I’d heard about bop to the top for a few years, but never really considered going until Syd told me it was a great race, and i should stay at his place. This sounded like a great time, so i agreed. The fact it was a relatively cheap race ( $25!! ) and had cash prizes also helped. Soon before the race, Josh told me he was going to sign up, and i asked Syd if he would host Josh too. Syd agreed, and Josh and i arranged to drive down together. I signed up for both the single and triple climb, so i’d be ascending the stairs 4 times that day. Pretty much everyone else i knew was doing the same.
Another thing that excited me about this race was the fact that it had 5 year age groups, so i’d be in the 40-44 age group with such small age groups, i thought i had a decent chance of placing in mine, potentially even winning. I’d never won anything at a race, so i was pretty excited about this possibility!
8 days before the race, on a friday, i did 8 climbs of presidential towers. My first climb i took it easy, warming up and getting a feel for the steps. My second climb i pushed pretty hard, following one of my timing tracks and picking up the pace at the 35th floor. I thought i had managed a 4:11 and was ecstatic, as my race best had been 4:42. However, i soon realized my mistake, and saw that i had gone 4:39. Still a PR, not pushing as hard as i could, but not the ridiculous climb i thought i had managed. I did 6 more climbs, doing some sections single-stepping, occasionally triple-stepping, usually pacing myself until 35, then sprinting until the 49th floor. A pretty brutal workout!
The following sunday, i did a really tough running workout, running 5 mile repeats on the treadmill. Tuesday was to be my last pre-bop cardio session, but i only managed to stay on the stairmaster for about a minute. My legs felt utterly dead. Previously, i might have tried to push, but i decided if my legs were dead, i should rest. One of my mantras this year is that it’s better to be undertrained than overtrained. I stretched, did some upper body weights, and went home. I did yoga wednesday and thursday, not loading my legs too much, and left friday workout-free.
Friday afternoon, Josh showed up at my house, and we hopped in my subaru to drive to bop. After an uneventful drive, we got to Syd’s. He greeted us, showed us to our rooms, and took us to dinner at a superb french restaurant that even had vegan options. So very winning! We chatted for awhile, then went to sleep early.
The next morning, i was up before six, taking in a little dried fruit, and having some coffee. We all prepared for the race and set out nice and early. Soon we were there putting on our bibs and chips. The race was well run, with lots of sponsors & vendors, giveaways, snacks, etc. One of the super-elite climbers, Eric Leninger, who had retired from the sport, was there, looking fit and ready to destroy the race. I greeted Cody as he arrived, and went to do the first climb of my three.
The line was short, and the start was different than most races. Usually, you are sent, then you walk across a mat that starts your chip. At bop, you stand on the mat directly at the bottom of the steps, then you are told “go” at the 10 second boundary. There was also a choice of staircases, and i started with the closer ‘a’ staircase.
I didn’t hit my timing track until i was halfway through the first floor, but it was still helpful to have it. My legs felt heavy and leaden pretty quickly. I worried it would be like tuesday, and i was overtrained, but forced myself to stick to my pace. After about 10 floors, my legs felt better. Soon, i was nearly a floor ahead of pace and feeling pretty good. Around then i had to pass a few people, which slowed me down a bit. But by 30 i was back where i should have been, and ready to make a surge. However, i hit 2 more people, who, though they moved over, held me up a bit. I still thought i might have crossed the mat a second or two before my goal time, which would have been great. I sat on the floor and sucked air for a few minutes before heading down.
Downstairs, i saw my time had been 5:31, so i had been right that i had sneaked in a second or so under my goal. I rested a good 30 minutes, then went up again. This time my legs felt better for the first 20 floors, then i got pretty tired, and again had to deal with traffic. I was about a floor and a half behind with 5 to go, but put on a surge and managed a 5:40.
Talking to people, i found Josh was already done with his 4 climbs(!) and Eric had done his three. Josh’s times were all in the 4:30 and 4:50 range, super impressive. Eric had crushed it, with his triple climb times all between 3:45 and 3:50. I waited and snacked a bit, then went for the third climb of my triple. Again, i felt good at the start, then had to deal with traffic when tired, and managed a 5:44. All solid times in my goal range, so i felt good. Better yet, i was the fastest person by a good margin in the 40-44 age group, so i was going to win something at a race for the first time ever.
I took a long rest, hoping to crush my single climb. Crushing for me would have been 5:15 or so, which didn’t seem likely, but i planned to stick to my pace and pick it up after 15 floors if possible. I looked at the standings, and saw that someone in my age group had managed a 4:11 single climb, which was obviously not something i could contemplate trying to beat. I was just climbing for myself, to see what i could do after 3 climbs.
However, there were a lot of slow-looking people in line in front of me, so i was worried. When i started, i wasn’t able to get my timing track going, and climbed with no pace. Not very helpful.
At only about 3 i hit a family, father, mother, kid. None of them wanted to get out of the way despite my asking several times. I had to squeeze past each of them individually, which i thought had cost me at least 10 seconds. I could have bulled past them, but tired, and sure i wasn’t going to win anything in my age group, i didn’t have the desire to perhaps ruin the race for people.
At that point, with no chance of placing even if i had done perfectly, i sort of quit, and just decided to have fun. I thanked volunteers as i passed, and tried to smile as best i could. I encountered a biker-looking dude at 25 or so who had a death grip on both rails and would not relinquish it. Another 10 seconds or so gone until i managed to duck inside as he released the rail for a second. I popped out of the top and for once didn’t need to sit down. Looking at my time, it had been a 6:05. Essentially my estimated 2 10 seconds delays had added 20 seconds to my time. Made sense.
The awards ceremony was cool, seeing my friends win so many prized. I was really disappointed, though, because for triple climbers, the age categories were 10 years, vs 5 for the single, so i hadn’t won. James harris had, with times of 5:13, 5:16, 5:23. I was disappointed, because those climbs seem attainable to me, had i trained just a bit better, or even come in 5-10 pounds lighter. But they would have not been possible to me that day however tantalizingly close i might have been able to come had i had them as goals. I did get second in my age group, which got me a cool trophy ( a nice bowl ) but no cash prize.
We all grabbed breakfast/lunch, which was a lot of fun, then headed out. Josh and i considered staying for an extra day to avoid the storm, as Syd offered, but we both wanted to be home. The drive would have been fine in the subaru, it stuck to even the sloppy roads like glue, but other drivers were the issue. Too many people doing half the limit in the left lane, with people passing at reckless speeds on the right. The interstate was closed near lafayette, and driving through town to get back on past the accident took nearly an hour. Past that, there were far fewer drivers, and they seemed to know better what they were doing, and i averaged about 60 much of the rest of the way home. Even with snow tires, i would have been scared to do that drive in the BMW, but the subaru handled it just fine.
I had a big salad and went to sleep, and felt fine the next morning. That’s one of the amazing things about stair climbing; i can push myself as hard as possible and feel 100% fine the next day. My sunday workout was 8.5 slow miles on the treadmill, which left me feeling very creaky and sore the next morning. Stairs really are the best workout.
In any case, there is no rest for the wicked! 8 days after bop is Aon chicago, which is my favorite race, and i normally do the best at. My time there last year was 12:55 which i feel i’ll be very hard pressed to match, much less improve upon. My goal time for Aon is 12:40, but taking even 15 seconds off my awesome race from last year will be very tough indeed! I frankly don’t know if i’m in that sort of condition, but i’m going to make the effort.
Until then, keep climbing!!