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: http://bit.ly/1iKoTpT
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
Showing up to the race without my timing track or heart rate monitor was ridiculous
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.
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.