For those about to lock

By IAN SANDS  |  August 5, 2009

Ultimately, Towne finished the course in about two-and-a-half minutes, a time that was good enough to land him in the semifinals, and eventually he advanced to the finals. But competition was stiff, as this year there were nearly 30 contestants, the highest number the event had seen in its history.

Shane Lawson, who competes under the name "Valanx," went first in the finals and beat the course record. So when it came to Towne's final run, he realized that it would take a remarkable time to win. He came up just short, eventually placing third.

Towne, who also placed second in the speed-lockpicking event that same day, remained upbeat enough to participate in the post-championship rabble-rousing — the best parties at DEFCON, apparently, are on Saturday, and he didn't want to miss out on the mayhem. At 3 am Pacific time, he texts me from his cell phone. He's locked out of his hotel room.

"Ironic, I know," he writes.

Ian Sands can be reached at

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