Tuesday, February 28, 2012

2012 Hustle Up the Hancock

2012 Hustle Up the Hancock
1st Place 9:44
94 floors
1,632 steps

This event in my opinion is the premier stair climbing event in Chicago; an even bigger deal than Willis.  I say this because it attracts more attention in my opinion, with over 4,000 participants and the largest fundraising effort of an upwards of 9 million dollars since the race started roughly 15 years ago.  The combination of great event setup and help, media attention, number of participants, and the events past history of fast times gave me the sense that this race really meant something more than some others.  Even though Ive raced Willis once I already feel I have a love hate relationship with the Willis Tower but the Hancock race for some of the named reasons gave me a sense that something great has happened here in the past and great things can happen here for me in the future years as well. 
One guy by the name of Terry Purcell has won the Hustle up the Hancock race the past; forgive my figures here if they are off, 7out of 8 years.  Terry is from Springfield Illinois, as am I.  He has been racing on and off for the past 20 years or so.  It wasn’t until 2011 when he decided to hang up his climbing shoes.  Each and every year at the Hancock he runs consistently fast times with his fastest time clocked at 9 minutes and 30 seconds.  Another name that the Hancock tower race is familiar with is Christopher Schmidt who has clocked a fast time of 9: 36, I believe.  My 9:44 ranks as the 3rd fastest time ever ran at the Hancock tower.  Granted I believe Terry has run faster than 9:44 a couple of times but I am the third fastest individual to race this event.  Since this is my first time running this race I feel very confident that other fast times are to come in future years as I get stronger at the longer races.
As a runner I found my niche in the middle to long distances.  Yet as a stair climber I came into the sport as a sprinter.  A sprinter in the stair climbing world likes building that range from 30 -40 floors usually.  In my opinion 30-40 is a sprint race, 40-60 is a middle distance race, and anything above 60 just plain hurts.  Back in February of 2011 when I was introduced to this sport I won in just my first race ever which turned out to be a 32 floor sprint race.  It was also a local race held at the Springfield Hilton.  Once I caught the stair climbing bug I raced the Master the Metropolitan Building (40 floors) in St. Louis, MO.  This race is usually 42 floors but due to construction that year they shortened it.  I won this race in record time as well with the next racer a full 50 seconds behind.  After a few sprint races I started to attempt some longer races such as the AON Tower in L.A. (60 floors) , Presidential Towers (180 floors) that were coming up on the schedule.  I didn’t feel near as great or consistent in these races as I did in the shorter races.  Granted I still had solid results but I didn’t run anything record breaking like I was in the sprint races.  So I decided to start focusing on the endurance side of this sport.  Tinkering with my training so I could become better at the longer races.  It wasn’t until this year at the Hancock that I felt I have made gains at the longer races.  So this race was more so of a break through race for me. 
The Race:
The night before the race I stayed at my good friend Jesse Berg’s house along with Kevin Crossman.  The three of us who ended up staying together also ended up in the top 3 of the race.  Since this sport is not well known and still growing we end up seeing a lot of the same people at the races.  Unlike some other sports we end up forming a friendly competition when we race.  We push each other; we help each other out, trying to make each other better. 
Heading into this race I was pretty comfortable.  I knew I was in shape and ready to race I just had to apply my fitness and hold nothing back.  I ended up getting the number 2 bib number which meant I was going to be the second one up the tower behind Jesse with Kevin starting behind me.  We went off in 7-8 second intervals.  I caught up with Jesse on about floor 8 and Kevin ended up catching the both of us around 10.  Instantly this worried me because I knew Kevin had made up 8 seconds on me already and 16 on Jesse.  Pretty much the entire way up we formed a nice little pace line.  Jesse and I ended up pulling away a little bit around floor 80 or so.  For most of the race I was just zoning out and keeping a nice tempo.  I have found that this works well, just finding a nice comfortable rhythm with the floors and steps while maintaining a good speed to stay competitive.   Then if I feel good towards the top I throw in a kick if I have one.  In this race I am sad to say I had too much left in the tank at the end.  I think I did a little bit too much zoning out and looked up and realized Jesse and I were already on floor 84, we only had 10 to go.  I slapped Jesse on the butt and said time to go, let’s go.  Then we sprinted the last 10 floors together.  In hind sight I wish I made a move on 75 or so but didn’t want to crash and burn in an unknown building.  Now that I know this I will just head into next year’s race in better shape and push the pace even more.   I already have a goal in mind for next year and that is Terry’s 9:30 record.  I feel if I can race to a 9:44 on my first attempt, still have energy left in the tank, and not realizing we only 10 floors a little too late; that I can cut 15 seconds off. 
Overall it was another great weekend in Chicago and I am becoming quite familiar with the city from racing here so much.  It just stinks with these races that you have to wait around for a year to do it again.  It’s not like a 5k where you can find a race almost every weekend so that you can better your time.  Until next year. 

Media Attention:


Results: towerrunning.com or http://www.lungchicago.org/hustle-results12/

Monday, February 20, 2012

2012 Springfield Hilton Stair Climb

2012 Springfield Hilton 
Springfield, IL
(32 floors)
1st Place Ultimate Climb 46:01
1st Place Single Climb 2:07

As I type 2:07 in this blog I had to chuckle to myself.  Ill be honest, this past Saturday I really surprised myself.  Sometimes in racing and in training you really surprise yourself.  Pieces of the puzzle seem to fall in place on a certain race day or a certain workout and you feel great.  At this years Hilton climb I was on cloud 9, feeling only adrenaline and no pain as I scaled the 32 floors over and over and over and over and....

As a type "that you can really surprise yourself sometimes", I dug up my log on Excel where I keep all my splits and workouts from the Hilton.  Several weeks back I did do some sprint workouts where I would sprint 16 floors rest for only a minute and then sprint the rest up to the 30th floor.  They are not even splits because you start 2 floors down in the basement of the hotel but they are close enough in training terms to split them 16 and 16, the first 16 floors being a little longer as well.  On Sunday November 13th 2011 I did a workout that the starting point of what was to come.  

Workout: Sunday November 13th 2011
16 floor sprint, rest 1 min., 16 floor sprint
Times: 1:14, 57 = 2:11
 (Combing those two times I figured that would be a good idea or range of what I could do come race day.)  I figured adrenaline and nerves and race day energy would surpass that 1 min rest you have during that workout.  I did this same workout 3 more times periodically up until the race on February 18th 2012.  Here are my workouts and times of those training climbs.

Workout: December 7th 2011
16 floor sprint, rest 1 min., 16 floor sprint
Times: 1:08, 57 = 2:05
(When I got done with this workout I honestly thought maybe this idea of projecting an accurate race day finishing time was not so accurate.  I honestly thought 2:05 is a bit too much.  But this is when surprising yourself comes into play.)

Workout: January 14th 2012

16 floor sprint, rest 1 min., 16 floor sprint
Times: 1:08, 59 = 2:07

The Race: 

This event is put on by the American Lung Association and is in its 3rd consecutive year.  It offers a single climb and for those crazies an Ultimate climb, where individuals climb the 32 floors and take the elevator down and repeat for an hour, trying to see how many times they can climb 32 floors in an hour.

Last year, this was my first ever stair climb race, where I came out of nowhere to pull off a win.  I was literally the second to last wave of the day to go, 3 hours after all the elites have finished up.  I didnt do this on purpose, it was just how it worked out.  I was new to the unknown sport and didnt know any better.  Thats why I never assume I have won a race just because Im sitting in first place after the elites have raced.  There is always somebody out there faster than you and you never know who signed up for a race that day.  Never take a second for granted.  I take this mind frame into all my races that I do.

Heading into this years race I signed up for the Ultimate climb and had the #1 position.  This means a clean and open staircase with nobody to pass.  Just you and the stairs and the pain that comes along with it.  I had a plan going into today and I wanted to stick with it.  Go all out, balls to the wall, pedal to the medal, 100%, redline the first climb up.  Then for the rest of the hour try to get into a rhythm and muster up what you can to survive an entire hour of climbing 32 floors just after you laid everything you had in a single climb.  I did just that.  My first climb I clocked myself at 2:05 which I thought was pretty darn accurate but in the end the timing company came through again 2 seconds slow with a final time of 2:07, which Im still more than happy with.

Ill walk you through what I was thinking about and feeling on that 2:07 climb up 32 floors.  When I hit the first timing mat mentally I was thinking first 10 floors conserve somewhat or else the last 10 floors will come and bit you in the ass, yet at the same maintain a good tempo.  There were also a lot more people cheering/taking pictures/giving out water in the doorways this year compared to last year from what I remember. Then again I did go last year towards the end of the day.  Either way I think having those people in the staircase doorways and having a spectator presents fueled me up the stairs a little bit as well.  Floors 10-15 are when mentally, you cant help it but think, did I go out to fast, maybe I did but I couldn't look back on it, I had to push through to 32 or bust.  Got to floor 23 and glanced at my watch. I cant remember now what my time was but I remember thinking I was happy and when I saw that time I pushed it hard the rest of the way knowing that i was on pace to get close to 2 flat.  I was grabbing whatever I could find it that stairwell and clawing my way up.  After I touched the mat at the top I looked at my watch and saw 2:05 as I walked to the elevator.  From that point on I honestly did not care what I did the rest of the day.  My adrenaline from what I saw on my watch fueled me through the rest of the hour.

 I can relate this to my track years in HS and college.  It always seemed whenever I had a break though 800 or mile and ran a good time it always carried over into a break through 4 x 400 meter relay split.  I guess it is just because you are fired up and the adrenaline carries over and you race more relaxed.  That is what I felt in the Ultimate after my first climb, relaxed and not a care in the world just doing what makes me happy and thats racing.

Another thing that surprised me today were my splits from each climb up within the hour.  My second climb was expected, which was much slower than my first one.  I was basically stumbling up 32 floors and gasping for air.  It took me until the 3rd and 4th time up to really get into a good rhythm.  Once I got into a rhythm there was no stopping.  I was running from the finish to the elevator, and jogging in place waiting for the elevator, getting impatient sometimes because I wanted to get down there to go up again as quick as possible.  I was prying the elevator doors open with my hands and sprinting out of the elevator to the starting mat.  I dont know where this energy was coming from, I never specifically trained for the hour of climbing.  The most repeats I had done in a workout was back in August 2011 when I did 9 repeats.  I had an unexplainable (if thats even a word) energy and mindset that just carried me up those steps.  When you find that feeling in racing it is an ephoria that can only be felt when your racing and doing what you love to do.

My splits were also very even.  Granted the staircase did get quite crowded a few times up which slowed things down but that was an element of the race that had to be dealt with.
Splits: 2:07, 4:16, 3:55, 3:45, 3:54, 3:35, 3:34, 3:23, 3:30, 3:32, 3:27, 3:27, 3:36.  Average 3:32
I also found it interesting after my second climb I only deviated 32 seconds on each climb for the hour.
I didnt stop after the Ultimate climb though.  As PJ Glassey likes to say I have two screws loose.  Not even 15 minutes later I paced one of my runners on my track team that I coach up the Hilton.  His goal was go under 3 minutes so I paced him to a finishing time of 2:56.  A good 20 minutes or so after that I paced a guy by the name of Travis Liles who was on our Fit Club team who happens to be an Ultra runner up the Hilton.  I assumed he could go at or under 3 minutes so I paced him to a finishing time of 3 minutes flat.  So for a total on the day I climbed the Hilton's 32 floors 15 times today, that a total of 7,950 steps.  Then I added on a two mile cool down run.  A good day at the office.

I usually down listen to music before or during a race, I like to be alone with my thoughts and my surroundings but today I listened to two songs to get me jacked up.  Metallica-Some kind of monster  & Creed-Bullet.  So there ya go, if you wanna climb a 2:07 listen to those songs, lol.

This is a great event and great race that has great people in this sport.  I heard nothing but encouraging comments and pats on the back and pushes up the stairs (Joe Anderson) haha, but this is a great sport that has amazing people around it.  I want to thank all the people who have supported me and encouraged me this year and at this race.  I hope this race continues on every year.

A sign for things to come... 
A sign that this sport is growing and gaining more interest every year not only locally but internationally.  Some interesting figures I found while looking at this years results and past results from the last three years at this event.
Three years ago in 2010 Terry was the winner in 2:24, 2011 I was 2:21, this year I was 2:07.  In 2010 there were only 4 under the 3 minute mark, 19 under the 4 minute mark.  In 2011 there were 7 under the 3 minute mark, 48 under the 4 mark.  In 2012 there were 10 under the 3 minute mark, 58 under the 4 minute mark.  This event is getting faster and faster with more participants every year.  I also noticed in this years results there were 16, 18 and 19 year olds right at or just under the 3 minute barrier.  I better get my record as low as possible so future studs like these youngsters cant get my record.  A sign for things to come for this race in Springfield and sign for things to come in the sport.  Congrats to all who competed.

2012 Oakbook Terrace Stair Climb

2012 Oakbrook Terrace Stair Climb
31 floors
1st Place (Single Climb) 2:41
1st Place (Tiple Climb) 9:19 (2:41,3:05,3:33)

This was a fun event and fun weekend to get away.  I drove up to Lake Zurich in the northwest suburbs to stay with my friend for the night before the race.  Doing this made things easy for me traveling wise and it was much appreciated.  The night before I also got to see a bunch of my college teammates over some dinner at a rather risque restaurant called Tilt a Kilts where girls wore skimpy pieces of cloth that barely covered anything.  One waitress even yelled across the table, "Hey bald guy, hey baldie, what do you want to drink?"  I said well there goes your tip, Ill have a water.  Good times.  Anyway, got to bed around 11pm, maybe a little later than I would have liked but when you get to catch up with old friends time flies.

Race Day:

Woke up 3 hours before the race and had my breakfast of champions.  I usually or try to have the same thing before every race.  Two pieces of toast, either with Nutella or crunchy peanut butter, a banana, dry cereal, a quarter of a glass of some sort of fruit juice, and water.  Got dressed and packed said bye to my good friend amigo and drove 40 minutes south to Oakbrook.  Arrived on time, checked in and took some pictures and footage of the power hour or ultimate climb.  Some of the others decided to do the hour climb so I hung around and threw in some words of encouragement.  Once the ultimate climb was finished the triple climb began.  Jesse Berg and I were really the only two elite in the triple climb.  Jesse went first and I went 5 or so seconds after him.  From the get go i went for it, since it was only 31 floors and the first climb counted towards the single climb results.  I could hear Jesse one or two flights above me the entire way up.  I never saw him though.  I tried turning it on the last couple floors but couldn't quite catch him.  since I started 5 or so seconds behind him though, I put 2 second on him.  I finished my first climb in 2:41 and Jesse was 2:43.  I clocked myself at 2:39 which I thought was pretty accurate.  At every local American Lung Assoc. stair climb they use the same timing company and they unanimously are 2 seconds slow.  Even a week later in the Hilton stair climb, same timing company, had me 2 seconds slower than what I had on my wrist watch.  Im pretty darn accurate when it comes to timing myself on climbs I think.  there must a 2 second delay in the process.  Anyways, my second and third climbs were decent.  Nothing earth shattering.  Jesse and I decided to take 10-12 minutes between each climb so that we were on the same playing field rest wise.  The race is short but the staircase is not too conducive to a fast time.  Its broken up by a landing between each floor.  Which when you spend more time turning that slows things down.  Unlike, what I call its sister building the Springfield Hilton which is 32 floors and pretty close in the step count.  The Oakbrook Terrace tower has 680 steps while the Hilton in Springfield has 530.  The Hilton is a much faster tower and race because it does not have a  landing between each floor, so it is a super fast building to race.

Speaking of the devil the Springfield Hilton stair race is just 6 days after the Oakbrook Terrace stair climb.  at first I was signed up to do both the Power hour climb at Oakbrook and then 6 days later do the Hilton Ultimate (1 hour) stair race, then head to Hancock Center in Chicago a week after that and expect to do well at Hancock...I dont think so.  I called the race director at Oakbrook and changed to the triple climb to save the legs a little bit.  So far I think it was the right move, since the Hancock tower is the main focus of the 3 races in 3 weeks.

Results:  http://theracershub.com/results_view.php?id=1551&result_type=file&PHPSESSID=2d463771cdd89213817e30a395c5c962

2012 Empire State Building Run Up

2012 ESBRU
(86 floors)
17th Place

I look back on the race that was now 12 days ago as I am just getting around to typing this post.  As I try to recall the events that took place on my visit to NYC it just seems like a big blur.  I’ve always wanted to visit New York and my chance came through my new found passion of stair climbing.  As I land in LaGuardia Airport I was unfortunately on the wrong side of plane so I don’t get a view of the skyline, which I was hoping for.  None the less I did get a quick shot of adrenaline when we landed.  The airport is right off the water, so when we were landing, for a second, it looks like we were going to land on water.  You may think big deal, but I rarely get to fly so it’s exciting for me.  I always make sure I get window seats and I never sleep because I’m to busy looking out the window the entire flight.  At the airport I waited for Kristen Frey’s flight to arrive so we could split a cab into the city.  A half hour later Kristen and I were scrounging $55 dollars together to pay for a 30 minute cab ride.  A $55 dollar cab ride into the city, are you kidding me.  I’m from Springfield IL and sheltered from any big city living but that just blew my mind.    Once we were dropped off we walked down the streets of Manhattan to our hotels.  On the way we stopped and looked at the Empire State Building and thought about what it had in store for us the next day. 
The ESB is a funny sight to see because on the NY skyline it sticks out like a sore thumb but in a good way.  When it was originally planned and built people thought it was a horrible place to put a building that size on that side of Manhattan because it was so far away from the financial district that office space would never fill up.  For a long period of time it was just that, a vacant structure, with only 25% of the floors taken up.  Even today, with much taller structures around the ESB it still sticks out above everything else.  The grandeur of the tower even continues inside with huge marble walls and hallways with copper embroidered pictures and doorways.  

Once I arrived at my hotel I decided to go out for a little shake out run to get the blood flowing from the long flight.  I intended to go out for a 20 min easy run.  My easy shake out run turned into a 50 minute long run at a decent pace.  I don’t know what it was.  Maybe a combination of just running the streets of NYC for the first time with all the people, the sights and sounds, exploring and dodging traffic.  Once I spotted the new freedom tower I decided to run that way and get a glimpse of the new WTC area.  I didn’t realize security would be as tight as it was down there, I guess I should have known better.  Also when I got down there it was dark so I decided to loop back toward the hotel.  Then I found myself on the other side of the city running on a bike path along Hudson River.  50 minutes or so later I turned in a solid 7 miles.  Not the ideal prescription for the night before a race but oh well Im in NY for the time what do you expect. 

Race Day:

Woke up and grabbed breakfast with Kevin Crossman at the hotels breakfast cafĂ©.  Not too bad of a spread.  After that Kevin, Norbert Lechner (from Austria) and I went down to see the WTC Memorial which was definitely eye opening.  I watched what happened on 9/11 on TV and I have seen pictures and videos but you really don’t get a sense of what really happened down there until you see just how tall these buildings are and how close they are and the amount of people around.  It gave me goose bumps just thinking about what went down that day for that city and those people.    Afterwards we grabbed some Whole Foods for lunch.  Relaxed a bit and took a nap.  Went for another short, and I mean it this time, short shake out run.  This year the race landed on a Wednesday night which was unusually for this event.  Walking down the streets of Manhattan towards the ESB it starts to snow.  We look up and the tower is lit up in an orange color, which happens to be Kristen Frey’s favorite color so it was a good omen for her.   Registration was simple enough.  I found a spot to myself to warm up, a nice long hallway to do some drills and running to warm up.  Mentally and physically I felt ready to go.  The race director called all the elite racers to the wave area.  But only 6 of the elite field were actually where they needed to be.  The corral area was somewhat crowded and hectic.  As we were lined up Dold is just getting back from his warm up while everybody is ready to go.  We walk down in order down some stairs, down a hallway and to the start line.  There were cameras and media everywhere.  I had never seen such a thing for a stair race.  Usually at the stair races I got to in the US you race and they mail you a ribbon a couple weeks later, if you’re lucky. 

This was my first time doing this race but from what I gathered this year was a lot different and not in a good way.  I sensed a lot of negativity towards the setup of this years event from past years.  For one they changed the time and date of the race.  It has always been on a Tuesday morning.  This year it was on a Wednesday night at 8 pm.  Also, the elite wave has always been 50 individuals deep.  This year there were only 21 elites toeing the line.  There is usually a lot of pushing and shoving with people losing shoes and getting trampled down but this year it was a clean start with only 21 guys.  I was mentally prepared for all this but it was just not what I was expecting.   Even though the elite was smaller the talent was still there no doubt about it.  European world mountain running champions and highly sponsored athletes were there and here I am in just my first season of stair climbing.  I felt a little over whelmed by the atmosphere. 

The Race:

I was in the 3rd row, which any other year would be great but this year the 3rd row was the back row.  No matter I still got a clean start and got some running room for the first few floors.  The pace went  out just as expected, unrealistically FAST for a stair climbing race.  I knew this race would go out fast but when it came down to actually getting into race mode, the pace was just ridiculously fast for a stair climb of 86 floors.  The mass start produces this effect.  I thought I went out fast yet the leaders pulled away like I was walking up the stairs.  I got up to floors 40 and I looked behind me and noticed Tim, Jesse, and Kevin closing fast on me.  I let them go by and floors 40-60 became a blur.  I remember floor 66 because I found a big wall waiting for me.  The last 20 floors I was held to a crawling, just surviving pace.  I was miserable.  I was thinking you have got to be kidding me.  This is what Ive been training for seriously for 3 months now and Im not racing up the ESB Im crawling up to the finish.  All that hard work I put in was just not showing today.  Frustration and a loss of words.  Everybody tells you good job, you just climbed the ESB, you did it.  In my head I didn’t though.  I finished in a time of 12:35.  The first female was only 4 seconds behind me.  Granted she is not human but none the less.  I was shooting for something close to 11 minutes.  Was my goal to lofty, maybe.  People told me nobody races well their first time at Empire and that 12:35 is solid.  But Im not satisfied.  Next year.

Bottom line I didn’t race as well as I would have liked.  It was good experience for me though.  My first season of stair climbing and Im still getting stronger overall over the course of the year.  I have room to improve on my longer races and Im fixed on doing that.  I tell myself there are some people out there who can even breath, walk, talk, they have a limb missing, etc. and that makes my problems of not having the race I wanted seem so small.  Those people would kill to have been at a race like this and to climb such an iconic building.  After every race when I have a chance to be alone on a cool down run or something I do thank God my talents that he has given me.  I am lucky to able to run, and climb, and breath and travel to these places and do these races.  I can’t take anything for granted, take everything in stride and take in and enjoy the little things that happen along the way.  Next year I am going to come back an animal and in even better shape than this year.  It is a long ways away but the long road realistically starts the day after the race.  Day 13 now of training, here we go.
Javier Santigo, Kevin Crossman, Erika Akufi, me, Tim Van Orden

Race Footage provided by Tim Van Orden

Results: towerrunning.com