Friday, March 29, 2013

Phantastic Philly

After the Albany Corning tower race, I had a miserable week of training. A few contributing factors were lack of sleep, overeating, and hectic racing calendar. The following week, I got my act together. I forced myself to go to bed early and I stopped eating extra junk food. I was back on track, even during a particularly stressful work week.*

*During my last full workout, I managed to surprise myself on the erg machine (indoor rower). Ever since I’ve reduced my stroke count (from about strokes 35 per min down to about 25) I’ve struggled with power output. It was the first day I’ve been able to cross the 1200 calories per hour mark at this reduced stroke count.

Friday evening I packed my bags and headed over to my friend Steve’s house down in Westchester County to spend the night. It was just about half way to Philadelphia, so it was a convenient stopping point. Many thanks Steve!

Bright and early the next morning, Steve and I headed to Philadelphia. We arrived just after 8:00 AM and proceeded to get checked in and ready to race. We met up with the other Tower Masters and then I met parents, who came to Philadelphia just see me race. I also ran into John Smiley, another climbing friend.

Reflection of One Logan Plaza
My race plan was pretty straightforward since I took pretty good notes about last year’s race (see blog post here). Since I couldn't maintain a 117 bpm pace last year, I decided to knock it down to 115 bpm. I considered lowering it further, but since I did so well in Albany at 114 bpm, I didn’t dare go any lower.* This year I also planned to use both rails as much as possible since last year my left arm gave out while sticking to the inner rail. My official goal was to complete the race in 5:50 which represented a combination of a few things.
  1. Last year I left a few seconds on the table (I climbed in 6:01, but I think I could have squeaked in under 6:00).
  2. This year, I’m in slightly better shape. I could reasonably expect to shave off another 5-10 seconds.
  3. With David having such a great season and his dominance in taller buildings, I expected him to climb somewhere in the lower 5:40s. I hoped to limit the gap to 10 seconds or less.

*Albany is a shorter race, but it also has taller steps (7.5 in. vs. 6.75 in.).

This time around I planned to reach the halfway point (around floor 25) right around the 3:00 mark and then push myself in the latter half of this race to break the 6 minute mark. If I still had energy left, I would start pushing myself at floor 30.  In any case, floor 40 designated as my “go-to” floor, lungs & heart be damned.

After a few cold minutes standing outside posing for pictures, David entered the stairwell as I patted him on the back for good luck. Ten seconds later, I entered the stairwell and the race was on.

The crowd was cheering and I couldn't hear my metronome for the first couple flights but I quickly got into the groove after I crossed the 2nd floor hallway over to the main staircase. Up to the 10th floor or so, I tried keeping only one foot on the landings but I was having a bit of trouble balancing. Although the rails were perfect for climbing, the pace was too fast to execute efficient turns. I eventually settled on two-stepping the landings; I was getting tired and I needed that extra micro rest on each landing. As I climbed I kept loose track of the floors since the floor numbers were difficult to see. In order to get a proper look, I would have to look over my shoulder after making the turn in order to see the number.

On floor 25 I looked at my watch. It crossed from 2:59 to 3:00 just as I looked down. I knew I was right on track but would need to push harder to hit 5:50. Considering I went out a bit faster for the first 10 floors, if I continued my current pace, I’d struggle to break 6:00.

For the next couple floors I took stock of my situation. My lungs and heart were hurting but my legs and arms were still strong. I remember giving up near the same point last year and I regretted not pushing myself harder. In the back of my mind I reminded myself of all the hardcore 4 minute repeats I've done on the Precor Stepper. With less than 3 minutes left in the race, it was time to buck up and grow a pair or go home with regret.

By the upper 20s I had picked up the pace. Since I wasn't agile enough to single step the landings, I simply went up each flight a little bit ahead of the beat of my metronome. This continued as I approached the upper 30s. With just over a minute to go, I kicked it into another gear. My heart and lungs were struggling but my arms and legs were handling the pace. This was going to be like the final minute of my standard erg work out; pull 15% harder during the last minute and try not to fade.

In the lower 40’s I had the brief illusion that I could hear David faintly from somewhere up above. I risked a glance skyward and couldn't see anything but the endless turn of stairs. There was no reason to suspect that I was catching up since I hadn't heard him at all throughout the lower 40 floors. Plus, I expected David to be 15 to 20 seconds ahead of me by this point. However, by floor 45 I really could hear him up ahead, although I had no way to judge the distance. I held a glimmer of hope that I might be able to squeak in a win, but I knew prognosis wasn’t good; I was running out of real-estate to climb and I could hear the crowd at the finish line up above. I assumed David had finished already and I was only racing to set a PB.

Just as I reached floor 48, I was in for a total shock. I heard the crowd suddenly cheer and I knew that David had just crossed the finish line. I still had two floors to go and if I could somehow climb them in under 10 seconds, I had a shot at winning. I immediately turned on the turbo boosters and climbed with renewed intensity.

I crossed the finish line and I knew it was going to be close. I stopped my stopwatch right around 5:49 so I also knew that I posted a very solid time. I was completely exhausted so the next few minutes were kind of blurry. I do remember chatting with David as well as my parents at the top of the tower. I also vaguely remember switching bibs for the “Century” climb (where we’d be racing up the tower a 2nd time for a grand total of 100 floors). When I finally recovered enough to chat, my father told me the preliminary finish times from the time keeper. David finished at 8:37 and I finished at 8:49, which meant that I crossed the finish line about 12 seconds behind David. Since David started the race about 10 seconds ahead of me, that meant he won the race by about 2 seconds. I was a little bit disappointed about coming in 2nd for the 2nd time in two weeks by such a narrow margin, but in the end I was still pretty happy about my race. After all, I didn't really expect to win in the first place.* Anyway, I still had the Century climb to do. David looked to be in pretty rough shape after the first climb so I figured if I could recover quickly, I had a pretty decent shot at winning the Century.

*In case you are wondering, I gave myself a 33% chance of winning at Albany but only a 15% shot at Philly since it is a longer course.

The Century climbers headed back down to race and we eventually found ourselves at start line again. Even though I had a good 20 minutes to rest, I was still tired. My legs and arms felt okay, but my lungs were raw and my energy was sapped. Knowing it would be impossible to have a repeat performance, I changed the beat of my metronome from 115 bpm down to 113 bpm. I hadn’t really planned for the 2nd race, but based on David’s 6:21 performance during the last year’s Century, I would need to come close to 6:20 to have a shot. That would mean I’d need to hit floor 25 somewhere between 3:10 and 3:15 and then somehow will myself up the final 25 stories.

The organizers placed David and me in the middle of another group of climbers and once again, the race was on. This time around I didn't even bother try to single step the landings. I was pretty tired and needed the extra break at each landing. Another difference was that there were lots of people in the stair well; I probably passed a person once every couple floors or so. The congestion really wasn't too bad and almost every single climber let me pass on the inside. The only real challenge was summoning the energy to ask people to move out of the way!

It was getting harder and harder to climb but for the most part, I was still able to keep up to the beat of my metronome. When I finally hit floor 25, I looked down at my watch and It said 3:30. I was already way behind my proposed pace!

Unlike the first climb, I had no energy to go faster; my body had already transitioned into “survival mode”. It was all I could do to keep up my current speed and even that would be barely enough to crack 7:00, let alone 6:20.

For the next ten floors I begged myself to go faster. My arms and legs were still in pretty good shape, but my heart and lungs were tapping out. I had an unsettling feeling that I was capable of going faster for a short burst, but doing so would make my heart explode.

All thoughts of winning were dashed, but pride alone kept me from slowing down and quitting. When I finally hit the upper 30s, I didn’t dare look at my watch but I knew I only had one or two minutes worth of climbing left. I was ashamed that just minutes before I had dreamt of winning the race and now I was basically just cruising to the finish line. I wanted to quit the race, but I knew that wasn’t an option. I didn’t come all the way to Philadelphia to let my parents see me walk to the finish. Tower Masters don’t give up. I gave the last 10 floors my all, slowly picking up the pace floor by floor until the finish line. David greeted me at the finish and then I stumbled over to see my parents. I stood next to the wall with my hand on my knees and panted for a while. Then I kneeled down and started sobbing.
At the Finish Line
Everything came out at once. Between family and work, I was already having a difficult week. This race was the last straw. I put so much effort into the last climb and I didn't even come close to reaching my goal. I felt like such a failure. I also couldn't bear coming in second for the third straight race. To make matters worse, I hated myself for crying about second place. How many people would love to be in my shoes while I was sitting here crying?

I thought back to a bit of wisdom offered up by David while we were waiting in line before the Albany Corning Tower race. He told me, “I like this sport because we’re all friends. We’re not really racing against each other; we’re racing against ourselves.” Although it is a great feeling to win a race, winning isn't the most important thing. Climbing is all about camaraderie and surpassing your own personal expectations in the stairwell and setting up new goals for the  next climb. I climbed my heart out in Albany and Philly; Setting up two back-to-back PBs is something to be proud of.

I’m not sure how long it took until the tears finally stopped, but after I had finally composed myself, David came up to me and offered his congratulations. Apparently, I caught David right at the end of the race and I was in such a daze that I didn't even notice.

The Tower Masters
Happy Parents
I started crying again. Here was David, who also had a difficult climb, congratulating me for winning when by rights he could have been sulking about coming in 2nd while I was crying even after I found out that I had won. What irony. When the tears finally subsided, I felt drained, yet at peace. Now I could finally celebrate and socialize with friends and family.

After snapping a few photos from the observatory, I headed over to the Tir-na-Nog bar with my family to attend the after race party. While waiting for the final results and awards, the Tower Masters all met inside the bar for a rounds of drinks. David even bought me a Strong Bow, my favorite English cider.*

Cue "Rocky" Theme
View from the top

*He owed me a drink since I lugged his 2nd place USA championship trophy all the way from Las Vegas back to Albany. That sucker took up nearly half of my carry-on.

When the official times started coming in, I was in for a big surprise; my name was atop the leader-board  Beyond belief, I saw that I was a fraction of a second ahead of David. Apparently, I must have spent an extra couple seconds at the bottom of the tower or received faulty information at the top of the tower. Either way, I felt like I had pulled a rabbit out of my hat.

Everyone congratulated me on the win and a little while later, the organizers kicked off the award ceremony. The Tower Masters made out with a pretty big medal haul, taking the overall team award as well as numerous other age group awards. See final results here.

After the ceremony, it was time for the long drive back home. I grabbed some snacks from remaining goodies left over from the party and said my goodbyes. Overall, it was an emotional, yet satisfying race.

Post-Race Analysis:
1st Climb:
Strategy: A- ; 115 bpm was a little too slow when double stepping the landings. I had a conservative first half and had to play catch-up during the 2nd half. That said, negative splits are usually a good thing, so I’m pretty happy.
Technique: B; 115 was a little too fast when single stepping the landings. The only way to improve would be to practice in the actual stairwell. Mapping out the course might help, too. Perhaps there is a more efficient stepping pattern?
Effort: A- ; I had a very solid effort during the last 20 floors, especially compared with last year’s race.
Overall: A- ; A solid overall race.

2nd Climb:
Strategy: D/B+ ; Going all out during the first race is not a recipe for success in a multi-climb event (D). However, since the “Century” climb was not my primary goal, my strategy for the 2nd race was pretty sound (B+).
Technique: B; Same as the first race.
Effort: A-; Although I physically could have gone faster, this race broke me both physically and mentally. It took courage just finishing.
Overall: C/A- ; I had a poor 2nd race because I was already so exhausted (C) but I did a pretty good job with what I had left in the tank (A-).

Final Thoughts:
I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: Cardiovascular fitness is what I need to work on the most.

David is always the first to offer congratulations whether he wins or loses. Someday I hope to be as gracious. David is truly a great champion & role model.

I came down with a cold the day after the race. The strain of the Century climb really lowered my immune system. Fortunately I took it easy for the next couple days and fully recovered. I didn't want a repeat of January.

Like most ALA climbs, this race is well organized but I have a couple complaints. First off, unlike the NY/New England or Nevada ALA chapters, the organizers at Philly are unwilling to accommodate elite climbers. For the 2nd straight year, they refused to waive or even reduce the entrance fee for out of town participants. Likewise, they didn't even bother getting plaques or trophies for the top finishers. In fact, the medals we received didn't even identify the race; the medals simply had a sticker that said “2013 Fight for Air Climb” pasted on the front. At least the other ALA climbs had the decency to put the name of the climb somewhere on the medal or ribbon. Considering that Philly was the largest ALA climb in the North East (with 600+ participants) I felt pretty shortchanged. NY/New England & Nevada ALA chapters go out of their way to attract elite climbers, but the Philly chapter just seems to think of elite climbers as just another way to make their charity quota. What a shame. I hope they consider changing their stance next year.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Midweek Madness in Albany

Editor's Note: I'm finally less than a month behind in my blog! This post was originally created a few days after the Albany Corning Tower race (March 7th, 2013). Unfortunately there aren't any race day pictures in this post, since I left my camera at home. However, a couple days before the race, I was contacted by the Schenectady Gazette for an interview about the upcoming race. I saved a copy of the article for your viewing pleasure. You probably will have to download these pictures in order to read it.


The results from the Albany Corning tower are in. I did well, but not good enough to capture 1st place. That award belongs to my friend David Tromp. See the full results here.

I’ve been traveling for races pretty non-stop for the last couple weeks so it was nice to finally have a race at home. Since I’ve been so busy, it has been a challenge to balance training, tapering, and racing. Fortunately, I’ve gotten to know my body pretty well, so I think I handled everything just right. Here was my training log in preparation for this race:
·        Saturday: Race in Los Vegas
·        Sunday: Off (traveling)
·        Monday: Weights (hard core workout)
·        Tuesday: Long intervals on the Precor Stepper (hard core cardio)
·        Wednesday: Light spinning class
·        Thursday noon: Very light pacing practice (4 x 40 seconds up local stairwell @ race pace)
·        Thursday evening: Corning Tower Race

Beyond Master's Races, this event is probably the most serious event on my racing calendar since the Corning Tower is on my home turf. As such, I’ve taken this race seriously over the last two seasons. This year, however, with so many back-to-back races, I had very little time to mentally prepare. Fortunately, rereading my blog from 2012 was really helpful in getting ready for the race. My notes from 2012 told me exactly what to expect and how to tackle the building. My race plan was basically the same as in 2012 with just a couple minor adjustments:
1)      Set my metronome at 114 bpm. This is 2 bpm faster than last year since I’m in a little better shape and I wanted to break 4:35. Last years’ time was just over 4:39.
2)      Start the race smoothly, using my metronome to reel in my pace.
3)      Aim for 2:10 to 2:15 at floor 21.
4)      Start accelerating at floor 30
5)      Push very hard at floor 36 until the end.

I parked my car at the lot between the Church and the Museum (for free) and arrived at the Corning Tower around 6:30 PM. I soon met up with David to deliver his Stratosphere trophy.  After chatting with David, Hal, and a few other racers, I started preparing for the race. 30 minutes before the race, I started my active stretches and then moved into my burpee routine to get warmed up (12 burpees + 3 minute rest; repeat). Shortly after 7:30, the organizers lined us up and they led us upstairs to the start line.

Right around 7:35, the race was on! Since I was seeded 2nd, I hopped into the stairwell 10 seconds after David. Right at the start I sprinted up the first short flight of stairs but quickly slowed down and climbed to the beat of my metronome. With the adrenaline rush of the start, the metronome really helped me reign in my speed.

The floors passed by quickly as expected in such a short race. The rails were very easy to grip, but I was having trouble executing the turns efficiently. Just like last year, I felt more comfortable using only the inside rails to pull myself up, but now and then I forced myself to switch to using both sides in order to prevent my arms from being fatigued. It turns out that this wouldn’t be an issue; the stairs eventually switch direction at the first transition point, so arm fatigue doesn’t really come into play.

In the upper teens I realized that I forgot to set my stopwatch. I was a bit upset at myself since I wanted to check my split at the half way point. Drat! I had no choice but to continue upwards.

As soon as I hit floor 30, I cranked the pace up a notch. At this point the metronome was still helpful even though I was no longer climbing to the beat. Basically, I just made sure I was going faster than my metronome.

I was really hurting at this point, but I knew I the race would end in perhaps another minute and a half. It became a mental challenge; my heart and lungs wanted to me to slow down, but I still had strength in my legs. I willed myself to go faster and my legs responded. I quickly glanced up to see if I could see David, but it was pointless. I could hear cheering from the volunteers, but I couldn’t actually hear or see David. I knew I must be pretty close behind, but there just wasn’t any way to tell.

At floor 36 I still couldn’t hear David. I knew I was having a pretty good race, but I simply wasn’t closing in. There were only six or seven more levels to go so just like I planned, I kicked it into another gear. At this point, it felt like I was moving in slow motion. My heart and lungs were screaming, but my legs were still responding well. As each floor passed by, I felt like I could go a little faster. Floor by floor I kept adding speed, but I still felt like I had more to give. With only a couple more levels to go, I thought to myself “why aren’t I going all out? The race is going to end in a matter of seconds and I’m still not going all out!”.

I sprinted the remaining few flights, but I had nearly reached my limit. My legs finally started to buckle on the last flight and I tripped up on the last set of steps*. I quickly recovered and ran to the finish line.
*strangely enough, I tripped in almost the same place as last year!

I stood with my hands on my knees huffing and puffing for a few moments, eventually greeting David when I could finally stand up straight. Since I didn’t have my watch, I had no idea what my time was, but David asserted that we both set PBs. The timers at the top debated for a few moments to figure out who had won (since they only had access to the finish times, not the start time). It sounded like a close race, and for a moment I had a glimmer of a hope of placing first.

After a couple minutes, the other climbers started appearing and I greeted the next few climbers to finish. I then walked over to the beverage table to grab a bottle of water and sat down for a well-needed rest.

After chatting with a few other finishers I finally headed over to the timing desk to learn the final times. David broke the 4:30 mark (4:29.5 official) and I came in less than 14 seconds later, such that my final time was around 4:33 (4:33.4 official). Although disappointed about coming in 2nd for the 2nd straight year, I was pretty thrilled about my time. The list of climbers who have had faster times in the 25 year history of the race is pretty short and all of the racers are well-known in the stair climbing circuit*:
·        Jesse Berg: 4:12.4 (2010)
·        Jean-Francois Harvey: 4:24.6 (2009)
·        Chris Solarz: 4:27.7 (2009)
·        David Tromp: 4:29.5 (2013)
·        David Tromp: 4:30.2 (2011)
·        David Tromp: 4:31.9 (2009)

*Notably missing from this list is Tim Van Orden, since his PB in this race is a mere 4:38.8 (2011)!

After finding out my time, I headed downstairs to grab a few sandwiches for dinner and congratulate David. Unfortunately, I couldn’t stay for the award ceremony but David promised to accept my award on my behalf and deliver it to me at the next race.

Final Thoughts:
·        I had a sound strategy, but I could have maintained a faster pace throughout most of the race (i.e. from floors 1-30). Next year I’ll have to set my metronome a few bpm faster.
·        My biggest weakness is still my cardiovascular fitness. It is coming back slowly but steadily from my peak in November, but really I have to take it to an even higher level.
·        My biggest strength is my leg muscles. During last years’ race, the lactic acid build-up in my legs was pretty intense and my legs hurt pretty bad for several minutes. This year, it was pretty minimal. I recovered pretty quickly this time around.
·        Albany is harder than any race I’ve done on the circuit, and David Tromp agrees. Nearly the whole race is done beyond threshold. It hurts.
·        My lungs hurt much worse in Albany then either Vegas or Chicago. Fortunately, the coughing subsided the next day.
·        Next year, I should take a day off and play around in the stairwell. Unfortunately, the state buildings close at 6:00 PM and I cannot feasibly use them to train.

·        Strategy: A-; I assume I lost time by starting out too slow.
·        Effort: A- ; Albany is a mental challenge, but as Sproule Love once said, “You can always go faster.”
·        Execution: A- ; Alas, I forgot to set my watch.
·        Technique: B; I didn’t do well on the turns.
·        Overall: A- ; Overall, a very solid race.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Viva Las Stratosphere

Editor's note: Originally written March 5th, 2013

I'm so behind in my blog. I have two posts that are 90% ready to go, but I have been too busy lazy to post. However, I've decided to at least add a short blog about my most recent climb before I forget all the details; I have another race coming up on Thursday and if I don't write something now, it might not get written at all.

Since this isn't intended to be a full race review, I'll fast forward a bit. But first, here are few pictures which summarize what I'm skipping:
Friends & Family (thanks for the photo Madeleine!)
My friends David & Scott
Welcome to the jungle

Race time was at 8:00 AM, so I woke up around 7:00 AM to get ready. Around 7:20 AM, I went to the fitness center (at the Stratosphere hotel) for a short warm-up. Both Sproule and Michael had the same idea. Midway through my workout I realized I had forgotten both my timing splits and my shot of 5-hour energy, so in the middle of my warm-up I had to run back to my room.

Right around 7:45 AM, I left the fitness center and met my father to give him a hug for good luck. I then switched into my racing shoes and headed to the bottom of the tower.

I was one of the last racers to get in line, but still had a few minutes to kill. I did a set of burpees to stay warm and then chit chatted with my fellow racers to stay loose. Standing in line, I was surprised to learn that two of the higher seeded racers couldn’t make it to the race. Therefore, I would be entering the stairwell 4th, just behind Oz and just before David Tromp.

Right around 8:00 AM, the race organizers led us upstairs to the official start line. Since the gap between racers would be 30 seconds, I was a little nervous that David would overtake me near the end of the race. From experience, I know he is faster than I am in the taller climbs. The course is 808 feet tall (Starting at the 47’ mark and ending at the 855’ mark). As such, my goal time was 8 minutes and I figured that David was capable of somewhere between 7:30 and 7:45.

In short order, Sproule, Jesse, and Oz were in the stairwell. I set my metronome to 90 bpm and clipped it to my shirt. Next it was my turn to enter the stairwell!

I methodically climbed to the beat of my metronome. It was a very smooth climb and I used my arms as much as possible to conserve my quad muscles. After the first few flights, I decided that I really liked the course. The stairwell was very easy to use because the rails are easy to grip and are narrow enough apart to use both sides effectively. Additionally, the majority of the tower is configured like this: 20 steps à landing & 180 degree turn à 20 steps. This means that each flight is very long, hence the course has relatively few turns. Finally, the 20 step configuration makes turning pretty easy;  as long as I started the flight with my outside foot, I would always land with my inside foot on the landing*.

*For those of you unfamiliar with climbing stairs competitively, it  is much easier to turn on your inside foot rather than your outside foot. If you pivot on your outside foot, your inside leg will interfere with the rail. Try it and see.

At the 1st rest area (which is approximately 25% the way through the race) I glanced down at my watch. 2:11. I was already more than 10 seconds behind my planned finish time!

At that point, I didn't panic, but I made a small tactical error. Rather than speeding up my metronome, I kept the same pace and focused on climbing efficiency. I couldn't believe I was so far off of my planned pace. At that point, I just hoped that the rest area was a little higher up than Stan’s stairwell map suggested.

Right around the 4 minute mark, I realized I was in trouble. David Tromp had caught up to me which meant that I was already 30 seconds behind him in the race! Although I was prepared to let David pass, I didn't really want to let him through. The stairwell was so narrow that there was little to no room to squeeze by while climbing. If I let David pass, I would basically have to come to a complete stop and wait for him to go around. This would then put me in an awkward position if I wanted to pass him later in the race.

So I gambled**. Instead of stopping, I picked up the pace. I knew that I had started out too slow and although I was getting tired, I still felt that I could push the pace. Although David is a great climber, it was likely he was suffering more than I was since he went out so fast. I placed a bet that I could keep ahead of David in the 2nd half of the race and make up some of the time I had lost.

**This *is* Vegas after all.

After accelerating a little bit, David fell in right behind me and together we continued our long march to the top. Although cognizant that David was behind me, he stayed far enough back so that I didn't have to worry about him passing me.

Around in the mid-500s, I knew I had to go faster.  I was still behind schedule and I was running out of tower to climb.

At one point (I’m guessing it was at the the 2nd rest area) the stair well ended in blind hallway and I didn't know which way to turn. There weren't any direction arrows or race volunteers present,  so I spent a moment deciding which way to go. The left passage didn't seem to go anywhere so I stepped to the right. Fortunately, this was the correct direction and as I passed through the next doorway, I found a stairway leading upward. What luck!

I picked up the pace and I no longer cared that David was right on my tail. I ignored my metronome and although I was climbing less efficiently, I was definitely going faster.

Around the 6 minute mark, David and I were in the lower 600s and I was still well behind schedule. Although my heart rate was close to the redline and my lungs were burning, my legs were still functional. Somewhere in the mid-600s, I made my move. I was determined to drop David and break the 8 minute mark.

By the lower to mid-700s, I had only gained a few steps on David as we were both flying up the stairwell. I couldn't believe that David was still keeping up! What a beast

Finally, we hit the top of the tower core. I glanced down at my watch and 7:15 flashed into view. If I remembered my pacing chart correctly, I was still a few seconds behind my goal time, but I knew I still had a chance to go sub-8:00. I sprinted up the last 8 floors with all the power I had left, dropping David somewhere along the way. With one or two flights to go, I had a nice surprise; I actually caught up with Oz!

I crossed the finish stopped my stopwatch. Oz immediately slumped to the floor and I stumbled by and the looked at my watch. It said 7:58 which meant I had beaten my goal time! I then glanced behind, looking for David but he still hadn't finished. A few moments after I had already turned away, I heard David finish. He was perhaps 5 - 10 seconds behind me, so he definitely put up an amazing time. What a feat!

I was so tired that I spent a few moments resting on the floor; I was completely drained and needed a couple minutes to catch my breath.

When I finally recovered enough to stand and talk, I grabbed a cup of orange juice and went around to congratulate the other climbers.

All in all, I was very pleased with my performance. See the full race results here. Although I still haven’t regained all of my prior endurance (I was sick throughout January) this race boosted my confidence. In the span of a few minutes, I managed to turn a poor climb into a pretty decent race. More importantly, I was able to keep up with David (a top elite climber) during the latter half of the race. Although I’m still not ready to compete for a podium spot, with another year of hard work, I think I’ll be able to start climbing with the top elites.

Last but not least, here are a few photos capturing the rest of a great weekend.
Frankie Moreno rocks. 20 bucks well spent.
It is a long way down
What a view from the top!
Post Race notes
Effort: A-
Strategy: B-
Technique: A
Overall: B+

I developed and popped 4 blisters during the climb. The cross section of the rails are square rather than circular, so I have not developed the necessary callouses on my hands. The next time I do this race, I will need to tape up my middle fingers, just underneath the 2nd knuckle.

I’m still trying to figure out why my splits were so slow during the 1st half of the race. Clearly, 90 bpm was too slow, but I can’t figure out the root cause of my error. Likely candidates are the published heights of the course, overall stair count, and step height. Based on these calculations, I should have climbed the tower in 8 minutes climbing somewhere between 84-88 steps (beats) per minute. But to make sure I reached my goal on race day, I set my metronome at 90 bpm. On the other hand, the steps in the Strat are somewhere between 7 and 7.2 inches, which is shorter than the 7.5 inch steps at the Hancock building in Chicago (which I climbed the week prior). Since I felt that 88 bpm was an optimal pace at the Hancock, I would predict my optimal pace at the Strat to be around 92-95 bpm (or slightly higher since the Strat is a shorter race). Next year, I will likely go out at 95 bpm, assuming my fitness levels don’t drop off.