Friday, September 30, 2011

Chicago, Here I Come!

Well everybody, it is official; I’ve signed up for the Sky Rise Chicago race up the Willis Tower (formerly known as the Sears Tower). The race takes place on Sunday, November 6th at 7:00 AM.

This race benefits The Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, an organization devoted to providing care and research involving repair, regeneration, and recovery of brain, spinal cord and musculoskeletal function. If you would like to help me reach my goal of raising $100 to help RIC, please click here. Every little bit counts.

This will be my biggest race to date and many of the nation’s best stair climbers will be racing. Jesse Berg, Tim Van Orden, Terry Purcell, and Kevin Crossman are just some of the big names who have competed in recent years.

Winners of the race are expected to break the 14:00 minute mark and based on my training data I should be able to keep that pace. My actual prediction is that I will come in at about 15:45 which *might* crack the top ten. Anyway, I would still be happy if I break the 17:00 minute mark especially since this will be my tallest tower race ever. Here is a bit of Trivia: The Willis Tower is about 70% taller than the John Hancock Tower in Boston!

The only way I’m going to crack the top ten is if I keep an even pace throughout the race. Unfortunately, it is very difficult to start out at a moderate pace during a stair climbing race. From my experience, the first few flights feel very easy once I am warmed up, ready to go, and full of adrenaline. But if I go all out, I will start to tire around the 6th floor. At some point, the heart, lungs, legs, and arms start to give out, even when going at a moderate pace. Unlike a traditional running race, you can’t simply slow down and recover. Going up stairs offers no recovery unless you SLOWLY take the stairs one at a time. If you ever reach that point in a race, you are heading for trouble. At the Boson race, I’m still not sure how I made it up the last 20 flights. Not only did I lose a good chunk of time, but I was in agony the rest of the way up.
To prepare for Chicago, I will be collecting data and performing pacing drills in addition to my normal training. Next week I plan to measure the height my new training staircase (7 flights). From this information, I should be able to practice my race pace. I’ll share my calculations with you next week.

In the meantime, here is my weekly training log:

Saturday - An easy 15 mile bike ride with a long break in the middle.

Sunday - Core Workout

Monday - Leg Workout: Warm-up, Lunges & Squats, Dead Lifts (3x12@195, 135, & 155 lbs), Hamstring Curls, Tabata Leg Presses (@180 lbs), & 10 minutes cycling.

Tuesday - Interval Training: Intervals on Step Machine (30 minutes) + Core Workout

Wednesday - Modified Navy Seal Pull-up routine & Spinning Class (40 minutes)

Thursday - 15 minutes on Rowing machine + 10 minutes cycling, Lunges & Squats, Hamstring Curls, & Core Workout

Friday - Stairs x 12 sets; 1 set = 178 stairs with 34 meters elevation. Continuous up and down except for water breaks after set 6 and 9 (2 minutes each). Average time to ascend = 55.42 seconds

Coming Weekend - TBD, but I need to both rest and catch up on my push-ups!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

First Place!

I have great news! I managed to claim 1st place in the John Hancock tower race in  Boston.See the race results here.

The evening before the race I drove to Worchester, MA and I stayed overnight at the home of my friend Nate “The Great” and his family. It was a pleasure catching up with an old friend while sharing a cup of mead. I also finally got to see his baby daughter and his dog, Dursu.

The next morning, I woke up at 5:45 and was back on the road at 6:00 AM. Breakfast (while driving) consisted of an apple, a cup of yogurt, an English muffin, and some water. I arrived in Boston around 7:00 AM and walked over to the John Hancock building. The building itself is impressive and somewhat intimidating. It is 61 stories tall with mirror-like glass panes covering every square inch. Craning my neck, I could see the sky reflecting off of the upper stories. I couldn’t believe I was about to climb to the top of this building!

After registering for the race, I popped an Aleve (for the caffeine) and began to slowly warm up. During my warm up I noticed a few people wearing the “West Coast Labels/Running Raw/X-Gym” shirts, which made me even more nervous. If you do a quick Google search, you will quickly realize that runners affiliated with West Coast Labels are among the top racers in the sport.

My warm-up consisted of:
  • ·        Light jog (3 min)
  • ·        Jumping Jacks (1 min)
  • ·        Step-ups (3 min) + Burpees (1 min)
  • ·        3 minute rest
  • ·        Step-ups (3 min) + Burpees (1 min)
  • ·        3 minute rest
  • ·        Burpees (1 min)
  •   A few minutes rest prior to race

Just before 8:00 AM, they called the elite racers to the front and about 10 of us descended the escalator to the bottom of the John Hancock tower. As the runners from West Coast Labels began queuing up, I realized I needed to get to the front of the line before I ended up at the end of the line. I wanted to avoid this fate since that would mean I would have to pass people in the stairwell during the race, which wastes precious time and energy. I took a deep breath and cut to the front of the line, boldly claiming I planned to finish the race in about 8 minutes (I hope I wasn’t too rude). They looked a little bit surprised, but graciously let me go first. Moments afterward, the race started and I found myself in the first stairwell. It happened so quickly, I had no time to be nervous.

The stairway itself was optimal. The landings were uniformly spaced apart and the handrails were easy to grip. The rails were at just the right height so that I could use my arms to help climb up the staircase. The only flat section was a short hallway near the beginning of the race.

Although I planned to keep a steady pace throughout the race by taking it slow in the beginning, I still went out way too fast. By the time I reached the 10th floor, I was already beginning to tire and I mentally forced myself to slow down. At this point it was hard to even think since my heart rate was near its max. By the time I reached the 30th floor, I looked down at my watch and noticed I was around 3:40, on pace to clock 7:30 for the race. By the 42nd floor my watch showed 5:21 which was slightly faster than my race in Albany (which is about 42 stories). At this point I was extremely fatigued and I could barely keep pace. Even my arms felt like lead. At floor 50, I wanted to stop and I switched to taking one step at a time. However, I could hear people cheering (at what I assume was a water stop) and went back to taking two steps at a time. Each floor was more painful than the next, but I knew I couldn’t stop if I wanted to win the race. I could hear cheers coming from the 61st floor and I wanted to kick up the pace but I simply couldn’t. As soon as I reached the 61st floor I exited the doorway and the finish line was right in front of me. After crossing the line, I collapsed and tried to catch my breath. The clock had just passed the 8:00 minute mark and I knew I had a good race despite going out way too fast.

The race volunteers helped me back to my feet and I stumbled over to the observation deck to wait for the other racers. Ten minutes later, I was finally recovered enough socialize with my fellow racers and enjoy the Boston skyline (although the only landmarks I could identify were the Charles River and Fenway Park).

I introduced myself to a few of the racers wearing the West Coast Labels shirt and to my pleasant surprise, they were all very friendly. After chatting a bit, we finally took the elevator back downstairs and continued our conversation in the lobby.

Soon afterward, the official results were posted and I found out that I came in 1st place with time of 7:58! My time was only 9 seconds slower than last year’s winner (Paul Teti, an Olympic rower). Although I missed the course record, I was still very pleased.

After the award ceremony, I took a few group photos with some of my fellow racers. I exchanged email addresses with a few of my new friends and after our goodbyes, I took a stroll to China town and picked up a pork bun, an egg tart, and a cup of “pearl” coffee (iced coffee with tapioca) for the long road back to Albany. Along the way I also snapped a couple of photos of the John Hancock Tower to remember this awesome event.
The Champions - Mike, Alex, & Ed
The Tower Masters & Me

Now that the race is over, I still need to finish raising funds for the National MS Foundation. If you would like to help me reach my goal of raising $250 to help the fight against multiple sclerosis, please click here. Every little bit counts.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

My Second Race

Last week I learned about a stair climbing race up the John Hancock Tower in Boston. Thank you for advertising this race! For those of you who aren’t familiar with this site, please check it out. It has a wonderful database that shows upcoming stair climbing races around the world. Without this site, I wouldn’t even have known about this race.

This race benefits the fight against multiple sclerosis. If you would like to donate to the National MS foundation, please click here. My goal is to raise at least $250 to help battle MS.
Even though I’ve had limited time to focus on this race, I’ve been training consistently for the CN tower climb in Toronto (in October) and this race fits perfectly with my training plan. This race will be 61 floors (starting in the basement) and covers 1220 stairs. I estimate that there will be a 241 meter elevation gain.

Since I only have a couple days before the race, I’ve tapered off my training. Here is my training schedule for the past 7 days.

Saturday – Stairs x 12 sets; 1 set =  178 stairs with 34 meters elevation. Sets done by sprinting up the stairs with active recovery by climbing down the stairs. I nearly dropped from exhaustion and had to take a couple “water breaks” near the end.

Sunday –Core Workout & Pull-ups (4 sets of 15)

Monday – Spinning Class (40 minutes) + Chest Press (5 sets)

Tuesday – Leg Workout: Core Workout, Lunges & Squats, Dead Lifts (3x12 @ 135 lbs), Hamstring Curls, Tabata Leg Presses (@180 lbs).

Wednesday – Interval Training; Intervals on Step Machine (30 minutes) + Modified Navy Seal Pull-up routine

Thursday – Core Workout + Stairs x 8 sets; 1 set = 145 stairs with 27.5 meters elevation. Sets done slowly at proposed race pace with ample 2 minute recovery between sets.

Friday – Light Workout (TBD)

Saturday – Race! I’m hoping to beat the course record (7:49) set by Paul Teti, who was a former US Olympian in rowing.

Wish me luck! I’ll post the results this weekend.