Monday, July 04, 2011

Rising above the Rat Race

I apologize in advance: this is a long story. It started out as the story of a recent two and a half hour flight, but it seems to have turned into my whole life story somewhere along the way. For those hoping for a short version, here it is in a sentence: a week ago, I poured my heart and soul into a continuing endeavor for which I am singularly ill-suited, but to which I am hopelessly devoted, and this time around, after four depressingly familiar days falling short of goal, I surprised myself by not just completing the fifth task, but completing it fast. And now for the long version, my magnum opiate, which begins in an alley outside the smoking rubble of what used to be an urban apartment...

The distant wail of the police siren was growing louder. My feigned innocence had not forestalled the nosy detective for a second. Guilt reeked from my every pore, the scent of murder hanging about me like smoke from the detonation that had blasted my victim into smithereens. If only I could remember why I'd done it, or even how, or who the poor guy was. Everything was so confusing and vague now, like a bad dream. And when did police sirens start sounding like a familiar cheery ringtone?

I blinked away the fog of sleep and slowly became aware of my surroundings, as I reached out of bed to silence the phone alarm. It must be 7 AM again. Man, that was feeling earlier every day. I could still hear a dull ringing in my brain, the faint pounding echo of a few too many glasses of wine from the previous evening. Dorothy was already upstairs making breakfast. It was dark and quiet and a bit hot down here in the basement, the perfect incubator for guilty dreams of crime and punishment. The other subterranean denizens, Logan, Amelia, Nick, JK and Laura, were still asleep. Hopefully their dreams were happier than mine!

But Paul and Whitney's basement was not actually the foundation of my guilt. I knew full well the reason I'd been visited by a nightmare plagiarized from Dostoevsky. Even though I was running criminally late on numerous work projects, I'd taken off on a five week vacation with my family, without a word to my clients, and here I was almost three weeks into the trip, on the second to last day of the Rat Race paragliding competition, and I had not checked my e-mail once.

For the last three weeks I'd heard the insistent e-mail alert chiming from the phone in my pocket many times each day. Although I feared that each mournful melody represented a more desperate emergency plea for assistance, or possibly a final notice of contract termination, I remained stubbornly in denial, never checking my inbox, digging a deeper hole for myself as I resisted the entreaties of each successive tintinnabulation. I knew that I was the poor idiot for whom that tiny bell was tolling, but I just couldn't force myself to face the music.

It wasn't actually that hard to shirk the responsibilities of real life in this fantastic corner of southern Oregon. After a fun week in San Francisco, and another magical week at my grandmother's old house in Point Reyes, we had met the other two Oahu competitors here at Paul and Whitney's fabulous old farmhouse (new and improved, now with a deck and outdoor shower over the spot where the sheep like to spend their evenings), to participate in the annual paragliding event for new competition pilots.

I was not new to this competition - this was my sixth consecutive year coming out here, and my fifth time staying with local cross country guru Paul and his family. But I am a very slow learner, and a big chicken to boot. In contrast to the mostly easy ridge soaring we do on Oahu, the flying over these inland mountains and valleys is done in strong and often narrow high pressure thermals, elusive convergence lines, turbulent inversions, and pumping valley winds.

But although the flying at the Rat Race is always incredibly challenging, somehow I keep coming back in hopes of learning something that might stick. Also, since 2007, my second time competing here, I have been sweetly haunted by memories of two improbable, meandering and desperately lucky flights, during which I bumbled my way into goal during a couple of unusually easy days, last in or nearly last on both days, but overjoyed just to have completed the tasks.

I've been back each year since then, but to my increasing dismay, I have never made it to goal again. I've come close a few times, and I had fun getting there, but I've never quite put it all together. There is a lot to enjoy and a lot to learn even without making it all the way to goal, but really, once I'd been there, I knew it was the real reason for trying. Since those two lucky goals, it has been excruciatingly humbling and frustrating to fly almost forty or so consecutive tasks over five competitions and never finish any of those tasks.

So here I was four years later, still nursing dreams of making sense of the air and terrain, wondering if I could finally remember how I'd been able to find my way into the goal cylinder all those years ago. And this year promised to be my best chance yet, since the organizers had split the race into two simultaneous daily courses: the Race, intended to be a bit harder than in past years, for seasoned competitors; and the Sprint, which would be a bit easier, for newer pilots or remedial seniors like me.

And I was especially excited to have my family along to cheer me on for the first time! Not to mention competing alongside JK, a talented cross country pilot trying his hand at competition for the first time, and Nick, our returning Hawaii champion. And Reaper was back too, helping out on launch and on extreme retrieve missions. Travis, Andrew, Scrappy, Harvey and Gary were there too, some of them volunteering in the event, and some there just to do some fun flying. We also had five Maui pilots competing. And Scotty from the Big Island was there enjoying some mainland airtime. And Thom showed up with Kalei midway through the week, bringing the entourage of Oahu competitors at the farmhouse to a densely packed nine.

So today, on the sixth day of my sixth year competing in this race, I shook off the uneasy feeling left by my guilt-ridden dreams, and ran upstairs to brush my teeth and grab some coffee. Dorothy was making a breakfast frittata using fresh eggs from the chickens on the farm. Nick and JK soon joined me up there, and after we got our gear loaded into the rental van, Thom graciously drove us to the competition HQ, located at the house of the organizers. Paul followed soon afterward in his truck.

The morning pilot meeting at headquarters was scheduled for 8:30, just like previous mornings, although today we milled around a while before finally convening closer to 9:00. One hundred and fifty competitors crammed themselves into the basement of the organizers' house to hear the results of the previous day, and to applaud the winners in various categories and hear about any extra special adventures. We were also occasionally berated as a group for various aspects of our inevitably poor group behavior, ranging from our incorrigible disregard for safety, for each other, or for the local club who was sharing their amazing but sensitive site with all of us. Sometimes it seems like we are just a huge unruly bunch of spoiled kids who can't seem to play nice in the sandbox without a lot of vocal encouragement.

On this morning, we learned that eighteen of seventy Race pilots had made goal in the previous day's arduous fishbowl task from hell, and ten of eighty Sprint pilots had made it in after only a slightly less hellacious task. Along with the usual roster of rock stars and born winners, I noticed that one of those pilots was Susan Kent, a Bay Area pilot I remembered from past races who had made it in for one of her first goals ever. I was impressed. It had been a really tough fifth day. I didn't even make a single turnpoint in that task. Which is the same thing that happened to me on the first day, earlier in the week.

Susan and JK had both made goal on the first day, along with about half the Sprint field. For JK, making goal the first day of his first competition was an insanely impressive feat. I had come close to goal on the second task, and the next day I only tagged a couple of turnpoints. Then the fourth day was canceled after we launched, because of strong wind. So this year's race was turning out to be another complete shutout for me so far, after five difficult and demoralizing days. Today and tomorrow were my last chances to try for goal, but I wasn't too optimistic - the task committee intentionally cranks up the difficulty each day, so the tasks just get harder.

The scoldings weren't too bad this morning. Apparently, people had mainly behaved themselves the day before. On a previous morning, we'd heard about an injured pilot (rescued by Reaper and Logan!), and numerous crazy top crashes on the ridge across the valley from launch, made by folks who were scratching too deep. Finally the meeting was over, and all the pilots swarmed out to file through the lunch lines and make their minimalist turkey sandwiches. We loaded up our wings and packed ourselves into a couple of rented school buses and a few other assorted van-shaped vehicles, for the long ride up the back of Woodrat Mountain. Some days I rode the bus, or I'd hitch a ride in Motorhead Paul's SUV, but today I rode up in Forest's awesome sleeper van, with JK, Martina, Derek, and a few others.

Up on the mountain, I fell into a familiar and fairly solitary routine, unpacking and sorting out my gear, getting it all connected and ready for launch, and then carefully setting it aside at the edge of the mountaintop to await the opening of our launch window. I ate my sandwich, and then paid the obligatory visit to the phalanx of blue sentry houses lined up at the far end of the mountaintop. I wandered around taking in the busy scene on launch, while we all waited for the pilot meeting, which would be announced as soon as the task committee (which included our host Paul) finished up their nefarious daily chore: consulting entrails, tossing chicken bones, and concocting a diabolical dual course line for 150 pilots of widely varying skill levels. While waiting, we witnessed numerous dust devils forming on the mountaintop, the first time this week we've seen them, writhing and dancing their way like ethereal serpents through our carefully arranged piles of gear. I was nervous now - dusties on launch presaged spanky conditions overhead.

Today, while waiting for the meeting, I made a point of identifying a few wings to monitor once we were all up. Until now I had only been keeping track of JK's wing in the air, and he has done the same with my wing. But while it's important to keep tabs on your friends, we'd been advised to identify folks who were likely to make goal without outpacing us, so we might be able to follow and learn from them. I picked Susan, flying a blue and gold Artik 2 with a Tanto pod harness; Michael Beck, an experienced and talented comp pilot who was slumming it in our race on a new Mantra M4; and Jeff Farrell, on a Gin Sprint Evo. Jeff is a retired top comp pilot who is running the mentoring program, and also flying a DHV 1-2/EN B wing in the Sprint race with us, and still typically coming in first or nearly first each day. In theory I should be able to smoke him on my hot 2-3/D wing, at least on glide, but in reality I find I need all my wing's performance just to have a chance to keep up with an average pilot on a 1-2/B wing. My wonderful wing partly compensates for my numerous deficits of courage and skill.

The pilot meeting was announced, and all pilots assembled in front of the whiteboards where the two tasks had been detailed, to listen to the task discussion and program the task into their GPS units. I was borrowing Duck's B1-Nav for this event, and really enjoying it.

Today's task was similar to the one they'd set on the day the Sprint task was cancelled: a few turnpoints around the main valley, and then a dash for the next valley over, separated by a vast unlandable middle section, followed by an extended leg along a sequence of low ridges and foothills, before finally ending up in the enormous freshly mowed field of a local club pilot. The Race group had a similar but longer course, with long upwind legs at strategic points, ending up at the same landing field. This field also happened to be the site of my second and last goal finish all those years ago.

Just before noon, they started to throw volunteer wind technicians off the hill into the thermal cycles gusting up the mountain, to verify that conditions were working well enough to stick to the proposed launch timetable. (Thanks to Andrew, Travis, Scrappy, and Thom for your service!)  Then the Race launch window opened, and Nick and the rest of his seventy playmates were quickly launched off the hill by Reaper and his crack launch crew, which often included Logan and Thom. The launch crew arranged pilots and wings in a tight grid, three across and three deep, and once the launch was loaded up, if things were working smoothly, they were able to fire a volley of nine human projectiles from the hill in quick succession. Next, the Sprint window opened, and as always, I lined up to launch as soon as possible, an hour before the start gate would open, just to acclimate myself to the day's conditions, and wait for the rest of the eighty Sprint pilots to join me in the start gaggle.

The start gaggle is a huge and intimidating maelstrom of gliders swirling around in a semi-organized fashion, in the general vicinity of the task's start cylinder, typically right above launch. In theory they're all circling the same way and rising together in a big fat thermal column, but in practice it turns out to be a bit more of a cluster fork, with multiple columns of gliders forming and occasionally wafting into one another, then scattering or just drifting away once the thermal bubble is expended, and finally re-forming somewhere else. Over the last couple of years I feel like I've really started to figure out how to get to the top of those messy gaggles and stay there, waiting for the start gate to open. It's nice to be at the top - you're either by yourself up there, looking down on a whirling vortex of brightly colored nylon, or sharing it with one or two very good pilots, and you can turn in the best part of the lift, as tightly as you want, watching the wings below to verify where the best lift is located.

At one point while I was circling, I caught a glimpse of something that looked out of place in the neighboring gaggle over the peak - then on my next circle I realized that it was a pilot descending under reserve, with the glider disabled. (Later I heard she'd suffered a collapse, followed by a cravat and an increasingly hard spiral.) Just at that moment, I saw another pilot in the same gaggle yanked up violently, his body a rag doll tossed into the sky with limbs flailing loosely. I pointed my glider in the other direction and flew away from the area above the peak, while trying to keep an eye on the pilot under reserve as she floated onto the forested slope behind the mountain. She came on the radio to announce she was okay, and then pilots directly overhead reported her position so Reaper could find his way over to extract her.

I made an effort to move those dramatic events to the back of my mind as the time for my race approached. Mere minutes before the first of the three staggered start gates opened at 2:00, I found myself in a great position near the top of the melee. I was scanning for JK, Michael, Susan and Jeff as I made each circle. But then the bubble dissipated, and everyone around me started to sink and scatter in search of another one. I couldn't bear the tension any longer, and in my haste and anxiousness, I blundered out toward the first turnpoint across the valley a few minutes early. I didn't want to give up what felt like a top position in the stack by searching around for a new bubble to join. But now I found myself alone over the valley, sinking fast, trying to stay just inside the edge of the start cylinder, with another interminable minute left before I could leave. Now I'd lost all my initial advantage, and I was too low to continue crossing, so I had to limp back to launch to try and climb up again just as the start gate opened. I looked up to see an armada of wings overhead, all suddenly turning to head for the first turnpoint, and sailing across the valley en masse.

Thankfully, and surprisingly, I soon managed to hook a decent climb, and I forced myself to take the time to get high again, before setting off after the large lead gaggle who were now circling low over the ridge across the valley. I was following a couple of wings across, although they weren't the ones I was trying to track. JK followed not far behind as well. My little group found a nice lifty line across, and tagged the first point above lots of other folks. That was more like it!

We found a decent thermal there, and tanked up to head back past launch to tag the next turnpoint: the peak where we had just seen the reserve throw and the rag doll. I was a bit apprehensive about going back, but higher is always safer, so I tanked up all along the way in anything I could find, and I was able to tag the point without going too deep. Or maybe the monster just happened to be snoozing at that moment. JK was still hanging in there with me, and I felt like we were now ahead of the initial armada as we headed back across the valley for our final climb before making a jump to the next valley.

We arrived with plenty of height, and found some nice lifty bubbles to take us even higher. I was floating at about 6,500 feet MSL now, and feeling eager to make the jump, anxious to get going. But I couldn't see anyone ahead of us! And for once, it wasn't because I'd been left behind by everyone else in the race. This time I was actually ahead of tons of people. I was feeling a strange and almost overpowering sense of exultation, which threatened to distract me in a big way. I actually visualized myself sailing into goal in first place, with crowds cheering and flags waving. Come on, focus, you fool! Was this hypoxia or was I really just giddy with excitement?

The thing is, this next valley was going to be a whole different ball game. I knew this from several failed attempts to navigate it over the years, during the few tasks where I actually got far enough to even try. The valley is super wide, so the air moves at a slower pace, not subject to the strong valley winds of the smaller valley where we launch, and there is a long series of low fingers extending from the main shoulder ridge, with deep narrow canyons between them. On those rare occasions when I'd made it out here in past years, I'd found myself pretty much alone, searching desperately for thermals low over the foothills, inevitably ending up in a desolate field along the way and waiting to be retrieved.

But enough about those bad old days. This time, that wasn't going to happen! I was mindful of the need to shift mental gears after transitioning to the slower moving air in this valley, and I had the luxury of being in a good position early. All I had to do was force myself to wait patiently, maintaining my altitude, until enough people took the plunge ahead of me and below me, so I could safely follow the best lines. I'm generally not good at waiting in these situations, but this time I really did force myself to dawdle up there until I observed a concerted push from a large group below. I remember seeing two of my targets, Jeff and Susan, among them. As I headed out to the first turnpoint in the next valley, I saw JK down there, but he was actually flying the other way, having already made the jump, but now beating a strategic retreat from an unfortunate sinky line to regroup at the jumping off point and try again.

After tagging the first turnpoint out in that valley, I made my way over to the top of a small group of pilots turning slow circles in light lift. Susan was one of them. Jeff and someone else had blazed ahead a bit lower and out front, and I was watching to see how their line worked out. Our thermal finally gave out, and our little party broke up. Susan and the others took a line out front, while I faded back a bit deeper, but ready to follow them if necessary. It looked like they paid an immediate price in altitude for the move out front, but it was the more conservative line. We had been warned about getting too deep over the fingers, to avoid the strong wind that often flowed between them. My line wasn't super deep, and at this moment it seemed better than the line down which the others had just plunged.

I continued on a parallel course to Susan and a couple of others, crossing fingers and canyons, a bit higher and deeper than the others all the way. I paused to turn a few circles along the way, but it seemed like I was on a pretty boaty line so I didn't spend too much time circling. I could see Jeff and another fellow ahead of us in the next canyon, a much larger one. Could it be the one where the legendary goal field was located? I didn't recognize it from that long ago lucky day. And it appeared that Jeff and his pal were continuing on across that canyon anyway. I had a sinking feeling when I saw that. I wasn't sure how much mental stamina I had left - I'd been pacing myself to last only a tiny bit longer.

I was just not really sure how many of these little fingers and canyons should be left at this point. My GPS said there were 3 kms left, but I am a terrible judge of distance, and that number just didn't mean much to me. It also said I needed a glide ratio of 6:1 to make goal, and I had a quartering tailwind which was boosting my glide to about 12:1. But they had warned us to be wary of basing our decision to start our final glide on our GPS numbers alone, because of the notorious last finger, which looms up to block the path our units assume we can take to follow their calculations. And I was starting to get low, and also to feel some wind in between the fingers. I headed out of there, burning off some precious height in the process, and met Susan at a point just a bit too low for us to get over the next finger. This was the lowest I'd been on my whole flight, and it wasn't a nice feeling at all. After all that work and good luck, I couldn't believe it was going to end like this, scratching my way down to the dirt with my wing person, fighting over unusable scraps of thermals, tantalizingly close to goal, but once again, shut out.

Then Susan made a very ballsy move. We'd been warned not to dive through the little saddle on the last finger before goal, because the air is often sinky and rotored out behind the finger. But that's exactly what Susan did. And guess what: I followed right behind, closing my eyes and praying. We scraped through there, practically kicking trees on our way through, and suddenly I could see that we were indeed entering the canyon where goal was located. I could see Jeff and his buddy just touching down as we cleared the saddle. But somehow it didn't look as much like a goal field as I remembered from those long years ago - because there was hardly anyone there yet! This is when I finally realized that not only was I making goal, but I was doing it before lots of other people. What a surreal experience this was turning out to be.

I followed Susan down to land, through a bit of sink, but not enough to keep us from the promised land, and we happily received our blue cans of bubbly booty as a reward for making goal. It wasn't the familiar blue can from home, my beloved Big Swell IPA - in fact, it was a Bud Light - but it tasted like sweet ambrosia to me at that moment. Susan and I raised a toast to our good fortune, and I thanked her for leading the way. Paul from Maui landed next - he'd matched my time exactly, but he came in much higher, so it took him longer to get down.

Other people started to appear over the last finger, including my other frequent comrade over the years, Martina. After she landed we celebrated our first time in goal together, after years of landing short together, and usually at a conveniently located vineyard.

I also figured out that my other target, Michael, had arrived in goal twenty minutes before anyone else, which is why I never saw him. I guess that's an example of how fast you can fly on a modern 2-3/D wing if you know what you're doing! So I was fifth to land at goal. Not that I was even sure if I had done everything right along the way - nothing counts until the scorekeeper downloads your track and confirms you've had the flight you think you've had.

Twenty-three Sprint pilots eventually made it in, as well as thirty-four Race pilots. The scene at goal grew quite festive before the buses finally showed up to ferry us back to HQ to be scored. When I made it through the line to the scorekeeper, I had a little scare when my track couldn't be downloaded, even after three tries, but finally on the fourth try it worked. Wade, the hardworking volunteer (and Race pilot) acting as Sprint scorekeeper, uttered the words I thought I'd never hear again: congratulations on making goal.

Needless to say, I celebrated long into the night. And to my further delight and surprise, I went on to make goal the next day, along with both JK and Nick, as well as Susan, Martina, and all the Maui pilots. But that's another story...

The next day we flew to DC to visit my parents, and it was time for me to finally face reality and catch up with my clients, to deal with the more pedestrian kind of Rat Race, the humdrum quest to make enough money to pay for all these adventures. I spent the first day making phone calls and responding to a 400-message backlog of e-mail in my inbox. But to my surprise and relief, there were no dire emergencies, no legal actions threatened, no angry tirades. And out of that mountain of mail, I only had a few non-urgent requests. What an incredibly stubborn but lucky slacker I am. I guess it is summer after all, which is typically a slow time for the federal government in the DC area. Of course I'm still behind on many projects, and I'll be quite busy for some time catching up, both while in DC and also after I get back home. But the warm glow of that incredible week of flying, topped off by two days of radiant redemption, will stick with me for a long time to come.

Thanks to everyone who made that magical week possible: to Dorothy, Logan and Amelia for their unending forbearance; to Paul, Whitney, Hailey, Luke, Sy and Caitlin for their bottomless generosity and hospitality; also to Paul for all the mentoring and advice; to Sandy and Woody for keeping an eye on our chickens back home; to Gail and Mike for making this event happen each year, and giving me a chance to play with the t-shirt design; to Reaper and all the volunteers for their tireless efforts to run the event; to JK and Nick for keeping the faith and signing up to join me in the competition, and for picking up the slack on the daily blog; to Laura for the support with cooking and food shopping; to Duck, for the loan of his super smart B1-Nav; to Jug, for all the free support and help using Duck's instrument during the week; to Thom, for all the driving; and to all the other folks I'm certainly forgetting who helped make it a memorable week. See you all next year!

This video was made by Oregon Public Broadcasting, after they spent a few days at the comp doing some filming and interviewing:

I found the following video shot by Kevin Biernacki, a great pilot who also organizes competitions, like the Nationals a bunch of us went to in Lakeview, Oregon in 2007. The video is mostly made of footage from the Race portion, but I think it's a fun overview and gives a good general feel of the whole event.

Another video Reaper found, made by Matt Bonney, that's just a cool time lapse of the launch scene:


JK said...

Alex, Thank you for helping to make that the best week of flying I've ever had, and for capturing it in an amazing piece of writing. It was so well written, it nearly recreates the experience. If you could play the sound of a hyper vario and get jerked around in your Lazy Boy while reading it, I'd say you're there! (You should seriously consider some freelance adventure writing.) I'm IN for next year, for sure!!! Cheers, JK.

Ka'a'awa Larry said...


Superb writing as usual. Wish I could have been there but just couldn't overcome the poison ivy and spider bite enough to feel comfortable anywhere other than home.

Now it's antique airplane/barnstorming season in the great midwest so it'll be August at the soonest before I get back to the magic isles to fly with my good friends.

Fill in the beach at KNA for me!! Be safe and fly far.


Thom said...

Wow, 2 cups of coffee on this one. Thanks for the write up Alex. I had a great time with the 4 flights I got and Kalei loved the farm life.
Thanks to the Murdoch clan for their Hawaiian Hospitality

Your going to have it tougher next year with:

Duck on a Sigma8
AllanC on his Hook
JK on Synergy3
Flystrong on Synergy4
Nikki on a Delta
Travis who topped the stack of
Flash on a newer sled he hopes

Maybe many more lets start rallying now.

Alex said...

Thanks, guys. I apologize again for making this article so long. My plan was to try and illustrate what a single day at a comp is like - and this happened to be a particularly great day for me. But really, they all felt that long. It would have been even longer if I hadn't left out the part that happens after we get scored - like the free keg beer, the mentoring sessions, dinners, bonfires, parties, etc. There's no way around it - comp flying makes for super long and intense days. Seven of them in a row is just murder! Not that I know anything about murder.

I hope this story sparks some interest among our thermal and XC pilots. Oahu was woefully underrepresented this year in Oregon. Our tiny crew did our best, but it was just three of us, one in the Race and two in the Sprint. Maui had five entered in the Sprint! Way to go, Maui pilots! In the glory days of 2006 and 2007, Oahu had eight pilots entered to compete both years. But now most of those pilots have moved away or faded away, and the knowledge has been lost. Let's aim for a record number of Oahu competitors next year, guys! 10, 12, 15 - imagine all the XC experience we could bring home.

Thom said...

Wow even your comment was a long read.

I might have forgotten to put my name on my previous comment.

Anonymous said...

Alex, actually you had the same number of Oahu pilots there, it is just that hardly anyone signed up.

I really do enjoy all the flying posts. I both love and hate competition flying. I have made goal, as well as bombed out before the task even starts. I think that patience is the best tool to have when starting out flying comps, a bit of luck is helpful as well. Good stuff.


DaveZ said...

Awesome read Alex, it was a real treat to get your first hand account. Thanks! And JK is right, you should at least get this in the USHPA magazine.

The video is awesome too! Interesting to see so many aborted launches. It must be nerve wracking on launch with the time pressure, and peer anxiety...

Well done!

sandy said...

Wow! Nicely done Alex! -- on the flying, making goal (twice!), the well-spun yarn, and the video. I love how the time-lapse of the gaggle working the thermal shows how the thermal moves and eventually dissipates.

Alex said...

I hope I didn't give the impression that I made the video at the end of my story! I just found it! It seemed like a great overview of the comp, from the point of view of a good pilot flying in the Race rather than the Sprint. I don't know who shot that footage or who made the video, but if I find out I'll certainly give them credit!