I underachieved at Sunday's race at the Rockefeller center, but I still managed 3rd place at the event and received a nifty trophy to boot. See the results here.
Leading up to the event I had high expectations. The prior weekend I had a relatively good performance at Hancock and I had an excellent week of training. In the days leading up to the race, I studied my primary competition: Paul Teti, Joseph DeVleming, and my friend (and fellow Tower Master) Steve Marsalese. My observations were as follows:
- Paul & Joseph have had won the race in the past and I expected them to get about 8:30 or less based on past performance. I was confident I would be able to match that pace since my time was very close to Paul’s in the John Hancock Tower in Boston (Paul's 2010 race vs. my 2011 race).
- Steve has been pretty consistent over the years and I expected him to finish in about 9:00. Since I've raced against him in several races, I knew I would be able to break 9:00. We're close in ability, but I have a slight edge in races under 10:00.
- My training data predicted I'd be able to finish the race in about 8:15 if I had a good race.
I had a good trip to NYC and spent early Saturday evening with an old high school buddy of mine. I went to bed around 10:30, but needed to wake up at 4:45 AM in order to get to the race on time. My start time was 6:30 AM and I needed to be there at least 30 minutes ahead of time to check in and warm up.
|This line takes an hour?!?|
*Seriously, do I look like an Emily Wozniak?!?
Since my warm-up was unexpectedly delayed, I ended up rushing to the "elite" corral and finished up my warm-up standing in line. Thank goodness my routine of Jumping Jacks and Burpees doesn't take a lot of space.
Inside the elite corral, I looked for Paul Teti, but had no luck finding him (I later learned that Paul didn't show up for the race). Joseph Devleming, on the other hand, wasn't scheduled to start with the elites, so I figured that I didn't need to worry too much about anyone else other than Steve in the elite heat. Knowing that, I moved to the front of the line and met a couple of the other climbers intent on starting near the front. As the organizers led us to the start line (on the 3rd floor) I met one fellow who did the Empire a few weeks back in less than 14 minutes. Since I had a similar result at Empire, I asked him to start first. I set my watch and metronome and soon enough I was racing up 30 Rock!
My race plan was simple. Since I was aiming for less than 9 minutes in a 66 flight race, I mentally cut the race into thirds with a goal time of under 3:00 per third. I planned to start off at 84 bpm and check my pace around floor 25 and adjust accordingly. I chose 84 bpm rather than 90 bpm (my approximate racing threshold) because my calculations indicated the step heights would be taller (8 inches rather than 7.5 inches). Although I worried that my step height calculations were off, I figured that erring on the slow side would be safer than starting out too fast.
I quickly settled into my pace and within a few floors I could hear the person behind me. He was quickly catching up. He passed me around the 8th floor, but I could tell he went out too fast. I let him pass me, confident that I would catch up to him later in the race.
The stair well easy enough to climb since it had tubular rails that were comfortable to grip and 180 degree landings which were simple to "one step" around. The course, however, was a bit difficult to navigate. There were approximately half a dozen flat landings which required a bit of running and sometimes it was hard to gauge whether or not the stairs turned to the left or the right (most if not all turned to the left if I remember correctly). Although the long flat landings didn't break my rhythm, I sometime felt like I was running blindly through a maze of tunnels. Somewhere in the middle of the race, I banged my fingers against the railing when I accidently chose the outside path and had to cut back to the inside of the stairwell. It hurt quite a bit but I ignored the pain*.
*It turns out it opened up a small cut on my finger which drew a little bit of blood. Hopefully the rails weren't too slick for the folks behind me ^_^.
After I was passed, I kept up my steady pace and my watch hit the 3 minute mark right around floor 24 or so. In my growing mental fog I figured I was right on track to break the 9 minute mark - although after the race I realized I was slightly behind pace. Since I still felt fresh, I cranked up my metronome to 90 bpm, thinking that would keep me in the medal hunt.
Shortly thereafter (probably around floor 30) I caught back up to the fellow who blew by me in the beginning of the race. I could tell by his labored breathing he wouldn't be able to keep up and I passed by with ease.
The remainder of the race was uneventful. Eventually (perhaps around floor 45?) I caught up to and passed the person who started the race ahead of me. I was pretty happy with myself at that point because I had just passed my biggest perceived threat and I still had some energy in reserve.
Right around floor 55, I started to struggle with my pace. However, I was mentally prepared for the fatigue and I forced myself to keep one foot on the landings. I knew I could keep up the pace for another couple minutes. Somewhere in the mid or lower 60s (I simply can't remember which floor), my watch hit the 8:15 minute mark. I had already lost my shot at the course record and at that point I knew I had better pick up the pace again or else I'd lose ground to Paul or Joseph. I picked up the pace yet again and I began a full out sprint around floor 66. Just as I was getting ready to power up the last flight of stairs, the race was over. I thought I still had one floor to go, but I was obviously mistaken. I glanced down at my watch after the finish line and I swear it said 8:41 (although the race officials have me down as 8:53). I put my hands on my knees in order to catch a few breaths and then walked over to get a bottle of water. I had mostly recovered by the time Michael, Steve, and the other Tower Masters finished the race.
I was slightly disappointed with my time, because I knew I had raced too conservatively. I left energy on the table and had started my final sprint way too late. Although it was a pretty competitive time, I figured Joseph and Paul were capable of besting my mark and I had better be prepared to come in 2nd or 3rd.
The Top of the Rock observation deck had a spectacular view of the city, including historic landmarks like the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building. I wanted to stay on top and explore the city. When enough of my fellow climbers were ready to go back down, we all hopped on an elevator and headed back down to the lobby. When we got back downstairs, I quickly grabbed my camera and headed back up to the observation deck to take pictures*. I would have taken even more pictures, but it was pretty cold outside and I was standing around wearing just my shorts & jersey.
*So how did I get past the security guard to get back upstairs? See my "Shuffle up the Hancock" post for my "asthma trick". You would think the race organizers would let us bring our cameras & binoculars back to the observation deck without having to resort to such nonsense.
|Can you see the Statue of Liberty?|
|At the Top of the Rock|
|Empire State Building!|
|The Tower Masters!|
When the unofficial results finally came in, I was a bit surprised. They showed my time as 9:11 rather than 8:41! After consulting with some of my fellow climbers, it looked like a bunch of the times were off. I promptly went to the official time keeper and asked them to re-check my time. Since the race volunteers hand wrote our start & finish times manually on a piece of paper, the race official recalculated my time and changed it to 8:53. Not what I had expected, but still good enough for the top position.
The next couple hours were spent waiting for the other racers to finish. Around 8:30 AM, I found out that Joseph DeVleming posted a blazing time of 8:23! I was bumped down to 2nd place and my friend Steve was bumped to third. Such is life in the stairwell.
At that point I was pretty sure I would finish 2nd overall, but I had another surprise waiting for me. In the very last heat, I noticed an athletic looking fellow at the head of the line. Michael, Steve, and I thought he looked like a serious athlete, but we doubted he'd succeed in beating our times. Boy, were we were wrong.
|Joseph, Alex, Jennifer, & Tim|
|Sproule's friend Tim Donahue|
Here are my final thoughts about the race:
- A $250 donation is way too much for this race. I should have flown to Vegas for the Strat.
- If I ever do this race again, I will request a later starting time. I'm sick and tired of having to wake up well before 5:00 AM for a local race. Tower Masters stand united!
- The race was disorganized. They had a difficult time checking in people and did a horrible job with the timing. A couple guys in the elite heat didn't even show up in the final list. Additionally, several climbers had their times off by a significant amount. Although they screwed up some very important aspects of the race, I admit they did a pretty good job getting all 1000+ climbers into the stairwell. Likewise, they had plenty of goodies for the climbers.
- Racing Tactics: B- , Race Exertion: C- , Overall Grade: C . I should have set my metronome for 90 bpm at the start of the race. I raced way too conservatively in the first third of the race and had too much energy near the end of the race.
- The steps didn't seem to be very steep, so I suspect they were only 7.5 inches rather than 8.0 inches (per my calculations). I am beginning to tire of incorrect race information. This time around it really hurt my race.
- Next time I will add 15 seconds to my predicted time for this race. There were 6 or so landings which required running.
- Add Peter Janki to the list of dangerous racers. He finished this race in just over 9:00 minutes. He also did the Empire State building in under 14:00, right behind me. He is a nice fellow and shook my hand after the awards ceremony. Note that Peter was not the fellow who started first. The name of the other sub 14:00 ESBRU climber is still a mystery to me.
- Did I finish the race in 8:41 or 8:53? I admit I'm not really sure. I remember 8:41, but I also know my mind wasn't at 100% after the race and I only glanced at my watch.
- Even though Michael was also disappointed with his race, I'm still proud of him. He set a new PR of 9:49. Likewise, my friend Steve set a new PR of 8:58, finally breaking the 9 minute barrier.
- "Climbers Cough" only lasted a few hours at most. No feeling of nausea at the end of the race. Although that means I under-performed, I hope it will help me recover quickly for the Albany Corning Tower on Thursday.
- It would have been nice if Joseph or Tim started with the rest of the elites. At least I'd *like* to think I would have given Joseph a bit of competition if we started off together ;-) That said, I’m doubtful I could have broken 8:30 (assuming my time really was 8:53) so even if I had a very good race, I’m pretty sure I would have had to settle for third. Joseph and Tim are both amazing athletes.