Sunday, September 18, 2011

2011 Stair Climbing Season

February 19, 2011
32 Floor Hilton Hotel, Springfield IL
1st Place 2:21 (Course Record)

This race was my debut stair climbing event.  It was a fundraiser event for the American Lung Association and had over 1,000 participants. My training for this race was minimal with a couple practice run ups at the tower the previous month along with running miles and biking.  For this race I was not yet considered an elite yet so I was scheduled later in the day, practically the last individual to go up that day.  Its now kind of funny to look back and see how this race day played out for me.  As an elite racer, you are usually the first to go up and race and then 1,000's of others who are participating go as follows throughout the morning for hours and hours.  Usually once the elite racers are finished you have your top 10 or 15 or so and those top times usually dont change unless someone later in the day betters any of those times.  In my case I ended up sneaking up on the competition and took the top spot later in the day once almost everybody left, because the events take all morning.  It was funny because once the results came up on the screen and I was now in 1st, nobody knew who I was or if my time was just a glitch.  Then a guy by the name of PJ Glassy came up to me and introduced himself.  He handed me his XGym card and I was really shocked.  I met a lot of nice athletes at this event and it opened my eyes to a whole new world of great friends and competition.

Picture after the race during the award ceremony.  Our team Vertical Fortitude which was made up of our old high school XC team (Me, Brian Frieze, Aaron Osborn, Adam Solomon, Chris Doty, and Kurtis Klay) also got 1st place for non-corporate team.

March 19, 2011
40 Floor Metropolitan Building St. Louis, MO
1st Place (Course Record)

With my new found success from the Hilton race I instantly went on a search for the next local race and that came in the form of the Master the Met race in St. Louis.  I continued training with incorporating more stair workouts, running, and cycling on my indoor trainer.  While I was training for this race I was becoming more aware of stair climbing techniques and workouts.  I was considering this 40 floor race as a sprint because it is only 8 more floors than the Hilton and I felt like that was more of a run rather than a up tempo walk type of endurance climb.  I got down to the race site and checked out the staircase and went threw my warm ups and went for a run in downtown St. Louis.  I decided to sign up for this race as an elite and got a starting position of 10th.  I ended up passing the majority of the places in front of me and I was the 3rd person to the top.  There were unfortunately no elite racers in this race but none the less I feel I had a good showing for still being a newb to the sport.  The second place finisher ended up 54 seconds behind me.  Also, I was somewhat disappointed because the race is originally 42 floors, but due to construction they cut it to 40.  So my new course record is not comparable to 42 floors.  Yet the pace I was at and with only 2 floors more and a buffer of 30 seconds to break the record I think I would have gotten it fairly easily.  In the end it rapped up another successful weekend and with a great after party I met a few new stair climbers friends of my own.

March 27, 2011
180 Floor Presidential Towers Chicago IL
2nd Place 

This was a unique race and my true test of endurance in this new found sport.  It was an interesting set up as well.  The race consisted of 4 buildings of 45 floors each with a short running portion from tower to tower.  We ran up tower 1, recorded the time, took the elevator down and ran to the next tower and so on.  The stair case was also one Ive never seen before, very small short steps with alot of turns.  Towers 1 and 3 had stair cases that turned left, while tower 2 and 4 had us turn right.  As the race went on I found myself getting really dizzy because of the non stop turning.  My preparation for this race was spot on I feel; stepping up my volume of intervals in the staircase at the Hilton in my home town.  This race was also the first time I raced heads up with the best in the U.S.  Likes of Jesse Berg who at the time was #1 in the world, Oz John Osborn, David Ackerman, Javier Santigo and others.  I ended up 3rd in line behind Jesse and Oz on tower 1 and my plan was to stick to their pace for as long as I could.  I ended up hanging on the coat tail of Jesse but on every tower he would just accelerate with 10 floors to go on each tower and would just leave me in the dust.  I ended up finishing a good 50 seconds behind him but I was not mad at all considering he was the #1 guy in the world at the time.  Just another great weekend with a new group of stepbrothers and stepsisters as PJ puts it.

April 30, 2011
63 Floor AON Tower Los Angeles CA
1st Place 8:16

Well I wasn't planning on going all the way out to LA for a race but I was peer pressured into coming out by a few good friends and in the end I'm glad I did.  I got a plane ticket at last minute and called a good buddy of mine who lives in LA so I could save a few bucks on a hotel.  This trip in itself was a brand new experience for me since it was my first time on a plane and my first time to the west coast.  I couldn't sleep and couldn't stop looking out the window.  The entire plane ride was clear skies and it was really neat watching the changing of landscapes across the country.  When I arrived I got picked up by my good friend Adam and we dropped my things off at his place.  I glanced out the window of his place and saw what every body was warning me about and what I had to try out...Culver City stairs.  A crazy outdoor stair case up the side of a hill in Culver City CA outside of LA.  Each and every step is different in steepness, height and pitch.  Did a couple of run ups as a pre race workout and ended up running a time of 1:43 which was 23 seconds better than the previous record but it wasn't official until the next day after the AON race.  That night I met up with the West Coast Labels group for dinner in downtown LA.  The next morning it was race day and I got going on my warm up routine with a run in downtown LA which was a great experience.  I was in line as the second to go up the tower behind the one and only Jesse Berg.  Once the race was underway I caught up with Jesse on the 10th floor making up a 10 second difference.  I was worried at this point I went out too fast.  I just paced off of him for a while and around the 55th floor I decided to go for it.  I paced Jesse and put only maybe a floor or two on him and with 5 floors left he was closing fast on me and finished right behind me on my heels.  Yet since I made up the 10sec. difference on him during the race thats how the result ended up, I finished up in 8:16 while Jesse was 8:26.  This was truly a great feeling for me.  I found out later that day that Jesse had broken his big toe earlier that morning before the race.  He truly is an animal.

A couple hours after the race we went out to the Culver City stairs and did some run ups.  PJ had his video running to document the run ups.  For my first run up I went 1:41, 2 seconds better than yesterday when I had fresh legs and not after doing the AON tower twice.  This set of stairs actually hurt even more than the race earlier in the day just because it is an all out sprint up a very steep stair case.  Here is the video from that day.

May 21, 2011
Bennington Monument, VT
1st Place 1:10 (Course Record), 1:14

I continued my new found passion of stairs to Bennington Vermont to race up the Bennington Monument.  This race is considered a 100m sprint in the stair climbing world.  You get two chance to run up and both times are recorded and your better time of the two is considered for places.
I arrived in New Jersey and was picked up by PJ and Kourtney and we drove in the rental, which was a Charger, up to Tim Van Ordens home in Bennington, VT.  I finally got to meet the infamous Tim Van Orden who is arguably one of the greatest U.S. mountain runners currently.  His entire back yard for 40 miles was mountainous trails, which I had a blast on the next day.  On race day I warmed up with the usually routine.  This structure was very very unique with a hanging stair case which made a weird echo when you ran up it.  My first time up I went 1:10 which tied the course record.  My second run up was 1:14.  After the race I went up a few more times to get in a complete workout.  When we got back to Tim's we went for an hour run in the mountains while I was waiting for my plane.  Just another great weekend trip to an area that was really hard to leave.  Check out the video from the climb.


November 6, 2011
103 Floor Willis Tower Sky Run, Chicago IL
10th Place  14:49

I have a lot of mixed feelings about this race, for starters.  I went into this race, thinking in my mind, I did enough of the right training to be prepared for its distance.  I was wrong.  After the race I really broke down why I didnt do so well and it simply came down to not training enough.  I was only putting 10 miles a week plus about 50-70 miles of bike with no ab work, not enough lifting/ plyo leg work.

In the race I finished 10th overall out of a couple 1,000 which doesnt sound bad.  Yet when your used to racing as an elite, in your head the only people your competing again are those top few are are elites as well.  You tell family and friends I finished 10th out of 2,000 people and your not pleased with that performance they think your crazy.  So in a sense I am thankful for what I am capable of doing because I know here are those who would give up a lot to say they finished 10th at Sears.  So again I am grateful for the fact that my abilities led me to that finish.
As a competitive racer though there's that side of you who is just angry with how you did.  I was fighting with that for a while after this race.  Figuring out what went wrong, what do I need to do to prepare better.  First off I was not prepared for how steep this stair case really is and how long this race is.  So after the race I stepped up my aerobic base.  I also started lifting more and doing more core work.  I guess you could say that this race really got me fired up and pushed me to become better, and as all racers know you need that sometimes.  Its just my wake up call came on one the biggest climbs of the year and one the longest hardest race in the world.
The race itself went a little like this...I was the 3rd person to go up starting behind Jesse and Rolf.  The starter was not evenly spreading us out so I feel like Rolf went 5-7 seconds after Jesse and I went literally 3 seconds so after after Rolf, because I caught him and Jesse on the first couple of floors.  So by floor 20 or so we had along train of climbers, Jesse, Rolf, me, Kevin, and Ackerman all in a line just working together keeping a good pace all the way up through 60 or so.  Around there I made a move around Rolf and filed in behind Jesse.  At around 80 Jesse and I started to pull away from the rest of the pack and I even yelled at Jesse to keep it up and that this is a good pace.  I was feeling great right now.  In my head I was pacing off a champ who has won here before in record times and we were on pace for a very good time.  Then at about floor 86 I hit the biggest wall I have ever hit in my life.  I went from feeling 100%, ready to take home 3rd place behind Jesse to walking and crawling my way to 10th in a matter of 17 floors.  I was mad with myself for mentally letting myself go when I wasnt feeling it.  But my legs were done for I had nothing left.  People said well your a sprinter and I refuse to believe that.  My times may be better and faster at shorter climbs but I feel I have what it takes to be good at longer climbs as well.  PJ Glassey really helped me out after this race in picking my spirits up.  He said out of the many new climbers he has seen in this sport I was the fastest he had ever seen climb this building for the first time. It s true this race is very hard if you do not know what to expect or if you have never done it before.
Bottom line, I know now what I need to do next year for this race.  Like I said I also used this race to fire me up a little bit and get me motivated, and I think it showed in my next 2 races.

November 17, 2011
47 Floor U.S. Bank Building Milwaukee, WI
1st Place (Course Record) 4:50

This race goes down in my books as one of my favorites.  Not for the lack of air and amount of dust in the stairway that give you the infamous Milwaukee hackers cough after and during the race but for the people I spent time with and the good competition.
I had quite the trip in order to make it up for this race all the way from Springfield IL.  I drove 4 hours from Springfeild to North Chicago to pick up my good friend Jesse Berg, then drove a good 2 hours up to Milwaukee for a night race that began at 6 ish.  After the race Jesse and I proceeded to drive back that night to his home. After I dropped him off I then drove straight back, arriving at my house around 2a.m. in the morning the next day.  To only wake up an hour later to do the paper route.

In the midst of all this I ended up having a very good race with a great friend.  I was the first to go up and Jesse followed 7 seconds behind, and it basically stayed that way the entire way up.  I could hear him a couple floors down the entire race.  At the finish there he was a pretty even 6-7 seconds behind me.  Meaning we had about the same time since he started 6-7 seconds behind me at the start.  Then the Milwaukee hackers cough set in real quick.  I proceeded to climb the tower again 3 more times getting weird looks from race organizers.

One thing competitive stair climbers hate is wrong times in the results.  Our sport uses timing chips with mats of some sort to record start and stop time.  And like with any piece of equipment there is going to be room for error.  And in our sport were there is 1,000's of people racing a time error is bound to happen.  In the case of this race, it did, by a lot.  I always time myself on my own watch for backup purposes now.  I timed myself at 4:50 and the race director cam up to me and said is 4:28 look to fast for you, and I said wayyyy to fast.  They even went on ahead and mentioned my fast wrong time in the awards ceremony making me look like I took the elevator.  After the race Jesse and I went to talk to the timers and director to get it straightened out and finally they corrected the times and they seemed accurate from what Jesse and I had our watches.
Overall, this was a great race and nice couple of days of traveling.  I got to talk to Jesse Berg and really get to know one of the best stair climbers the world has ever seen.  I learned alot from him and it was nice getting to know him better.

Check out the video I put together for this race.

December 1, 2011
56 Floor WaMu Tower Seattle,WA
1st Place 5:29 (Tied Course Record)

This post will be short and sweet because Im running out of time and need to go for a run.  But first off this weekend would not have been possible if it wasnt for my good friend PJ Glassey.  He went above and beyond to get me out to Seattle and racing in his hometown on his hometeam.  PJ if your reading this, again you are the man, and Im very grateful for what you did.
Seattle is a great city to live in if your a stair climber.  Access to a few towers and access to endless outdoor stair cases.  On race day I had 4 hours to burn and instead of watching TV in the hotel I decided I needed to walk around downtown Seattle.  I took the chance on my legs being tired for the race in order to see Seattle for the first time.  Walked a good 5 miles around Seattle and explored its outdoor stair cases.
Race time came and I was jacked up, literally.  I could not stop moving, I was ready to go race for my team XGym, who by the way dominated all the top spots.  I went into this race very relaxed with not a whole lot of pressure.  I just decided to go into this relaxed because in the end it was an awesome experience just to be able to come to Seattle for the first time.  I just wanted to put my best out there and see what happens.  During the race I felt no pain and even had a final kick on the last 10 floors so.  I maintained a nice threshold pace the entire way and just brought it home with more left in tank.  I was jogging around the top floor after the race, I guess i could have gone sooner in the race and possibly under 5:29.  5:29 by the way is the record held by Joe Gray who happens to be a world class mountain runner.  To have the same time as him in a tower race is a real honor and I dont take my talents for granted.  After every race I thank God for my abilities and talents.

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