Sunday, February 22, 2015

2015 Sperunking Sandmine Challenge

2015 SpeRUNking Sandmine Challenge 

Justin Stewart
2/21/2015
Crystal City Underground, MO
Extreme Quad Challenge (4 Laps of "5k" Course)
1st Place Overall
1:06:47

I stumbled upon this race while I was looking for new obstacle races to do this year. I didn't know a whole lot about the details of this event but I knew it had good reviews. Ranked as a Top 10 Ultimate U.S. Adventure where you run through the abandoned sand mine of Crystal City while avoiding obstacles.

As with any new race I do I did my research on past results and the details of the course. I heard there was waist deep water in some sections as well as small obstacles, natural obstacles and lots of sand. All the above were correct and it made for a fun event. As I was running I got the instant feel that most of the people there were doing it for fun. The obstacles were sub par and not too difficult. Most of the running was on loose sand and the water sections were fun. Most of the "obstacles" ended up bottle necking. My competitiveness/impatience got the best of me here and I had to realize that most out here were doing for a fun challenge while I was out there trying to go all out and win.

Upon arrival you are driving into an area that dead ends, goes into a one way tunnel, over a questionable bridge and to the parking in front of a gigantic opening into the rocks. Outside the weather was snowy and low 20's but once you stepped inside it was about upper 40's which was nice. I had to change a couple times to something that was more comfortable after the warm up because I realized I'd probably overheat quickly over the course of 12 miles.

The Race
The race went off and in no time we were in waste deep water for 30m or so. The great thing about water in the dark in a race you've never done is the unknown but you jump into it anyways and keep moving forward. The water numbed the legs and it took a minute or two to get feeling back once on land again. Once you got feeling back you were right back into an equally long section of water. The course was rarely straight and had constant turns that you had to be ready for before the headlamp can only light up so far in front of you. Also, running in the dark makes you feel like you are going much faster than you really are. First "obstacle" if I remember right was the "Brick Wall" which was a knee high natural brick wall that you jumped over. The course then went into a number of really short steep hills, a couple more water sections, a balancing beam obstacle that was always backed up with too many people, a short tunnel that you basically just ducked under, an elevated 4ft. stage that you jumped up onto and ran over, a number of volleyball nets that you ducked under, an inverted V ladder that was also always backed up, along with a bunch of hose and piping equipment that was randomly lying around that you had to jump over.
The event was ran in waves and the Quad Challenge went off in the middle of the waves. So periodically I would run into a large number of people to weave through and really made it hard to do the obstacles fast because I had to wait a few times. I pulled away from the Quad field relatively soon in the race and just kept pushing the pace each lap trying to equal or best my previous laps. I was happy I stayed on pace. I believe each of my 4 laps were faster than the overall winner of the single challenge and my overall pace was quicker as well.

Overall this event was a good tune up for other obstacle races in the upcoming months. Getting into the frigid water was a good test. The obstacles were not true obstacles that I need to be practicing on but it was still fun to get out there and try something different. Im not sure Ill be back to do this one next year but its too early to tell.




Results:
http://www.fleetfeetstlouis.com/racing/race-results/sandmine-challenge


Saturday, December 27, 2014

2014 Pere Marquette Trail Run

2014 Pere Marquette Trail Run

Justin Stewart
1st Place Overall
49:36 (6:37 pace)
7.5 Miles 
Grafton, IL 

The Pere Marquette Trail race went into my top 10 favorite races instantly. At first I didn't realize that this race was so popular and that registration closes up within minutes. I had wanted to do this race for a few years but never could make it but this year my schedule opened up last minute and I was able to race. I had to reach out to the race director last minute and swap registration with an athlete who couldn't make it so it ended up working out and I'm glad it did.


The Race
I didn't know much about the course other than it was pretty difficult with a few decent climbs for the Midwest at least. Racers were sent off in waves of 10 or so based on predicted times and past finishes. I was lucky enough the guy I swapped with was in the fast/first wave and I promised the race director I would disappoint. I was able to warm up on a few of the trails and knew the first mile was a decent climb.

On the line introductions were made stating last years winner and I thought I'd fly in under the radar undetected until the starter stated I was an elite stair climber racing this course for the first time. Gun went off into a narrow trail so I got out in first so I could see where I was running without any hangups.
Justin Stewart (Front & Center White Top)
After a few yards the trail started going up and up with natural steps every once and a while as well. At this point I wanted to push but stay under control. The first downhill came and I surged to see if anybody would go with, a couple did. We got to the top of the first climb within the first mile and I was leading the way with two other on my heels. I surged again and let my stride out on the long downhill. I put a decent gap on the field and just kept pushing. The course was really hilly so I couldn't get into a rhythm so my plan was to attack the downhills and tough out the uphills. After a while I found myself a ways out in the lead. I checked my watch at the mile markers and I couldn't get a good read on my pace because it was so hilly and inconsistent. The course took me back down by the start and I knew the last 1.5 had another hard climb with some old stone steps at the top and then it was a downhill stretch to the finish. I was able to run up the historically marked steps at the top. As I started on the downhill stretch towards the finish I started to tie up. I wanted to push the downhill to a suicidal pace just letting my body go but I couldn't because every step I felt my calves were tying up so I pulled back a little not wanting to pull anything with .5 miles to go.Came through the line with a good reception from the crowd and saw 49:30ish. I was about 3:30 off the course record which was what I was shooting for. Maybe next year. Who knows what the course looked like 14 years ago but the course record is one solid mark and it will be something to chase in years to come.

Overall, great event and great people. I got a sense of the history that this race has had and I will most likely be back next year to defend the win and go for the record.

Results:
http://www.fleetfeetstlouis.com/racing/race-results/pere-marquette-endurance-trail-run

Friday, December 26, 2014

2015 New Years Resolution

2015 New Years Resolution

Over the past couple months I have been going in a new direction with my racing and training and along with that I have gotten rid of a few things that I want to share with everybody.  Along with getting rid of these things that I mention in a second I feel much better about where I am at in my training and I dont feel so tied down. I feel my training has become more simple and free.

In 2015 I am going to get rid of my running watch and I am not going to worry about logging miles and planning out routes to run or anything. I am just going to simply walk out the door and run and workout. I am going to do this by simply listening to my body.

I have learned over the years as a coach of others and a coach of myself that YOU, YOURSELF is the best coach you could possibly have. Im not saying coaches of others aren't necessary but when it comes down to it only you, yourself knows your body better than anybody else. You know best on how you are feeling on certain days, or if you should push yourself harder on a run, or even hold back a day or two or weeks because you feel flat. I have caught myself getting so consumed with mapping out my runs and sticking to a regimen and having to log miles and type out my thoughts out on each run and how much vertical gain I got or how many intervals I did. All of these things are great and at one time in my athletic career it came in handy and should be focused on but I am at a point in my training that I feel I need a change. Thats why I am simplifying everything I do and getting rid of all this and I am just going to do it. 

So with all that said if you are reading this and you feel some sort of way you can relate to this then take up this challenge for yourself in 2015 and let me know how it goes for you. Like I said I have been doing this already for a couple months already without really noticing it and I feel so much better about everything. Its less complicated, I dont think about it as much I just go out and simply run or bike or climb stairs, or anything. Just be smart about what you are doing and don't forget to listen to your body.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

2014 Willis Tower Sky Run

2014 Willis Tower Sky Run

1st Place Overall
13:37

103 floors
2,109 steps

Pre Race

One, among very many more, good thing the stair climbing community does for each other is we help each other out whenever need be. Good friend and fellow stair climber great Jesse Berg was kind enough to let me crash at his place the night before the race.
I took the Amtrak from Springfield to Chicago Saturday morning. At the station I ran into Oz and chatted it up with him on the ride up, which was enjoyable. Once we got downtown we milled around downtown for a while with Bob. I went to go pick up my race packet and then found a place to get some reading and studying done.
After that I headed to the group dinner and it was great to see everybody again and catch up. The stair climbing community tries to get together as much as possible the night before a race over some dinner. Its one of the perks of this sport, the people who share a common mindset and love of the sport.

The Race
Went into the race with a relaxed feeling of Ive been here before. I knew I was at an interesting place training wise so I was interested to see how I would fair in the race. Last year I trained very hard in the stairs for this race but this year I didn't do any prep in the stairs except for one key workout I do every year before Willis. This key benchmark workout "secret" is a good indicator for me on how prepared I am for the climb. 30 minutes till race time I found myself across the street in the parking garage jogging around and climbing the 4 story stairwell a few times. Dropped my bag off and did some drills trying to fire up the stair climbing muscles.
Lining up before the start I really didn't want to go first but ended up going first anyway.

Game plan was to just work into the climb staying right at threshold pace until 50-60. Just focused on my breathing and rhythm on the railing and turns and to not get hung up on the doorway transitions where the railing was minimal. Got to floor 60 and was feeling not great but decent so I slightly picked it up and did a mental check. Floor 70 came along and I started feeling a slight slowing of pace. Around floor 85 or so I believe the stair format changes to the shorter skinner sections. Here I started picking it up again and did a watch check at roughly floor 90. Cant remember exact time I saw but whatever I saw I knew I had to pick it up if I wanted to get close to 13 flat. The last 10 floors I was really grinding it out and finishing with everything I had. Not quite the kick I would like but I pushed it and gave 100%.
Finished up at the top on floor 103 and collapsed on the ground. Checked the watch and of course it was still running so I didn't have an estimated time. Congratulated others as they finished up and milled around talking to others on how they did. Another year and another great Willis experience. This race is hard to figure out for me. Its truly a difficult and grueling race. I'll definitely be back next year to try and get that 13 flat mark. It is in me I just have to train harder for this race specifically.

 
Results:
 http://theracershub.com/results_view.php?id=2511&result_type=db

2014 Chicago Men's Health Urbanathlon

2014 Chicago Men's Health Urbanathlon 

1st Place Overall
1:04:03

Course: Flat, mostly pavement, some grass & gravel, & lots of stairs!!!

Pre Race
For starters I have been wanting to do this race for years. Finally this year I was able to get up to Chicago and compete. I had high expectations of winning this race. I went in confident in my ability. Night before I got about 4 hours of sleep after driving up to my friends place in North Park and crashing on the recliner chair. Woke up 4 hours later and ate some breakfast. Took the L down to Soldier Field. Walked around for a good 45 minutes trying to find the race site. Good thing I left early. Picked up my bib and found a place to get ready. Warmed up in the parking lot with some jogging and drills.

The Race
Anytime you toe a line at a race you can instantly pick out who looks competitive. I spotted two guys that looked promising. I signed up for the first wave which is considered the more competitive wave. Gun went off and a good group of 10 or so went out like a bat out of hell for the first quarter or so. I stayed comfortable and waited for some of them to fade. At about the half mile mark, what seemed to be a serious road runner, took the lead. I stayed on his shoulder for a little bit and instantly realized he was on a much faster pace than I would like to be this early in a 10 mile race with obstacles. I tailed him for a while and he slowly pulled away.

I kept within visual contact of him hoping that I could reel him in on the obstacles and especially on the stairs section. It felt like a got 2 miles before the first set of obstacles. First few obstacles came up with some over under barricade obstacles as well as some tire high knees. Route took us up the lake front towards Navy Pier onto an onramp over the river and onto the board walk. After the board walk I rounded a corner and came across the uneven balance beam. I saw the leader struggling on it. I maneuvered across it and moved into the lead. Headed back towards the stadium along the lake front. The 2nd place racer was reeling me in on the lake front path and we were shoulder to shoulder heading into the Tissot Soldier Field Stadium Stair Climb obstacle. I instantly opened up a significant lead and knew there were only about 2 miles left. Figured I had a minute and a half lead on him. Really used the down ramps in the stadium to my advantage to gap him as much as possible before getting back on the path and heading back towards the finish. Finished up strong and completed the VW crawl, the taxi cab jump, cargo bus and finally the 8 ft. wall.

Results:
http://results.chronotrack.com/event/results/event/event-7677?lc=en


2014 Spartan Chicago Super

2014 Spartan Chicago Super

Justin Stewart
2nd Place Overall Elite Male 
1:05:48

Course: 8 Miles, 25+ Obstacles


Haven't blogged in about a year it seems like. Finally got some free time to sit down and recap the 2014 season. Thought I'd recap the 2014 season specifically because it was a great year for racing. I found myself doing a wide range of races from indoor 800m to trail races to towerrunning to obstacle races. I had no plans for it to end up this way but it did. Especially with obstacle racing.

Pre Race
I had just been putting in my regular miles during the summer. I had done a Warrior Dash 3 years ago but never really pursued anything after that. I got 7th overall in my first obstacle race. It wasn't until I did my first Spartan race when I realized that the Warrior Dash wasn't even really, what I consider, a true obstacle race.
Had a spark light up in me after I stumbled upon the 2013 Spartan World Championships youtube video. Looked around for local Spartan races and found a race in Marseilles "Chicago" IL on September 27th. I signed up for the race a couple weeks out. I then started adding in little obstacle type workouts into my running regimen. Like with any race I did my research and found out the who's who in the Spartan racing world. Heading into the race I had a goal of winning. Coming out of nowhere and turning some heads. When I looked at last years results I was hoping the same big names where going to be there this year as well.

Headed north on Friday night in the good ole Xterra. Had plans of sleeping out of the back of the SUV. Got there just as the sun was going down. Daylight was running out much quicker than I would have liked. Got on the course some and messed around on some of the obstacles. I had never seen such obstacles in my life. Had no clue what I was getting into. Talked to the race director and asked if I could park in the lot and camp out. Got shut down and was told there was a lot back down the round. Found the spot and camped out for the night in the back of the Xterra . This is how I like it the night before a race.

Race Day
Woke up at 5am and ate some breakfast I had prepared the day before in a cooler. As I was eating and daylight started to peak out from the trees I noticed the spear throw obstacle right in front of my car. Didn't see anybody around so I pointed the headlight of my car at the hay bails and took my attempts ever....and what do you know I hit 7 for 7, first time ever throwing a spear. Jogged around the parking lot to shake out the legs. Drove back down the road and parked in the lot. Talked to a couple guys and wasted some time throwing a spear that a guy made from scratch. Went for a jog got my packet and did some drills and before you know it I was on the line of my first Spartan race.

The Race
First thing I noticed as I was toeing the line was that the starting line was not very big at all. Shoulders were rubbing and nobody wanted to move from their position. I was in the second row of people. Race started and I found a clear space on the side of an instantly narrowing trail. Bumped around a little bit and fought some branches. A couple hundred meters into the race and I was in 2nd place. Over, under, through obstacles were fine followed by a long section of trails. I was feeling good and ended up in 1st place. Spear throw came up next, took a deap breath and nailed it. Straight into the tire drag and pull. Got done with this first and headed back into the woods. A group of 3 or 4 packed up heading into some low barbed wire mud rolls, creek running and a cargo net. Then headed back into some pretty hilly technical trails. Found myself alone and what felt like gapping the field. I wasn't expecting this and I was nervous that maybe I was making a mistake of taking it out too fast. I was alone and in the lead till mile 5 or so.

Came up on the uneven monkey bars. Was doing fine until I noticed Brakken coming up on me. Tried to move too quickly on the last rung and slipped. He took the lead while I dropped down and did 30 burpes. There goes the win I thought. Headed back into the woods and did a few more obstacles, "Hobie Hop", Atlas carry, etc. Then came up on the zig zag balance bean. Failed miserably and couldn't believe it. 30 more burpes. Saw the 7 mile mark and finished up with some water obstacles and a rope wall jumped the fire and finished 2nd place overall in just my second obstacle race ever behind what I found out to be a Spartan Pro in Brakken.
Learned a lot from this race. Caught the obstacle racing bug and met a lot of new people. Found out what these races entail and found out some technical stuff I could improve on. This type of racing I was always skeptical about but I am finding that training for these races is putting me in a place fitness wise that I like to be in. The constant pounding of the pavement gets old after a while and this type of racing is so new and foreign to me but its something I want to improve at and I feel I can be competitive with the best of the sport very soon with some more focused training for obstacle races.

1st Brakken Kraker 1:01:16
2nd Justin Stewart 1:05:48
3rd Robert Muzikowski 1:09:29

Results: Spartan.com

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

2013 Willis Skyrise Stair Climb


2013 Willis Tower Skyrise Stair Climb
Sunday November 3rd 2013


Justin Stewart
1st Place/2,300
13:29

Race Morning 4:00 a.m.
This race is always interesting waking up for because it lands on day light savings time. Woke up around 4 to get a shake out run in. Ran easy just shaking the legs out, getting the blood flowing for 10 minutes. Got back to Jesse's house and stretched out then ate some breakfast.

Race Recap
I went into this race pretty confident, relaxed, and in shape.  This race comes at a weird time of year for me as far as stair climbs go. This year I was ready due to the fact that Ive been training for the 12 hour stair climb. The strength that I have gained from those long hours in the stairwell paid off.  When we were lining up I really did not want to go first. I climb better when I know I have to catch people and it keeps me motivated to climb and catch the next person. I usually go first but this time I was stubborn and started 4th in line behind Jesse, Oz, and David Tromp with Tim Danahue and Gorge Hermann right behind me.  I had a game plan of working into the race and thats exactly what I did. I remained focused on keeping a nice uptempo pace the first 50 floors then working into it if I was feeling good. I didnt know much about Tim but I knew he trained with Sproule so I knew he had to be good. Tim caught me by floor 15 or so and was moving but I never lost sight of him. He was breathing quite heavily so I stayed calm and hoped he wouldnt be able to keep that pace.  He later faded around 70 were I passed him back.  He had huge long legs and it was hard for me to get around him, his 4 steps equaled my 3. From 75 ish on I was all alone and focused on picking up the pace every 10 floors and putting as much time as possible between me and everybody else behind me. The last 20 floors I caught myself really looking at my watch quickly on the landings because I was really wanting that record. At floor 94 I glanced and saw 13:01 and thought damnit....but I could still get in a solid PR. The last 10 floors I actually had what I would consider a sprint finish in the stair climbing world.  I was really moving and grabbing the railings for everything I had left. Stopped my watch and saw 13:29 and was pretty pleased considering my finish and time from 2 years ago was 14:49 and 10th place. 2 years ago I had a rude awakening with this tower but this year I was ready and more prepared.  Then I just played the waiting game on finding out everybody else's times.  Overall I was really happy with my performance and time and effort I put forth in this race. I really wanted that 13:03 record but itll have to be next year. I know what I have to do. My 13:29 ties for the 4th fastest time every ran up in that race with some pretty big names in the sport next to me, which is a good feeling.


Results:

http://theracershub.com/results_view.php?id=2270&result_type=file&PHPSESSID=ef4d91f7d52c7742bfb9e65f174413b9