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.

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