Thursday, January 30, 2014

Aon 2014 -- not peaked, and it showed.

Aon chicago is the first race i ever did, of any sort, so it is special for me.  I also very much like the race and usually do well at it, so i also look forward to it very much.  

Over the summer, i was doing high-intensity training 3 times a week, and cratered before US bank, and had a poor race there. I had over trained and burned myself out. 

To try to recover from that, I did a lot of low-intensity cardio and good-old fashioned rest, and managed to make a small PR by sears tower, just over a month later, and a larger PR at 300N, just a week after that.  

Buoyed by that, i decided to keep “base building”--ie, doing lots of easy cardio and cross training--until AON, maybe mixing a few sprints in there.  Last year i did 5 weeks of race simulation climbs every 3-4 days before Aon, so i went into the event pretty confident, but this year i’d have none of that.

All lined up!

At the start line, i was a few pounds lighter than last year, and a fair bit leaner.  But with my non-specific training, i had no idea how i’d do.  When it was my turn to go, I started off doing 10 seconds a floor, and at 50 i’d switch to 9 seconds a floor, with a goal time on 12:40, just 15 seconds faster than the previous year.  

For the first 15 floors my legs felt stiff and heavy.  A few people started to get close to me, but by 20 they had dropped away, and my legs warmed up and i felt good.  I got a little ahead and a little behind at times, but stuck to my splits.  The 40th floor came up at 6:30, exactly where it should have been.  I was feeling generally tired, but not bad.  Right then, a woman started to catch up to me, single stepping and not using the rails.  It was impressive to see, and i stepped aside for her on about 45.  Her cardio must be incredible to climb like that! She finished with 12:30 and i think she could do significantly better with superior technique.

50 was to be my “go” floor.  But when it was time to dig down and pick up the pace--i just didn’t have it.  I can’t precisely say what went wrong, but i just felt bad, really bad!  In the past, i’ve known what went out on me, my legs, my lungs, my heart, but this time i just felt “bad” and was convinced if i didn’t back off, i’d crash and burn. So, back off, i did.  The last 30 floors were a painful slog. I remember thinking people were sure to start passing me soon, but no one did.  The floors seemed to tick off slower and slower.  Finally, i dragged myself the last few floors to the door, and popped through.  I thought my time had been 13:30 or so, far off of what i had hoped, and much slower than the year before. Bleh.

Despite being slow, i was still exhausted. I walked to the middle of the ballroom, and rolled onto my back for a few minutes trying to catch my breath.  Then i got up and took some pictures and found what people’s times where.  Eric had apparently won with 9:44, a really impressive time.  We took a team photo, had a few snacks, and headed down.

Fastest stair team around!

When we all went back down the elevator, i saw there were boxes of sample sized snickers. Volunteers were handing bars to the runners as they emerged from the elevator.  Eric is well-known for eating snickers before races, so i thought it’d be funny to give him a box of them as his trophy.  He loved his trophy, and everyone got a good laugh.

We all did a group climb, and one of our friends who hadn’t gotten into the elite wave was there, so we chaperoned him up.  It was fun all climbing together. It amazing how easy it was to climb in about 20 minutes… Just no effort, walking, talking, laughing.  I did 2 more fitness climbs, clocking in about 16 minutes, then my cousin Kyle showed up.  I paced him up the steps for a time of 20:55, very high in his age group.  So i ended up with 5 climbs for the day, one race pace, 2 tough, 2 easy.

As for my disappointing result, If my recollection and math is correct, instead of doing the last 30 floors in 9 seconds each, as i hoped, i did them in 11 seconds each, which entirely accounts for the amount by which i was slower.  But only a few days later, at the gym, i did a workout as hard as what i’d done before i killed the race the year before, and found it not that difficult. So i think the entire problem was me not being “tuned up” for the event--i simply hadn’t done a 13 minute hard stair effort, so i was not physically, and more importantly perhaps, mentally ready for the event.

With stratosphere coming up in 5 weeks, my goal is clear: try to cash in my fitness and base for a better result at that race. I’d messed up my training both by going too hard and going to easy.  My plan now is to do a hard stair session twice a week, and focus on recovery: yoga, post-workout shakes, foam rolling, etc.

The wednesday after the race i did 10 minutes at 135 steps/minute. Then i did 10 minutes of intervals at 162 steps a minute.  Since my goal is to do strat in under 10 minutes, this should get me ready.  10 minutes at strat would be 129 steps/minute, but real stairs are always harder than the stairmaster.  So 135/min for 10 straight isn't fit enough. But there is time to improve that.

After strat, i’ll be focusing on hancock, so i’ll lower the intensity and increase the time periods of each to 13 minutes. My goal at hancock would need me to average 125 steps/min

If this is successful, after race season is over, i’ll re-adjust this workout for my sears tower goal, and do it once every 5-7 days, aiming for tiny increases at the most, but increases i can maintain over the summer.  My sears tower workout would be 17 minutes as hard as possible, then 17 minutes of intervals at max pace.

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