Sunday, March 12, 2017

2017 Springfield Fight for Air Stair Climb

2017 Springfield Fight for Air Stair Climb
Wyndam Hotel, Springfield IL
1st Place Overall (Single, Ultimate Hour, & Firefighter Challenge)
Time: 2:09 Single, 12x's Ultimate, 4:02 Firefighter Challenge

To climb, or not to climb? That is the question. Well I'm glad I went with the first. After being plagued with ankle injuries the past few months I was on the fencing on climbing or not this weekend. After suffering a Grade II sprain this past December I was back and 4 weeks deep in building my miles and climbing often. Yet just last week I was out on the trails and the same thing happened on the left ankle. I was demoralized. This sprain ended up being in the upper ankle and only a Grade 1. The past week Ive been able to bike and climb stairs lightly but I'm still sidelined from compounding miles. There is still some swelling and a lot of tenderness. I did some recon work in the stairs Friday afternoon and was able to bang out 5 climbs at a decent pace. I didn't have any pain during the workout but the next day the ankle was sore. Not reassuring. But the night before the race I made the call to race. It felt good enough that I knew if I didn't climb this year I would come to regret the decision later on.

I went into the event relaxed and with no expectations. If my foot started to feel iffy during the climb I had no problem pulling the plug. Thankfully adrenaline will take you a long way and I didn't have any issues throughout the day. I started off the morning with the hour climb with your fastest climb going towards the single climb results. I ended up going up first with a clear path to the top. I started off nicely sprinting the first 10-12 floors one hand on the railing and the other pushing off the wall double stepping. About halfway up I switched to hand over hand on the rail still moving quickly. I did take a glance at my watch at floor 27 or so and saw 1:54 on the watch so I knew Id be close to under 2:10. To be honest compared to other years I thought I was actually moving through the stairs slightly slower. But I stopped my watch at the top and saw 2:10 and was a little shocked.  After the first climb the rest is just icing on the cake. Another 58 minutes of climbing stairs. I figured I'd be around 12 climbs total and I had my own personal goal of going under 3:00 for the 12th and last climb. Splits for the hour climb were evenly paced for the most part. Traffic in the stairwell for the hour climb is hit and miss so the times are relative to the situation. *2:09 was only 2 seconds of my own course record of 2:07 in 2012 and 2013.

Splits:  2:09   4:08   3:44   3:52   3:44   3:42   3:37   3:26   3:26   3:23   3:45   2:46

32 floors, 532 steps, 328 ft. 
I ended up hitting my goal on the last one and had to dodge some traffic as well. Overall, I couldn't be happier with the hour climb and how I felt. The second climb after your initial all out climb is always hard. You just gotta keep moving forward and wait for the legs to come back to you and you HR to come back down and recover. One of the best things about the hour climb are the other people in the stairwell you're sharing you're pain with. The encouragement and comradery of the group is the best and makes the time in the stairwell much easier.

But my morning wasn't over quite yet. I had one more go in me but this time I was adding 45 more lbs. of firefighting gear and climbing up with the other 12 firefighters from the Springfield Fire Department and surrounding departments. My legs were dead and I was tripping nearly every other floor. I just put my head down and pulled on the railing hand over hand double stepping and just going. I did hit some traffic in the stairwell and with 45 extra pounds of gear it was hard to maneuver around people. Non the less I got to the top in 4:02 and was glad to be done.

Totals for the day: I ended up climbing a total of 13 times, 416 floors, 6,916 steps, and 4,264 vert. ft.


Monday, February 27, 2017

2017 US Towerrunning Championships (Scale the Strat)

2017 US Towerrunning Championships
Stratosphere Tower, Las Vegas
855 ft. 1440 steps 66 floors
2nd Place Overall 7:27
1st American 

On the cab ride to the hotel from the airport the driver asked if I was there for business or pleasure. I told her I'd have to say I'm here for both actually. I was arriving just around sundown and with little daylight remaining I pointed out to the cab driver that I'd be climbing that, pointing to the Stratosphere Tower. She gave me a look of disbelief mixed with confusion. 
I have wanted to come out to this event for years but my schedule never really lined up well to do that. Well this year there was an opening and I'm glad I came. There are some towers you climb and don't have any real connection to and you don't feel compelled to return. This tower on the other hand had me wanting more. I gave it a good go today but afterwards there was something telling me I can do better. This tower is set up in such a way that's so different than others. Long sets of staircases, minimal turns, and an open stairwell marked in feet instead of floors. The event boasts a staggering 107 floors which is more like 66 when you compare it to standard floor towers.

Weeks prior I heard some international was going to be there which wet my appetite. I don't shy away from competition, I embrace it. It makes me better and brings the best out of me. With a field of Sproule Love (which ended up not showing) Shaun Stephens-Wales from Canada, Gustavo from Mexico, Ralf from Germany and a slew of American talent I new I had my work cut out for me. I had wanted the title of US Towerrunning Champion for a while now, it's got a good ring to it and will look good amongst other achievements. I ended up going up first then, Shaun, Gustavo, Ralf, and most of the other american talent right behind. They sent us up in 30 second gaps. I instantly got in a good tempo and wasn't sure if I was hammering too hard or not, I felt comfortable. I had written 439' and 3:40 on my arm. That's the rough half way point for a 7:20 pace finish climb. I was surprised and had to do a double take at my watch when I saw 3:11 on my watch when I reached 439'. I slowed significantly and I could feel it. I started hearing Shaun approaching as I was reaching 10 floors to go. He caught up and stayed behind me the last few floors to the top. I had a decent push at the end which is always nice to find. 7:27 is fine by me for my first attempt at this tower. With it being so different in nature I'm happy with my performance.

After the race was possibly the most fun though. Shaun and I ran up and down the strip finding all the tallest buildings and running up them. We hit 4 different buildings ranging from 36 floors to 63 in the middle of 12.5k of running. It's an amazing thing this sport. I had never met Shaun before but it felt like just catching up. Unfortunately this trip was an in and out but I had a good time. I got to see a lot of old friends who I hadn't seen in years. Congrats to all those who climbed today and set PR's and broke through personal barriers. Till next time.
Justin Stewart 2nd, Shaun Stephen-Wales 1st, Hascher Ralf 3rd


Monday, January 30, 2017

2017 AON Chicago Stair Climb

2017 AON Chicago (80 Floors)
2nd Place Overall 10:05

Aussie Aussie Aussie Oi Oi Oi ! That was the chant to be heard from everybody this weekend at the 2017 AON Chicago Tower Run. This past weekend was full of catching up with old stair climber friends and even meeting some new ones. As usual I took the train up north to Chicago and stayed with the Berg's. Him and his growing family where kind enough to let me crash for the night and provide an amazing pre race dinner the night before. I also got to meet the Wilson family. Darren Wilson and his family, from Australia, were in town for the weekend before his big climb in NYC. I new much of Darren from the interwebs and knew he would be a formidable opponent come race day. Him and his family were kind enough to let me tag along for the weekend. It was a lot of fun meeting them, it made the negatives of the race disappear, making the trip worth it just seeing them.

Come race time I felt alright but that quickly changed just a few floors in. Typical of a stairclimb you can just tell when you're feeling good or not within the first several floors. I ended up going up first with Darren flowing 5 seconds behind. At about floor 35 or so I could hear the ring on his finger clanging. He was approaching, and approaching fast. I let him glide by me and immediately knew I didn't have the legs today to keep up. We went through half way in 4:30-35. Which in this particular tower splits are even keel. After the midway point the clang of his ring disappeared just as fast as it came. I was spent by 60 and really fell off pace. Its really frustrating trying to compete but not being able to due to coming off injury. Patience I tell myself. Yet my inner competitor wants it now. The last 20 were a disaster and a real trudge slowing to a 5:30 ish split for the back half. On the bright side I was able to get in 7 total climbs for the morning. The 7 climbs averaged out to be roughly 13:20. I felt strong on the endurance factor but just not strong on the top end speed for the first climb. Each climb was roughly 1,076 vert. ft. So for a grand total on the morning, I got in 7,532 vertical ft. of gain.
Jesse, myself and Darren

Overall, it was a fun weekend. Disappointing race but with all things considered I can't be mad. At least I have something while my ankle heals. I feel most fit on the stairs when I'm in good running form, which I am not right now. None the less it will get better with time. Also, huge shout out to Darren for setting a course record of 9:01 besting the previous by 14 seconds. Next on the docket is the US Towerrunning Championships in Las Vegas at the Stratosphere on Feb. 26th. Till then


2017 Bop to the Top

2017 Bop to the Top
Indianapolis, IN
One America Tower 36 Floors
1st Place 3:38 (Single Climb)
1st Place 4:28,4:20,4:10 (Triple Climb)

Part of the crew
Well here I am once again climbing a tall building. Other than the Springfield Hilton race, it feels like I haven't been in a tower race in a long time. That's because I haven't. Besides the Hilton race, which I do every February, it's been roughly 3 years since I've done another tower race. Granted I've been in the Hilton stairwell getting workouts in but it's not the same as a race. "He's back," and "What are you doing here," is what a fellow stair climber said as I got ready.
I have a true love, and that true love is running. As I've gotten older my love for MUT ( mountain, ultra, trail) running has come into full fruition. I love the full grind of the training block leading up to a good 50k or mountain race. My 2017 early season campaign has been slightly sidetracked due to an injury i acquired back in mid December. After a little down time I started biking and climbing stairs to keep somewhat of a form through my healing process. Those two things are about all I can do without further injuring my ankle. Compounding miles right now is not in the cards. Yet my competitive hunger must be fed. Enter in the stair climb. Along with a gravel 100k bike race, stair climbs are about all I can do right now. A handful of stair climb races this winter will help keep me sane and along the way I get to see some old friends in the stair climbing community.
Top 3 in Triple Climb
Cindy Harris and myself
The race went as well as one could expect from dealing with injury. My cardio, that I get from running, I could feel was not quite there, as to be expected. I did throw down a 3:38 for the single climb. A second faster than my first time ever climbing the One America Tower back in 2012. Yet it was 8 seconds slower than my 2013 time of 3:30. In 2013 I was in probably the best stair climbing form of my life as of yet. So I'm not too far off fitness wise. I feel strong but not 100%, just for the sheer fact that I can't run right now. When I'm running, that's when I feel my strongest. The rest of the morning was capped of with a slow triple climb. I'll be honest, I wasn't to thrilled about the triple climb. Also I climbed several more times with Josh Duncan, to get a total of 12 climbs in for a good workout. This event was just as I remembered. I got to see a bunch of familiar faces, which was nice. I got to stay with and catch up with an old college teammate. I also got to meet some new people that may have bright futures in the stair climbing world. Altogether it was a satisfactory weekend. I'll take what I can get right now. One day at a time with fully recovering so I can get back on the trail. I'm really hoping I can be back running by late March. We shall see. Till then.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Down But Not Out...DNS

Down But Not Out...DNS

In the wake of my ankle injury back on December 10th I am pulling the plug on a couple Ultras in the early winter season. I had lofty goals for the Psycho Wyco 50k in Kansas City on Feb. 25th and the Land Between the Lakes 50 on March 11th. My ankle is healing nicely but still it has put me back a little bit and I just won't be ready and at the level I want to be at to compete. I partially tore 2 ligaments in my upper ankle and I am just now starting to put light miles on it. I have been biking and climbing stairs for supplemental work to stay active without putting pressure on my right ankle. Since climbing the stairs and biking is all I have I have signed up for a handful of tower running races and one gravel bike race. I'll have to play it by ear but I doubt I'll come back until either the Clinton Lake 30 in Clinton, IL or even the Yamacraw 50k in Stream, KY. I have signed up for (Bop to the Top-Indianpolis, IN 36 floors, AON Tower Chicago 80 floors, Scale the Strat 'US Towerrunning Championships' 108 floors, Springfield Stair Climb 32 floors, and the Deep South Roubaix 100k Gravel Bike Race) So I do have a training schedule that will be good supplemental work that I can gain strength from as well as a lineup of races that will keep me hungry and competitive for the time being. My ultimate A goal races are later in the summer and fall so Im not worried. Till then Im just going to keep plugging away. DNS's (Did not Start) are different than DNF. Injuries happen, plans change. You just have to make the best of the situation and keep moving forward.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

2016 Pere Marquette Trail Race

2016 Pere Marquette Trail Race
7.8 Miles 
2nd Place Overall
52:29 (6:43)

"Down But Not Out" I think might be a fitting theme for todays race. When I woke up this morning there were a few different scenarios running through my head on how my race could play out today but what actually happened today was not one of them.

This was my 3rd year running the Pere Marquette Trail race. I love this event, the course, the atmosphere, the people, every year I have to return. In years past I have gone into this race in good shape but never 100% because of the time of the year being in late December. I am usually on downtime. This year I was actually ready. Ready to go, in my mind, I was ready to go high 47's low 48's. Within that first 400' + foot climb up to the top of the bluff I could tell that I was going to feel good. My legs felt light and I felt fast.

Just before the 2 mile mark I was bombing down a hill and my foot hit a bad spot and my ankle pronated and I heard a pop. I tweaked it so bad I hobbled trying to run again for a few feet but couldn't. I had to sit down on the side of the trail in pain and couldn't figure out what I wanted to do. Walk back to the closest aid station and drop or just try to walk out the rest of the course. I started walking back up the hill to the aid station and decided to turn around and just start walking. I was doing a hobble run/limp type of thing trying to run again and getting feeling back in my foot. I don't know what it was but I got almost mad about the situation I was in and got a dose of adrenaline and I just started going again. Im not sure how many passed me but Im thinking I fell back to 11th or so. I started booking it, and my ankle somehow felt fine, uphills and down. I knew I'd pay the price after the race though with my decision to keep going. I kept pushing. I worked my way up to 4th before the road. On the long downhill section after mile 3 I could see 3rd and 2nd a ways up. I just kept going trying to stay positive and I could feel by adrenaline starting to wear off because after I fell I was going all out to catch up. The rest of the way I was wondering if Id see 1st place. I just kept pushing. After running the stairs section I bombed down the hill to the finish. I felt like I was flying. A 1/2 mile to go a lady at the big rock said go get em. I took that as Caleb was close. I ended up closing hard and finished in 52:29. A lot faster than I thought Id end up when I fell. I finished 24 seconds behind Caleb. Caleb had a great day and congrats to him, his win was well deserved.

Looking back I can't really explain physiologically what happened. Going from down and out, debating whether to finish or not to running the rest of the race hell bent on catching back up. But now as I sit here typing this race review my ankle is wrapped in ice and Im hobbling around the house. I can see the ligament because its bruised and its very defined. I can put a little weight on it but it looks like Ill be icing, resting and stationary biking for a while. I could dwell on this race and play the what if game but it is what it is. This is the current situation Im in and I'll just have to deal with it one day at a time. I appreciate all the kind words after the event. Also, a congrats to all those who competed today. I'll be back next year stronger than this year and ready to go again. Till then.


Saturday, November 12, 2016

2016 Abe's Trail Trek Half Marathon

2016 Abe's Trail Trek Half Marathon
New Salem's Lincoln's Home
Petersburg, IL

Justin Stewart
1st Place Overall
1:20:50 (CR)

The first frost of the year. Colder weather has seemed to be on hold going into mid November. It has made for a lot of good runs late into the year and this mornings race was just that. Ive been running out on the New Salem trails for years but Ive never been able to get out for the race. This race has been around since 2012 and this year was the first time my schedule cleared up to make it out and Im glad I did.

Last week I put in a tempo training run on the course just to scout things out since I hadn't been out there in a while and luckily the course was roughly marked. Got in a good run in 1:30 and some change so I was feeling good about the weekend to come. Trainings been going well. Kind of took a short downtime stint in late September after some decent unattached 8k XC races at some of the local universities. I ran some short mileage weeks and then decided to ramp it back up for some 50k's in a few months. Lots of strength endurance work the next couple months. This race was a good way to get in some racing and speed work on the trails, which is important.

The Race:
The race went off without a hitch. Right out of the gates Tim from Iowa, who is now at WIU grads program, went out looking strong. He was a DIII runner from Central College in Iowa. At the time I had no idea who he was. He was moving at a good clip and slowly pulled away the first couple miles. I knew the course was tough and that the pace he was moving at would be tough to continue. Once we entered the Mountain Bike section (3.4 mile loop) I slowly started to close the gap and by the time we exited the MTB section I was right on his heels. I wanted to run behind him for a bit just to get a good read on him. He was climbing well and was running strong not breathing too heavy. We continued to yo-yo together pretty much the entire middle section of the course. No doubt about it, Im glad he was there to push me because I doubt we would have been moving at that clip if either of us were alone in the lead. We were moving really well for how that course is laid out, its not an easy course by any means. On the flat sections in between some climbs we were moving just under 6 min mile pace. I was feeling good and tried to stay fast but under control because I had no idea what kind of speed he had towards the end if it came down to a kick. Once we got to the steps at the overpass on 97 we were still neck and neck. Tim had been running strong on the flats all race and it made me kind of nervous because after the stairs section its pretty much flat asphalt. Theres a short uphill climb on the asphalt after the stairs and thats where I continued my pace but felt him slipping back a bit. So I decided to surge there and just continued that till the end. Going through the campground and playground area I was checking behind me on the turns but was still slightly pulling away. I just kept pressing knowing there was only about a mile left anyway and that once we got back on the trail for the last section there was one short steep climb then all downhill from there. I was happy with the time and the way I felt. Looking back I might have been able to push it a little bit harder in the middle of the race in Shickshack and Damselfly but the race unfolded the way it did and I did what I thought I needed to do to compete and get the win. No doubt about it, Im so glad Tim was there to run with, it made it so much more enjoyable. It made it feel more like a race and we pushed each other. We were both way under the course record of 1:32:something. 10-8 minutes under.

After the race I went back out and did some more loops on the hillier sections of Shickshack and the New Salem Village to get in a total of 17 miles for the day in just over 2 hours which was nice. The grind of running on a good trail is just so addictive to me. Being out there with all the other races encouraging them along their way. Congrats to all who competed at all the different distance. Shout out to Steve O'Conner which did an amazing job setting up the course and organizing the race. Its really a hidden gem of a course and event that I think will only grow in the years to come. Till the then.