Thursday, March 13, 2014

Profound Presidential Perplexity, Potential problem, Possible Performance Provocation!

I went into presidential towers feeling pretty good.  I’d had an excellent race at stratosphere, and a few fun days hiking after, and i’d taken a few days off to rest up for the race, though i was doing yoga every day.  

I’d been practicing at presidential, so i had experience in the towers, and thought i had worked out a pretty efficient climbing technique: single step the first step going away from the door with the inside foot, single step onto the “far” landing with the outside foot, move the inside foot directly from the step of the previous staircase two steps up. This leaves you single stepping onto the “floor” landing, so you can single step that long one too.  I think the rails are good for balance and tight turns, but i don’t use them much for climbing because it’s such a short climb, it's more useful to get them to work the turns and save the legs for the vertical.  

I’d done a 4:27 climb a few days previously when i was pretty tired / sore. I knew i could do better if i was fresh, maybe 4:10 or so, but I still didn’t think it was realistic to do 4:27 four times; But i thought if i had a good day, i could bang out 4 4:40’s.  That would mean spending 18:40 climbing.  My plan was also to run between towers very fast, hopefully using well less than a minute in transit.  I thought if i lost a few seconds climbing at the end, but shaved off a few seconds on the run, i could get 19:40 total, which i would be very happy with. To allow myself to recove from for the fast runs, i planned to take the first few floors slow, even on the first tower.  Pacing, pacing, pacing.  

That morning i felt physically fine, but mentally out of it.  At the start line, i was just sort of “blah, let’s get this over with.”  I still hit my timing track and stuck to it.  I did warm up slowly, which is nice. On the downside, 2 people went very fast out of the gate and passed me. Stepping aside cost me seconds, and more frustratingly, i had to re-pass them later, and one of them didn't get out of my way, and i just tailed him up the last 3-4 floors, so i missed my goal of 4:40 by 3-4 seconds, even on the first tower.  

And afterward, i felt awful! Not sure what was going on, but i felt badly overheated and my heart was racing.  I wanted to stick to 5 minute rests, but i sat by the line for the next tower, which i think was closer to the door this year, and i sat for an extra minute or two while my heart slowed down.  I saw some climbers coming and went off before they would block me in the steps.  

Again, about 10-15 floors in i was feeling miserable, and 2-3 climbers passed me, some of the same people i'd been passed by and had to re-pass in the first building, forcing me to step aside for several long seconds.  Thinking i’d have to pass them again, and feeling shitty, i turned off my climbing track and just climbed.  15 floors left, wanting to get it over with, i just jogged up the last 15. I didn’t re-pass them, and as they weren’t climbers i recognized as elite, i figured my time had been pretty slow.  

Although i kept sprinting between towers, i didn’t use my pacing track anymore.  I just climbed the first ½ to ⅔ at what seemed like a pretty slow pace, then jogged up the last part of the tower.  On the last tower, wanting to get it over with as soon as possible, i probably jogged up the last 20.  

At the finish, I didn’t want to see the times, but scott handed me my timing receipt, which said 8 hours and 22 minutes.  I laughed, thinking they hadn’t successfully timed me, which was fine.  I expected the 8 hours was spurious and 22 minutes & change was correct. Scott’s time was 8 hours and 20 minutes, which made sense if the 8 hours was spurious, as even if he’d had a bad race, i’d expect him to be in the low 20’s and maybe upper 18’s if he’d had a banner day.  

When the results came out, i saw they only had me listed for 3 towers. I e-mailed them to say i had done all 4, and asked if they could look into it.  When the next batch of results came out, i was stunned.  My time was 19:13 putting me in 9th place overall, blowing my “stretch” goal of 19:40 out of the water.  

tower 1
Run+tower 2
run+tower 3

My immediate reaction was that this was a timing mistake.  The people that passed me on #2 made me think my time had been in the high 5's as they had started after me and i had not re-passed them.  I wasn’t sure, though. Could they have stepped way off on the floor landing, and i’d not noticed them?  In a water station? My last 2 climbs had felt slow to me as well, i would have bet they were in the six minute range; is there any way they could have been the times listed? Did i PR on the last climb, exhausted, with a 5-7 second run up?  Had my “climb the first ½ slow, then sprint" technique worked out?

My time for the first 3 towers was in line with what i was hoping for, pre-race, even a bit slower.  I did pick up the pace with 20 floors left in #4 , but even if i had blitzed the run at 7 seconds, 4:17 pure climb would be a PR for me, a lot faster than i did the first tower.  #1 matched my self-timing, #2 and #3 made sense, had i been feeling good.  Was #4 a timing error?  

I wasn’t sure what to think, and i e-mailed the race people, but they told me my times were accurate.  I posted to the climbing group on facebook, saying i was very skeptical of my time and asking if they were other timing problems.  Most people assured me they thought my times were accurate and i had probably just killed the climb.  A few people seemed to be po’d at me, because of my “gift” time, clearly sure i wasn’t possible of putting that time down.  Sort of a lose-lose situation for me, i don’t think it’s too likely i actually got that time, so i don’t feel happy, a bunch of people are probably now expecting too much from me, and a few people seem mad at me over my gift finish.  If i did get the benefit of an error, it was tower #4, but i expect my real tim there would have been a hair faster than #2, so my total time would have still been <20 minutes, which was my goal, and far better than i would have expected at race end. Perhaps my chip was malfunctioning, and the times were all wrong, or perhaps i was given the wrong chip, but my climb #1 time seemed right.

So, the question is, what do i do with this?  I initially discounted the result, didn’t give myself any US points for the race, and had e-mails written to the timing company and the world cup telling them to strike me from the results.  More so than the positive responses i got from people, the few negative responses make me want to dig in my heels and count this result.  
In my mind, i think there’s a 50% chance i had my best race ever, 50% timing error, perhaps getting some gift seconds on that last climb. It seems unlikely there could have been consistent errors across my 3 last climbs, though i’m not sure what to make of several people passing me on #2.  Is that proof my time was far from my official results, or did i re pass them without noticing? DID i get the chip of someone who went 19:13 and had the same first tower climb as me??

In any case, i’m going to let this result stand, although i don’t feel entirely right about it.  To make myself feel deserving, i’m going to work super hard all summer to make sure my results next year correlate to this result, which means sizable PR’s in all my events.  I want people ( and me! ) to look back at this result and say “Of course!” instead of “Yeah, right...” 

I’ve been really focused since the race, eating super healthy, doing little things… Actually starting to use my foam roller, going super deep in my yoga poses, running laps of my work steps mid-day…  Next year at presidential, i’ll be faster than 19:13, i’ll time myself, and no one will be surprised or doubtful.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Scale the strat 2014

After my fantastic race in Oakbrook, i had races the following three weeks, a trail run, springfield, and scale the strat.  This article is about scale the strat, but i’d be remiss to not write a paragraph about these other races:

* The trail run was 5 miles in the deep, messy, treacherous snow.  It was pretty cold that day too, and i felt entirely unprepared for the event. There seems to be some technique for running in the snow i don’t know.  I didn’t really have the right gear, and barely finished in the top ⅓. The next day, my legs were so sore, i had to grab them with my hands to lift them into bed.  I took the week pretty easy to get ready for springfield, though my legs did seem to knit fast, and i was able to do some easy cardio.  I also didn’t eat before the race, ate just beer and M&M’s after, didn’t have a real meal for a long time, and was freezing cold for a long time.  I think this is why & where i picked up a cold. Not smart in several ways.

* The morning of the springfield power hour, i woke up feeling headachey and stiff.  My plan was to do 4:30 laps, and and i started out doing that, but even at that pace, i was falling behind my goal of getting in 11 climbs, as the elevator rides were slower than anticipated.  But i started to feel pretty bad ½ way though, and reduced my pace, though i was still easily on pace for 10 laps.  I kept barely missing elevators down and cursing my bad timing.  For the last 20 minutes of the race, the hotel took away one of our elevators so i had to wait 3 then 5 minutes to get downstairs, which resulted in my missing starting my 10th lap by less than a minute.  I was very disappointed and quite frustrated.  I worked so hard to have a good result despite feeling sick, and bad luck then hotel interference with the elevators had cost me even that, even worse, by under a minute.

So, i was going into this race with my confidence levels so-so.  With my goal being 10 minutes, i more or less had to climb 140 steps a minute for 10 minutes, which i found tough even on the stairmaster.  On the other hand, my “fast” climb at oakbrook, #5, mid power hour, was 4:40, which translates to 137 steps a minute, and those steps are taller than strat’s.  It was hard to know if i could keep that pace up, fresh, but for more than double the time, but i at least had some reason to think i could. Also, after the presidential towers boot camp, i did a 4:27 climb of that tower, where my race PR was 4:42, but it was post boot camp, 95%, etc.  It was a good PR, but again it was hard to know what that meant for strat. I also felt quite sore from springfield and the boot camp late into the week, and thought it might affect my strat climb.

So i was into strat with a bit of bad taste in my mouth, as well as so-so confidence, but was determined to at least have a good experience.  I felt i had suffered a bit by going along with other people’s schedules and plans pre-race, so i decided i was going to stick to my own patterns for pre and post race activities.  I packed enough food so if i wasn’t able to find suitable nutrition, i could at least fuel for and recover from strat.  I also made sure i had my reusable water bottle, so i’d have no excuse to show up at the line dehydrated yet again.

Walking through the airport towards my flight, suddenly my left hamstring started to hurt, and badly!  I sat next to one of the other climbers who was going to be travelling with me, and did my best to stretch it before and during the flight. After we landed, Syd picked us up from the airport and ferried us to the strat.  I love walking up to that building and thinking i’m going to be climbing the stairs! I missed the opening party and photos, as well as packet pickup, and determined i’m going to arrive on friday next year and just pay for an extra night.

We all went to roxy’s for dinner, and the black bean burger looked good, so i had that.  I even let myself have some fries, which i rarely do.  After dinner, I went upstairs quickly to my room so i could drink lots of water and sleep early.  I knew cody was going to be arriving late, possibly only hours before the race, but while he could likely do well on little sleep, i didn’t think i could.

I was woken a few times by screaming drunk people in the hall, but managed to get a halfway decent night of sleep, but was up at 4:30 after only about 5.5 hours.  Still, i reminded myself cody would soon be arriving with no rest.  He soon did turn up, chugging red bull, which reminded me to go get my standard pre-race starbucks soy mocha.  In my room, i drank the mocha and had a cliff buzz bar.  

I went downstairs to sign my race release, and meet people.  With ½ hour to go, i made the final choice to not try to sneak headphones into the race for pacing, and went to my room to write splits on my arm.  The splits would be one a minute, to alert me if i was going too fast or too slow.  My insides twisted, i laid in bed and tried to zone out. I had planned on warming up, but thought i needed a little calm. My goal was 10 minutes flat, and i just had to have the confidence i could do it.

Ready to rock & roll!

I got back down as we were lining up.  I got behind cody, as he’s beaten me in the last few races, and in front of michael doherty, as i’d finished sears tower slightly faster than him.  With a 30 second gap between each of us, odds are we’d see no one in the stairs, and passing wouldn’t be necessary.  

At the start line, the director asked my name, and when i told him david, he knew my last name as well.  Nice touch!  I could watch the clock counting down to my time to start, which i liked, as i had time to get prepared.  I stepped forward, hit my watch, and started to climb, going steady.

The first split, i hit a few seconds early, so i slowed down a bit.  In that second minute, my legs began to feel stiff, and i regretted not warming up.  But no time for that.  I hit the 2 minute split a little behind, but the marking was not quite what i was expecting, so i wasn’t sure if i was really off pace or not.

By the three minute mark, i was for sure behind, maybe 15 seconds or so.  Also, Michael Doherty was fast catching up to me. I looked back and asked if he wanted to pass, but he didn’t get any closer or say anything, so i kept my pace.  Pushed by him and the fact, i was behind my pace, i picked it up a bit.

At 4 i was maybe 20 seconds behind, but felt too bad to pick up the pace for 6 more minutes.  I was legitimately feeling pretty bad, and had half accepted having another crappy race at strat.  Michael was out of sight, so i didn’t have him to push me anymore. I even single stepped for 10 steps in a row, thinking there was no one to see me taking a break, then realized that was, at least in a way, giving up.  I mentally slapped myself, and made myself go back to double stepping.

By 5, i was about 25 seconds behind, and knew the race was in the balance.  I could go at the same pace and have another terrible race at strat, and most of me wanted to do that.  I knew no one was going to judge me. But i decided to just go a little faster until 6 minutes.  If i had to slow up then, i could, but i could go faster until 6, so i put my head down and picked up the pace.

At 6 minutes, i was just under 20 seconds off, so i had made up 5 seconds.  Super happy, i decided i could survive another minute and even go a little faster, so i picked it up a little more.  At 7 i was ecstatic to see i was only 10 seconds off pace, and i was actually feeling alright, and was also happy to think i had only 3 minutes left.  I decided i had one more burst in me, and held onto the same pace, and as if by a miracle, i hit 8 minutes exactly where i wanted to… I was back on pace for a 10 minute climb! I'd hit an 8:20 pace ( 166 steps a minute, faster than the stairmaster will go! ) from minutes 6-8, after i was already feeling tired and awful, and it had not only not killed me, but i felt good and was back in the race.

However, i was tired and didn't think i could keep it up.  I backed off the pace a bit to what i thought was exactly on goal, about 70/140 steps a minute.  I reminded myself, 2 minutes.  2 more one minute periods at this pace.  I knew i could do that. One of the volunteers at 750 feet told me i was close, and i knew i was as well.  

At 9 minutes the pod started and there was a little horizontal movement to be done, and potential mistakes to be made.  I moved carefully and quickly, and began hoofing up the shorter flights. I could hear someone ahead, and by 103 there was a gawky kid i didn’t recognize in front of me.  He must have started way in front of me, but he didn’t look like he was going to move to let me pass.  I was losing precious seconds deciding if i should try to pass him.  I was so close to 10:00, i kept glancing at my watch.  With 3 floors left to go, i said “three left, run, man, run! Sprint, go!” and he did, if fact, take off.  If he hadn’t , i would have dived inside of him and sprinted myself.  I sprinted after him, and while he didn’t go quite as fast as i would have, i saw 10:00 appear on my watch as i crossed the line.  I was utterly spent!

Eyes on the finishing mat!

I walked into the pod and laid on the floor next to cody, and we took a few minutes to catch our breaths.  Walking around and talking to people, it seemed most people were pretty satisfied with their times.  George Heimann had flown in from germany, and put down an amazing 7:20, apparently easily winning.  Alex had won for the american men, going sub 8 for an incredible time!  Erica for the american women, and women overall.  Both were #1 in points too, so the US cup had all worked out.  

I felt really wiped out after this race.  Going in not feeling well, the extreme effort, as well as my nerves, had drained me quite a lot!  I had a few glasses of orange juice, then a few of us went to the buffet, and i had two heaping plates of vegetables, and a little ( not much ) cheat food.  My post-race eating was much improved, and hopefully would help me do well at presidential, just a few days away!

I went to the mixer at randy’s house after, then to IHOP with some of my friends to eat, but after that, my body was shutting down. i was sneezing, coughing, and congested. With hiking planned the next two days, i wanted to recover, so i passed on the opportunity to party until late at night with my friends in vegas, and went to bed around 9:00.  Wild and crazy times!

We left for hiking the next morning, and two days of hiking was just what the dr ordered.  I also got a lot of healthy food, including one salad bar a day, several pieces of fruit a day, though i did eat too much trail mix.  Back from the trip, i feel tired, but well.

Overall, i am very happy with how this race went.  I was not feeling at all confident, and even a bit sore and sick, but still came away with a very good time and a solid PR.  I took much better control of my state, pre and post race.  This is the national championship, and I ended up finishing 25th overall, 23rd male, 20th american male, for a nice haul of world and US cup points. My burst from 6-8 minutes makes me think that with more endurance work, i could be a lot faster than i am right now.

Here are some quickie letter grades:

Conditioning: B+ : i finally feel my training is back on track, and i will be going into the summer with a solid base and plan on how to really improve next season

Physical state: C- : I started with some nagging pains, and the tail end of a cold.  It was in my control to show up without any of this via better eating, sleep and physical care. 

Planning / execution: A- : took control of diet and hydration, had a solid split plan.  My one major oversight was not warming up.  If i’d felt loose the first ½ of the race, instead of hitting halfway 25 seconds behind, my 10:00 goal would have been much easier.  Next year i will arrive friday so i can get checked in, bib pinned to shirt, etc, and have nothing to do race morning other than get loose and line up.  

Effort: A.  I had a few brief flashes of “back off” during the race, but reminded myself why i was there, and renewed my high intensity, even, for 3 minutes, going significantly faster than the 140 steps a minute pace i'd been worried about being able to hit.

Overall: B+ My training was pretty good, but far from perfect, and i came in a little sick and hurt. I also neglected to warm up. But like oakbrook, i came in with a solid plan, executed, and pushed hard for a good results. Definitely a race to build on!


* Before major races like this, make sure nutrition and sleep is perfect so i don’t show up feeling ill.  That trail race hurt me due to my own neglect of my physical state, poor eating afterwards, as well as running in the snow with zero snow running practice.

* It seems clear i start races very slow.  I did a huge negative split at strat, and at oakbrook did a very fast climb mid power hour.  I need to allocate time to warm up for races, as well as practice my max efforts warmed up so i’m used to this was well.

* if i’m going to be staying at strat before the race, bring earplugs so i can ignore the drunk idiots in the hall and get 8 hours of sleep.  

To sum up, i’m quite happy with this result, and already consider this race season a big success.  I’m glad i have only two more races left, and would be happy with nothing other than a tiny PR in each.  I’ve learned a lot, and am eager to apply it to a summer of training and trail running, aiming for a big PR at sears tower nov 2!  

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Protein.... What, me worry?

The thing people ask me the most, as a vegan and an athlete, is where i get my protein. Actually, often they are informing me i must be deficient, but let’s put that aside for now.

Admittedly, this used to be a huge concern for me. I used to consume tons of protein powder, eat lots of eggs, cheese, vegetarian faux meat, etc. It was a huge worry for me, and i carried my little blender bottle and tupperwares full of food everywhere.

But as i cleaned up my diet and ate healthier and did more reading about health, nutrition, and protein, i got to the point where i don’t worry about protein. At all. I’m so glad; it makes my life so much simpler. How can i not care about protein? Here’s why:

Our national obsession with protein is fostered by the meat, egg and dairy industries. Athletes have an even greater obsession with protein, and that is fostered by the supplement industry. Supplement manufacturers want to sell you something, but if you think you can get plenty of protein from oatmeal and bananas, you aren’t going to want to spend ½ your paycheck on protein bars and powders. So they do studies and research trying to show you can pack on more muscle if you consume massive amounts of protein.

But here’s the thing. These studies often don’t show what they claim to. They typically look at some marker of muscle growth, and show it’s higher when someone ate a whey shake after a workout as opposed to nothing. They aren’t comparing it to a regular meal, or a post workout snack, and they’re not looking at actual long-term muscle growth. Furthermore, they’re not addressing the needs of people not looking to pack on tons of muscle quickly, which, frankly, few people not on steroids can do anyways.

Let’s suppose you’re working super hard and are managing to pack on 1 pound of muscle a week. This is borderline miraculous for a non-beginner who is not injecting extra testosterone, but, ok, let’s assume it. A pound of muscle is 72% water and has about 100 grams of protein( ) . So over the course of a week, that’s 14.25g of protein per day. Here’s some foods that have 14.25 g of protein:

* less than one cup of cooked lentils
* one bunch of broccoli
* 2 slices of sprouted grain bread and a smear of almond butter

That’s it. That’s all you would need to add to your diet, protein-wise, if you’re trying to add a pound of muscle per week. Suppose you’re putting on a superhuman 3 pounds of muscle per week, which you won’t be? 32.75 grams of extra protein would be needed. Three extra almond butter sandwiches. Or one sandwich and a nice bowl of lentil soup.

So, what about our baseline protein needs? What does the actual research show? The world health organization and FDA have done a lot of research on this. The WHO’s old number is .66 grams of protein per kilogram of lean body weight. They later revised this to .88 g/kg ( ). The latter figure is meant to cover 97.5% of the population, people who are sick, injured, or have special conditions or situations that require more protein.

The United States RDA for protein is .8 g/KG, and again, this is a high number meant to account for those who are exercising a lot, have injuries, have special conditions, or are eating unbalanced amino acid profiles.

So, ok, maybe i’m a super athlete who needs more protein than most people. I work my ass off. Even though i’d be lucky to put a pound of muscle on per month, let’s say i need 1 g per kg of lean body mass. I’m 175 and have 14% bodyfat, so my lean body mass is 150lbs. Convert to kilograms and i’m 68.4 kg LBM. So being very active, and aiming high, i need less than 70 grams of protein.

Now, i eat pretty clean, largely unprocessed, and try to avoid oils and refined foods in general. 1tbsp of oil has 120 calories and no protein. ¼ cup of sugar has 180 calories and no protein. If you replace those with whole foods, you will be getting some protein along with that along with a lot more volume and other nutrients. Let’s look at a typical day of clean eating + light workout for me:

So with no special attempt to consume protein, i’ve exceeded how much i need to eat by almost 50 grams. Enough, based on our earlier math, to put on about 3.5 pounds of muscle a week. Without trying to eat any specific protein source. This is also while having a 400+ calorie deficit, because i’m aiming for a little weight loss.

This is also a lot of food.. It’s honestly hard for me to eat all that. Part of that is the 109g of fiber i put down. What kind of a problem is that in today’s world, to have a hard time getting to maintenance calories. If i am losing weight when i don’t want to, i can have a little dark chocolate, boo hoo.

So, in short, you’re much better off simply forgetting about protein and eating lots of healthy, unprocessed, nutrient dense food. Unless something very weird is happening, you will get plenty of protein, and you’ll be much better off getting all the OTHER things you’re getting in your unprocessed plant foods aside from just protein. After awhile, those protein shakes start to look like excess protein tundra, devoid of nutrients.

So how does this looks for me on an ongoing basis? I don’t really try to hold myself to any specific macronutrient ratios, but i try to keep fat down, as it’s easy to get a lot of calories with little nutrition or volume. What fats i do eat are super high quality.

If i’m eating at maintenance calories ( for me, 2500 ) i try to keep my protein and fat no lower than 10%, though i think those are good targets for each. That means my carbohydrates can be 80% of my calories, which i’m also fine with. In reality, my protein and fats are often higher, and sometimes my macro nutrient ratios are more like 60/20/20 though i try not to go higher in fat and protein than 20%.

So, if i’m eating my 2500 calories per day ( not exercising ) here are my ratios under 80/10/10:

           calories grams:
carbs    2000    500
protein 250      62.5
fat       250      27.77

Note that that the protein is almost exactly in line with what the research recommends my needs are. And it’s tricky to get my protein that low unless i’m eating tons of processed food, or all fruit. Since 10% protein is fine, any food that has 10% or more is fine, and you can have some that is lower if you are eating some that is higher. Your intake of greens and broccoli ( 35% ) is more than balancing out that grapefruit ( 5% ). Even if you think you need much more than 10%, there is no reason to have to look beyond health-building plant foods:

If i work out a lot, my calorie needs increase, and my protein goes up, just because i am eating more. If i burn & eat 1000 extra calories, i'll be getting at least 100 extra calories of protein, or 25g, which would be enough to support 1.6 pounds of muscle gain per week.

If i’m trying to cut calories, i do it by lowering my carb intake, and don’t lower my fat and protein. So, let’s say i’m trying to drop a pound a week. That means a 500 calorie deficit per day. I also do 800 calories of exercise for the day, so my BMR + exercise gives me a 3300 calorie budget. My non-diet macros would look like this:

            calories grams
carbs       2640    660
protein     330     82.5
fat           330     36.66

I’d aim to get my 500 calorie deficit by cutting out 125 grams of carbohydrate. That still leaves 535g of carbs, and my full compliment of protein and fat. And, as i said, often my macros creep towards 60/20/20, so my protein and fat could be double this, though i don’t want to get my carbs too low if i am expecting to get a good intense workout in.

So that’s it. I don’t worry about protein, which lets me focus on getting in vitamin-rich, nutrient-dense, high-energy food which will lower my odds of getting cancer or heart disease. And the food tastes great, and i get to eat a lot more of it.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

oakbrook 2014

Oakbrook 2014 was going to be my first power hour of the year, and my longest race in quite awhile.  In a power hour, you get one hour to climb the steps of a building as many times as you can. You are ranked by how many times you ascend the steps, and ties are broken by how much time you use to climb, faster climbs equalling better placing.  

I hadn’t had a race i’d felt genuinely good about in a long time, so i was sort of torn. I’d actually been slower at a few races, so maybe just shooting for as many climbs as last year would be the right thing to do, allowing me to gain a little confidence by hitting a goal.  I could also shoot for more climbs than the previous year, knowing full well my condition probably wouldn’t really allow for it.  I even seriously considered signing up for the triple climb and forgoing the power hour entirely.  I’d done the triple climb two years ago, and done my climbs in 4:45, 4:47, and 4:50, numbers i thought i could beat pretty easily.  I thought i might even be able to win the triple climb outright.  In the end, I decided that that option would just be too much of a wimp out, a all my friends were signed up for the power hour.  

Deciding i was going to stick with the power hour, i had to decide if i’d go for 9 climbs ( last year’s total ) or for one more.  In a power hour, you get an hour from when you start to begin your last climb.  So, if you enter the stairs 59:59 after your start your first climb, that climb counts.  So, you can do 10 climbs if you can do 9 climbs in one second less than an hour.  So :

(60*60-1)/9 = 399.88 seconds -or- 6:40.

In other words, if i could complete one circuit every six minutes and forty seconds, i could complete 10 climbs in the power hour.  Further breaking it down, i thought the trip down the elevator was quite quick, so my time out the door, down the elevator, and back unto the steps might be around 1:10.  Therefore, if i could do each climb in 5:30, i could execute 10 climbs.  That would be cutting it super close, of course, so i decided i’d try to follow my 5:30 pace for the most of each climb, and all of the first one, and see how long the round trips were taking.  Last year, i had avoided drinking water until later, but after 6-7 climbs i was too sick to take in the water i needed.  I decided to take a little water after every climb.  There had been gatorade before, so i was going to rely on that for some in-race carbs.

The day before, Oz, Kirstie and Karen drove up from springfield.  I met them at Karen’s hotel, then drove Kristie and Oz to my place to bunk down for the night.  Kelley ( my GF ) showed up, and we hung out for awhile before heading to a great thai place just a block away from me.  Great race carb-up, Thai! 

We watched the movie “Tucker and Dale versus Evil” which is a great movie that got too little appreciation.  We have a new tradition of watching dumb comedies before races to get our mind off the next day’s potential suffering. After the movie ended, we all went to bed to get some shut-eye, though i couldn’t sleep for quite awhile, and late-night snacked on two clif bars.  

Oz and i woke up early, and i took his advice to have a quick shower to wake my body up.  We each had the starbucks we’d picked up the day before, the perfect thing to get your body humming the morning of a race.  My poison was a venti soy mocha latte.  We dressed, and i did my best to get myself as close to race-ready before we stepped out the door at 6:30.  The race was only about a 10 minute drive, and wouldn’t start until 7:30 but oz and i like to get there as early as we can instead of scrambling to get to the line.

At the race, we got our bibs, greeted all of our racing friends and did our warm up routines.  In my case, it was just a little stretching, since my plan was to start slow and essentially use my first climb or two to warm up.  I had the typical pre-race nervous bladder, and made a few bathroom trips.  There was a whole gym downstairs, and used the facilities there, instead of adding to the overcrowding of the upstairs bathrooms.  There was a balance scale, and i hopped on there, and found that even with my clothes, shoes, phone, gel shot, and other assorted gear, i was only 175.5.  I was certainly the leanest i’d been in quite awhile!

We were called to the line, and  wished my friends luck as we lined up in bib order.  My #9 felt pretty good; i knew i’d have my work cut out for me to justify that seeding.  When i was called to the line and stepped across the mat, i hit start on my iphone’s stopwatch and started to climb, starting my timing track a few seconds after.  

Right away, it felt slow, which was good.  Several people passed me, but i resisted the urge to stay ahead and simply moved over for them. It was a long race, and this climb meant very little in the grand scheme of things.  I focused on remaining upright and executing efficient turns. Some of the people that passed me, i re-passed by the end, but some remained ahead. No matter.  I grabbed a drink and husted into the elevator, drinking it as we went down. I didn’t need water yet, but i was hydrating for the last few climbs, not this one.  I noticed there was only water available, not the gatorade i was hoping for, and in fact had slightly counted on to get me a little sugar shot after each climb.  My gel shot might come in handier than i’d expected; i might be quite low on glucose by the end of the climb.

As i left the elevator, i glanced at my clock, and saw it read nearly 7 minutes.  Not the 6:40 i was hoping for, but the elevator had been a bit disorganized, and i hoped they would get faster as the hour went on. I started my track as soon as i got into the stairs and focused on hitting my splits. A woman from milwaukee i’d met at a few races tore away from me but i saw her on 15 again with her headphone cords caught in the handrail.  A very tough break, but something i’d been careful to avoid by tucking my headphone cables inside my shirt and under my heart monitor strap.  She freed them and again took off and went out of sight.  I stick to my splits until i hit 25, then picked up the pace slightly, hoping to shave off a few seconds. I finished about 10-15 under 5:30 and was happy, again grabbing some water before sliding into the elevator.

The next 2 climbs were the same, and i kept seeing the people who started near me in the elevator or in the steps.  There were more people in the stairs than the year before. Furthermore, the race director had told them to let the fast people pass on the outside, which was unfortunate for those of us hoping to climb quickly, as that would cost us precious seconds.  I tried to pass efficiently, using the handrail to accelerate myself when i needed a burst of speed.  

Climbing happy--for now. 

Heading down after #4, i looked at the time, and saw it was a little over 26 minutes ( i forget precisely ).  I had figured before that i’d want to get climb #5 done at 32 minutes, so time was pretty tight.  I was feeling good, and my climbs had felt slow and controlled, so i decided to do a fast climb to try to get myself on track for 10 climbs.  I didn’t use my pacing track for this one, but i knew my pace, and tried to just be a smidge faster, then picked it up a little more for the last ten floors.  Several people who’d been hanging with me disappeared and i never saw them again.  I felt good about the climb, even better when i saw i was under 32 minutes, so i was well on pace for 10 climbs if i could keep knocking out 5:30’s.  

Climbs 6,7,8 i just put my head down and stuck remorselessly to my pacing track.  If i got a few seconds behind because i had to pass some people, i made it up. If i got a few seconds ahead, i slowed down to catch my breath and let my legs recover a little. When i remembered, i breathed deep, and tried to be efficient. I peeked at my time periodically, and saw i was on track, but it was going to be pretty close. There was no time for me to rest or have a bad climb, but i was getting very close to the end.  I did give myself a little slack on #6 to recover from #5, but 7 & 8 i returned to my strategy of picking up the pace at 25 to shave a few seconds off.  As i finished, i grabbed waters, sipped them, and dumped the rest into my hair to cool off.  

As i was heading down for #7 it was the time i’d planned to use my boost ( a honey stinger ), but when i pulled it out of my pocket, the idea of chugging it made me sick.  In fact, i dry-heaved a bit, and the elevator operator looked kinda nervous. I put it back in my pocket, just in case

As i headed down in the elevator after #8. I checked my time.  A little over 8 minutes left. I if i started my next climb in one minute, climbed in 6, and got down and back in one minute, i’d get my 10th climb in.  Again, very close, so this was not a climb to take it easy on.   When i emerged from the door i was confused and couldn’t find the door to get up the stairs again! I was terribly brain fried.  After wandering and looking around a few eternal seconds, i said “where do i go?” and Kelley, bless her, grabbed my arm and pointed me at the door. 

I literally can't find my way to the big, brightly-lit open door. 

I went in, punched my timing track, and started climbing.  Again, i stuck to my splits, and kept peeking at the stopwatch.  If my math showed i needed to, i was prepared to sprint even if i killed me.  I didn’t need to, however, and i didn’t want to risk crashing, so i stuck to my splits, dragged myself up the last few floors, and ran into the elevator as quickly as i could and said “Down, now please” and the operator hit the down button. I looked at my clock, and saw i had a little over 2 minutes left.  I was ahead of schedule, and glad of it.  The last thing i needed now was drama.

As i left the elevator the last time, i flashed ‘10’ to Kelley on my fingers and gave her the thumbs up.  The timing mat guy looked as my bib and said “just in time” as i crossed the mat the last time, with about 1:20 left.

I’d like to say my last climb took nine and a half minutes because i was talking to volunteers and thanking them, and in honestly, that was part of it, but i was exhausted, and my body had seemingly shut down when my brain told it the race as over and this lap’s time didn’t count. But i did thank everyone who was in the staircase cheering, and told them how much it helped and that we all appreciated it.  Even after such a slow climb, i was wiped out at the top, and sat on the floor a few minutes until i felt capable of getting back down and facing people.  

I hung out with my friends for awhile before looking for the results, and saw that i had made no mistake, and i was indeed counted as having climbed 10 times.  My 5th climb where i had pushed a little to get back on track had been 4:40, which was faster than my fastest triple climb two years earlier, where i had had all the time i wanted between climbs, and a much clearer staircase.  My slowest climb (aside from the 10th) had also been faster than my fastest power climb the year before.  Indeed, i’d had a good race, and evidence my fitness had really improved.

1         2         3        4        5         6         7        8         9         10
5:25    5:18    5:19    5:24    4:40    5:37    5:15    5:21    5:30    9:26

seconds saved:
  5       12       11      6        50        -7       15       9        0     = 101 seconds saved

So, for the first 9 climbs, i spent 47:49 in the staircase.  I started the last climb with 1:20 left, so out of 58:40, 47:49 were spent doing 9 climbs, and 9:51 were spent doing 8 turnarounds. That means each trip down took 1:14 seconds, not far off the 1:10 i’d guessed it would take. My 101 seconds saved on my climbs meant i should have crossed the mat the last time with 1:41 left, and it had actually been about 1:20 because the trips down had been a little slower than expected.  In the end, the math had all worked out.  

In the end though, even if it hadn’t quite, i think it would have been ok. The trips down cost time, but were rest too; if i’d spent more time in the elevator, i think i could have squeezed out a few faster climbs, maybe even doing another 4:40 on #9.  But i am glad it didn’t come to that, as there is a good chance i wouldn’t have been able to do so at that time!

After the race, i hung out with my friends before going home for a quick shower, then off to flat top with Kelley, where i made use of the $4 unlimited refills to eat 3 heaping bowls of vegetables and protein, yum!

So after such a heartening success, i am, of course, looking forward to next year, and getting in more climbs--11 this time!  I think i could manage to improve turnaround a little, averaging 1:05 each ( for example, noting the direction of the door before the elevator heads down so i can sprint in that direction, always dropping my drink cup in the elevator trash can before the door opens). But 10 circuits in 60 minutes means 6 minutes per circuit, and with a 1:05 turnaround, that means 4:55 per climb to sneak in an 11th climb with seconds to go.  With this year as experience, it seems i’d need to go 4:45-4:50, mabe scrubbing off a few seconds on climbs where i felt good, to be safe.  That seems super tough, but i did do a 4:40 in the middle of my climbs this year, and i averaged about a 5:17, so it’s not completely out of the question, either.  

My self grade:

Conditioning: C-  I did one 1 hour climb with josh duncan 1 week before. Aside from that, i'd been doing some running, stair sprints, and various haphazard and easy workouts.  Physically i was hardly at all prepared for this race. I should have done hour climbs, spin classes, sculpt yoga, etc.   On the positive side, i still had a good race, so i have a potential area to make a large improvement over an already good result by coming in with good conditioning next year.

Weight B: I was probably at 173 bodyweight on the line, but i could easily be 163 without losing muscle mass. OTOH, i was 180 last year, and i have more muscle now, so i’m only going to be so hard on myself,

Strategy/Planning: A+ : This undoubtedly made the race for me. Having in-the-stairs and after-lap splits figured out is the main reason i was able to get 10 climbs in.

Effort / Focus: A-   I stuck to the plan, but lost focus on a few details, like getting to the door & elevator quickly, and having water after each climb.  My effort was A+, there was no quit in me the way there had been in some other climbs.

Nutrition: C+ : i could have come in a bit better hydrated and carbed.  I was counting on gatorade being available between ascents so i didn’t have enough sugar and sodium in me.  I should ask about the refreshments, and practice calorie intake during training, as well as hydration.  I don’t know why it never occurred to me that this should be a part of practice too, but i SHOULD practice taking in a gel ( or date ) after 40 minutes of hard effort.

With that information, my big area for improving my power hour is to work on high-effort hour climbs during the summer once every 8-12 days, working at a similar effort to a race, also experimenting with hydration and nutrition--for example, seeing if i can indeed squeeze in a gel when i feel destroyed at 40 minutes, and if sipping gatorade between climbs really does help. If i can get my conditioning and nutrition grades to A’s, i think oakbrook 2015 will be a pretty great result for me!