Thursday, June 22, 2017

2017 US Mountain Running Championships

2017 US Mountain Running Championships
Mt. Cranmore, North Conway, NH
18th Place Overall 54:14

After my first US Championship in 2014, I knew I had to come back for another one. Unfortunately I had to wait three years to come back but I'm so glad I did. I'm even more excited about it because I got the opportunity to make it a 5 day trip, making sure to take in as much of what the White Mountains and the Conway area had to offer.

As far as the race went I feel I had a good build up training wise for the race. I may have been behind the eight ball by a few weeks and missing some more intense workouts in order to prepare more but I was dealing with another sprained ankle issue into mid march. None the less I was able to string together two-three solid 3 week blocks of base mileage building. I was also able to add in quite a bit of vert in order to get ready wether it was on the small hills of Springfield or the treadmill or stairs. Coming from the flatlands I feel I competed quite well against those from CO, UT, PA and other mountain baring states. Training in the Midwest is tough for mountain races but I enjoy the challenge.

The field was rather stacked with many recognizable names testing their hand at qualifying for the US team. Top 4 go to worlds in Italy in late July. I was realistic with my game plan. I knew I wasn't too 4 caliber but I knew I wanted to compete, have fun, and just run a race where I knew I laid it all out there. I also wanted to place better than my previous championships, (31st), be under an hour, and not get chicked. All the above I accomplished.
Photo Credits: Scott Mason Photography

The course boasted 2,500 vert ft. of climbing total in the matter of a 10k. Two 5k loops up and down the mountain. The course required you to be quite dynamic in your running. It was a good mix of everything you would picture in a mountain race. I felt strong on the ups but I wasn't completely confident on the downs because of recent ankle issues. I got out in the top 10 in the opening mile and held around 10-15th. The course started on the left side of the mountain and cut across to the right making its way to the steep quarter mile section of 40% gradient that everybody was either looking forward to or dreading. This steep section was followed by some easier switchbacks that led to the top. At the top there was a small cattrack gravel loop and then back down ya go. Once I got to the top I was thinking damnit I gotta do that climb again. I took the downhills very carefully being sure not to get injured. I wanted to run hard downhill and compete but at the same time I wanted to continue to train the next week. Got to the bottom and I felt really good actually. I caught a few runners on my second loop and was able to run most of the steep section and I cruised down to the finish in a sprint. I'm really happy with this race. It makes me even more hungry to come back and do better.

The day after I was able to run up and down Mt. Washington the tallest mountain in the New England area standing at 6,288 ft. I ran the entire 7.5 miles of the auto road to the top climbing 4,700 vert ft. The road is an average 12% grade and never lets off. It was rough but I was like a little kid smiling ear to ear. My legs were tired from the day before but I settled into a decent pace and just chugged along. With every 1,000 ft of climbing the view got better but the temp dropped. I went from peeling layers to putting them back on real quick. By mile 6 my hand were frozen and the wind and cold didn't let up at the top. I was in the clouds and it was misting and cold the last 2 miles. Once I got to the top I was debating on weather I wanted to run down. I knew it would be easier on my legs but by the time I got to the top cars just started to come up. I couldn't find any rides back down so I said screw it, man up, and just run down. So I did and it hurt even more putting the brakes on and controlling my momentum. I knew I was tired going into the run but I still wanted to post a decent effort to compare to past results. I was able to climb in 1:17 and some change which I was thrilled about. I really surprised myself on this effort considering I raced yesterday. Absolutely an unreal experience running to the top. I will definitely have to come back soon for the race to see what I could do.

 The weekend was topped off by meeting a lot of new people that I'm sure I'll see soon at future events. I was also able to stay at the Ski Wheelers Ski Clubhouse in North Conway and got to hangout with an awesome group of people for the weekend. Congrats to all who competed and beat wishes on any future endeavors. Till next time.


Sunday, March 12, 2017

2017 Springfield Fight for Air Stair Climb

2017 Springfield Fight for Air Stair Climb
Wyndam Hotel, Springfield IL
1st Place Overall (Single, Ultimate Hour, & Firefighter Challenge)
Time: 2:09 Single, 12x's Ultimate, 4:02 Firefighter Challenge

To climb, or not to climb? That is the question. Well I'm glad I went with the first. After being plagued with ankle injuries the past few months I was on the fencing on climbing or not this weekend. After suffering a Grade II sprain this past December I was back and 4 weeks deep in building my miles and climbing often. Yet just last week I was out on the trails and the same thing happened on the left ankle. I was demoralized. This sprain ended up being in the upper ankle and only a Grade 1. The past week Ive been able to bike and climb stairs lightly but I'm still sidelined from compounding miles. There is still some swelling and a lot of tenderness. I did some recon work in the stairs Friday afternoon and was able to bang out 5 climbs at a decent pace. I didn't have any pain during the workout but the next day the ankle was sore. Not reassuring. But the night before the race I made the call to race. It felt good enough that I knew if I didn't climb this year I would come to regret the decision later on.

I went into the event relaxed and with no expectations. If my foot started to feel iffy during the climb I had no problem pulling the plug. Thankfully adrenaline will take you a long way and I didn't have any issues throughout the day. I started off the morning with the hour climb with your fastest climb going towards the single climb results. I ended up going up first with a clear path to the top. I started off nicely sprinting the first 10-12 floors one hand on the railing and the other pushing off the wall double stepping. About halfway up I switched to hand over hand on the rail still moving quickly. I did take a glance at my watch at floor 27 or so and saw 1:54 on the watch so I knew Id be close to under 2:10. To be honest compared to other years I thought I was actually moving through the stairs slightly slower. But I stopped my watch at the top and saw 2:10 and was a little shocked.  After the first climb the rest is just icing on the cake. Another 58 minutes of climbing stairs. I figured I'd be around 12 climbs total and I had my own personal goal of going under 3:00 for the 12th and last climb. Splits for the hour climb were evenly paced for the most part. Traffic in the stairwell for the hour climb is hit and miss so the times are relative to the situation. *2:09 was only 2 seconds of my own course record of 2:07 in 2012 and 2013.

Splits:  2:09   4:08   3:44   3:52   3:44   3:42   3:37   3:26   3:26   3:23   3:45   2:46

32 floors, 532 steps, 328 ft. 
I ended up hitting my goal on the last one and had to dodge some traffic as well. Overall, I couldn't be happier with the hour climb and how I felt. The second climb after your initial all out climb is always hard. You just gotta keep moving forward and wait for the legs to come back to you and you HR to come back down and recover. One of the best things about the hour climb are the other people in the stairwell you're sharing you're pain with. The encouragement and comradery of the group is the best and makes the time in the stairwell much easier.

But my morning wasn't over quite yet. I had one more go in me but this time I was adding 45 more lbs. of firefighting gear and climbing up with the other 12 firefighters from the Springfield Fire Department and surrounding departments. My legs were dead and I was tripping nearly every other floor. I just put my head down and pulled on the railing hand over hand double stepping and just going. I did hit some traffic in the stairwell and with 45 extra pounds of gear it was hard to maneuver around people. Non the less I got to the top in 4:02 and was glad to be done.

Totals for the day: I ended up climbing a total of 13 times, 416 floors, 6,916 steps, and 4,264 vert. ft.


Monday, February 27, 2017

2017 US Towerrunning Championships (Scale the Strat)

2017 US Towerrunning Championships
Stratosphere Tower, Las Vegas
855 ft. 1440 steps 66 floors
2nd Place Overall 7:27
1st American 

On the cab ride to the hotel from the airport the driver asked if I was there for business or pleasure. I told her I'd have to say I'm here for both actually. I was arriving just around sundown and with little daylight remaining I pointed out to the cab driver that I'd be climbing that, pointing to the Stratosphere Tower. She gave me a look of disbelief mixed with confusion. 
I have wanted to come out to this event for years but my schedule never really lined up well to do that. Well this year there was an opening and I'm glad I came. There are some towers you climb and don't have any real connection to and you don't feel compelled to return. This tower on the other hand had me wanting more. I gave it a good go today but afterwards there was something telling me I can do better. This tower is set up in such a way that's so different than others. Long sets of staircases, minimal turns, and an open stairwell marked in feet instead of floors. The event boasts a staggering 107 floors which is more like 66 when you compare it to standard floor towers.

Weeks prior I heard some international was going to be there which wet my appetite. I don't shy away from competition, I embrace it. It makes me better and brings the best out of me. With a field of Sproule Love (which ended up not showing) Shaun Stephens-Wales from Canada, Gustavo from Mexico, Ralf from Germany and a slew of American talent I new I had my work cut out for me. I had wanted the title of US Towerrunning Champion for a while now, it's got a good ring to it and will look good amongst other achievements. I ended up going up first then, Shaun, Gustavo, Ralf, and most of the other american talent right behind. They sent us up in 30 second gaps. I instantly got in a good tempo and wasn't sure if I was hammering too hard or not, I felt comfortable. I had written 439' and 3:40 on my arm. That's the rough half way point for a 7:20 pace finish climb. I was surprised and had to do a double take at my watch when I saw 3:11 on my watch when I reached 439'. I slowed significantly and I could feel it. I started hearing Shaun approaching as I was reaching 10 floors to go. He caught up and stayed behind me the last few floors to the top. I had a decent push at the end which is always nice to find. 7:27 is fine by me for my first attempt at this tower. With it being so different in nature I'm happy with my performance.

After the race was possibly the most fun though. Shaun and I ran up and down the strip finding all the tallest buildings and running up them. We hit 4 different buildings ranging from 36 floors to 63 in the middle of 12.5k of running. It's an amazing thing this sport. I had never met Shaun before but it felt like just catching up. Unfortunately this trip was an in and out but I had a good time. I got to see a lot of old friends who I hadn't seen in years. Congrats to all those who climbed today and set PR's and broke through personal barriers. Till next time.
Justin Stewart 2nd, Shaun Stephen-Wales 1st, Hascher Ralf 3rd


Monday, January 30, 2017

2017 AON Chicago Stair Climb

2017 AON Chicago (80 Floors)
2nd Place Overall 10:05

Aussie Aussie Aussie Oi Oi Oi ! That was the chant to be heard from everybody this weekend at the 2017 AON Chicago Tower Run. This past weekend was full of catching up with old stair climber friends and even meeting some new ones. As usual I took the train up north to Chicago and stayed with the Berg's. Him and his growing family where kind enough to let me crash for the night and provide an amazing pre race dinner the night before. I also got to meet the Wilson family. Darren Wilson and his family, from Australia, were in town for the weekend before his big climb in NYC. I new much of Darren from the interwebs and knew he would be a formidable opponent come race day. Him and his family were kind enough to let me tag along for the weekend. It was a lot of fun meeting them, it made the negatives of the race disappear, making the trip worth it just seeing them.

Come race time I felt alright but that quickly changed just a few floors in. Typical of a stairclimb you can just tell when you're feeling good or not within the first several floors. I ended up going up first with Darren flowing 5 seconds behind. At about floor 35 or so I could hear the ring on his finger clanging. He was approaching, and approaching fast. I let him glide by me and immediately knew I didn't have the legs today to keep up. We went through half way in 4:30-35. Which in this particular tower splits are even keel. After the midway point the clang of his ring disappeared just as fast as it came. I was spent by 60 and really fell off pace. Its really frustrating trying to compete but not being able to due to coming off injury. Patience I tell myself. Yet my inner competitor wants it now. The last 20 were a disaster and a real trudge slowing to a 5:30 ish split for the back half. On the bright side I was able to get in 7 total climbs for the morning. The 7 climbs averaged out to be roughly 13:20. I felt strong on the endurance factor but just not strong on the top end speed for the first climb. Each climb was roughly 1,076 vert. ft. So for a grand total on the morning, I got in 7,532 vertical ft. of gain.
Jesse, myself and Darren

Overall, it was a fun weekend. Disappointing race but with all things considered I can't be mad. At least I have something while my ankle heals. I feel most fit on the stairs when I'm in good running form, which I am not right now. None the less it will get better with time. Also, huge shout out to Darren for setting a course record of 9:01 besting the previous by 14 seconds. Next on the docket is the US Towerrunning Championships in Las Vegas at the Stratosphere on Feb. 26th. Till then


2017 Bop to the Top

2017 Bop to the Top
Indianapolis, IN
One America Tower 36 Floors
1st Place 3:38 (Single Climb)
1st Place 4:28,4:20,4:10 (Triple Climb)

Part of the crew
Well here I am once again climbing a tall building. Other than the Springfield Hilton race, it feels like I haven't been in a tower race in a long time. That's because I haven't. Besides the Hilton race, which I do every February, it's been roughly 3 years since I've done another tower race. Granted I've been in the Hilton stairwell getting workouts in but it's not the same as a race. "He's back," and "What are you doing here," is what a fellow stair climber said as I got ready.
I have a true love, and that true love is running. As I've gotten older my love for MUT ( mountain, ultra, trail) running has come into full fruition. I love the full grind of the training block leading up to a good 50k or mountain race. My 2017 early season campaign has been slightly sidetracked due to an injury i acquired back in mid December. After a little down time I started biking and climbing stairs to keep somewhat of a form through my healing process. Those two things are about all I can do without further injuring my ankle. Compounding miles right now is not in the cards. Yet my competitive hunger must be fed. Enter in the stair climb. Along with a gravel 100k bike race, stair climbs are about all I can do right now. A handful of stair climb races this winter will help keep me sane and along the way I get to see some old friends in the stair climbing community.
Top 3 in Triple Climb
Cindy Harris and myself
The race went as well as one could expect from dealing with injury. My cardio, that I get from running, I could feel was not quite there, as to be expected. I did throw down a 3:38 for the single climb. A second faster than my first time ever climbing the One America Tower back in 2012. Yet it was 8 seconds slower than my 2013 time of 3:30. In 2013 I was in probably the best stair climbing form of my life as of yet. So I'm not too far off fitness wise. I feel strong but not 100%, just for the sheer fact that I can't run right now. When I'm running, that's when I feel my strongest. The rest of the morning was capped of with a slow triple climb. I'll be honest, I wasn't to thrilled about the triple climb. Also I climbed several more times with Josh Duncan, to get a total of 12 climbs in for a good workout. This event was just as I remembered. I got to see a bunch of familiar faces, which was nice. I got to stay with and catch up with an old college teammate. I also got to meet some new people that may have bright futures in the stair climbing world. Altogether it was a satisfactory weekend. I'll take what I can get right now. One day at a time with fully recovering so I can get back on the trail. I'm really hoping I can be back running by late March. We shall see. Till then.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Down But Not Out...DNS

Down But Not Out...DNS

In the wake of my ankle injury back on December 10th I am pulling the plug on a couple Ultras in the early winter season. I had lofty goals for the Psycho Wyco 50k in Kansas City on Feb. 25th and the Land Between the Lakes 50 on March 11th. My ankle is healing nicely but still it has put me back a little bit and I just won't be ready and at the level I want to be at to compete. I partially tore 2 ligaments in my upper ankle and I am just now starting to put light miles on it. I have been biking and climbing stairs for supplemental work to stay active without putting pressure on my right ankle. Since climbing the stairs and biking is all I have I have signed up for a handful of tower running races and one gravel bike race. I'll have to play it by ear but I doubt I'll come back until either the Clinton Lake 30 in Clinton, IL or even the Yamacraw 50k in Stream, KY. I have signed up for (Bop to the Top-Indianpolis, IN 36 floors, AON Tower Chicago 80 floors, Scale the Strat 'US Towerrunning Championships' 108 floors, Springfield Stair Climb 32 floors, and the Deep South Roubaix 100k Gravel Bike Race) So I do have a training schedule that will be good supplemental work that I can gain strength from as well as a lineup of races that will keep me hungry and competitive for the time being. My ultimate A goal races are later in the summer and fall so Im not worried. Till then Im just going to keep plugging away. DNS's (Did not Start) are different than DNF. Injuries happen, plans change. You just have to make the best of the situation and keep moving forward.