Friday, June 5, 2009

Towers Time Trial

The run for the tower

Six of us from the Fort Collins Trail Runners group showed up at the Horsetooth lower parking lot (Soderberg) at 6:15 this morning to take a shot at Dan Turk's fastest-known time (FKT) up Towers Road. Included were myself, Dan Turk, Pete Stevenson, Frank Antonelli, Dennis Vanderheidan and Eric Bergman.

Of all the hills in town, Towers is probably the best-known grinder and a favorite among runners and mountain bikers looking to test their fitness. I am sure others have run the 3.4-mile, 1,700-foot hill faster, but for those who keep track of such things, Dan's time of 34:42 was the mark to beat.

The route starts from the trail map at the Soderberg parking lot, and opens with a half mile of relative flat on the singletrack connector to Towers, where the climb begins in earnest. There are four real grinder sections on the road, the first of which comes about 3/4 of a mile into the run: A short sharp U-turn after the opening two to three minutes of climbing. The grade drops off a bit after the big U-turn allowing for an easier stride and a slightly faster clip. The first mile comes just after the Stout intersection, which is swiftly followed by an increase in incline to the Loggers intersection, and an even steeper grade to Herrington. After Herrington, there is a short stretch of flat to moderate downhill to be taken advantage of before the second major grinder.

Once you summit the second grunt, the incline levels off a bit allowing for a decent stride until you hit the curved push (third grunt) to the Mill Creek turn, an equally naughty grade over a slightly longer stretch. From here it is a slight downhill sprint to the final major climb. The three-mile point is just at the bottom of the final grinder, which takes you up to an intersection. The Towers route is to the left here. At the T after the left turn it is a quick right into a clearing. The Towers route ends at the farthest building, the corner of which needs to be slapped before the watch is stopped ... and breathe.

The end of the line

Frank demonstrating the finish-line slap

Five of the six guys out this morning came in under Dan's FKT. I took it out in the opening half mile but was soon overtaken by Eric once we hit Towers. Frank sat on my shoulder up to the Loggers intersection. We hit Stout right at 9 minutes and the second Herrington intersection at 17 minutes and change. By this time Eric had a lead on me that looked insurmountable, unless of course he blew up. I kept chugging and began to pull away from Frank as our train made its way up The Hill. By the Mill Creek grind, I was sure there was no catching Eric, who was almost up the climb just as I was gearing down for the jump in grade. I pushed hard up the hill and on the flat to the last hill, which I also ran as hard as I could. Made the turn, got to the clearing, saw Eric - hands on knees - and slapped the trailer, stopping my watch at 31:56. Frank came in a minute or so later. Dan followed and Pete came barreling in soon after like a page from the audio book of the Karma Sutra.

Five go under Towers FKT: Pete, Nick, Eric, Frank and Dan

Eric set the new mark at 30:47 (!), Dan beat his FKT by 58 seconds and Pete dropped under Dan's now-shattered FKT by a second. Dennis was out for a training run and came in a few minutes later.

All six starters

A great morning with some of Fort Collins' best hill runners. I turned at Westridge on the way down to take the ridge across to the Horsetooth trail and home for an 11-mile, 2,000 foot morning. Not sure I have a sub-30 minute climb in me, but I'll be back to take a stab on fresh legs later in the summer.

Update: Sept 16, Steve Folkerts goes 30:36, shaving 11 seconds off Eric's time.

Update: Sept 26, Eric Bergman goes 30:15, with me 10 seconds back.

Next up: Round Mountain.

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