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