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.


  1. Justin,
    nice meeting you and thanks again for the help Saturday and the callout above. Glad you have a blog so I can keep tabs on your events. Best of luck!

  2. Wow, excellent review of the race! I love reading this stuff... It sounds like you were "in the flow" so to speak. It's an amazing feeling that you cannot predict, but that comes more often as you time your training to peak for a race. Anybody get video of this race - interviews and such?

    So, at nearly 8,000 steps that day - did you make it up a vertical mile?? This week or next my 73 yr old friend here is going to attempt 6 times up the mountain for a vertical mile. It's tough for us here - we have no elevator down and the coming down does hurt eventually.

    My wife whispered last night... "Did you see that brochure under the motorbike seat?"

    I had seen something but it was dark and I was reaching for the rain poncho. I asked her what it was...

    "A race up the Hang Nak mountain on March 3rd."

    HAHAHA! I'm there! It's a 500m vertical mountain that I've climbed about 45 times. Lots of places to twist ankles, but, I'll give it a test run this week and see if I'm up for racing it. Wish you were here my friend!

    Cannot wait to read your run up the ESB - next.

  3. I'm headed to I-Tunes right now...Thanks for the songs! ha

    ...and the great narrative. So great for you to have experienced that "...unexplainable energy and mindset..."

    I'm in awe.

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  5. Nice write up! Chock full of great stats!

    I was also very impressed to see how many people went under 3 and 4 minutes, and love seeing the growth in this quirky sport of ours!

    Well done!

  6. Crazy!

    I remember looking at the results last year and marveling that someone had made it near two minutes flat, but I didn't connect that you were the same guy until I found this post--oddly enough, I was looking for a good photo of the Hilton on Bing, because I was going to add to a Facebook post that "someone climbed this thing in two minutes!" Then I noticed that the photo was hosted on the blog of a guy who was talking about climbing the Hilton in 2:07. Pretty cool.

    I'd never heard of the FFA climbs until I saw a billboard in Springfield near the end of 2011. I was morbidly obese at that time, around 360 pounds, and my attempt to get into shape had been limited to time on elliptical machines in box gyms. I decided to try the climb just to see whether I could finish it. My wife and our friend agreed to climb with me. Then I injured my knee....and again. Apparently knees don't like an extra 180 pounds. Still, I did the climb. I finished in 10:53, which was good for 508th place that year. My wife finished in 10:49, our friend in 8:33. I was proud of myself just for finishing, despite numerous stops to step off the stairwell and rest.

    But I was sick and tired of being so weak and unhealthy. I gave up sugar and starch completely and began to lose a little weight after peaking at 370 pounds in June. After a month, I found HIPE Fitness in Springfield and tried it out. The first few classes damn near killed me, but Wayne Carrels was teaching me things I'd never learned in years of "working out" for high school and college football. By the time the 2013 FFAC rolled around, I'd lost 75 pounds and regained the ability to do pushups and other calisthenics I'd given up, and I'd had zero new injuries and successfully rehabilitated my knees.

    My goals for 2013 were to climb nonstop and to finish in under ten minutes. I achieved both of those and finished in 6:07. I'm very proud of that time, which puts me (barely) in the top half of finishers, but it's got me thinking about goals for next year. I've still never actually trained by climbing stairs, and I have 95 pounds to lose to get to my eventual goal of 200, so I'm beginning to see that there's potential to go further than I thought.

    If you have any advice on goals or training, I'd love to hear it. Currently I'm at 6' tall, 295 pounds. My goal is to be at 200 lbs. by the next FFAC. I might shoot to break into the top 200, which looks like it would have required 5:00 or better this year. I'm deleting another paragraph of question after question here, since I just realized I haven't read any of the rest of the blog yet.

  7. Oh, geez, I posted on your 2012 article, didn't I? I've been raving about all the crazy stuff you did to everyone who'll listen, and it was the stuff you did last year.
    Oh, well, it was new to me and it's still all insanely impressive.