Monday, December 30, 2013

Base building

It's been awhile since my last post, with my races over for awhile, it was nice to take a little break!

I've been doing some reading and thinking about my training and my goals for my upcoming races.  Reading about peaking, it seems clear that i can't be where i want to be for a whole season right now. There is just no way to do it. People peak for a specific event.

However, there are people who could show up to any event i do and blow my socks off, and some of them don't have any more genetic potential than i do. How do they do it?

Because they have such a good aerobic base.  What is an aerobic base?  It's something you build by steady, easy work, climbing, running, biking, etc, in zone 2, working at a place where your body can maintain that workload for many hours.  Spending a lot of time here causes your body to grow more blood vessels, to produce more mitchondria and enzymes to create energy and break down fat.

These changes in your body increase the level at which your body can work aerobically.  Without going into a lot of technical definitions, when you are doing aerobic work, your body is not going into deficit: it is not consuming energy faster than it can be freed from stores ( the liver, stored glycogen, fat ).  It is not consuming oxygen faster than your lungs can absorb it and your heart can deliver it. You are also not creating waste products ( lactic acid, carbon dioxide ) faster than your body can process and remove it.

The opposite of this is anerobic work, where you exceed one or more of these factors.  You are working so hard your body cannot free stored energy, absorb oxygen, and remove waste.  So, obviously, you can only work at this level for a short period of time.  But you can go very fast.

To illustrate, imagine a stair race that is only 20 floors, vs sears tower, vs a power hour.  Even if the 20 floors in the 20 floor race are pretty tall, i should be done in about 2:30 minutes, for about 7 seconds a floor.  I'd be hurting right from the start, and ready to collapse at the end..

My time for sears tower is right about 19 minutes, for 103 floors.  So about 11 seconds a floor.  Considerably slower than the 20 floor building, but after 20 floors of sears tower, i feel basically fine.  Even at 60, i feel better than the end of the 20 floor race, though i've done much more work.  That is because i've not exceeded, at least not by much, my aerobic capacity.

Then there is the power hour.  31 floors, as many times as i can in an hour.  I managed 9 climbs in 54 minutes, so my rate of ascent was 11.6 floors a second.  Not much slower than sears tower, though there was 5+ minutes of rest in there as i rode down the elevator, though some of that was running.

You can build your anerobic capacity, but it's very hard, and you generally cannot maintain it: you need to do brutal workouts at intensities that use your body up and expose you to maladies and illness. But you can do it very fast.  Building your aerobic capacity is the opposite: months or years of long, boring workouts, where you stimulate your body a little and let it recover before the next workout.  But your reward is that you can, on most any day, have a solid result in any race other than a sprint,, simply because you will be able to work under your aerobic threshold. Also, since you are not breaking down your body with an anerobic effort, you can do it again next week, or even a day or two later. Contrast that with my race season where i found myself unable to perform well after a few weekends or races, or at the end of the season.

So, that being said, i'm going to focus on my aerobic work, maybe trying for a mini peak for stratosphere/hancock.  But i'm looking at the long term, both in performance and health.  Lots of varied easy workouts with lots of attention on recover.  Instead of obsessing on the Aon race, i'mm be building slowly and steadily, maybe for years to come, seeing where it can take me!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Inspired by a record -- my stair climbing journey

A few weeks ago, i verified a world record for guinness!  It was a stair climbing record, predictably enough.  The specific record was for climbing the most vertical feet in 12 hours.  The event was amazing and seeing Justin churn away for 12 hours was really inspiring. The old record was 33,000 feet and Justin eclipsed 38,000 feet, crushing the old record.  Seeing what a dedicated and elite athlete could accomplish is something that will stick with me for a long time.  Seeing what Justin could do is helping me to focus more on my own fitness and diet.

What is interesting is that not that long ago, almost 2 years ago exactly, i was considering quitting stair climbing.  I was doing 3 races a year, and they were expensive, not fun, and i wasn't getting any better at them.  I'd climbed sears tower 3 times, and was stuck in the 21+ minute range.  My times at hancock and Aon had both slipped.  My weight wasn't changing.  I saw the elites on facebook, but

Now, i'm top 40 in the US, #126 in the world, have raced all over the US, am vice-president in charge of statistics and scoring for the US tower racing association, and many of my best friends are people i've met through stair racing.

How did this happen?

Mostly, because i took a chance.  The empire state run up was the granddaddy of races, the most competitive in the world, the unofficial world championship.  I applied for it, knowing it was a lottery and my odds were slim at getting in.

But i _did_ get in.  Lottery, but going was going.  Now i had to fly to new york for the race.  I was going to put real time and money into this.  I'd better do some research..  I'd better focus more in training... I'd better watch my diet!

So i started networking.  I met cody at sears tower because he was wearing a gopro, tracked him down on facebook, and he added me to a stair climbing group. I mostly watched and listened, and got some good training advice.

At empire, i saw a few of the elite climbers i knew from facebook, but didn't introduce myself before the race.  I was happy with my time at empire, and met Madeleine after the race.  I signed up for oakbrook and springfield.  I wore my empire shirt to oakbrook, and that broke the ice with a number of the elite climbers i'd seen on facebook--Karen, Roxanne, Oz, Jesse, Eric, Justin, Cindy. It was an amazing experience, especially when Jesse, Eric, and Justin invited me for a fun climb.

Down in springfield, Oz's wife, Kristie, invited me to a after-race party at their house.  What an opportunity!  It was there i met Kristin and Brady, not knowing not much more than a year later, we'd be traveling to the pacific northwest together!

Later that year, i started following the world ranking system, and decided it didn't work for the US all that well.  I wrote some programs to create a US only scoring system, pretty much on a lark, and stated posting results.  Before i knew it, people cared a lot about it, and were contacting me for their places.  I got involved with PJ and got myself appointed VP in charge of statistics and scoring for the US tower racing association.  That is what made me eligible, and the main option, to verify the record for guinness.

It's been a great journey, and has improved my life greatly, and wouldn't give it up for anything. If i've learned one thing it's that choosing to just do something well pays dividends, almost no matter what it is.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Time off, but never enough

Well, the thanksgiving holidays are over, and i feel recuperated from my burnout which is great.

However, it's l;ready december, and i have a race in mid-january already!  6 weeks, basically, until i have a stiarcase in front of me and a clock ticking.  I don't know what it's realistic for me to accomplish in that time, so i'm just going to focus on my long-term goals.  I'd much rather make steady improvements to my overall fitness as opposed to quickly peaking for a race, the mistake i made before.

So, with that in mind, i'm going to consciously not peak for the two upcoming races, but focus on overall improvement in these areas:

Weight: always a concern, my weight was nice and low for sears, but has climbed more than i would have thought possible.  In the long run, ever pound i can scrub off is a huge benefit.  I can't let the fact i seemingly put on 4 pound in 3 weeks where i was eating carefully concern me.

Strength: i definitely needed more overall strength.  I was "saving" myself for my constant interval workouts, which was dumb.  I'll do more strength-building workouts, long workouts on real stairs, sculpt yoga, and even some gym leg and rowing workouts.

Cardio base: long runs, tempo runs, workouts in the cold.  A great way to help with goal #1, reducing weight.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Milwaukee misadventure.

Coming off a great CF climb, my expectations for the milwaukee climb were not as high.  I would not have gone--i didn't entirely feel up to it--but three other racers were carpoooling from chicago, and i didn't want to miss the opportunity to hang with them.

It was an evenign climb, so i went to work, did my day, then headed to the north side of chicago.  We hung out at jesse's house for awhile, before piling into his van and heading up to chicago.

I don't know what i messed up, but i did not show up to the race feeling well.  Perhaps i had hydrated incorrectly, or messed up my diet, not slept well, or i was just tired from races/training.  Probably all these were factors.  But at the race, i felt tired, sore, and a little feverish.  We got there pretty early, so i had time to warm up/hydrate, etc. Nothing seemed to work, so when i lined up, i did my best to pump myself up, but my body didn't feel ready.

I slid back in the line until i felt i was in a decent spot.  The people behind me ha done sears tower a bit slower, but i felt less confident about this race.  Soon we were going, it was my turn after a few minutes, and i was sent up!

Not being sure about the layout, i pushed at a decent pace.  I had a timing track that aimed to get me to the top in the low sixes.  We started 4 floors below the street, and i got to ground floor in good time, and to the 5th floor in time as well, but my legs were hurting.  I didn't seem to have recovered from 300N.

I backed off a bit to what i thought i could maintain.  That meant every 5 or so floors i fell a floor behind where i wanted to be.  I began to worry that someone from behind was going to catch me, even with the big timing gaps we had been given.  That pushed me a little, which stopped me from sliding any more.  Somehow, at one point, i thought i only had 10 floors left, and felt good, so i picked up the pace, then realized, after i felt kinda burned out, i had 20 floors left when i'd made my mistake, so i had to back off even more.

But soon i was on 37, and i sprinted up the last 5.  I sat down and felt crappy, physically, about my race, about how i'd prepared that day.  Sure, it was my first time in that building, and i had a bunch of fairly valid excuses, but i still could have done a lot better.

Downstairs, i saw my time was 7:32, nothing at all special.  My teammates had gone 1-2-3 and i felt kinda bad i hadn't been able to complete the carpool sweep. There wasn't much food at the buffet for me, so i had 2 beers, and felt even crappier later.  

In the end, i think my big lesson from this race is my overall base fitness needs to be higher, and when i have races close like this, i need to work more on recovery between.  I probably did part of the damage with 2 long runs the week before 300N even though i did fine in that race.  I also didn't eat right after those as well.

Details matter, and recovery is a big detail!

I am glad i have no more races until mid-january!  In the meantime, i'm going to train hard and eat well in hopes of a good race season!