Results at bottom of post:
Yesterday the South St. Vrain Creek Race went off in good form with only a few crashes but no serious injury. Low water was the name of the game here, making the manky stuff mankier and the lines tighter and harder than normal. This is a 4 minute race, twice as long as Homestake with more rocks to remember making it a test of your memory and ability to deal with choked up lines, hard entries into key moves with FU rocks in almost every lead in. The cleanest rapid on the run was Jihad and looking at it without seeing anyone run it, it looks terrible, like a Peton about to happen no matter what you do. It actually goes right down the middle, you just have to have faith and keep your bow up a little bit.
The race format was a two run race, where your best run counts. They did not combine runs as some people didn’t want to run it twice unless they had to, which made sense. The benefit of best run is that the pressure isn’t on consistency, but making sure you had one smoking run. If you crashed, like Nick Troutman did on his first run, you weren’t out of the race, you can race your second run and still win.
The way the race was organized, nobody “knew” their times after first runs. You got some sketchy information that might or might not be right at the finish as they timers were in a synchronized watch and offered the number on the watch like “22 43″ which didn’t translate into a time. I synchronized my watch to the start watch which allowed me to watch people cross the finish line and I could time them to the nearest second from the road. The course is so long that you would watch somebody cross that was looking good at the bottom but were way back (45 seconds slow for example) and when you asked how it went there was always a story of pinning or crashing up top somewhere.
The course starts off with a class 2 rapid where you have to feed yourself between a bunch of rocks right away and down a narrow runway. then you hit your first good rapid where the water splits around an island which is the classic “did you go right or left of it?” question as both lines go, but both are manky and hard to do right. I went left which was the classic “fast line” but also looks like a terrible idea at this level. Dane went right… i am pretty sure left is 1 second faster… You come around a corner and are looking at two holes with rocks that you have to paddle over to get to the split and are staring at a big pile of rocks in the middle. To the right it looks clean to the left it looks like a mess. I went left and after running over the first set of rocks I crossed the boil on the top of the big pile and charged over the dry rocks and then slid down into the eddy behind the island and back into the main flow. Going right you take a longer line and run over more rocks…
The creek stays super shallow as you pick your way through the rocks and through little slots that barely let your boat go if you are off line at all, or you can keep the boat moving fast if you know how to unweight your hull at the right moments to get over the rocks quickly. This requires both “jumping” over the rocks (I call it “butt hopping”) and also knowing which rock to go over (smoother verses sharper). In practice I got stopped and pinned numerous times trying to figure it out.
finally you get to where the creek is in one single channel again and you have more water to work with. The next 60 seconds of racing is non-stop moves, right, left, middle, and it tests your memory and reaction to the hilt as nobody had a ton of practice runs on this section. There is a very ugly move where you have a nasty pinning rock at the crux, and you have three pinning rocks and FU rocks at the lead in all trying to make you pin on the nasty one. With enough speed we found that you could go left to right right into the pinning rock just hitting it with the side of your boat and reaching over it with your paddle and you can glance off of it and keep moving. The harder you tried to avoid that rock the more likely you were to end up stuck on it because the FU rocks would slow and then stop you and the water all goes back to the main pin rock. I went through smooth on my first run, and smoked it so fast on my second run that I was shocked and cracked a smile as I went over the next drop. After this move there is a hard to boof crack and then you see the cliff wall that marks the beginning of the “narrows” which is the steepest section. Before you get to the pool where the narrows starts there is a hard lead in rapid that wants to kick you to river right onto a sharp “stop you” rock and then the water flows straight left and tries to drop you on a dry rock. My first run I managed to pull myself through a very tight S-Turn move (perfect Zen move) and over the defender rock and cut all of the corners out and made a straight line into the pool. I started my charge across the pool only to realize that after 2 minutes of hard paddling at 8,000 feet I was already winded and backed off a little to make sure I had the juice to do the hardest section right as my run was going very well so far and it is easier to “lose” the race then to “win” the race with extra power in the strokes. I had lots of runs on this section already and while it was the harder section, I knew every rock on it and the moves I had dialed in. The first drop you run over a sharp rock on the lead in that can kick you left so I drove a little extra right and got a good kick into the slot. I used a rudder on the right to keep my bow against the rock on the big slide and didn’t worry about powering down it as this is Crux Move #1 on this section.. the water wants to kick you left of a very nasty sharp “band saw blade” looking rock and if you end up on the left of it you just lost the race. (many people did). The key to this move is when your bow goes under water (it will) you lift your right knee hard to make the bow pop back up with right momentum. If you lift your left knee you will never make the move. (learned that on my first practice run) I ruddered right and lifted my right knee and then did a big right C-Stroke as I flattened out and was perfectly lined up for the “Crack” we call “Paddle Grabber” which has an overhanging right wall that delivers both rib shots and wants to take your paddle away. I figured this drop out and the key was to drive your bow hard on the left rock in such a way that you feel like you are about to pin but the momentum of the water carries you just to the right of that rock but not into the right wall. Then you accelerate out of the crack and have good deep water to pull on through the next little drop over a rock in the middle into the “clapper” which has two underwater rocks that if you don’t lift your edge at the right time will really slow you down. The Clapper has a nasty rock on the left that normally claims some victims each year but I think it didn’t this year. (didn’t see any) You slide down a series of rocks into a hole that you can keep your bow up and fly across (especially in the Zen… SWEET!!!) and into another hole that tries to kick you into the left bank. I had terrible practice lines there and got kicked left each time. In my first race run I kept driving right as if I was going to run over the big rock at the bottom and it kicked me perfectly into the middle. At this point the arms are burning and my throat is burning with the hard breathing. There is another 15 seconds of easier water with a “double drop” that is a double boof to be fast, or if you miss a boof the holes will stop your momentum. I did a different line on the left and then the right where most did a right to left line. Hard to say which was faster but I liked my line. A long lead in rapid into the “Go Left or Lose” move which is another Crux move that if you don’t make it is game over for the race. The creek goes into a narrow jet of water that goes up on the right wall and falls about 4 or 5 feet with a very angled hole. Running the creek it is an obvious and easy boof into the right eddy. Racing, however you want to drive left and get your bow as close to petoning the rock wall on the left as you can and pull yourself through a very fast slot that you either make or don’t. Once you drop the 4-5 feet you either made it or didn’t based on your boat angle and speed and position. Set up is everything. If you do that move right it is “easy” as your boat flies past the defender rock that splits the river and the line.. If you are left of that rock you fly into the next drop and you are happy. If you get right of the rock you have to do a quick eddy out and then ferry around it (5-10 seconds of lost time). I let my bow drop but on the right line and was inches from a peton on the left rock but slide right through into the next drop. A quick run out for the next 10 seconds leads you into the final crux move, “Jihad” which is a nasty looking drop but goes. I took the middle line for the lead in and charged through the fast narrow jet of deep water and committed to the middle line that looks like an accident waiting to happen. When you come of the rolling horizon line you see a big rock in front of you with a small pillow on it. You can’t boof it as it rolls too much and then is too steep and shallow. right as your bow is about to “hit” the pillow/rock you pull hard to keep it up and magically (I am surprised each time) you fly right through and then drop over the big rock into a hole at the bottom. I got subbed out at that hole and slowed down and had to accelerate full speed to get up to speed again, losing a second. A short sprint to the finish line (10 seconds) and into an eddy where you tag an orange dog toy with your hand for the finish. Whew… run one done and I am happy. A few minor time mistakes worth a second or two, but the hardest areas to go fast I did well.
I was the 4th person to go so as I tried to catch my breath (that took a very long time) I climbed up out of the river up to the road and watched other’s come through Jihad and the finish line. There were people floating across that clearly must have crashed above and those charging across. I was contemplating not doing a second run, but then I saw Dane cross the finish and I was able to time him. He had a 3:48 on my watch. I timed myself at 3:49 but didn’t look at my watch until I finished and then looked down… was I 1 or 2 seconds slow to look at my watch??? I wasn’t sure. I was either in first or second and wanted to treat it like second which would motivate me to do a better run. Dane is getting quite fast on creeks in case you haven’t noticed… Teva Games he was second to Mike Dawson and beat Sam Sutton (current world extreme racing champion). He beat me as well there. Nick is also super fast-winning the Fish Creek Race in Steamboat and beating Mike Dawson there (Dane was second).
One common denominator is that we have the Zen now. This boat is so predictable and easy to paddle that we can really focus on our lines and know that if we put the boat where it belongs it is going to be fast. It has a very low “draft” so it floats high in the water and stays off of the rocks well. It has the only full planing hull of any boat in the race which allows you to capture the river’s energy and transfer it across eddys, etc.. better and it doesn’t slow down at the bottom of drops due to the rocker profile and flat hull in the stern.
We all went up for our second run and I was committee to going faster but lost time in the smallest rapid on the course getting stuck on a rock that fed me into another rock and into another and then another. It was not terrible, but it was slow. then it got good again until the final drop before the Narrows that I did so well last time but this time I fell off the right of the defender rock and pin balled back to the left and then over the dry rock. UH!!!! I sprinted across the pool this time and entered the narrows and this time every move in that section went perfectly all of the way to the finish line.
My time again was 3:49 on my watch but I looked immediately. We would have to wait. I got to see Nick, Clay, and Dane go and they all had great lines. The Demshitz where right around my time in the race so I couldn’t watch them (Dave was right before me).
The times came out later that day after they were all compiled and printed out: I won my first Lyons South St Vrain race! (second was my best finish here before).
Look for the Freestyle, Boatercross, Slalom, and Triple Crown Results later today!