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!