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!