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.

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