Wednesday, November 13, 2013

300 N LaSalle CF climb for life 2013

This was a small race, but a good one last year, and i was looking forward to doing it again.  The race fee was cheap ( $25, as i signed up early ) and for elites, the fee was waived.  $25 for a well run race with elites flying in from out of town?  Too good to pass up! 

The climb was from ground to the 58th floor, and we'd switch staircases once, with a quick run down a hallway to get to the second staircase. The stairs were narrow, turning right until the hallway run at 22, then left until 58.  I recalled the floors/stairs as being uneven.

The previous year, my time had been 9:45, and i felt i had overachieved that race.  Roxanne had passed me around 40, and i had hung onto her for dear life, leaving me destroyed on the floor.  

Hoping to build on my modest success at sears, i decided to set myself a pace of 10 seconds a floor, allowing 10 extra seconds for the hallway run at 22.  That would bring me in at 9:40, and, really, i hoped to come in a bit faster than that by picking up the pace over the last few floors.  

Somewhat sore from sears tower, i did yoga monday.  Tuesday i woke up super early, and hustled to a spin class at the gym.  I still did yoga that evening, and again wednesday. Thursday night, i planned to run 13.1 miles for the calorie burn, but was underdressed for the cold and called it off after only 6.3 miles.  Friday night was again yoga, though i took it easy and focused on stretching my legs out. 

Thursday, Oz, one of the top racers in the US, called me, and said he had just decided to participate in the race, and wondered if he could stay with me.  I eagerly agreed as he's a super great guy, and i knew it'd be fun to hang out.  

Saturday was just yard work, and soon oz, then kelley showed up.  We went to starbucks to get our pre-race coffees, then out for thai food. Back at my place, we snacked a bit, and watched movie 43, a gross-out comedy in the vein of kentucky fried movie.  It was a good choice to keep our mind off the upcoming race and relax us.  We went to bed early, to get plenty of rest for race day.

That morning, both oz and i got up before our alarms and started to prepare.  I caffeinated and made a smoothie, oz had his coffee and sandwiches.  It was nice to be relaxed before a race--i felt ready at 6:30, and we wouldn't be lining up until nearly nine.  I checked and re-checked my equipment, no mistakes this time!

We left at 7:25 and go to the race in 25 minutes or so.  We parked and were in the building before eight.  With an hour before the race, we had time for several bathroom trips, checking gear, stretching, warming up, getting and calming nerves, etc.  Getting to the race so early felt great and i will try to do it more often.

Loosening up pre-race

But nine approached, and the elites were called to line up.  We went to the line and self-sorted in expected finishing order.  Jesse, oz, PJ, Josh, scott, me, bob klinko, bob toews.  We got sent  through with nice long gaps between us, and in a moment, i was waved forward, jogged to the door, and hit play on my audio track.  

Right away i had problems holding onto my 10 second a floor pace.  The first few floors seemed to be taller than expected. But instead of letting myself fall behind, hoping to make it up later, i'd sprint to catch up. Hitting the floors right at the mark felt good, and my legs seemed to be holding up fine.  After surging forward to catch up, I'd climb a few floors at a more conservative pace before needing to pick up the pace again.  

Soon i hit 22, and jogged dowm the hallway.  I had allotted 10 seconds for the hall, but it probably took more in the range of 5 seconds, as i was halfway up the next staircase before i hit my next time mark.  Having the cushion was a nice psychological advantage though.  I decided i could slowly give that time back if any tall floors caused me to lose a second or two, though i'd only give those seconds back grudgingly. 

Soon, i saw someone a floor or so behind me, bob klinko.  He saw me and seemed to speed up.  I fought to keep from panicking and speeding up, to stick to my pace and run my own race.  Soon he was a few steps behind me, and i told him if he wanted to pass to just say so. he said i was fine, so i kept doing what i was doing.  

Soon i must have picked up the pace, or the floors got a bit shorter, because by the low 40's i had picked up a second or two. I decided to hang onto this second or two, because any time under my goal would be a victory, so all i had to do was maintain the extra 2-3 seconds i had.  

I kept this up until 51-52 when i decided i had the energy for a finishing sprint.  I picked up the pace, pulling hard on the handrails.  Bob, who had shadowed me for about 17 floors, dropped away.  I felt great, scooting to 55-56 very quickly, much faster than the rest of the race.  Suddenly, my legs started to feel a bit wobbly, and i backed off, not wanting to fall or collapse so short of the end.  I used my arms even more, dragging myself up the last 2-3 agonizing floors before stumbling across the timing mat, and lying on the ground a few feet past that. A few seconds after i crossed the mat, i heard my audio track announce 9:30, so i knew i'd come in well under my goal time; i estimated 9:25 or so.  Victory! 

Bob klinko popped through the door soon after me, and i knew he'd had a faster time than me.  Bob Towes passed though a minute or two later, and by then i felt good enough to sit up. Bob handed me my headband, which had apparently popped off near the top, my second race headband malfunction in the past week!  I felt bad that he'd taken time out of his own race to pick up my headband.  We took some team photos and headed down to look at our times. 

Taking a breather at the top

The first page of results!

Go team!

I had a quick coffee and wondered where mark block was.  I was to escort him up, but i thought i'd have time to recharge.  Mark has had two separate injuries that could have crippled him, yet participates in a great number of stair climbs all around the country.  But he has a hard time climbing, and i worried terribly he was going it alone, so i took off after him, back up the stairs.  I was pretty exhausted from my first climb, so i wasn't going a whole lot faster than many of the other climbers.  Almost halfway up, i found him and scott stanley, and i was glad to finally slow down.  I helped him when he got shaky, and kept people away from him but it was truly inspiring to see how hard he was working to climb the steps, how he was pushing past physical trauma to do something most healthy people wouldn't even consider.  

After that climb, i took a break, but mark went back up again with a different group.  Soon i heard that they were stuck in the stairs and i went to try to let them out. After much dashing about and grabbing a security person, i looked over the railing at 35 and saw hands on the rails down below. I jumped into the elevator with the guard and we shot to 25, opened the door and came face to face with the lost climbers.  Lucky guess!

Afterwards, Oz, Mark, Bob, Kelley and I went to karyn's cooked, one of my favorite vegan restaurants.  Everyone loved their food, and we had great conversation.  All in all a great day of racing.  


Preparation: a+. Was totally ready for the race

Race strategy : a- Could have gone a little faster earlier. Maybe. But i could have crashed too.

Effort : A- Could have started my final surge a little sooner too.

Overall grade: A.  Pretty well done race on my part, big confidence builder!

Still somewhat sore wednesday morning, so i guess i pushed it pretty hard!

Friday, November 8, 2013

willis tower 2013 recap

The day before Willis Tower, my girlfriend kelley was doing an ultramarathon, so i got up early to drive her to the event and support her.  I could do little other than see her at the turnarounds, but i ran with her a little after those, and jogged her in the last half mile or so.  It was fun to be outside, and inspiring to see people running 50 kilometers and 50 miles.  Kelley had a great race and persevered through some tough conditions. I was so proud of her and glad to be whatever help i could.  

The pre-willis race dinner was wonderful, there was a talent show, and i was blown away by what some people can do.  Alex is a great juggler and plate spinner, Napoleon is a great artist, Oz did some amazing paint work, and Leland is a tremendous rapper and musician.  Mark made me get up an do some yoga poses, and i was not at all ready for the situation and just did some half-hearted stuff, and felt a little embarrassed to be up in front of the audience. We went back to my place and talked until we realized we really should be in bed. 

The next morning i woke up pretty early, and started to go through my ritual.  I was really pleased to see i was 175.5 pounds.  I was 182 for the US bank climb only five weeks earlier, so my weight loss efforts had been super successful.  I also used the bathroom twice before the race, and estimate i hit the steps at 174.0, far and away the lowest weight i have ever hit the stairs at.  My physical condition was not what it had been in previous years, and i had peaked long ago, but i was optimistic that weight loss might help significantly. My cardio & strength were below last year’s levels, and i’d done very little stair training for the past few months, but perhaps the rest and ross training would do me good.  Here is a compact log of all my training from US bank to sears tower:

We got the the race, and i realized i didn’t have my headphones, so i couldn’t use my timing track, shit, shit, shit.  Then when i got inside the building, i realized i’d left my phone in the car.  Between getting my own packet and trying to find my friends who needed their packet because they were stuck in LA, i didn’t have time to get my phone, so i wasn’t going to have any sort of timer, nor a way to collect/check my heart rate data.  I was late lining up, so i jumped in at the end of the elite pack, and started to mentally prepare myself.  But suddenly i was being called to the front, as someone recognized me as a “fast” person, and a few seconds later, i was sent into the stairs.  No time to get nervous, my clock had started, and i needed to get to 103 as fast as possible! 

I set off at a moderate pace, something i thought i could maintain for the whole race.  I kept mentally checking in, reminding myself to use an efficient step pattern, to breathe deep, to use the handrails.  I’d get distracted by this or that, having to pass the first few people, thinking of where i was and how much was left, but then i’d check back in: breathe deep, step efficiently, use rails.  

My step pattern for much of willis is to single step with the inside foot, then do 4 doubles, which lets you take a short step onto the landing and put the inside foot directly onto the next bottom step, so you only ever put one foot on the landing.  Most fast climbers do all doubles, then double step the landings, so they do the same number of footfalls, but more of them are difficult taller steps.  Plus, with 10 steps, one leg is doing 3 steps and the other 2, so one leg will get tired before the other.  ALSO, mixing single and doubles uses the leg muscle fibers more efficiently.  I'm convinced my pattern is more efficient than most, so i tried to stick with it.  

Soon i saw two climbers i know, Harish and Doug.  They were both climbing on the outside, so there was no issue with passing.  We encouraged each other, but they were soon out of sight behind me.  I soon caught up with roxanne and her boyfriend will, two very strong climbers.  I am not sure if they picked up the pace because i was there, or if i was mentally ready to follow them for a bit, but i was behind them for 10-12 floors, perhaps from 45-55 or so.  They hit a little crowd and slowed down, so i took my chance on a long staircase to jump to the outside rail and pass them and the people blocking them.  Roxanne cheered encouragement to me as i pulled away.  

One very fast climber passed me, but i was alone in the stairs for awhile, until i caught Steve Stermer at about 70.  He saw me and stepped aside giving me encouragement and a slap on the back, which i needed as this was the point where i was starting to “feel it”.  I remembered my pre-race mantra, “quit on the next floor, not now” and i dug in and tried to maintain a pace maybe only a few percent slower than i started the race with.  I figured i mist be doing OK, because roxanne and steve both usually finish faster than me, but i’d passed both of them, Soon i hit the place where the staircase changed to the shorter floors and tried to pick up my pace, but i was starting to get sloppy, not using the handrails as efficiently as i could, double stepping the landings, forgetting my efficient climbing techniques.  

A fellow had been following me for a few floors, but didn’t seem to want to pass me, but i worried maybe he didn’t know how to pass and i was getting in his way, so i stepped aside, and then tucked in behind him.  I wasn’t sure his pace was what i wanted, or if he might slow me down, but with him in front, i could just keep behind and focus on my basics.  But i think he was going faster than i might have, so i think he did save me time, 

Soon we were at 100, and i wanted to sprint the last three floors, but didn’t know if i had the energy to get past the guy, so i called out “three to go, push it, man, go for it!” and he did pick up the pace.  Not to a sprint, but keeping up with him was all i think i could do.  Soon we passed 102, and slogged up to 103.  I felt elated seeing the door, but on that last flight of stairs, it seemed like my body shut down a bit.  I saw kelley as a stepped through the door, then a wave of nausea hit me. I stumbled away, i looking for a place to fall to the floor.  I didn’t get far before going to the ground, and rolling over onto my back.  It was a few minutes until the sick feeling was gone, and i remained sitting for several more minutes before getting up.  

We spent quite a bit of time up top talking to people, kelley taking pictures, having a good time.  Lots people asked me my time, and i replied i didn’t know, but suspected lower 19’s or upper 18’s.  When i got downstairs i saw my time was 19:08 which i was not ecstatic with, but nonetheless pleased to see.  I had come in less fit than last year, and had made a stupid mistake in not bringing my timing track or watch, i had come to the line not warmed up, i had let my form in the stairs degrade too often, but had still set a 13 second PR.  I credit all of that to coming in 10 pounds lighter than last year, and 7-8 pounds lighter than only a few weeks ago.  

After the race, Michael Karlin, Alex Workman, Kelly Rice, and i went to fermilab, and had a really interesting and educational tour of the facilities.  It was a great way to finish the day.  

So my self-given grades:

Fitness : B- 
I recovered from my overtraining incident, but put out fewer watts than last year 

Preparation: D
Showing up to the race without my timing track or heart rate monitor was ridiculous

Effort: A-
After the fact, i though i could have pushed harder, but i did look pretty bad at the end

Strategy : B+
I think i managed my effort, passing, etc, pretty well considering.

Weight management: A+
I've never managed to drop weight so fast, and didn't seem to hurt my training doing so.

Overall: B
Generally, i'm pleased with my result, but i did a lot of offseason work to only be 13 seconds faster than the previous year.  Had i done everything right, i think i could have been low 17's.  Have to wait until next year!!

Since last year i had success, once my base was built, of building my high intensity cardio in a few weeks, i will edge my weight down slowly to 168 ( still 174 this morning ) by jan 1, while working on my long duration cardio and general strength.  I’ll be running a smaller calorie deficit, so i’ll be able to work a little harder than i have been, and hopefully put on some muscle mass. Once i'm a month out from my next BIG race, i'll begin my interval training in earnest.