Saturday, January 19, 2019

Record at Reunion


As kid, I’d envision J. R. Ewing* wearing his white ten gallon hat with the “Dallas” theme song playing in the background. I’ve never actually watched an episode of the TV show despite it being a television staple of the 1980s (I was more of a MacGyver fan).

*Played by Larry Hagman from “I Dream of Jeannie”.


As an stair climber, I now picture the 560 foot tall Reunion Tower – home of the Dallas Vertical Mile, one of the best climbs in the country.

As the name suggests, the race is a full vertical mile and you need to climb the stairwell 12 times to reach a mile (as the stairwell is “merely” 470 feet tall) within a 2.5 hour time limit.

The venue also hosts three other races: The Half (6 climbs), the Quarter (3 climbs) and the Vertical Sprint (1 climb).

This year the races were spaced across two days - giving athletes a shot at two (or more) events without being too fatigued. Saturday featured the Half and Sprint while the Mile and Quarter were on Sunday.

I chose to climb in the two most competitive races – the full Vertical Mile (which requires the most endurance) and the Vertical Sprint (which requires the most speed). As they were on separate days I figured I could go all out on Saturday’s Sprint and still have a full tank to compete in the Mile on Sunday.

This would be my 2nd year racing the event so I already had a good idea of what to expect.

I never formally blogged about my experience in 2018, so let’s start off with a short recap:

In 2018, the race was held on a single day with all four events (sprint, quarter, half, and full mile) happening either simultaneously or back to back.

My goal for the vertical mile was to break the hour barrier which was essentially the winning time from 2017. That meant I’d have to do each lap in just under 5 minutes. However, since Terry Purcell (one of the most decorated stair climbers ever) was attending the race, I figured I’d need to shoot for 4:50 laps in order to have a chance at winning.

I had a chance to preview the stairwell the day before so knew that a pace of 95 bpm would get me in that range.

At the start line, I let most of the other top guys climb ahead of me. They were planning to sprint the first lap since the first lap of the mile also counted toward the Vertical Sprint race. However, since the Vertical Mile was considered the “premiere” race (with the most points on the US circuit on tap) I chose to climb conservatively – hoping that my rivals would over-exert themselves.

It didn’t quite work the way I had planned. Although my first lap was on target (4:52) my rivals all had *much* faster times. Terry set a new course record with a 3:58 which meant that I’d need to overcome a deficit of nearly a minute.

After the first set of climbs, my times were in the low 4:50s to mid 4:40s. When I learned that Terry was keeping low 4:40s to upper 4:30s I had already completed ~5 laps. At that point I knew the race for 1st place was essentially over. I was already becoming fatigued and in order to catch Terry, I’d need to make up ~90 seconds. Assuming that Terry would continue pulling 4:40s, I’d need to pull 4:20s for the remainder of the race. That would be a tall order even if I were on fresh legs!

I climbed a little bit faster during the 2nd half of the race. I knew I couldn’t catch Terry, but I at least wanted to stop bleeding time. Plus, I had to pull ahead of my other rivals.

Things nearly fell apart on my 11th lap when my left calf seized up. I was painful, but fortunately I was near the top. I managed to finish the lap using my arms and my one good leg. However now my 12th lap was in serious jeopardy. I was on knifes edge of either 2nd place… or DNF.

I spent my remaining time massaging and stretching my calf. I also downed a bottle of pickle juice (thanks Scott) to relieve some of the cramping. It worked. With two minutes to spare, I climbed my fastest lap of the day with a solid 4:29. My calf hurt, but it never seized up completely.

Rather than a DNF, I came in 2nd overall. I was pleased. This was my first time completing a true endurance race and at the very least, I showed I can compete at any distance. The only disappointment came many months after the race when I learned that the TWA  awarded points for the sprint race rather than the more competitive Vertical Mile*. I suddenly wished I hadn’t bagged the first lap…

*There are two different ranking systems. TowerRunning USA solely for US races and the TowerRunning World Association which ranks races across the globe. The former offered points for the Vertical Mile, but the latter strangely gave points for only the sprint.

Fast forward to 2019.

A week before the race, I learned that Terry wouldn’t be racing since he was injured. He’s beaten me consistently throughout 2018 so I was saddened I wouldn’t have another shot at going head to head. On the other hand, I wouldn’t have so much pressure on my shoulders. This bears a little explanation: You might think that being the #1 seed is more stressful than being the underdog. Well, in my case it is just the opposite. I always feel intimidated by faster rivals and I prefer the freedom of climbing at my own pace. I hate feeling the need to keep up to my rivals.

That said, the field was still deep. During Saturday’s sprint, my main rivals were going to be Jason Larson and Harrison Kieffer who both went under an hour at last year’s race (they were 3rd and 4th respectively). Joining us on Sunday would be Mark Henderson and Martin Pederson. I’ve only raced against Mark at the Sears and LaSalle double header. I beat him by about 30 seconds in the main event (Sears) but he came back and beat me an hour later at LaSalle (I was exhausted!). That meant he either raced conservatively at Sears…  or he’s able to recover quickly. In either case, it meant he was dangerous in long lap races like the Vertical Mile. Martin was the dark horse. He travels around for races (he’s Danish) and he’s built for endurance. If anybody else was going to break an hour in the mile, I’d place my money on Marin.

The trip to Dallas was uneventful and I arrived at my hotel just before 8:00 PM. I spent the next couple hours hanging out with my roommate (Josh Jacket editor of StairLife) before hitting the hay.

The Sprint was scheduled to start at 8:30 AM so that meant I had to get up by 7:15 in order to have enough time to get ready, walk to the tower and warm up. Everything went smoothly, except that I spent too much time chatting with other climbers and only completed a couple rounds of burpees before heading to the start line. No matter -  I was ready.

And then things nearly fell apart.

I was just about to jump into the stairwell when Lonnie (the head timer) told me I had the wrong bib…

What? You’ve got to be kidding me!?!

Apparently, I was given tomorrow’s Vertical Mile bib rather than today’s Vertical Sprint! I ran upstairs to the registration table and cut to the front of the line. It took but a moment to switch bibs and I dashed back to the start line. Fortunately, they had waited for me! With nervous fingers I pinned on my new bib and entered the stairwell. At least my warm up was complete!

I had one goal for the Sprint: Beat the course record of 3:58.

During my last race, I climbed Milwaukee’s US Bank Center in roughly 5 minutes using a pace of 112 BPM on my metronome. It is a good comparison because both buildings have 7 inch steps. However, this course was a bit shorter and I anticipated finishing in just under 4 minutes. With that in mind, I chose to use a slightly faster pace of 117 BPM.

It took a few flights to get into a steady rhythm. The pace seemed almost too easy and I fought the urge to accelerate. I’ve raced enough to know that it’s never a good idea to go out too fast and fade later. In the rare instance you do go out too slow, you can still accelerate in the latter half to make up lost time.

Sure enough, right around the minute mark I felt the strain of the pace.

Right around the half-way point there was a Gatorade stand. I tried glancing at my watch but it was too dark in the stairwell. By now, I was way over the red line. I could keep the pace up for a little while longer but could I hold it until the end? Or would I fade?

I checked my watch again when I approached better lighting. 2:30. Less than 90 seconds left to climb!.

The last minute was the hardest. In my periphery vision I noticed volunteers cheering in the stairwell. I was so focused on the hand rails and navigating the turns that I couldn’t spare a glance in their direction. However, I did recognize a few friends through the sound of their voices (Sue, Paul, etc.) and their words of encouragement kept me going.

My lungs were on fire, but I knew the top couldn’t be far. I accelerated. That record was going to be mine, dammit; even if it killed me!

 The purpose of this photo is to show the "fancy" steps.
I don't actually know this girl (but she's cute, right?)
Suddenly, the stairwell changed. Gone were the dingy, rusty treads and rails. Now the stairwell was bright and clean – featuring glossy black steps highlighted by fancy chrome rails.

I got to the top of the first flight and stopped. The stairwell continued upwards, but it was blocked by a stack of electronic equipment. There was a single guy in the stairwell looking directly at me. As I contemplated jumping over the equipment, I frantically asked “Where’s the finish line?!?”. “Right there.” he said, pointing to the open doorway to my left.

I nearly smacked my head it was so obvious.

I jumped out of the stairwell as my stopwatch passed 3:48.

Despite losing a few seconds to sheer stupidity, I still shattered the previous course record by a solid 10 seconds! YES!

I was tired, but not collapse-on-the-ground tired. By the time some of my other rivals had arrived, I had recovered enough to able to grab a cup of Gatorade without help.
Less Tired

I hung on the observation deck for a good while to chat with other climbers and pick up my fancy finisher’s medal. Paul (the race director) really out did himself this time. The medal is essentially a flattened torus holding a colorful spinning medallion in its hollow center – kind of like a gyroscope.

I then learned my official time was actually 3:43 since timing mat was as the top of the stairwell, not at the stairwell exit. My moment of stupidity hadn’t cost me any time after all! Bonus!

As I recovered, I felt fortunate that today wasn’t the Vertical Mile (with another 11 more laps to go). I wasn’t completely drained… but I doubted I could put together a string of sub-5 minute climbs within the next couple hours.

Race Grades:
Effort: A-; Although I was above the red line for most of the race, I wasn’t dying on the floor afterwards (which isn’t an entirely bad thing).
Weight: B; I was around 172 but I need to be sub-170 to be truly competitive.
Conditioning: B+; Training has been a mixed bag. My speed has been top notch, but I’ve had trouble completing my key workouts.
Pacing & Technique: A; Pacing was spot on. I could have hugged the turns a little tighter and had better foot placement, but it’s hard to be perfect!
Overall: A-; I honestly think the record is still a little soft, but overall I’ve gotta be pleased!

Immediately after the awards ceremony*, I had an overly big breakfast (ham, eggs & pancakes) at Cindi’s NY Deli & Diner with a bunch of my climbing friends. Although my energy levels were back to normal, I was developing a headache at the rear of my head - right where my neck meets the skull. Also, my lungs were pretty raw and I developed a mild case of climbers cough.

*I took 1st overall and our Tower Master’s team came in 2nd in the team event.

After breakfast, a smaller group of us took he courtesy shuttle to Whole Foods to pick up some grub. I picked up a salad for dinner as well as some snacks for the trip home and energy bars for tomorrow’s race. Josh and I walked back to burn off some of the excess calories from breakfast.

Despite being fully hydrated, my headache was getting worse, so I took a nap for an hour. I woke up feeling rested, but my headache persisted. At least it wasn’t getting worse. Fortunately, I felt good enough to grab dinner (pizza) with a large group of climbing friends. This time, I didn’t overeat!

Lights out came around 10:00 PM. My head was still hurting and my lungs were tired from coughing. I needed a good night’s sleep.

I woke up just before 5:00 AM. My throbbing headache had disappeared although the back of my neck/skull was sore to the touch. My lungs felt okay, but not 100%. Phlegm had settled in during the night and it took a couple coughing fits to get everything out.

The race would be starting at 6:00 AM sharp. This time around I received my proper bib. Unlike yesterday, the check-in was outside (read: cold) but we were still able to put our racing gear indoors.

My goal was to win the race and my stretch goal was to beat the course record (55:36). To do that, I’d need average splits of 4:37. Considering that last year was tiring and my average splits were a mere 4:47, I knew that climbing ten seconds faster would be extremely taxing. Certainly within the realm of possibility… but frankly I didn’t give myself great odds*.

*As Llyod once said: "So you’re telling me… there’s a chance? Yeah!!"

Fortunately I had prepared for this: I set my metronome a couple beats faster than last year (97 BPM) and I plotted down my nutrition plan in my journal:
  • Salt pills after laps 4 & 8 to alleviate cramping.
  • Energy gels after laps 3, 6 and 9.
  • A small bite from my  energy bar (maple & sea salt) if I wasn’t scheduled for an energy gel.
  • Gatorade after each lap to stay hydrated.

Last year I had climbed in sneakers because the race was so long. This time around, however, I switched to my lightweight racing flats. If my feet started hurting, I could always switch footwear.

Finally, I kept a pen handy in order to jot down my splits in my journal after each lap.

This time around I had a much more relaxed warm-up. The pace for at least the first few laps shouldn’t be too taxing so the warmup wasn’t quite as important as it was for yesterday’s sprint.

At 6:00 AM sharp, I entered the stairwell (with no last minute bib switching!).

Lap #1 (4:43)
Today I had more time to view my surroundings since the pace wasn’t so brutal. The most notable aspect of the stairwell is the plethora of motivational posters tailored to each climber. I also noticed the flight numbers marking the way up the tower as well as posters announcing 20, 15 and 10 floors to go respectively. Lastly, I was welcomed by a cheering squad with 5  flights to go. If memory serves me right, there are 55 flights in total?

I reached the top and exited the stairwell (this time around I remembered the location!). I stopped my watch at 4:43. This might seem slower than my goal pace of 4:37, but considering that this stairwell has  an extra floor compared with the other stairwell – remember we’d be completing the remaining 11 climbs in the 2nd shorter stairwell – a 4:43 was nearly perfect.

I was tired but still able to walk around. As I rested, I sipped on a cup of Gatorade and waited for some of my other climbing friends to arrive. I didn’t need to hurry downstairs as I had roughly 8 minutes before I needed to start my next climb. My plan was to enter the stairwell once every 13 minutes in order to start my 12th lap within the 2.5 hour time limit*.

*Theoretically, I could start each lap at 13:37, but a 13:00 flat was easier to remember and would provide a decent cushion “just in case shit happened”.

I took the elevator down with a few minutes to spare. While downstairs, I jotted down my time, ate a bite of my energy bar and finished the rest of my Gatorade. At the 13 minute mark I headed back into the other stairwell for lap #2…

Laps #2 & #3 (4:40?,  4:37)
I got into a good rhythm for the next couple laps. On lap #2, I didn’t start my stop watch properly but considering I was using my metronome, I figured my lap time was at most 4:40 so that’s what I jot down. The stairwell was clear for lap #2, but I passed several climbers still on their 1st  lap in the other stairwell*. As more climbers finished the first lap and were into their 2nd, I ran into a little more traffic on my 3rd. Fortunately, I didn’t run into any bottle necks and I finished lap #3 in a solid 4:37.

*Stairwells #1 & #2 are intertwined like a double helix; they share the same space but are still separate.

While resting downstairs after my 3rd lap, they posted some of the intermediate results. Mark was in 1st place, and I was tied with Harrison for 2nd place with Jason mere seconds behind.

Crap. All four of us were on record setting pace. Furthermore, my lungs were aching; I obviously hadn’t fully recovered from yesterday’s sprint. This could turn out to be a dog fight.

Laps #4, #5 & #6 (4:36, 4:38, 4: 37)
I didn’t panic. My lungs hurt, but it didn’t seem to be hindering my oxygen uptake. I was surely getting tired but then again I was climbing relatively fast. The pace had to be taking a toll on my rivals, too. If needed, I could *perhaps* find another gear but I didn’t want to use it until the latter half of the race. Gotta keep the powder dry*.

*As Sproule once famously remarked.

By now the stairwell was getting fairly crowded. The good thing about 13 minute laps is you can afford to choose when to enter the stairwell. I had enough buffer to wait until 13:30, but if needed I could get in at 12:30. To be honest the extra 30 seconds of rest had negligible impact to my recovery. The trick was to find a lull in the crowd. This normally meant waiting until a slug of people came up out of the elevator and hop in line right before their arrival.

As such, the first minute of climbing was usually pretty clear, but invariably I’d catch up to small clusters of people. I’d recognize climbers here and there (sometimes with words of encouragement if it was early enough in the climb) and most were happy to move out of the way. Once in a while, however, I’d run into folks who simply wouldn’t budge. I’d usually say something like “passing” or “coming up”, but when folks don’t get out of the way, I’d take the inside lane and physically move them aside. I feel slightly bad about it, but I wasn’t about to lose time because of slower climbers. Perhaps next year I’ll offer to make speech about climbing etiquette. I’d hate to ruin a newbie’s climbing experience. I’m sure they just don’t know any better.

My pace was right on target for the most part and there was a point during my 5th lap where I experienced a (somewhat short lived) 2nd wind in the latter half of the tower. However by the time I had finished my 6th lap, I was definitely starting to tire.
Preparing for yet another brutal lap...
Laps #7, #8 & #9 (4:38, 4:37, 4:37)
The race was over halfway complete! The ache in my lungs had thankfully disappeared, but I was steadily becoming fatigued. In the first half of the race, I didn’t really feel the pace until well into the 2nd half of each lap. But now I was struggling in the 30s… and then in the 20s… and by the time I hit the 9th lap,  I felt like crap as early as the 18th flight.

I could still keep up the pace, but it was becoming more and more of a mental challenge the further I progressed into the race. I also noticed that my recovery at the top of the tower was taking longer and longer.

By now I was solidly in 1st place. Mark faded after his 3rd lap and although Jason and Harrison were still going strong, they were averaging about 10 seconds slower per climb (they were in a real dogfight for 2nd place).

Laps #10 & #11 (4:35, 4:28)
I finished my last energy gel*l prior to entering lap #10. I was definitely tired, but I was still close to the record. No time to let up.

*Chocolate is my favorite and I saved it specifically for lap #10. On the other hand, Citrus and Raz (whatever that is) both kinda suck.

Several climbers had already completed all 12 laps (e.g. Josh & Martin) and it was kind of demoralizing knowing that I still had 25% left to climb.

Lap #10 was slightly worse than #9. I felt crappier earlier in the tower and my recovery was longer and more painful. But knowing I was closing in on the record helped me over the hump.

Once downstairs, I looked at the times in my notebook and compared them with the times shown online. My journal showed me climbing just under record setting pace, but I found a couple discrepancies in the published results which showed me going a bit slower on a couple of my laps. That meant I had little to no buffer and my next couple climbs needed to be fast ones.

I bumped up my metronome from 97 to 98 BPM on lap #11 for insurance.

Honestly, it wasn’t noticeably harder, but it was draining nonetheless. Midway up I could feel my left calf starting to tighten up. Crap. Not now! Fortunately it never completely seized, even when I pushed the final 10 flights. Thank goodness I took those salt pills.

Lap #11 felt really tough, but with a time of 4:28 – my fastest lap so far – no wonder! Though it took even longer to recover than before, my energy wasn’t completely tapped. I knew I had another climb left in me.

Lap #12 (4:18)
OK… one lap to go! With a strong lap #11, I knew I was on track to break the record.

Downstairs, I inquired how much time I had left before my 2.5 hours was up. I was told I had about 10 minutes to spare. I intended to use the extra rest to my advantage. I also learned that Jason and Harrison were neck and neck and this last lap would be the deciding factor. What a battle!

I was tired and nervous, but also a little excited. If I climbed well, I’d smash the record. But if I bonked, it could be over in an instant.

Knowing that 98 BPM would get me over the hump, I started my last lap conservatively. The record would be mine if I could just stay on course.

As I passed into the 20s, my left calf started to twitch. Please don’t cramp… please don’t cramp…

I trode gingerly as possible up the stairs still going strong at 98 BPM.

I passed Alberto doing single leg hops up the steps just for… fun?!?  If I had any energy to spare, I would have cracked a smile. I think leg hops would have killed me…

The lap seemed to drag on forever until the 20 floors to go banner. I was getting close and I could smell victory. However, I was also climbing on fumes. This bears some explanation. On one hand, I still had something left in the tank. Theoretically, I *could* accelerate. My heart rate wasn’t sky high and my legs were still strong. But on the other hand, I was in pain and climbing any faster meant more even more suffering. I may not have been at my physical limit, but I was certainly close to my pain threshold.

Screw it. I’m not going to throw down a mere 4:28… I knew I could go faster.

So I did.

With 10 floors to go I knew I was going to put down a solid time. My heart rate still hadn’t peaked and my body was still capable of going faster. However this time I couldn’t summon the mental strength to increase my level of suffering. I had already won the race and was 99% sure I’d break the record. The voices telling me to “take it easy” eventually won out.

Despite the voices in my head, I kept my current speed. The cheering squad at 5 floors to go made the final few flights bearable.

I could see the chrome rails signifying the final flight. I bounded up the remaining few steps…

… and my left calf seized up.

I knew It was only a matter of time before it would happen, but the fates were with me. I only had to take a couple more steps to cross the finish line.

I hobbled in pain over the mat and then exited the stairwell. I stopped my watch at 4:18.

Though my calf was in a knot, the pain didn’t detract from the feeling of accomplishment. I said I was going to try for the record and I did it!

Unconsciously, I furrowed my brow and my lips turned upside-down into a frown. It was all I could do to hold back the tears of relief.

It took a couple seconds to compose myself, but moments later I raised my fist into the air and cried out an emphatic “YES!” to celebrate my victory.

Then back to reality. I had just climbed my fastest climb of the day – on my last lap to boot! Recovery was definitely a bit slower than after any of my previous climbs, but  all in all, I felt pretty good. I could probably have climbed another couple laps at a decent pace (say 4:40) if I absolutely had to (and I would need a *very* good reason).

I grabbed my finishers medal and went to tell my friends the good news. A while later I learned my friend Jason had a fast final lap and was assured 2nd place. Congrats!

After finishing a couple cups of Gatorade, I finally made my way downstairs. It was time to switch into my comfortable sneakers and stretch. As I had another 90 minutes until the awards ceremony I headed back to the hotel to take a shower, pack and check out.

The awards ceremony was held outside this year and although it was cold, I barely noticed. I was still stoked about the race. My official time was 55:13 for all twelve laps and I couldn’t have been prouder.
Podium: Jason, Alex and Harrison (I'm the one in the middle).
After the ceremony I hung around the hotel for a while sharing stories with the other competitors but at 1:00 PM sharp, it was time to head to the airport - just in time to see the Patriots win.

Final Thoughts:
Although I’m happy I have the record in both the Vertical Sprint and Vertical Mile, I’d be the first to tell you that the prior record was set when the first lap of the Mile counted towards the Sprint whereas I had the luxury of a day between the two races.

Despite the day of rest, the sprint took more out of me than I wanted. My lungs were raw during the Mile so I wasn’t quite back at 100%. Don’t get me wrong – I was certainly race ready – but I know I left some time on the table. Perhaps a second or two here and there?

From my experience, after clocking in a 3:43 sprint, I couldn’t have been able to continue at a 4:37 average pace for another 11 laps. I bet I could have clocked in a 4:20 first lap (after all my last lap was a 4:18!) and maintain the necessary pace, but honestly I don’t know if I could have matched Terry’s first lap (3:58) and still break the VM record.

If I had to guess, I would bet that Terry didn’t go quite all out when he set the bar at 3:58. That’s my take, at least.

Even if my records have stars associated with them, I’m still very pleased. I crushed the Vertical Sprint and I shaved off over two minutes from last year’s Vertical Mile. Let’s take a look at how my times stacked up. I’m also including my self-timed splits to highlight a couple of discrepancies I noticed after the fact.

Lap Number
2018 Actual
2019 Actual
*I didn’t time my 2nd lap so this was my conservative estimate (it was pretty close!)

As you can see, I beat each of last year’s laps – often by 10 to 20 second margins. Considering I purposefully *didn’t* participate in the Sprint last year, this is truly an apples to apples comparison. Needless to say I’m pleased. I knew it would be possible to shave off 5 – 10 seconds per lap, but to have climbed so consistently and fast? Even I’m impressed with the year-over-year improvement.

Upon closer look, most of my self-reported times are within a second of the actual results. However two of the results are 4-5 seconds different (laps #6 & #10) and my 11th lap was a whopping 10 seconds slower than what I timed. I could probably chalk up laps #6 & #10 to random error, but I know I used a faster pace on my 11th lap and purposely pushed a bit harder. I’m guessing something was off with the timing on this lap. Oh well.

The last observation is the just how different this race can be for various athletes. This warrants a bit of explanation…

To get all 12 climbs in, you need to have a decent amount of fitness. Even the slowest 12 lap climber is an athlete in my book. Logistically, you need to start your 12th lap under the 2.5 hour time limit. Based on data from the last couple years, it appears you need to have an average pace of under 10:40 for the first 11 climbs. You also have to have a bit of luck with the elevators so that you can get back to the start line in under three minutes. In this case, the slowest possible time (assuming you don’t bag the 12th lap) is about 2:07. Essentially, the slowest athletes spend over two hours climbing with less than half an hour of total break time.

The fastest athletes, on the other hand, have lap times of under 5 minutes. Overall, they spend about 1 hour climbing and about an hour and half resting (~5 minutes per climb with ~8 minutes of rest).

This is a vastly different race for those on opposite ends of the spectrum!

Slower athletes climb nearly continuously and therefore have to pace themselves underneath the red line (mostly cardio). For the fastest athletes, the pace is often over the redline (mainly on the upper flights) so the race is really like a HIIT workout (i.e. a good amount of anaerobic work).

I will say one last thing about the fastest athletes. Personally, I was nearly recovered with just 5 minutes of rest. I took the full 8 minutes in the hopes that I’d  shave a couple seconds off my lap times. I’m pretty sure I could have completed the Vertical Mile in under two hours without sacrificing too much speed. On the other hand, If I only had say 2-3 minutes of rest each lap (just like the slower athletes) I bet I’d have a noticeable increase in my lap times.

Race Grades:
Effort: B+; I climbed this race conservatively enough to make sure I wouldn’t bonk. This was a good trade off.
Weight: B;  (same as Sprint)
Conditioning: B+; (same as Sprint)
Pacing & Technique: A; My splits were *very* consistent and right where they needed to be to capture the record. Behold the power of the metronome! As the pace was much slower (compared with the sprint) my climbing technique was good.
Overall: A-; Yes, there is room to improve… but I wouldn’t want to try it any time soon. Overall, I’m satisfied with this race.


  1. Alex, thanks for sharing your captivating recaps, & congratulations on setting 2 awe-inspiring records at this event! (And yes, she's super-cute!)

  2. Really enjoyed reading thus Alex!!