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.


Monday, October 31, 2016

Guinness World Record: Fastest Mile in Firefighting Gear

Guinness World Record: Fastest Mile in Firefighting Gear
Justin Stewart (Springfield Fire Department)
October 28, 2016  4:00 p.m.
Springfield, Illinois
Sacred Heart Griffin High School Track Facility

Time to Beat: 6:43.24 (Marcos Munoz-San Antonio Fire Dept.)
Official Time: 6:23.06

I was working on shift one day looking at a training video on a firefighting website, when on the home page I saw a story about a man in New Jersey who broke the world record for the fastest mile in fire fighting gear.

I have been a runner ever since I was in elementary school and I have been on the Springfield Fire Department for two and half years now. I am always trying to push myself both physically and mentally. What better way to do that than to combine the two passions of mine and go for this record. I wanted to go for this record back in April but it just didn't work into my racing schedule and I ended up waiting until late October to give it a go.

In order to get ready for this attempt I really didn't change too much. A couple times in the weeks leading up I ran a few miles in my boots around the station. I also ran in different combinations of gear around the station. First in just boots, not going all out, in 6:00 flat or so. Then I'd run in boots, coat, and helmet. It wasn't until two weeks out I went to the same track I did the main event at and put on all the same gear I wore for the record attempt and went for it to see what I could do before the actual record attempt day. I wanted to at least post one all out effort before I actually had a bunch of people come out to watch. I wanted to make sure I had a decent window there so that even if I didn't feel great I could still get under the current mark of 6:43.24. On my test run I went 6:22 so I knew I had a 21 second gap there which made me feel good. I think also if I actually trained specifically over a couple months I could knock even more time off.

IL Fire Store Globe Cairns RSX Gear

I know a lot of firefighters and people in general will say that what I was wear is not full firefighting gear. I would agree with them. But Guinness World Records considered helmet, hood, coat, pants, and boots full gear. I contacted them and even asked and told them full gear actually includes SCBA tank, mask, and even gloves. Which if this were the case it'd be a whole new ball game. So I was just wearing the amount that Guinness required. I was wearing a total of 20-22 pounds of gear. I weigh roughly 152 and weighed in around 172. My splits were pretty even for the most part. I went 1:30, 3:05 (1:35), 4:43 (1:39), 6:23 (1:40). It was somewhat windy on the homestretch that day about 15 mph winds. The 3rd lap was tough. With all that gear on its not like actual running, it was more of a high knee running and once you had a pace you were pretty much set there. It was hard to pick up the pace at all when you wanted to.

Start of the mile

I had great stewards that came out to help verify that all my gear was NFPA stand structural gear. I know I might get some comments about my lace up boots, but they were still in fact structural boots compliant with NFPA 1971, 1977. I also had a great timing crew and video crew and about a dozen other witnessess. And yes the mustache is real and compliant with all national firefighting standards, I think.

News Channel 20 showed up

Sunday, October 16, 2016

2016 Ondessonk 50k

2016 Ondessonk 50k 
Shawnee National Forest 
1st Place Overall 4:53:55 (CR)

Plans change. All through this past summer and early fall I was focused on XC 8k's, running in open invitational collegiate meets and this would in turn set me up for a solid indoor track season where I wanted to PR in some track races. Well like I said plans change. After some sub par XC performances, I was not where I wanted or thought I should be. I PR'd in an 8k a couples weeks ago but still was lacking motivation. I was also losing the hunger to continue this hall into an further long hall of an indoor and outdoor track season. I'm just tired of the regimented workouts. I needed a change of pace, I felt a push to do another ultra. Insert the Ondessonk 50k.

I stumbled upon the Ondessonk 50k in a search for nearby ultras in the Midwest. This one landing in mid October worked out perfectly. After deciding to pull the plug on a track season I decided this race would be my last hoorah for the year, then some down time for a couple weeks. This event was in its 3rd installment with the 50k only in its 2nd year. It has a 5k, 1/2 marathon and 50k option all in the backyard of the Camp Ondessonk, Ozark, IL on the fringe of the Shawnee National Forrest. In my search I knew I wanted a 50k with some decent climbing and I thought this course would provide me with just that...and it did. With a hop skip and a jump of a 3:30 hour drive south I was all in.

Pre Race:
I left Springfield, IL in the late afternoon and arrived at Camp Ondessonk around 6:30 p.m. On the way down I ran into a bit of rain and thought this needs to stop right now. It didnt and I will tell you why it was a bad thing it didnt here in a bit. I was planning on setting up the tent somewhere and camping out for the night. Once I checked in I found out they had cabins available for $9, plus it was still raining. The cabins were not your typical cabins. A 3 wall structure with an open face to the woods. I set up for the night as it was still raining. There were a few others in the cabins next to me who ended being very nice and showing me a few shortcuts around the campsite. The night ended up being pretty peaceful. Sleeping was in and out. As I fell asleep I couldnt tell if it was still raining or if it was just the water dripping off the trees onto the roof and fallen leaves. None the less I knew this rain would come to haunt us the next morning. I woke around 5:30 a.m. ate some breakfast and laid back down for 30 minutes or so. Woke back up and carried my stuff back to the car parked back by the lot a half mile away in two different trips.

The Race:
To be honest the only thing I was worried about was course marking and not getting lost. I was reassured the course was mark nicely though. Also, I was slightly worried about the course because of all the rain. The course would be one large loop and a couple miles in we were introduced to what we would be dealing with the next few hours. Right off the bat a guy went out at a pretty good clip, come to find out that was Kelly Hutchins of Kentucky. I started off running with Matt Pfau from Missouri and I looked over at him and asked if he knew if he was legit, we had no idea but he was moving for a 50k start. A couple miles in we all joined up and ran together for the first 10 or so. All 3 of us went in the tunnel together in waist deep water, talking about how if this race were in the middle of the summer we might have to deal with snakes. Toward the end of Jackson Hole there was a short but steep section that you had to scrabble up on all fours. I even remember saying out loud "Ya here we go." After this was a stretch of tall prairie grass that led to an aid station. On these two sections I started to pull away. I was feeling pretty good but still wanted to stay under control. Around the drop bag aid station at mile 17 or so I was in much need of my drop bag. I dont think I was taking in enough fluids early on. My eating was sporadic because I was so focused on my footing and not falling and just getting through the non stop slop. Around 20 miles I hit a low and was scarred this was the wall. I just kept thinking the foot and water I just put down will start to kick in here soon, just keep moving forward. By the way moving forward was tough. These trails are open to horse riding and the horses have done a number on the trails mix the mix of rain on top of that my footing was everywhere and it was starting to zap my energy and mood. This course would have been much more enjoyable if it were groomed but it wasnt and I could feel it taking its toll on me. My food intake was based on hours spent out on the trail and I was finding out Id out there longer than my anticipated 4 or so. At mile 15 I was at 2:04:00 but things slowed significantly the last third of the race. Fatigue was really setting in and I dealt with a cramped left calf 5 miles to go. I had to sit down on the trail and wait for it to stretch out again. Every step in the mud, or over a log felt like it was going to cramp up again. The last 2 miles seemed to take forever and the finish line couldnt come quick enough. I started to see 1/2 marathoners on the course and kept asking them what there mileage GSP was at so I could gauge of there course compared to what my watch had. None the less it was a challenge and I was able to over come it. There is satisfactory in overcoming a challenge physically and mentally. This race was definitely a challenge and one I wont forget. Overall, it was a good weekend. Talked with new people who share the same passion for suffering I do and catching up with old friends and even teammates. Lastly, a shout out to Jason for putting in so many hours marking the course and setting up and for also catching me as I passed out in front of him.