Friday, November 9, 2012

Storm the stadium 2012

Focusing on putting one foot in front of the other.
Go team!
The first race of the 2012-2013 stair racing season was Solider field.  I wasn’t sure what to expect, and the first time i went both up and down my work steps for a long workout, my calves were so sore, I had a hard time driving home! So my expectations were not too high.

This race was not heavily attended by my regular race crew, so the dinner the night before was only Michael Karlin, Ariel Khnoe, and myself.  We had not met before, but soon were talking like old friends.  

The next morning, I drove to pick up Karen Geninatti, who had also come to town for a wedding.  She had already been a super athlete, but had followed the paleo diet strictly in the offseason, and had lost 20 pounds, which seemed impossible.  She was lean and looking younger than ever when i saw her.  Maybe the paleo diet had something to it! She and her husband drove in with us; this was the first race her husband would be able to be a spectator at, as we’d be racing in the open, not an internal building staircase.

We quickly arrived at the race, meeting Mike and Ariel, and Bob Towes, another racer and facebook friend.  The line didn’t move for a long time, and we were getting cold, but soon we were able to move to a place where we were at least undercover.  

There were obvious problems with the race organization, and getting bibs to racers took forever.  Worse yet, there was no protested area to store our bags ( with our coats, wallets, etc ).  Fortunately, we were able to hand much of the gear to Karen’s husband.

We stood at the starting line, in our racing gear, for a long long time.  In our shorts and tees, in the shade, we were freezing!  25 minutes past race start time, Michael went to use the bathroom, and the timing crew, having gotten no communication from the race organizers, simply told everyone to go... No elites first, no staggering to alleviate staircase crowding, a made start just like the old empire state building race.  Most of the people who went early were not the elite runners; we had huddled back to get out of the wind.  I hung back, and almost went to get Michael, when he rounded the corner and ran across the line.  I think perhaps I got timed as starting as soon as the timer started, as i was near the pad, because my result was a minute or so slower than I thought.  I’m not sure, but it hardly mattered.

The first few sets of steps of steps up and down seemed ok, but my legs started to complain early... I’m not sure what the issue was, but to some extent i was physically, and maybe more, psychologically, out of the race pretty early. I was there, however, so i kept my legs moving, focusing on maintaining a reasonable pace for the long grind ahead.  Michael was moving very fast, putting a lot of distance on me.  Karen and i were close for awhile, but at the point where I began to feel out of it, she started to pull away.

One of the reasons I may have felt out of it was the course and direction.  It was very easy to take shortcuts, and many racers were doing exactly that.  Some seemed to be doing it by accident, but in many cases it was intentional. I wasn’t about to start doing that, but it made me feel disinclined to work very hard when someone else could pull ahead by simply skipping a set of steps.  

Towards the end of the upper deck, the course was not at all well marked, and hard to follow.  I went the wrong way, and hard to retrace my steps and do a part again.  But i wasn’t about to not do the whole course.  I saw no race volunteer or official this whole time.  There was a long run from upper to lower deck with stairs, ramps, and flats--again, with no personnel in sight.  

The lower deck was much easier, short shallow stairs that could be jogged up and down.  It felt easy and fun compared the the painful slog through the upper deck, and before I knew it, I could hear Karen cheering for me, and there were a few more staircases, and the race was over..  Time for team pictures!  Everyone had done really great, even if i was disappointed with myself. 

Before the race, I anticipated placing pretty high, but my time was only sort of middling.  Michael and Karen had both beaten me by pretty wide margins.  Karen had done amazing, placing second female overall.  I wasn’t sure if it was being physically unready, or psychologically off kilter due the general poor organization & race conditions.  I suspect it was mostly the latter.  Lesson learned: more mental fortitude!

After the race, i drove with Karen out to the ‘burbs, and she and her husband bought me breakfast.  Karen ordered an egg white omelet, and vegetables and fruit, no hash browns, toast, etc.  I copied her, wanting to learn as much from her eating habits as i could.  My legs and calves were starting to bother me, and i was genuinely worried about the race coming up Friday in LA.  I had hoped my storm the stadium training would produce a good stair race, but soldier field had badly defeated me, so my aspirations for US bank were not that great. 

Monday, April 2, 2012

2011-2012 tower running report card

Here's my quickie grades for my Tower Running season. I'm refusing to give myself anything lower than a B- for a race where i PR'd. :)

Willis tower
Grade: B-
2176 steps, 21:01
Set a PR for myself by 34 seconds, but got mentally out of it very early. Legs hurt, didn't start early enough. Did take away lessons and worked on my training.

Aon Chicago
Grade: B-
1630 steps, 14:29
Again a PR, and felt pretty good, just got mentally out of it somehow and left a fair bit of time in a building i was expecting to kill.

Empire state:
Grade: A
1576 steps, 16:59
Good time for a first timer on a really challenging course, and i really enjoyed myself. Not an A+ because i did leave time on the stairs; could have gone faster for sure.

Oak Brook terrace
Grade: A
680*3 ( 4:45, 4:48, 4:52 )
Solid performance in a whole new format for me--three times up a (relatively) short building. Really found my zen while running.

Springfield hilton
Grade: A-
Time: 3:39
Decent performance, but didn't come in quite right. Was really destroyed afterwards. Really exposed my need for more intense cardio. First race in a long time where i had to lie down afterwards

Hustle up the hancock
Grade: A+
1632 15:36
My only A+ ever, PR'd and had a good time with a really nasty flu.

Presidential towers
Grade: C-
2340 steps in 22:51
Slow, long rests, felt bad after... Well, it was a learning experience.

I guess overall a solid B, a B+ or maybe even an A- if i toss the last crappy race. So not too bad.

Simple lesson is i need to do more cardio and drop weight to be faster next year. More interestingly, i need to work more on 3-5 minute races, as those kinda kicked my butt. Moreover, the sears tower and Aon climbs, i felt mentally out of it, so i need to find a way to work on that.

Ideally, i'd like to train in a building i could climb in 4-6 minutes and push myself to the absolute brink in it, to build up both my sprint cardio and mental fortitude. Failing that, more shorter, more intense workout sessions where i'm pushing myself to the brink seem to be needed.

As a balancing point, my best races were the ones where i used the lessons of "body mind and sport" and consciously enjoyed myself and zenned out during the race. So i need to do long slow workouts to practice that as well. So some long meditative workout sessions need to be in there too..

It's going to be an intesting off season. I feel ready for some major changes!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Presidential towers 2012

I had two weeks off after the hancock to prepare for presidential towers. Frankly, running sick at the hancock really knocked the stuffing out of me, and i never got back into the groove of my training after that. My last 2 training sessions tuesday and thursday, i just ran a few raggedy short intervals and left the stairmaster feeling crummy. I was not sure what to expect at the race, but there was nothing to do but go and do my best. I had really been looking forward to this climb, but in these two weeks, was having a hard time getting up for it. In part this was because i was already horribly busy with yoga teacher training, but i also think there was more to it than that...

I decided to shoot for a 21 minute result earlier in the month, but looking as past results and assessing my training runs, i was beginning to doubt that was a realistic target, and when people questioned me about my expectations, i told them i thought a 23 minute result was more realistic. I was still going to _attempt_ to do each tower in 5 minutes, and spend 1 minute total running between them, but it didn't seem terribly likely.

I showed up at the race early, when all the elites were in the starting area warming up. I said hi to my friends, and introduced myself to a few people i knew only from the facebook stairclimbing group. When the elite group was being led out, a few of them looked at me as if i should come along, but i pointed out that my bib number was not low enough. Next year, next year. A few people i didn't know very well had seen i had the flu at hancock, and even though they needed to focus on their own races, took the time to commiserate with me and make sure i was feeling well. As always, i was surprised by how generous the stair climbing crowd could be!

I was in the group right after them, and soon the 20 just-after-elite runners were crossing the street to go climb. We were given our chips and wove them into our laces. Or, everyone with regular shoes did; i put min in my vibram strap, and it ended up pressing into my ankle.

Right around then, i felt i needed to go to the bathroom. I wasn't sure what to do, as there was no bathroom around that was open. I hoped it was a false need due to pre-race jitters, but if it became a real problem, i figured the race staff would be able to do something....

Soon i lined up and headed up the stairs. I stuck carefully to my race pace. The stairs were narrow, and the turns were constant. I thought passing would be a huge issue on such a tight staircase, but going soon after the elites, i only passed 1-2 people in the first tower. I did see my friend Cody at about the 30th floor, and he greeted me, took my picture, and filmed that floor or my climb. So great of him to so selflessly travel to the race and play the videographer!

I had fallen ~20 seconds behind by 40, but that was as per my plan, and i basically made it up over the last 9 floors, and popped though the door just a second or two after 5 minutes. I felt pretty good! I saw my friends Karen and Roxanne, and spoke with them briefly before they went down the elevator.

I sat down to take a rest, and the tiredness hit me. I started to chat with another climber, a super great guy i soon learned was named Elridge. We sat for quite awhile. I felt guilty at resting so long, but i just didn't seem to be recovering. This pattern repeated itself for a long time; i started seeing high numbers as later waves came though, but i was enjoying myself...

Until i was lining up for tower 4. I saw my crew, an they were not only finished, but had climbed tower 4 three more times. They had almos done the race twice, and i was just headed to the fourth tower. Chagrined, i hurried to the last tower and did a fast hard climb, holding nothing in reserve. I had run the 4th tower quite fast, and as if my finishing, i was in 29th place, with a time on 22:51, right in line with my pre-race conservative estimate. I was glad i'd told people that one more...

Downstairs, i met my friends, who were very supportive, but i wished i had finished with them. Some were gone and already back at the hotel, so after some quick snacking, i went to see them. They had already finished breakfast, so we just hung out a bit before they left for springfield.

I went to yoga feeling sub-par. I did a hot class intending to stretch out race tightness, but i couldn't take the heat, and even several heat-lovers left the room partway though. I was so overheated, when the class ended, i went to the showers, turned them on cold, and sat on the floor for 5 minutes until i felt able to face the world again.

I was pretty disappointed with this race, so soon after what i felt was a really great performance, PR-ing and having a great time while truly ill, i completely messed up my training and had a truly lousy race. My time ended up being 39th, good for top 5.3% ( so not too bad ) but i probably ought to penalize myself for all the rest i took, and then it'd be even further from the top 2% from the Aon. Also bad, my extreme slowness cost me time to hang with my friends.

Looking back on it, i guess in the big picture, even if it was my worst race of the season ( and i guess it was ) it wasn't that bad. Maybe all the previous races ( 5 in the preceding 5 weeks ) capped by a brutal race with the flu had just drained me, and yoga teacher training had divided my attention. So, some lessons there. Also, sitting / lying down to recover between races was probably a bad idea. More active cooldown would have likely helped.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Aon 2012 ( rewind )

Coming into the AON i knew i was going to have a very tough month ahead of me. The empire state building run up was 10 days after the aon, then oak brook terrace was just a few days after that. The following weekend was the springfield hilton, which i was considering, then the hancock, then presidential towers. I was ready for the challenge, but not sure how i was actually going to handle it.

My training was mostly stair master at the gym. I had been steadily increasing my steps/min count and setting new PR's by a second or two every week. I felt good about my progress. I had struggled with my weight over the past years, but i was coming into this race at about 185, ten pounds lighter than i'd ever done it before.

My start time was early, but not right after the elites. I was still hoping for a mildly clear staircase so early in the day. I was also going to return to the bottom of the building after my finish and pace my 9 year old cousin kyle for his race, his first time doing the full climb after winning the 1/2 climb the year before. It was going to be a fun day!!!

I showed up feeling pretty good. Hopped into the bathroom, changed, checked my gear. Unfortunately, after the elites went, there was a large contingent of employees, friends & family, etc that went up. None looked concerned about their times, so i expected my early start was not going to help me a bit, and perhaps hurt me, as the stairs were going to be full of noncompetitive people. 2 years back when i went at nearly noon, the stairs were fairly empty, and i had gotten my best time yet.

I lined up. My timing track was set to pace me to 3:10, a time that on one hand seemed far too ambitious, and on the other, seemed realistic based on my time at the sears tower, and my improvement since then. Soon, i was at the door, hit start, and headed up.

I held my pace until about 20, passing people, sometimes several per floor. The longest clear path i got was 2-3 floors. My legs, specifically my hamstrings and glutes, quickly began to feel sore. A bad sign for so early in the race! I still held my pace, but every time i got behind someone and took a few seconds to prepare a pass, i lost a few steps. I was unsure what to do, and feeling very mentally out of it. I began to chastize myself for not training correctly, but forced myself to refocus on the race. I decided to let my time slip, but to set a pace i felt i could maintain. I was confident that my secondary goal of setting a PR could be accomplished if i didn't risk burning my legs out. So i went conservative, pulled back my pace a bit, and plodded up the steps. My plan was to build up some energy and finish strong, perhaps sprinting to the finish.

My goal time of 3:10 arrived at about 68, with 12 floors left to go. At that point, i realized that there was some chance i might not set a PR if i didn't start to surge immediately, but i was feeling mostly recovered, so i took off up the stairs. There were a lot of people on the top 10 floors, as there always were, but i didn't wait to pass anyone. My timing track went on counting-- 13:30, 13:40-- 13:50..

Soon i popped though the door, thankful to be done.. That finishing 12 floor sprint had taken it out of me. A few seconds anfter i was through the door, i heard my timing track announce 14:30 and i cut it off. I had pr'd by at least 40 seconds, not too bad.

I had some drinks, a few pieces of muffin and danish, a nice post-race treat, and headed down. I made some quick phone calls and status updates, then my cousins showed up. Soon kyle and i were lined up. We talked tactics, and agreed that 25 minutes was a good goal for him. I also reminded him of my credo that it is always better to slow down rather than maintain a pace that will force you to stop later.

Soon we were though. He started off a bit fast, and i slowed him down to a 25-minute pace several times. By 20, he looked entirely ok, so after the water station ( he took a cup, but kept moving up the stairs, just as we had discussed ) i let him go. I did slow him when he looked to be getting out of breath, i kept up a conversation, as i wanted to make sure he was breahting regularly and still cognizant. At about 50 i told him i thought we were on a 22 minute pace and he seemed happy.

By 60, he stopped responding to my conversation for the most part, so i switched to encouraging words every few floor or so. We had discussed a finishing sprint, so when we got close to 75, he perked up and asked if the sprint was soon, and i told him it was, and he should slow down a bit and catch his breath. He did, then at 75, we took off. Those last 5 floors went fast, and soon we were in the ballroom. He'd come in just about 22 minutes, an excellent time in general, amazing for a 9 year old!

Kyle walked to the wall, and sat down for a few minutes, focusing on his breathing. We got up, and i felt like a jerk, because i had been telling him about all the pastry and sweets at the top, and they were already all gone. But not to worry, we soon went to wishbone, and had a great meal.

As i was digesting my disappointing performance, i realized the problem, obvious in retrospect, was that i had done far too little training on real stairs, and in particular, i had double-stepped the whole race, and could only single-step my stairmaster. So, my legs hadn't been adequately prepared for the rigors of double-stepping. That, and mentally, i was unprepared for real stairs in some fundamental ways. I was pretty disappointed, but i was glad i'd learned those lessons before heading to the empire state building race, a much more prestigious and novel event.

I was terribly disappointed to discover that my time had not been recorded on the official race results. I e-mailed the race organizers and told them i had worked hard to come in under 14:30 and would really appreciate it if they could find my result. Soon i was posted to the site as 14:29; i expected they had just used my claim of "under 14:30" as their metric. I expect i had come in closer to 14:25 or so, but didn't really care.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Rewind: Willis tower 2011

Coming into the willis tower race, my training was a bit haphazard. For much of 2010 and the first 1/2 of 2011, i had experimented with a raw food diet, and even had a raw chef living in my house. It had its good aspects that improved my diet, but i gained weight and lost speed, and all my 2010 and early 2011 races suffered.. I won't blame the raw diet outright, but i think the version of it i was on, with a lot of nuts and oils and sugars ( unprocessed or not ) are not conducive to fitness and speed. For athletic pursuits, Tim Van Orden seems to have it figured out. I do partake heavily of green smoothies.

I had hiked up and down the grand canyon 2 months previous, and was doing a lot of yoga and hitting stairs when i could, but i wasn't on the efficient training schedule i was hoping for. I felt as if i was recovering from the eating raw and trying to find my way in the food world. Still, i climbed the stairmaster often, and My weight was the lowest it had been in a long time.

Still, i went into the climb feeling pretty good. I finally got an early start, but rather foolishly, i accepted a differ invite from my raw vegan chef friend, and ate much of the yummy food. Not smart! My stomach felt upset as i rose the next morning, not a good way to start! Still, i didn't feel too off, but i didn't need any more stress.

I got the the tower in plenty of time, changed, used the bathroom. I met my internet friend jordana there, and we chatted a bit before lining up. I went to the corrall, and watched the elite climbers line up. I could have hopped in line right behind them, but my stomach was bothering me. So i sat and stretched, and went to use the bathroom again. A friend saw me and asked me what the hell i was doing out of line, as my wave was lining up. She was right! The stairs were crowding, but i didn't feel ready.

I used the bathroom, made sure i was really done and wouldn't feel the need for another trip, and went to line up. I was already in the wave after mine, after the "competitive athlete" so i wasn't going to get a clear stairwell. I had hoped for 20 minutes, and had made a timing track counting off the floors. I pressed play as i went over the timing strip, and off i went.

I found holding my pace easy for the first few floors, as i hit no significant traffic. After about 10 floors, i began to hit some knots of 2-3 people that took a little time and planning to pass. By the time i hit 25, i was 2-3 floors behind my 20 minute pace. I felt tired, and just worked to not fall behind anymore, hoping for a late sprint or a second wind to get me back on pace.

I began to catch up a little, even when i had to pass, but it was costing me energy. Close 45, i was about on pace, but feeling too exhausted for so early in the race. Then i got behind a fellow that was going at just about my pace--perhaps just a shade slower. I decided i would use him as a pacer for awhile.

This worked, in a way. He made all the passing moves, perhaps not as carefully as i would, but it was easier to copy him--at least mentally! This often left me running wide on the landings, not on the flats. Very poor use of energy. Also, he was falling steadily behind of where i wanted to be. At the time, it seemed like a good idea to stay behind him, but in retrospect it was a poor decision and likely cost me a significant amount of time.

After 35 floors of poor pacer decision ( bear in mind, he was wisely running his race, i was a dope for using him as a pacer, i'm the poor athlete here ) i passed him on 80 and took off pretty fast, about 6 floors behind. Between 80 and 90 i went fast, and made up about three floors, and hoped i'd be able to make up the remaining three i was behind by the end.

It was not to be. At 90, the stairs became completely clogged, and i just sort of gave up trying to make up the remaining three floors i needed to hit my 20 minute goal. In fact, i fell about 3-4 floors behind. I did pick my way through the pack a little at the end, but when i crossed the line, i knew from my audio track that i had hit about 21 minutes.

I went to sit down. I felt ok, not completely spent. I thought about the race, and felt i'd made a number of foolish choices and cost myself time in several ways. Eating a strage meal not conducive to racing the night before. Not getting into the stairs as early as possible to avoid the crowds. Using a slower climber as a pacer to save energy. Dumb, Dumb, Dumb. But--i'd beaten my previous best time by 34 seconds. So not too bad.

I went to the door to watch racers emerge from the stairs. Soon christie came through, and i talked to her after she caught her breath. Soon jordana popped through, easily visible in her entirely pink outfit. I talked to a fellow wearing a camera and sporting a pair of sticky wide receiver gloves. I was to get to know him as a great and supportive friend later.

We all headed down to check our times. I saw mine was 21:02. Not bad, and i couldn't feel too bad, as i had placed over 30 seconds better than my PR and nearly a minute faster than last year. Still, it was not what i knew i had in me.

After that, jordana and i went to Lou Mitchells and had breakfast. I had an omelet, she pancakes. Good food. After that, i kicked around for a few hours and did yoga. I wasn't particularly sore or tired, just annoyed with myself.

Lesson learned:

* Don't eat anything out of the ordinary the day before the race. Turn down social occasions that aren't optimal. Bring food with you if necessary.

* Even if you feel weird, go up as soon as possible.

* Adhere more strictly to pacing. Don't stick to slower people.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Hustle up the hancock 2012

The day before the hancock was a tough day of yoga teacher training, with two classes ( c3, c1 ) and a long lecture. I then sped to a dinner where i met a lot of really great climbers: Alex, Ed, Bob, Bob's wife, and Karen.

I was impressed by how clean everyone ate, even with a big race in only a few hours. Karen ate salmon with no sauce and steamed, unsalted greens, skipping even the plain(ish) mashed potatoes. It made me think of past years when i'd use an upcoming race as an excuse to eat like a pig so i could "carb up", hitting a buffet and putting down thousands of calories, as if the race would burn off more than a few hundred. That approach had left me slow and pushing 200 pounds. This morning, I had weighed in at 184, fed and hydrated. That was still far too heavy to be as quick as i wanted, but i was also carrying much more muscle than in the past, especially in my legs. I was asked what my goal time was, and i said 14:29--10 seconds a floor for the first 30, then 9 per floor for the remaining 64 floors. I felt confident i could do that, and even hoped to sneak in under 14 minutes, picking up the pace past 60 if i felt really good. It seemed likely to me; i felt ready.

After dinner broke up, everyone returned to their hotel rooms to grab sleep, as everyone had an early start--except me! I was going to be waiting until 1:30 to race, a starting slot that left me feeling exceedingly grumpy. I doubted that i'd get to attend much of my yoga teacher training, and running so late in the day was not what i'd grown used to. On the other hand, i had been happy with my performance at empire state, and that had been at night.

In light of my late start, i headed to the birthday party of one of my favorite yogis, Jessica. I didn't touch any alcohol, and just nibbled on some vegetables and hummus. I had intended to stay for only an hour or so, but i was having too much fun chatting friends, and ended up staying until almost midnight. No worries, as i usually can't fall asleep until after midnight anyways, and had little reason to wake up early. I arrived home just after nidnight, and fell asleep almost as soon as my head hit the pillow.

Not for long, however! I woke up about 2:30 with my head pounding and my stomach in knots. I hurried to the bathroom and hacked most of what was left of dinner. Over the next few hours i would try to drink some water and sleep, but would soon have to make another visit to the bathroom. My head throbbed, and my muscles ached. This went on until about 6am when i was finally able to sleep.

I got back up around 8--well, i woke up--i laid in bed for about an hour, not having the energy to move. This was looking like a very inauspicious race day! I finally got up and managed to hold down a little fluid, but not very well. I drank little, as i didn't want any more atypical bathroom trips. I spent the morning lying in bed, wondering what i was going to do. Finally i got a text from Roxanne at the race, asking where i was. I texted her that i felt bad, but i was coming anyways.

I was glad i made that choice! From there on, i took it one step at a time. Get out of bed, get my racing outfit on. Just focus on that. Get my bag packed. Get my ipod ready--crap! My ipod, on the charger all night, had apparently given up the ghost and finally expired. It would not turn on, no matter how much i toyed with it. I had grown addicted to my timing tracks, and was hoping it would keep me motivated even in my sorry state. I grabbed my iphone and armband, deciding to use that for my race. No timing tracks on there, but at least i could listen to some good music.

I dragged myself to the car, and headed out, returning when i rememebered it'd forgotten my yoga gear. I was feeling spacey, not good. I drove to the hancock. Previously, my plan had been to park at yoga, and walk/jog the three miles to the race as a warm-up. That idea was no longer practical. I did park about a mile away, thinking the walk might do me some good. As i was gearing up at the trunk, i discovered i couldn't find my armband. Great, another problem, now i'd have no music at all.

I went to the race and looked for my climbing crew. They were nowhere to be found, but i found my friend Christie, who said i looked awful. It was true, no doubt. Dizzy, I needed to sit down while talking to her, which boded very poorly for the race. Soon she lined up, and i had a little time to kill. Checking my clothes, i found the ipod armband in my pocket, so i kept the phone. Looking though the playlists, i found i had my Aon timing track on there, which was intended to get me up that building in 13:10. It used 10 seconds a floor for the whole building, which would get me up the hancock in 15:30, which frankly seemed impossible with how i felt, but i could at least give it a shot.

Soon, Roxanne and Karen showed up. I kept my distance due to the flu. Roxanne decided she'd go the end of the line to be the last person up, then wait a few minutes for the stairs to clear out. I took a few sips at the water fountain, and we hopped in line, falling back every time someone got in line behind us. I was happy to keep falling back with her, as every extra minute was a minute for my body to recover from last night.

From Getting ready to go!

As we approached the door, i had another attack of the dizzies. This couldn't be good. Fortunately, there was a barrel of water bottles near the door, and i grabbed one and chugged it. I pulled on my new climbing gloves, pressed play on my iphone, and headed up the stairs.

I surprised myself by immediately going faster than the 10 seconds a floor my timing track was to pace me on. I got two or so floors ahead, then restrained my pace, not wanting to go out too fast. I had failed to tuck in my headphone cords, and i had to slow down a few times to put my headphones back on, as my sticky gloves hit the wire and yanked one of both from my ears. Bad move, leaving those outside of my shirt! Unfortunately, i didn't have the time to fix this problem. I began to hit some packs of climbers, sometimes 4-5 in a row, often two wide on the stairs, very hard to pass. Passing them and futzing with my headphones slowed me enough that soon i was arriving on the floors as my timing track announced them, so i had been slowed by 20 seconds. I felt sick, and my head was pounding, but i did my best not to think about it, focusing on passing, counting the floors, thinking about tactics.

The volunteers were also starting to come down, and i almost collided with one of them. But after that and a few more packs of climbers, the stairs began to clear up. I focused on gripping the rails with my new sticky gloves and pulling hard. I was also intent on conserving energy; when i had to pass someone, i'd get right behind them for a floor or so to build up strength, execute a fast tight turn behind them when the stairs reversed direction, pulling hard on the rail to slingshot myself, and use that momentum to propel me past them. Then as soon as i completed the pass and got back on the inside rail, i'd climb mostly with my arms for a few seconds to spell my legs.

I continued to surprise myself by arriving on floors when my timing track called them out. My head felt really awful, and i had to slow down a few times to avoid throwing up, but i always managed to recover enough to pick up the pace and catch up with my goal time. Finally, around 70 or so, i began to feel genuinely sick, and i had to slow down for an extended period of time. I was starting to hit floors a second late, then one, then two, then three..

My timing track ended at 13:10 at about floor 77. I was three floors behind with no guide, and the stairs were getting crowded again. I knew my time was still good, and if could maintain 10 seconds a floor, i might still get a PR. I put my head down and focused on keeping my legs moving, trying to think happy thoughts, ignoring how i felt, which was as if i had the worst hangover of my life. My timing track went on counting seconds, but no longer floors; the backing audio was my motivational pep talk for the Aon if i had missed my goal time, reminding me to finish strong, that i was a winner as long as i pushed myself.

Hokey as it was, it helped! At about 85 or so, i felt new life. The fifteen slow floors had allowed me to catch my breath and settle my stomach. I felt i could finish strong. I accelerated to a fast pace, definitely quicker than 10 seconds a floor, continually reminding myself i had only 9 of the short upper hancock floors left--then eight--then seven. When i hit 90, i took off running. I made it up the last four floors in seemingly no time, hitting two climbers just before the door, and slowing for a split second so the photographer could get a picture of me about to cross the line. I heard the chime of the pad registering my time. I couldn't believe it. I was done.

From 2012 hustle up the hancock

I stumbled out onto the deck, heard my name called, the announcer introducing me as being from new mexico. I wondered where they'd gotten that info. It was an effort to stay vertical without anything to hold on to, but i fought to stay upright. After closing my eyes and taking a few breaths, i opened them, focused, and saw Karen waving at me. I immediately felt better, seeing someone i knew, and grabbed a banana and posed for a picture.

From 2012 hustle up the hancock

Karen made sure i got some water ( bless her ! ). She stayed to get a picture of Roxanne finishing, and i went to find an empty seat. Soon, Roxanne crossed the line with an awesome time of just over 14 minutes. The three of us found a table, and i gingerly tucked into my bannna and water. I felt surprisingly good. My flu seemed to have deserted me! We soon got up and waited line for about half an hour. When we got to the bottom, they headed back to springfield, and me to my car, from where i hightailed it to yogi training.

Yogi training was a lecture, and that's where the exhaustion really hit me. I could barely sit up or keep my eyes open. After the class, my partner holly found me and offered to go over her notes with me. I was touched by her kindness, but hardly able to stay vertical, i had to decline. I dragged myself to the showers and let the hot water run over me for a long time, carefully drove home, and collapsed into bed.

It turned out my time had been 15:36.. I had actually come in only six seconds over my 10 second a floor pace, and had broken my personal best by 23 seconds, a time set when i had been completely rested and precisely fed and hydrated. It felt like a huge moral victory to me, and made me hungry to really crush the race next year! If i could post such a time feeling deathly ill, what could i do with an extra year of training, hitting the stairs healthy and tuned?

Look out, hancock 2013!

Lessons learned:

1) Perhaps due to both the unexpected adversity, and my lack of pressure, I was very on my mental game, which very much compensated for how bad my body felt. If i can be this mentally on when i'm feeling good, i can probably have a great race!

2) I figured out some rail techniques that probably helped a great deal, saving time an energy on the landings, and giving my legs a break for a few seconds after a pass. In retrospect, the gloves did help. I should work on my strength for rail techniques. I probably should make friends with the rowing machines. Yoga works my pulling back muscles very little.

3) Better preparation: get outfit & bag ready day before, tuck headphone cord inside shirt. Get to race early and warm up.

4) Legs felt fine, this was mostly cardio limited. Work on cardio / cutting weight for better times.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Springfield hilton 2012

Springfield hilton, i originally didn't plan on signing up for, because it is only a 32 floor race, and would require an overnight stay; the value didn't seem to be there. However, a number of the climbers i had met were going to be there, and i was encouraged to attend, so i decided to pull the trigger. I asked to be added to the "ultimate climb" ( as many climbs as you can do in an hour ). But i was declined, as apparently this event was already too full 

I drove to springfield after work, checked in, and looked at the hotel a bit. One of the legendary climbers was there, and i spoke to her, and even went and asked the check-in race people where the race was to start. Together, we looked at the stairs. It was a straight shot floor to floor, but the ascent from floor to floor was broken up with a flat patch.

From there i went to dinner with some of the other climbers, and i was again impressed by how friendly everyone was. I felt comfortable and welcomed, and we chatted about racing and all sorts of topics. I was invited to an after the race dinner the next day. Very nice. I met a few people i'd only seen on the web, which is always a little funny. A few people asked me my goal time, and i said i thought i'd run 3:30 or maybe a few seconds over that.

I walked back to the hotel with karen G, and she was nice enough to show me how to get onto the stairs where we start, walk up a few flights with me, and give me some tips about how to run the race. I saw that there would be some tactics. The handrails were almost uselessly low, and when one staircase ended, there was a wall preventing you from turning directly onto the next one. You needed to take a step or two, pivot 180, then take a step or two before hitting the next staircase.

I went to my room, but i had forgotten my toothbrush, so i went out to see if i could find a drugstore. I found nothing, but enjoyed seeing downtown springfield. When i asked where i could buy one at the front desk, they had a store of toothbrushes for guests like me. I dozed off, but wold up very early. The room heater was very noisy, and i only slept a few hours total.

The next morning, i headed down as people were getting ready to race. I met karen, and she asked me if i could go to the top to film upstairs. I agreed, and hopped on the elevator with the race volunteers. I worried they would kick me out, but no one seemed to mind.

It took awhile for the race to start, but when it did, we heard "first climber halfway up", and a few seconds later, justin came out the door. Someone called out "two oh five" which was shocking. Terry Purcell, the legendary tower racer, had set a record of 2:27 and justing had beaten it by over 20 seconds... about 15%--really amazing.

Justin hopped in the elevator and went down. None of those "collapse on the ground" finishes here. I wondered if he had run himself to utter exhaustion the way i had seen dold do, if he could have broken two minutres. I filed more racers coming up, and some problems with the elevators. I headed downstairs, and watched people come out of the elevators and head back up.

Soon the ultimate was done, and a quickly headed to my room, peeled off my outside layer, and lined up. I was right at the back of the elite pack, not a bad spot. Terry purcell, the legend, was behind me, pacing his wife. He tapped me on the shoulder and asked me what time i expeted, and i understood he didn't want me to to impede them. I told him i expected 3:30 and asked if he needed to go in front. He seemed to think for a second, then shook his head no and said i was ok.

Before i was ready, it was my turn to go, and i headed up. I had no timing track, so i just went with how i felt. The first few floors seemed to go on forever, and at 5, i was already really feeling the climb in my legs. This seemed bad, bad. I panicked a bit, and slowed down, pushing on my knees with my hands. At about ten, i spotted a fellow coming up on me quite quickly. He settled in a few steps behind me, not seeming to want to pass, but not giving me space either. After a few floors of that, i stepped aside and slowed down, and he paused for a seconds before running past.

He took off, and i picked up the pace a bit, feeling better. My legs felt stiff, but i decided i could ignore them. Before i knew it, i was on 25, and i started an all-out sprint for the last 5 floors. After four of those, i wondered if i'd made a mistake, because i wasn't sure i could maintain the pace for the last floor, but i somehow managed and passed through the door. Wobbly legged, i turned the corner and crossed the timing pad. I walked the small lobby where i had been filming exhausted climbers emerge from the steps, and now i was one of them. I made my way to the small lounge, and sat down. I began to feel bad, really bad. I slumped hyperventilating into a chair. Someone asked me something, but i just nodded, not feeling up to answering.

I felt ok, though, because the room was full of people in a similar state. Someone said that if the hotel was on fire, we'd be screwed because we'd be unable to stand up, and we all lauged, because it felt so true. It was about five minutes before i felt ready to get up and walk to the elevator. That had been quite a race; i felt much more tired after the paltry 32 floor climb than i had after the empire state race.

Downstairs i learned that i had gone 3:39, right in line with my pre-race estimate, but disappointing considering how hard i had pushed myself, and how spent i had felt. I hung around with fellow racers, and went to a post-race party and had a fabulous time.I also learned that i had achieved the fifth fastest time on my team, so my results counted towards out team's total time, and our team had, in fact won the team competition. This was nice, but the other four climbers ahead of me were all so fast that they could have rolled a potato up the stairs as the fifth climber and still won.

I think, after this, that before a sprint like this, it would be a good idea for me to warm my legs up i went in cold and my legs
hurt almost right away. Also, for this specific race, turning is a huge issue, because of the way the walls are set up. The turn is very energy-sapping, and runners spoke of hurting their shoulders making the pivot. I think i might try going up the steps very quickly, letting my velocity dissipate for the last few steps, then turning slowly and momentum-free before sprinting up the next set of stairs. Some of the climbers encouraged me to head to springfield a few times over the summer to train with them on the steps, so perhaps i'll get a chance to try this strategy.

Next week.. the hancock!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Oak brook terrace

Two days after returning from the empire state race in new york, i was again heading to a stair race--this one, however, only a ten minute drive from my house. 15, if you count my stopping at starbucks for a mocha.

The building was nice, the lobby well-laid out. I arrived in my gear, but still checked my jacket, which i probably didn't technically need to do, but it was quite chill outside, so even the short walk to my car was a painful one.

There was a little time to kill before the race, because the "ultimate" was still going on. I watched the climbers make up to a dozen trips up the building, and was incredibly impressed. Part of me wished i'd signed up for the ultimate, but another part of me was glad i was only going to be scaling the stairs three times.

I was wearing my shirt from the empire state run-up and it broke the ice with some of the elite climbers i'd seen on facebook and at the top of race results. It was really nice to meet them in person. Soon we lined up, them at the start of the line, me a ways back.

My plan for the race was to go conservative, to shoot for about 4:30, but try to do that for every climb. I wasn't going to win no matter what i did, but i could learn to pace myself. Soon it was my turn, and i headed up the stairs.

The stairwell was very consistent, which i liked. The floors seemed very far apart compared to the empire state building, where a single short series of steps brought you to the next level. I was passing people quickly, trying very hard to maintain a constant pace, one that was challenging, but would not leave me entirely spent and unable to execute a sprint finish or have a good next two climbs.

Before i knew it, the top of the stairs were there. I didn't sprint but the last floor, but it was a long one. At the top i took a minute to catch my breath, but felt good. A few people i'd passed reached the top, and they congratulated me on how fast i'd been going. I thanked them, and asked them about their experiences. When i went downstairs, i saw that my time was 4:45, good for 13th place so far. I saw the elites taking rest, so i emulated them and waited for my legs to fully recover and my breath to return fully to normal.

My second trip up the stairs i felt even better. I knew the staircase and felt really good. I started my sprint with three floors to go, and when i popped through the door, i felt pretty ok, with little need to cool down or rest. Downstairs, i was disappointed that only the first trip's times could be determined at the race. I imagined my time might be a few seconds faster than the first.

I waited about 10 more minutes, and made my third trip up. This time, i decided to follow the precepts of "body mind and sport" and use deep breathing and make the climb a transcendent experience. The staircase had mostly emptied out, so i just breathed slow and deep, kept my eyes up, and thought happy thoughts. I hardly felt the climb at all, and before i knew it, i'd crossed the finish line again. I had no idea what my time might be. It had seemed like a blink, so part of me thought it might have been by far my fastest climb of the day. But based on how i felt, i thought it might have been right in line with the other climbs.

I went downstairs to the refreshment area, and grabbed some water and a banana. I saw the elite climbers sitting at a table, and gingerly walked over, made contact with justin, who i'd already spoken to, and asked if i could sit there. My empire state shirt broke the ice again, and soon i was talking to Jesse Berg, who was the highest american placer at the empire state race, and had won almost every major US race. There was chatting, but i was mostly listening to the guys talk.

Soon, justin brok out his video camera and said he wanted to tape a fun run up the stairs, and jesse looked at me, asking if i wanted to come. I was in shock; i was going to be running the stairs with three of the fastest climbers in the world. I was sure they would drop me almost immediately, but it was also an opportunity not to be missed. We went to the single climb stairwell, they held onto the camera, and two went up, and eric pushed me along to follow.

Faster than i would have imagined possible, i was following them up the steps. The pace seemed crazy; we were zigzagging around slow climbers, flinging ourselves off the rails, really RUNNING the stairs. I didn't even think about what i was doing, merely focused on keeping jesse and justin in my sights, and not slowing down eric, who was on my tail.

At about floor 15, Jesse slowed down and the group resumed a brisk walking pace. I was madly catching my breath, but i couldn't believe it. I had kept up. I knew i wasn't close to these guys, and they had all had a much harder racing day than me, and they were the ones parting the crowd, but for a minute i had kept up.

At about 20, they took off again, and that was it for me. I got out of eric's way and he took off again. Could i have pursued. I don't know. At the time, it wasn't my reflex, and i expect it was because i was too tired to chase at that point. Now, after the fact, i wish i had tried--even if i'd gotten dropped after a few floors, i would have given it my all. I met them at the top, we headed down, and after a bried fist bump, it was home.

I learned later that my times were 4:45 4:47 and 4:57. It had seemed i was getting faster at the time, but really i'd lost a little, especially during my zen run. Exhaustion mattered more than i thought! Still, i was remarkably consistent. I was overjoyed when i first looked at the site to see me listed as 4th place in the triple climb! My time soon dropped to 5th, and the next day i was down to 10th, as, i suppose, timing errors were corrected.

Still, that was an excellent result for me, especially as i was consciously holding something in reserve, and i considered the fun run with the super climbers the best part of the day. This was also the first race where i garnered world cup points; 5.6 points put me precisely nowhere, but i would be happy to be on some sort of list at the end of the year. All in all, a fantastic day!

The race results!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Empire state run-up

I signed up for the empire state building run up on a whim. I knew the odds of my getting in were slight, but that made me want to sign up all the more; i wanted to do the race eventually, and it might take many attempts to get in. So when i actually did get accepted on my first attempt, i wasn't quite ready... There was a moment of unreality before i started making plans and thinking about the race itself. The race was, oddly, a wednesday night, which i was not happy about, both because racing at night is so unusual, and also because i would need to take substantial time off of work. But it was an honor to get in, so I found airfare. Before i booked a room, my wonderful friend Jordana offered to let me stay at her place. She was even taking vacation, so we could play tourist together. What fun!

I learned from reading Tim Van Orden's blog that the race is unusual in that the stairs are organized fire-escape pattern, with a staircase, then a brief span of hallway leading to the next staircase, instead of the typical uninterrupted ascent most high-rise staircases. That accounts for the fact that times at the empire state building are typically slower that times at taller buildings, such as the Hancock or Aon Chicago.

I also learned from Tim's blog that most people run up the stairs, then trudge down the hall to the next staircase. He considers the reverse a better strategy; hold back a little on the stairs so you can move quickly on the flats, where expending the same unit of energy knocks more seconds off your time. I also observed that the race don't end at the top of the stairs, but rather with a run encompassing the periphery of the skydeck. I decided to not only employ tim's strategy ( save energy on the stairs, move quickly on the landings ) but to consciously save a little energy for the run along the deck before the finish line.

The day before the race, we were incredibly active. We saw the giant's victory parade, the 9/11 memorial, ate some great indian food, toured south manhattan, walked the brooklyn bridge, saw the met museum, and walked central park. We put on a large number of walking miles and seemed to climb endless stairs, but i decided not to care. i was going to be a tourist and enjoy my first trip to New York even if it cost me a few seconds on the stairs. It was a wonderful day, and we had some great food!

The day of the race, i was still playing tourist. I visited the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island with my wonderful host, Jordana. Previous years, i would have tried to laze away the day to save energy, but i decided the best policy was to relax and enjoy myself, and let the race happen. Of course, i knew my pace would be far far from the elite times, and a second here or there might not affect my ranking at all. We did head back "home" a few hours before the race, and popped in to trader joe's. I got their green machine juice to fuel me for the race, and camped out on the couch for about two hours before leaving for the race.

This was my first trip solo on the new york subway, and it showed. I somehow missed my stop, and it took quite a bit of time for me to realize i needed to get out and head back. Fortunately, i'd left a lot of extra time in my schedule, so i made it to the empire state building with plenty of time, but my nerves were getting frazzled. I had also forgotten my green machine juice. I was feeling very off, and now getting some jelly legs before even arriving at the building. I had a 5 hour energy sample in my pocket an advertising person had handed me the day before, so i sipped that until half the bottle was gone and chucked the rest in the garbage. If i had more time, i would have sought out some juice, but i was worried about getting checked in on time, so i headed for the building.

I couldn't see it until i was two blocks away, but when i did, it was really majestic; a classic building, lit orange up top for the new york road runners. The lobby was amazing, gorgeous marble and brass, and doormen in long dapper coats; it felt as if i was walking into the emerald city in the wizard of oz. They directed me to the race lobby, and i arrived to a chaotic scene. It took a long time to get my number, and the gear check line was huge and raggedy; many people were camped out in groups on the floor, and racers didn't seem to know where to go. Also, there didn't appear to be gear bags provided, and i wondered what i was going to do with my jacket and street clothes. Fortunately, someone did come up with bags for the people that "forgot", but it was still more stress.

After that, i found a spot on the floor and talked with people, seeing if anyone nearby had done the race before and had some advice. No one did, so we just chatted for about half an hour before our numbers were called. I was in the 700 group and we lined up in our corrals. I spoke to three people around me, lady in pink, german fellow, and tall lady. They were all serious 5 and 10k runners, but this was the first tower race for any of them. Lady in pink seemed terribly nervous and german guy and i tried to calm her. German guy had a go pro camera strapped to his head, and seemed boisterously happy. Tall woman seemed to feel she didn't belong in the same course with us peons, and she wouldn't have to deal with us once we went through the door. German guy said i was sure to pass him, so i should wave to the camera, and he'd post it to youtube.

Tall lady managed to move ahead in line, but soon enough the remaining three of us were set free, and we ran down the stairs and though the hallways of the empire state building. I was not crazy about running, and on stairs, right before a race, but everyone else was, so there seemed to be little else for it. I was right behind german guy and right in front of lady in pink. They were sending up runners every five seconds, which is very fast, and not what had been announced, so before i knew it, german guy was gone, then it was my turn to head up.

I hit the stairs, doing my best to remember my strategy. Pace myself. I knew the first few floors DIDN'T have the landings, though, so i didn't have flats to save my energy for; therefore i went a little faster on the steps than i was planning to go later. I was happy to see the staircases were rather narrow, so i could grab both railings and pull myself up, which is my preferred technique. I did my best to keep my body upright and my breathing slow and deep.

Lady in pink was close behind me. She was already breathing hard after 3-4 floors. I didn't know what to tell her. Saying to slow down or take it easy would be a condescending jerk thing to say, so i just gave her words of encouragement. I passed a few people and she did too. It was obvious that she was using me as her pacer, and i felt bad if i was making her go too hard, but i had my own race to run. I kept myself at a pace that seemed maintainable for me and kept moving. I dropped her at about floor 15 and didn't see her until after the race.

At about 20, there was a brief jog down a hallway past a water station. I never stop at those and certainly wasn't about to start. There was a substantial crowd of zombified racers in the hallway, and i ran through as fast as i felt safe with people milling about, which wasn't very fast.

After the hall, the stairs with landings began, and i used my plan: slow and steady up the stairs, use both rails, don't pass on the stairs unless really necessary, but move fast on the landings. This was working great, but i was starting to get a gnawing worry. I felt good. Too good, perhaps? Was i going too slow? I was starting to hit some crowds now. There were even large groups doing the slow trudge on the landings that i didn't want to expend a lot of energy running around, so i had to do some passing on the narrow stairs, climbing the outside rail like a rope. Around 40 or so, i passed tall lady, who looked to be in a pretty bad way. Soon i spotted german guy ahead of me. He was moving at a good pace, but was also part of a large group that was filling the staircase and the landing, so it took me a few floors to get an opening to pass the group while sticking to my strategy of conserving energy. I paused passing german guy and it took a moment to get his attention. Soon he recognized me, and we laughed, i mugged into his camera, cheered him on, and resumed passing people.

After i got past that group at about 55, the stairs cleared up a lot. I was able to revert to my plan of climbing the steps at a conservative pace, and jogging briskly on the landings. Now i was able to take in the building and i began to really enjoy myself; there were pretty halls leading away from the stairs, more dapper doomen, and the stairs were always changing, which added a nice variety. There was another water station at 60, and an even longer hall this time. I again put on a burst of speed through the crowd and hit the next staircase.

Before i knew it, i was on 71. It clicked that there were only 15 floors left, and i felt pretty great! I decided to stop saving energy and pick up the pace. Of course, i began hitting more people. No longer conserving energy, i passed on the outside, and shot across the landings. I moved pretty fast, and felt good. I was having fun! This was a fun race! I was smiling and cheering people on and encouraging a lot of pretty spent-looking climbers.

Then i did something i am pretty proud of. I hit 84, and slowed down, remembering that the race didn't end at the top of the stairs, but circled the observation deck. I knew that going slow on the last few floors would only cost me a few seconds, which would probably be repaid with interest on the run around the deck. I slowed down to my slowest pace of the race, focused on taking deep breaths, and pounded my legs with my fists to get them ready.

Finally, i reached the door, and race personnel pointed me to the right. I set foot outside, drinking in the cold wet night air. The sky was a wall of fog, and snowflakes settled against my overheated face as orange light blazed up from below. I set off running on the bricks, going as fast as felt safe on the slightly slick surface. I was moving past many tired runners, and worried i might collide with a wobbly walker, but did my best to give them wide berth and hoped they'd go in a straight line. I rounded the corner and skidded a bit, then saw the finish. I did my best to put on a last burst of speed, and seemingly a second later, crossed the line.

Fanfare? None. Every other race i've done had at least a few people cheering at the end, usually quite a crowd, but there was nothing. I jogged to a stop, and a person directed me to the elevators. That was it. I was back inside. A woman was handing out medals. I tried to accept one in my hand, but she laughed, said "I've seen worse" and insisted on putting it around my neck. I appreciated that; it was a nice touch.

After that, it was down the elevator and back to the lobby where it had all started. There was gatorade, which was highly appreciated, especially as it took them about 25 minutes to find my gear; the numeric labels were tiny and apparently easily missed. Every other race uses large white bags with the numbers written across it in huge bold letters. NYRR needs to adopt this technique, as gear check was a huge mess. I did get to see the people i'd met in line before the race, and we chatted about what a cool experience it had been.

I met a few people in the lobby who i knew from the facebook stair running group, which was really neat. We chatted about the race, and upcoming ones we might meet at again.

And that was it. I left the building feeling good in all possible ways. I was proud of myself for sticking to my strategy, how well the strategy had worked, and for the fact i'd stayed conscious and enjoyed myself for the whole race. Had i left time on the floor? Doubtlessly. I knew for sure i could have gone faster; hardly being tired after 70 floors told me that. I learned later that my time was 16:59, and i suspect that had i gone all out, i could have come close to my 14:29 time i set in the slightly taller Aon. But that would be a number, and what i got were great memories and a precious education. I could come back and do better, and i was ok with that.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Newly inspired

Part of my process to upgrading myself from a couch potato has been carefully tracking everything... Ever bit of food, calorie burned from exercise, a careful journal, etc. I also had a daily planner with recurring events to push me to do things.. Water the plants, take out the garbage, run stair, etc.

But about a week ago, i was thinking about how challenging that's become, and how many major tasks i had on my list, i often couldn't bring myself to do.

After a long session of rumination, i decided to just drop all of it. Don't track my workouts, don't track my food, don't have an endless cycle of recurring daily tasks. I decided if i signed up for another race or two, i could give myself the latitude to do this at least until race season was over.

So, i did it.. It was scary, terrifying even.. But it was fine. Actually, in the ten days since then, i've been much more productive, not less. It seems i had built up a tremendous immunity to being coerced into doing all the things i knew i needed to do.. And when i just let myself flow and asked myself what i should be doing now, that resistance mostly fell away. I got some thing done i've literally been procrastinating for months and months.

So, i'm doing this, at least until race season is over. I have to keep stopping myself, to remind myself that i don't have a list of things to do, that i can just stop, relax, and be in the moment... It's time to flow, people!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

One year to go

Sunday i had my best athletic achievement of my life, 46th place in a race of well over 2200 people. The funny thing is, a few years ago, this would have been unthinkable. I was badly overweight, weak, and my cardiovascular fitness was such that running a block was something i could do only very slowly, if at all.

It's been a steady but very slow progression.. 6 months where i lose a few pounds, a few months were i work on strength a lot and put on 4 pounds, half of it muscle, a couple of months where i hold my weight steady but improve my cardio, etc.

There have been missteps and false starts, such as eight months of a raw diet ( i gained weight, and lost speed and strength ) and periods where i thought yoga along would keep me in shape ( it can't ).

But with my last race, it seems to me that elite ranking is actually attainable. This was a tower race, and i averaged exactly 11 seconds per floor. 10 seconds per floor would have qualified me as an elite athlete, and 9 seconds a floor would have placed me in the top ten.

I'm looking at this from multiple angles:

Weight: 1 weigh 185 and my bodyfat is about 18-19%. That means i have 35 pounds of fat on me. If i lost 20 pounds of fat, i'd weigh 165 and have 9% bodfat, which is a perfectly healthy number. That alone would get me elite ranking. 14.5 ( minutes ) * ( 165 / 185 ) = 12.9 ( minutes ) easily qualifying as elite.

Speed improvement: 9%

Leg strength: My stair climbing muscle chain began to hurt at floor 40 or so. I plan to approach this from multiple angles: Climbing real stairs with a 40 pound weight vest, doing double steps at the gym with the same 40 pound vest, and seeking out exercises that stimulate the same muscles.

speed improvement: 5%

Cardio: i was definitely out of breath at the end of the race, and developed a hacking cough. The gym stair climber didn't seem to work my cardio hard enough; i need to find other ways to get a good cardio burn in. Running is obvious, but i observe many of the best stair climbers are also rowers, cros country skiiers, or cyclists. So, i'm going to add rowing and spinning to my workouts, as well as something resembling CC skiing.

Speed improvement 8%

Pulling strength: pulling oneself up the handrails is a big help for tower racing speed. My arms got tired quickly, and i just used the handrails for guidance. I need to develop more pulling strength. Rowing will help, as various gym pulling machines.

speed improvement: 3%

Technique: i need to work on my turnaround technique and passing techniques. Work on specific exercises for this.

speed improvement: 5% ( there are a lot of turnarounds )

Mental toughness: my brain tends to get fuzzy in these races. To combat this, i need to stop listening to music and defocusing during my hard cardio sessions. Additionally, i need to gut out some tough cardio sessions staying focused, such as spin.

speed improvement: 5%

If all those speed improvements are real, and i think they are, i would have placed 4th in this race, which would be titanic for me.

I almost regret that i have races coming up... I'd like to do the diet i know works for me, and do a low-ish carb warrior diet, which i lose weight quickly on. After the empire state race, i will design a weekly cycle allowing two super HIT cardio sessions.

After race season is over ( mid-march ) my main focus will be on building strength and cutting fat. Hopefully, i can accomplish some of this during race season so i will have a good head start.