mainly motivated by revenge. Not my revenge, but Buzz Burrell’s. The last time we did this, his concentration wandered and he forgot about a key timing rule. He finished first, but ended up losing to me by thirty seconds or so. He didn’t like that much. I was thrilled, knowing it would be my one and only chance to beat Buzz at anything[1]. So, I was more than willing to give him a chance to earn back the title.

This time King Kreighton, having trounced me so many times recently, decided to give me a break. He volunteered to be the head rigger for this event. Once again War n’ Peace volunteered to help out as well and these two took off at 5 p.m. for the summit of the Third Flatiron. They would fix two ropes down from the summit so that all participants could just run with a harness and a belay device. The course runs from Chautauqua Park up the trail 1000 vertical feet to the East Bench of the Third Flatiron and then solos eight pitches of 5.2-5.5 rock climbing (depending upon the route taken) to the summit, followed by a single-rope, 60-meter rappel, and a run back to the park. The last time we did this event was on August 1st – the first day the Third Flatiron opens for climbing. I went around 39:20 that day. Of course I was hoping to improve on that time.

The weather conditions for most of the day were looking bad. It was cold, overcast, and raining off and on. I didn’t call off the event though and things looked pretty good at 5 p.m. The ground would be wet and there would be water in any dishes on the face, but the rock itself should be mostly dry. Despite this, two of the biggest ringers didn’t show up for the event: Buzz Burrell and Dave Mackey. Buzz would miss his chance…

Six participants showed up. Myke Komarnitsky and myself were the only return participants. Tony Bubb and Warren’s friend Martin were new comers to the event. Paul Pomeroy had never done this before either, but he is an outstanding trail runner and a strong climber. I expected him to give me the most competition, but Paul didn’t go hard today. He was just out to learn the course and set an initial time. This is the beauty of doing new events. You’re guaranteed a PR and if you go sort of easy to learn it, then you’ll surely get a PR on your second effort. After that things get a bit tougher…

It turns out that my biggest competition would be my good friend and close competitor Homie. He has done the unsupported time trial, but never this version with the fixed rope. His PR for the unsupported version was 53:45 and change. I usually got good chunks of time out of him on the ascent and he pulled back some on the descent.

My friend John Black came out to support us and take some photos. He took off up the trail with a 16 minute head start on the final group and I didn’t expect him to get very far since he would just be hiking, and, I presumed, taking it easy. I presumed wrong. He made it clear up to the East Bench in 26 minutes. He’ll be fast once he gets into this game.

Tony went off with an 11.5-minute head start on the final group. Next to go was Myke with about a six-minute head start or so. Martin took maybe a three-minute lead. Finally, Homie convinced me to give him a minute head start. I think this helps me a bit as I can use him as a goal to run down. Also, I don’t have to pull Homie along and set the pace for him.

Paul started with me and I expected to be dropped soon, but that wasn’t the case. Soon I had put Paul into some difficulty and opened a sizeable gap that I’d grow the entire time trial. As I said, Paul was taking things rather easy. I set my sights on Homie and tried to reel him in. Perhaps I went too hard at the start because I had made up half the deficit in only 5 minutes. I finally caught him around 12 minutes into my approach and it took me awhile before I had the energy to pass him. We were power hiking at this point and our speeds were nearly identical.

Homie took a brilliant short cut near the top and once again moved ahead of me. I worked hard and closed the gap to arrive at the East Bench right behind him. He took a moment to clean his shoes, as most everyone would do, but not me. I moved immediately onto the face and promptly slipped back down. Unfazed, I moved up again, trying to be careful with my feet. Soon Homie was giving pursuit. He climbed further to the left of me on the traditional route. I tried to head straight up like I usually do, but found the gully system that I favor running with water. I had to climb a bit further to the right and initially the going was quite nice and pretty quick. Despite this, I wasn’t opening up the gap on Homie that I desired.

As I caught up to Myke on the face, we neared the giant “CU” letters painted on the face. Here the climbing got a bit dicey. It was thin, steep, and slippery and I lost time here as great care was required to make this climbing safe. I arrived at the top just a few seconds behind Tony. Kreighton was still flaking out the second rope, despite the 35-minute head start they had. They had taken things slow and cautious due to the wet conditions and the heavy packs they were carrying. My brain wasn’t getting any oxygen and when I tried to pull on the rope that was already set-up, I found it pulled taut. I said, “What’s going on? Did Warren tie down the other end?” Of course, he didn’t do that. He was still rappelling on that line! Duh! I should have assumed this because the other line wasn’t even set to go, but as I said, thinking isn’t my strong point at this point in the time trial.

I was only held up for 5-10 seconds and Tony let me take the first rope. His rope was ready in another 60 seconds. I wanted to get out of there. I didn’t want Homie to have me in his sights to give him any extra motivation for his kamikaze descent. I zipped down the line, clear off the end of the 60-meter line and thereby getting some help on the initial 3rd/4th class downclimb. I downclimbed a bit further and gained the very rocky, very technical climber’s trail that would lead me back to the East Bench Trail. My glasses were fogging up heavily due to the steam coming off my body and the 50-degree temperatures, but I pushed the pace here as much as I dared.

In fact, my descent was my best leg today. Despite this, Homie was still 1.5 minutes faster on the descent! Thankfully, I gained less than a minute on the approach, about two minutes on the face, and nearly two minutes on the rappel. Once Homie gets fast on the rappel, we’re going to be very close. I finished two minutes slower than last time in 41:21. Homie came in at 44:13. Tony was the next one down in around 57 minutes – he wasn’t wearing a watch. He came down the alternate way, along the Second Flatiron, and was flying down the smooth trail over there. He sandbagged us, saying he couldn’t run. That’s not true. He can fly downhill. He doesn’t have the lung/leg power on the approach, but if he trained, I’m sure he’d be right up with the fastest.

Myke finished at 59:35 to go under an hour for the first time (he did 1h4m last time). Great job, Myke! Paul also cruised down under an hour and looking very fresh. He’ll be a contender if he wants to be. We all started hiking back up to help our support crew down with the gear. Just before we hit the Royal Arch Trail junction we met up with John Black. I didn’t see him on descent, but everyone else did. I’m not sure how we missed each other. Just as we got to John, Martin comes running down the trail. Everyone had come down safely. We all cheered him on as he went by and Tony even offered to carry his climbing shoes (Martin and Myke switched into climbing shoes at the base of the route). The rest of us called foul on this offer. You have to carry all your gear (besides the fixed gear) on the roundtrip. I don’t have Martin’s roundtrip time but I’d guess around an hour and five or ten minutes. Not bad for a first effort with a shoe change in cold, wet conditions. This guy is a stud, by the way, having climbed Mt. Logan in Canada!

We hiked nearly all the way back to the East Bench before we met Warren and the King. These guys are great and we thanked them profusely, took a pack, and headed down with them. This is the really fun part for me. Just hiking along with great friends telling and listening to stories. Things were pretty dark by the time we got back to the lot and we headed straight for Red Robin since it was next to EMS where Tommy Caldwell and Beth Rodden were giving a talk and signing copies of their book (written by Greg Child) on their misadventures in Kyrgyzstan.

John had to head home and Paul headed to the Oasis to join the running group, but that still left us with seven for dinner. We stayed so long that the show was over when we went next door to EMS, but Tommy and Beth were still there and I chatted with them a bit before buying the book. I even got a free hat with the book.

I was a bit disappointed to be so much slower this time, but the conditions weren’t great and I didn’t have Buzz to chase, though Homie was more than enough motivation. Everyone else had PR outings, I believe. These things are a blast. Oh, and as Homie pointed out, we now have an excuse for any performance problems at the 23 km Danielesque Trail Race this Saturday. Buzz will be there, but clearly way, way more rested than Homie and I…

Table 1: Split and finish times for all participants in the 2002 Third Flatiron Time Trial


Royal Arch Trail Junction

East Bench – start of climbing

Summit of Third Flatiron

After rappel

Chautauqua Park

Bill Wright (Aug. 1)



25:35 (9:01)

27:03 (1:28)

39:17 (12:14)

Bill Wright



27:32 (10:35)

29:26 (1:54)

41:21 (11:55)

John “Homie” Prater



30:08 (12:28)

33:45 (3:46)

44:13 (10:28)

Tony Bubb



~36:35 ()



Paul Pomeroy



~35:00 (16:20)



Myke Komartnitsky



40:44 (22:00)



Martin ?







[1] This isn’t entirely true. I ran the 2001 Bolder Boulder 10K about 20 seconds faster than Buzz, though we weren’t in the same wave.