Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Preparing for Willis

In just one short week, I will make my way to Chicago to climb up the Willis tower. Although I’m prepared, I’m quite nervous because I have high expectations. I want to crack 15 minutes this year which would be a truly impressive feat. Last year I climbed Willis in 16:52 and to reach my goal, I’ll need to shave off nearly two minutes. To do that I’ll need an 11% increase in performance from last year, which is a pretty tall order.

Since this race is the last big race before the Empire State Building Run-up, I’d like to do well enough in this race to be considered for an elite spot in New York. This adds increases the pressure of this race by an order of magnitude. Even if I break the 15 minute mark, I’m still not guaranteed a spot at the ESBRU.

There are several improvements that I’ve made that will help me break 15 minutes this time around. In order of magnitude (from smallest gain to biggest gain) here are my top improvements:
1)      New Shoes: I just picked up a pair of New Balance Minimus sneakers. Although I’m not quite used to them, they are so much lighter than my current pair of sneakers. The shoes themselves weigh as much as my orthotic inserts. No joke.
2)      Experience: My biggest mistake last year was starting out way too fast. Since I’ll be using a metronome to pace myself, I won’t be making the same mistake twice.
3)      Diet: I’ve improved my diet considerably since last year. Even though I haven’t lost any weight, my percent body fat is at an all-time low (just under 10%) meaning I’ve shed a few pounds of fat and replaced it all with muscle.
4)      Training: I’ve trained my butt off during the year, even when times were tough. I’ve shaved off over six seconds in my training stair case, nearly a 13% increase in performance since last November.

Even though I’m well prepared, there are a few things that worry me. In order of magnitude (from smallest worry to biggest) are:
1)      New Shoes: I’m not used to the way my new sneakers feel. They feel alright as long when I use the inside rail, but are definitely uncomfortable when I use the outside rail (and take an extra couple steps on the landing). I hope they will feel more normal with practice.
2)      Pacing: Since I’m not sure of the step height (it changes on the upper levels) and I didn’t use my metronome last year (as a reference point) I’m not sure which setting to use. I may have to bring a ruler with me to the race.
3)      Weight: My body composition has improved, but I haven’t lost any weight. I’m probably spotting most top 20 climbers a good 15 pounds.
4)      Building: Tall buildings are not my forte and Willis is the tallest climb in North America.
5)      Training: Although I’ve seen a big improvement in my practice building, I’m not confident that my sprint training will boost my performance in a longer race. I have recently incorporated some longer distances to my training plan (thanks to feedback from Sproule). On my Sunday bike ride, I’m averaging about 25 miles whereas before I was only averaging 10-15 miles. I’ve also increased the amount of time on the step mill by 25%. I just hope it isn’t too little too late.

My official prediction is to crack 16 minutes with a stretch goal of breaking 15 minutes.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Chocolate Overboard

Throughout August and early September I made some pretty good gains in climbing fitness, but then I spent a week on a cruise ship for vacation. I was worried that I’d lose all of my recent gains since I wouldn’t be on my normal schedule and I’d have easy access to junk food.
As expected, I couldn’t resist the temptations of overeating. A perfect example was Friday evening, midway through the cruise. That day I had a moderate breakfast, lunch, and dinner and I planned to hit the fitness center that night and have a light post workout snack. But just before my workout, I bumped into “Chocolate Night” at the 24 hour buffet. The crew had set up a dozen or so chocolate sculptures, a chocolate fondue fountain, and laid out dozens of chocolate desserts: chocolate ganache cake, chocolate brownies, chocolate ├ęclairs… you name it, it was there. Before I could stop myself, I had already eaten a couple plates worth of chocolate delights.
Miraculously, I didn’t gain any weight even though I consumed thousands of extra calories throughout the trip. I figure that one reason was because I wasn’t stuck behind my desk and I was on my feet for much of the day so I burned more calories than on a typical work day. However, I think the biggest reason I kept off the weight was because I kept to my normal exercise routine. Although I didn’t use the stairs on the cruise ship (other than for normal everyday use) I went to the fitness center every single day for a good hour and made sure I pushed myself as hard as I would have at home.*
* It wasn’t easy. Several times I went to the gym after a late dinner in order to get my workout complete before closing time. Trust me on this… working out on a full stomach isn’t the most pleasant experience.
Fast forward two weeks and I’m back in top shape even though I suffered through a nasty cold a few days after my trip and had to curtail my training for a couple days. My motivation level is back to normal and since I still have 5 weeks of training to go before Willis, I think I can make some solid gains before the race. I honestly think that breaking the 15 minute barrier is possible this time around!