Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Last Steps of 2011

This past month has flown by.  It started with two amazing races, the Ascenso Torre Colpatria in Bogota, Colombia and the CF Climb for Life at 300 N. LaSalle in Chicago. 

300 N. LaSalle – 12/11/2011

the lasalle climb is fun since it has a north pole theme and santa is there.  After the race, we chatted with an FRS guy about potential sponsorship so came up with some quirky FRS commercials and gimmicks.  It was kinda comical.  You should definitely check out cody renshaw’s video of this race on youtube – it’s a great flick!

Last year at the lasalle climb (58 floors), bridget carlson beat me by 4 or 5 seconds and I clocked a time of 9:15.  This year I was planning on winning this race, until I found out that cindy harris was gonna be there.  Once I realized that, I decided not to put too much pressure on myself.  I most likely would get 2nd and the race in Colombia was only 3 days earlier so I could potentially be tired from traveling, etc.  I just wanted to be faster than last year so chose 8:30 as my goal.

I started after cindy and brady.  I could hear brady's watch beeping but the sound got quieter the higher we got.

The stairwell turns right until floor 20 or 25 then switches to left. Steps are kinda small and narrow and you can reach both rails. There are a few little landings that you take multiple steps, I liked running those. theres also a long hallway to run down. At this point, one side was blocked off with rope and a guy was directing which way to go, I turned left because the right was obviously the wrong way but the volunteer started yelling this way, this way.  So it freaked me out, I stutter-stepped and turned around and realized I was still going the right way, thanks for messing up my rhythm!  I ran down the hallway, past the volunteers trying to force me to have a class of water and a clifbar, I muttered no
thanks and continued on.

I felt pretty good to start, legs and breathing both felt really good. felt like i was going quick at the start, half was like 3:55-3:57 so decent pace. kept it up. felt like i was getting into a rhythm. with 20 floors to go, decided to pick up the pace and was kinda running up the steps. could use the tiny vertical spindles to pull myself up. picked it up again with 15 and 10 floors to go. with only 3 to go, tried to keep running, legs were really feeling it now!! i could hear cindy breathing really loudly somewhere towards the top and it was getting louder so i could tell i was getting closer, when i turned to the last flight i saw her!!

7:55 on my watch (results 7:57). was shocked about my time. brady beat me by like 2-3 seconds and i beat cindy by 10 seconds!

i cant even fathom what this means. just totally speachless. this was my best race and its the best ive felt, had so much energy towards the end and felt good to be able to kinda run and pick it up. just an awesome race!!  perhaps it was all the rest I had from traveling to Bogota or maybe I had some boost from being at altitude for a few days, who knows.  All I know is that I was quite pleased with my race, I put no pressure on myself, had no expectations and just knocked it out! :)

12/26/2011 – SPRINTS!!

I used to try to hit 2:40 for better for 20 floors, low 2:30s or better were considered a really fast time.  During one of the december workouts, I hit some of my best times for 20 floors 2:43, 2:36, 2:33, 2:19 and 2:20!! 2:19 was my PR and to follow it up with a 2:20 was just incredible. And the 2:19 felt easier than some of my previous best times! I was still on some kind of high from bogota and lasalle so this workout came at just the right time. 

I thought maybe my faster workouts were just a fluke, fresh legs, etc.  but the fast times continued.  I started hitting sub 2:40 consistently for 21 floors, times that I used to think were great for 20 floors, I was averaging with an extra floor!  Im not really sure whats happening but im sure not taking anything for granted.  I still have a long ways to go before the races hit. 

Hit the stairs on Christmas Eve and came away with another set of decent times, 2:51, 2:42, 2:38, 2:36, 2:31.  after that did some special extra curricular activities on the stairs and I felt really good, things felt easier than they normally do and I had an extra burst of energy.

The day of Christmas, we were back in the stairwell.  Today was the day of sprints, I usually try to avoid sprints because i'm no good at them.  Im an endurance freak, a cardio junkie so sprints just arent my style.  But sometimes ya just gotta listen to your coach and do things that suck and are quite painful.  We started off with a normal warmup climb, felt ok.  Then did a 10 floor sprint, wow that was a long way, my legs were burning after like 5 floors.  After that, we decided to hit 5 floors and keep the rest around 60 seconds.  We did 6 sets of 5 floors, the first couple werent too bad.  My legs still felt fresh and bursty.  By the time the next 4 sets rolled around, it was a different story.  My legs were feeling trashed about 3 or 4 floors in and I found myself hunched over on the landing gasping for air.  After 5 sets of 5 floor sprints, I was done for.  If I coulda collapsed I wouldve,  my legs were wobbly, I felt like I was gonna be sick.  I still had another 5 floors to go, and those last 5 floors included the 2 monster floors, ugh.   I let the guys go in front of me and carried my dead legs up the steps the fastest I could, I finished in 0:31, 4 seconds slower than the 1st time I did that same exact set of 5 floors so guess it wasnt too horribly slow.  Wow sprints suck!how can something that only lasts 20-30 seconds be so unpleasant and painful?!?  But I realize I need to do them more often, theyre good for me. 

After that a cool-down climb seemed like the right thing to do, we took a huge rest and started back up the stairs.  That was definitely the worst cool-down ive had in a long time!

12/27/2011 – Snake

in december, I also discovered the snake workout.  Its killer and im obsessed with it.  Brady tried it out and said its one of the worst things ever.  The other day I added on an additional 10 minutes and called it the cobra, good stuff.   I also decided that going backwards is fun too. 

11 Lessons / Realizations in 2011 -

1. sometimes the best races and workouts come when you least expect it, when you let down your guard, put no pressure on yourself and just go for it. 

2. hard work pays off, results in faster times especially when its extreme cardio.  Extreme cardio is also a guaranteed mood changer, I can feel unmotivated, down, had a bad day but as soon as I start climbing, running, biking my mood like instantly changes and I just have to smile

3. new found hobbies, such as cycling, can be quite addicting.  But the excessive cross-training doesnt translate all that well to running, cycling's effect on stairs on the other-hand is a whole different story

4. I had some great road races when I was focusing on stairs, not really running all that much but when I picked up the mileage, I got slower. running doesnt always make sense, more running doesnt necessarily seem to equate to faster race times.  And bad races are a way of life, accept them and move on.   oh and don’t forget to congratulate those who had a good race or might’ve beat you.

5. When temps soar into the 90s and 100+, weaving around in the shady region of busse specifically between the 3 and 5 mile sticks, is the only way to go.  and bring your own water

6. going flat after going vertical, feels really fast and easy

7. always remember the reason why you race, why you love what you do. Show interest in others, provide advice to newbies.  The greatest feeling is helping someone gain insight in how to be better at a sport you love so much. 

8. meeting new people and exploring new opportunities is one of the best things about climbing and running.  time spent with “step”-sibs is well worth the pain, were the best looking carnage around! 

9. breakfast with friends tastes so much better after a long run, race, or climb and is even more delightful when lots of coffee is involved.  Meeting for coffee before workouts is one of the best ways to start your day.

10. dancing before stair climbs is bad luck and strictly prohibited however my pink WCL jersey (thanks mark!) and black calf sleeves are good luck.  Speaking of calf sleeves, compression anything - tights, socks, sleeves, arm warmers, also became an obsession in 2011


we've reached the highest floor of 2011, enjoyed the view, and took elevator down.  I now find myself on the ground floor of 2012, gazing up and realize its gonna be a long journey to the top floor but its a journey that im excited to take and am looking forward to.  New challenges face me, I may stutter-step along the way or take a wrong turn down the hallway but I know i'll make it up somewhere and will be stronger for it.  Bring it on 2012! 

Countdown to 2012 Stair Climbs (Season 1: January – March)

Aon Chicago – January 29
Empire – February 8
Oakbrook – February 12
Springfield – February 18
Hancock – February 26
PT – March 11
Milwaukee – March 17
Aon LA – March 31

Then who knows what might come about, perhaps an adventure somewhere!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

World Cup Finals

Ascenso Torre Colpatria – Bogota, Colombia – December 8th

December 6th – Embarking on the Colombian Adventure

I embarked on my journey from Chicago around 9:30 am. My day went something like this, sit in the airport for 2 hours, sit on a plane to Miami for 3 hours (watching a stupid movie that actually ended up being shown on 3 out of the 4 flights on this trip), wander the Miami airport for 2-3 hours until I found Cindy Harris and her husband James, then sit on another plane to bogota for 3.5 hours. 

We finally arrived at the airport in bogota, it was a crowded mess. I followed the masses towards the customs area, the agent asked me if I was there for business or as a tourist. I wanted to tell him that I was there to climb a tower but figured he wouldn’t care nor would he take lightly to me trying to have a pleasant conversation so I just told him I was tourist. 

We exited the airport and there was a mob of people behind a fence, I was hoping maybe I’d see someone with my name on a sign, seemed like that would be worthy of a picture. I saw Mischa (the president of towerrunning) and I waved at him several times but he didn’t seem to recognize me. Finally he looked over and held up a sign with my name on it, I smiled and headed in that direction. We rounded the corner and saw some of the European climbers who were waiting for us to arrive. I was incredibly happy to see a friendly face! We piled all our luggage into the car and headed towards the city. It was a bumpy ride in traffic (I could compare it to my ride with Kevin Crossman out to mailbox peak in seattle, ie I didn’t feel so great)

December 7th – Press Conference and Exploring

We wandered through the security and it was a media circus. People with cameras and microphones everywhere. Stand here for a picture, now move over there, take a group shot, now its only the girls. I was interviewed by two American guys who are both living in Colombia now, one from Minnesota and the other from Miami. They asked similar questions about why I would want to be a stair climber, how I felt about coming all the way to Colombia for a race, what I’ve heard about the race and building. I tried politely to say that ive heard the girls are really competitive and can be vicious if need be. I also mentioned that I was worried about the altitude and wasn’t really putting too much pressure on myself.

The race director briefed us about the race, he told us where we would be starting and showed us where we would have to run (probably about 100 m before getting to the stairwell). The race would have 5,000 climbers starting in the morning, the elite climbers were slated to start around 11:45 but we were suppose to arrive at 9:00. we would start in waves of 5-10 climbers. I was put into a group with Julia and 3 Colombian chicks. Cindy and Christina were starting in the wave behind us with 4 Colombians. The elite guys would go after them.

We took the elevator up to the 48th floor and then went to the heliport so we could see where we would finish. I could tell it was going to be an interesting jaunt to the top once we exited the stairwell on the 48th floor but we’ll save those details for the race portion of this blog. We took some more pictures on the roof, the view was incredible.

A few of us decided we wanted to climb a little bit to get a feeling for the stairwell. Cindy and I climbed about 25 floors at an easy pace. The stairs were tiny and the railing was incredibly fat, I could barely fit my hand around it. I liked the landing though because it allowed me to only take one step and sometimes I didn’t even need to step on the landing, I could just swing my foot onto the step of the next flight! We took a few more pictures then exited the building for the day. During the 25 floor climb, I could tell I was breathing a little heavier than normal because of the altitude but overall I was feeling alright.

Now it was time for me to start freaking out about my race. How would I react to the altitude? Would I even make it to the stairwell or would one of the Colombians take me out within 15 meters? this was my first stair race without my coach so I didn’t have a strategy, no splits, I needed encouragement and words of wisdom. do I sprint to the stairwell, did I want to be the 1st person in there? Do I take it easier? But I don’t wanna be the last one in there. I knew if I was behind, it would be hard to pass. I was worried that the girls would throw elbows or take up the narrow stairwell and not let me through. I had looked at the results from last year and Sandra Nunez finished in about 8:27 so I figured I’d shoot for 8:00 or better.

I didn’t know how long the run would take, there were several sharp turns, maybe 20 seconds? I decided that I would check my watch at floor 24, figured that was about halfway maybe a little less including dash to the heliport. I did the math and thought maybe 4:00-4:15 seemed like a good goal. My coach does the math so I wasn’t all that confident about what I had calculated, ha. I told myself I wouldn’t put much pressure on myself for this race because of the altitude and phenomenal Colombian athletes, I just wanted to enjoy the experience and do my best but I was definitely feeling the stress and anxiety.

December 8th – Tower Time!

My pre-race ritual was kinda out of whack since we were starting later. Usually I get up, consume several cups of coffee, get a good jolt going then eat a banana about 1-1.5 hours before the race. I usually warm-up with a 10 minute jog or some stairs in the hotel. Bounce around some more before the start to get the blood flowing to my legs. This time, the routine was messed. We met for breakfast at 7:30 so I had 2 cups of coffee, a bowl of oatmeal and a tiny banana. 

The elites were starting at 11:45 but we had to be over at the race around 9:00. They had an elite VIP tent for us to wait around in. we were all kind of annoyed about having to be there so early. It was chilly standing around, my toes were already going numb. the winners of the race got a car so it was parked in the VIP section, Tomas and Piotr decided that would be their secret spot to hideout. The rest of us sat around, stood and watched the other climbers dash to the stairwell and just kinda walked around. Then it was time for another press conference, I couldn’t really understand any of it though since it was all in Spanish.

They told us that we had to head to the starting area to warm up around 11:00. Now it was really time for the pre-race anxiety to set in, it was raining too which meant we’d be standing in the rain before the start with nothing but skimpy race gear on. The pavement would be slick and the finish destination was unknown. Would we even get to finish on the helipad or would they cut the race short at 48 floors? I didn’t want to stand around in the rain especially since I was already cold just standing there with all my layers on. They delayed our walk to the start until 11:20. So we finally ditched our sweats and were standing/jumping around in the tent trying to warm up. All the Colombians were still sitting there in their gear, did they know something we didn't?!? This didn’t seem fair. I stood around with my arms across my chest and my hands in front of my face, my classic “prayer” pose I take before every race.

We walked to the starting area. We still had 10-15 minutes before we were supposed to start. We were jogging around in a little loop trying to warm-up. They called my number 80, so I toed the line with the other 3 girls (one group in our didn’t show up). Now I was really freaking out, one of the girls grabbed my shirt and number to see what it was and another asked if I was the Italian, I told her no I'm American. There was a group of other normal climbers in front of us, I was worried that we were going to start right behind them and I’d have to fight to get past them in the stairwell. They let that group go then told us we had another 10 minutes. Are you kidding me? I'm on the starting line, heart racing, palms sweaty and you tell me that I have to wait another 10 minutes? It was back to the hamster wheel mini warm-up loop. 

After 10+ minutes, we stepped up to the line again, I turned around to Cindy and Christina and wished them both luck. As I stood at the line, I could see everyone snapping pictures, video cameras and people cheering. They started a countdown. Diez, nueve, ocho…tres, dos, uno, bang! We were off! I took off like a jack rabbit, my legs felt fresh, the ground was slick, the first turn was a bit rough on the wet pavement then there was another sharp turn into the building, I needed something to grab onto to spin myself into there. I was battling elbows with a Colombian, we rounded another sharp corner into the hallway and one last sharp right turn into the stairwell, I was the first to reach the steps.

The 2 Colombian girls sprinted up the stairs, I knew that wasn’t my tactic so I grabbed the rail and got into a rhythm. I could hear the girl in front of me, her feet were pounding and she was breathing heavily. I just kept my pace, those tiny baby steps worked in my favor and not having to step on the landing was also very beneficial. The floors ticked by quickly, around 10 or 20, I could feel my legs getting a little tired and I was breathing incredibly heavy due to the altitude. I checked my watch floor 24, 3:24. Wow a bit faster than my predictions but who really knows what that means anyway. I caught up to the Colombian and hung behind her for a floor or two before finally squeezing past on one of the landings. She was nice enough about it and didn’t battle me for the spot, mightve even offered some words of encouragement.

This race was flying by! The next thing I knew it was floor 38 and I only had 10 floors to go plus the climb to the roof. At this point I told myself I needed to pick up the pace, my legs feeling full of lactic acid. They were heavy and I tried to pick up the pace, made it a couple of stairs. With the narrow stairwell, I could reach both rails so I used that to my advantage and yanked on both of those. Ok, only like 5 floors to go. Got to like 47 or 48 and half of the stairwell was blocked off with a ribbon and forced you to the inside, turned the corner on the landing and there was a ramp to run up. I picked up my speed, my legs were wobbly but I forced them to run, I saw a mat and thought I was finished. I had totally forgot about the rickety metal staircase outside, I ran down the hallway and saw that thing. Screw the rail, this isn’t the time to be methodical or conserve energy, this is the time to go. Give it all I had. So I ran up that thing as fast as I could, I staggered onto the helipad, looked for the mat and saw I still had to run another 20 feet to the finish, my legs barely wanted to stand. I crossed the mat and wanted to collapse but the ground was hard, wet and muddy. 

I’m pretty sure I was white like a ghost, several paramedic type people grabbed me. I could barely speak, I was breathing so heavy and walking was almost impossible. I kept trying to tell them that I wanted to sit, all I could say was sit, sit, they led me over to the med tent. 

I finally looked at my watch – 7:14! Are you fricken kidding me?!? There is no way I pulled that off, how in the world did that happen. I had no expectations, I was thinking id be lucky to get under 8:00 and here I was at 7:14. I was incredibly excited and I had finished 2nd in my group. 

I sat there for a while, tried to stand up and walk around, I was lightheaded, my legs didn’t work. I saw the next group of girls getting to the top so I went over to the finish area, I saw Cindy come up and the paramedics scooped her up as soon as she crossed the mat, carried her over to the med tent.

I was standing around and my throat was burning, I couldn’t stop coughing, I had a headache. I felt like I was gonna be sick so I went to the corner for a while then I just sat on the ground afraid to get up or try to move. My legs were twitchy and spazzing.

The guys started to pop up onto the top, I got up to see them finish. Several of them were dragged to the med tent, the altitude attributed to some massive carnage at this race.

We went downstairs to check the results, my time was 7:13 and I was 6th. 2nd for the international girls (who included Cindy, Christina, Julia and myself), Cindy beat me by 1 second! Her race was a bit more difficult than mine because she got caught behind a few people and had to exert more energy to pass them. I got lucky with my starting heat.

I thought maybe I’d struggle to make the top 10 at this race so being 6th was amazing. I felt like I climbed an excellent race and put it all out there, really excelled on that rickety scary metal staircase. We got a copy of the results that showed peoples time at floor 48 and then at the heliport. I made up some time in that little snippet of the climb, I was even faster than some of the guys during that portion of the climb!

Since this race was considered the world finals, they had an awards ceremony for the towerrunning world cup. With Cindy's 5th place finished, she bumped me out and took 2nd place, I finished 3rd for the 2nd year in a row and Christina took home the world cup trophy. It was such an incredible feeling standing on the podium with those 2 ladies, both are tremendous climbers and I felt honored to be up there with them. 

The Colombian Experience -

The city was a little beat up and rusty but the Colpatria Tower was lit up at night with changing colors. The first morning we were there, I really wanted to go for a run, I was feeling antsy and wanted to explore. I walked outside, looked down the street and figured I should just stay inside. I promised my dad I wouldn’t run alone, so it was time for breakfast instead. 

Wednesday afternoon after all the media sessions, I ventured out exploring with Norbert. It was raining so we didn’t make it too far. Found a little mall type area near our hotel so wandered around in there before finally chilling at a coffee shop for a bit. The fancy cappuccinos were awesome. That night there were fireworks from the Colpatria Tower so I rushed outside to watch, some were even coming from the sides of the to tower. Post-race on Thursday we went in the other direction and found another crepe and coffee shop. They had tons of veggie friendly crepes, too bad it wasn’t dinner time yet! 

There was a nearby mountain that had a cable car type thing to take you to the top but it was kinda dark and rainy so decided against that. There are a ton of street vendors sending miscellaneous goods/foods and military police everywhere. My favorite was the guy with colored popcorn!! He gave me a handful for free and it just happened to be all orange!

Since we were invited to this race, we didn’t have to pay to eat in the hotel which had a 24-hour restaurant. The food wasn’t all the vegan friendly though especially with the language barrier. Thursday night after the race, I was going through almond/peanut butter withdrawal. I really wanted to make a sandwich but I couldn’t even get some plain toasted bread. All they wanted to give me was garlic bread. Mmm almond butter with remnants of garlic herb butter, ha.

Afterthoughts -

I kept wondering if I deserved this tremendous experience, if I was good enough to be invited to a race of this caliber. I always doubt myself and what I'm capable of. I want to get faster, I want to close the gap between me and the best climbers in the world, I want to feel like I deserve this, that I fit in with this elite crowd. I want to dedicate my training to getting better, it has to be about stairs.

I am truly grateful for this amazing experience, I am a ball of excitement and a bag of mixed emotions. I want to have more of this, I want other unique races. The stair climbs around the world are more geared towards the race, the community is excited, theres full-fledged media, big prizes and just a wonderful atmosphere. The races in the US are more focused on the charity aspect of it instead of stair climbing being a legit sport that deserves recognition. Although I suppose if the races did start offering up prize money, then professional athletes would come out of the woodworks and I would be left in the dust. In 2012, I’d like to hit a race or two on the European circuit and perhaps I'll get invited to a new invitational race in Austria. I’m gonna need some cash for this sport so who wants to sponsor me?!?

Next up the CF Climb for Life at 300 N. LaSalle in Chicago on December 11th. Then it’s a bunch more of my secret training (that seems to be working since im blazing workouts and getting faster) until the Aon Building in Chicago the end of January. The CF climb kicks off the season and once Aon hits, its back to back races for weeks on end, I'm ready to push it to new limits :)

Friday, November 25, 2011

stepping it up a notch

Stepping it up a notch – november 25, 2011

after sears, I decided to literally and figuratively start stepping up my training a few notches. I want to get faster and be more competitive with the top female climbers around the world. I figured now is the best time to start making big gains for the 2012 climbing season. my goal races to start 2012 are empire (although the organization of that race for next is a bit odd and frustrating), hancock and presidential towers. I also have a few smaller races tossed in there for fun.

My mind is totally focused on going vertical and like my coach said “flat is for the birds”, im not really sure what that means but it sounded like good advice. Ive started thinking in terms of how high can I go instead of how far. My mindset has changed which is difficult for me because my standard running is getting put on the back burner, everything I do has to have a specific purpose and it needs to have a stair oriented result.

Like ive said before, the specifics of my training are to remain a secret except for a few select individuals who have insider knowledge but im excited to try something different to see what the outcome might be, im also really looking forward to the new challenges that lay UP ahead.

I actually found myself smiling during my past couple of stair workouts, usually its more of a grimace from the pain but this time, I was enjoying myself and loving ever second of it. When we climb the Z tower, even a slower easier pace seems to be unpleasant but recently, something has come over me.

CF Practice Climb

last sunday we had a practice climb in a 45 floor building in chicago. We had 2 hours to climb so the goal of this workout was to use the taller tower to our advantage and climb as much as we wanted to. The practice climb was for the CF Climb for Life thats taking place at 300 N. LaSalle on december 11th. Over the past several months, I have been working with the race organizers and providing them with training tips for the registered participants. So during the practice climb, I was supposed to talk with other climbers and answer questions or offer up advice. I talked with a few people while we were there, one lady was thrilled to meet brady and I because she's seen all of the running raw and x-gym videos.

We wanted to climb at least 5 times and maybe hit 6 or 7 if we had time. We entered the stairwell and the stairs were quite unique, it was bright and yellow! There were several small flights that kinda weaved around, a few short landings, a few long landings and I thought to myself, neat, cool, I like this stairwell. Well the uniqueness ended around floor 5 then it was a bit more cookie cutter – 10 or 11 steps per flight and turned to the right. The stairwell had a double rail on the inside which was awkward and was very wide so using both rails was virtually impossible.

Since I wanted to slow it down and go for vertical distance instead of intensity, I decided to ignore the rail, hopefully I didnt end up hurt it's feelings. We finished the 1st climb and it was like wow, that was really easy and enjoyable. We decided to see if any climbers needed any advice then went up another time. I think at that point we cranked out 3 in a row. Still taking it easy and climbing without the rail. On one of the climbs, I picked up the pace the 2nd half and finished up about 30 seconds faster than the rest of the climbs. The volunteers (some talkative highschool guys), were amazed that we were still climbing and were impressed that I usually popped out of the stairwell before brady. The security guards also couldnt believe we were still going. I asked them if I could bribe them to let us in again but they werent all that interested, haha.

This workout started to turn into an ultimate climb, how many of these suckers can we get in before time runs out?!? we smashed through another 3 climbs, so were at 7 total. Ok, we have to do at least 8 and had about 20 minutes left. So we went up for the 8th climb, when we got to the top, I said ok we got 10 minutes left, lets crank out a 9th one. So we went for it, that one was a bit rough but well worth it. Not bad for a sunday morning – climbing a 45 floor buildng 9 times (over an hour of actual climbing) and smiling and laughing and enjoying it. There might be something wrong with me...


wednesday, I really wanted to hit the stairs. My usual training building wasnt gonna be accessible so I had no choice but to hit the stairs in my office building. The issue with my building is that its only 15 floors, the steps are tiny and the doors are all locked so I have to walk all the way back down to start over again. The last time I did a serious workout in there, my calves were trashed from descending so many times.

This workout, I thought maybe I could sneak by without the soreness so I put the calf sleeves on, turned on the ipod and ventured into the stairwell. I wanted to play in there for at least 45 minutes to an hour. Was also gonna do an easy paced workout with no rail. The tower is so small and with the easy pace only takes me like 2:20 to get to the top so the ascending and descending time was about 4:40-5:00. i'd get to the top, spin around and head down. Get to the bottom, spin around and head right back up. No stoppage time. time was breezing by, 30 minutes gone, ok halfway through this workout. Still feeling good, legs would feel a little wobbly on the first step or two going down but then I was back to normal. I found myself smiling again, what the heck? Ive been in a dingy stairwell for 30 minutes and I was smiling. 45 minutes gone, only about 3 or 4 climbs left. Finished up at an hour so about 30 minutes of climbing and 30 minutes of wandering down. I left with a giant smile on my face :)

a little while later, ran a short run with my dad and tacked on a couple of extra miles to make it 5 miles total. A decent day, in the stairwell for an hour and a 5 mile run, ill take it.

Later that night, I was feeling a bit creaky as I walked around my house. Coming down my stairs was quite unpleasant. I could feel the soreness creeping in. the next morning I woke up and felt like I could barely move! My calves were trashed, my quads were obliterated, oh man. I was limping around like I just ran a marathon. I havent been this sore in a while, it messed with my spin and run on thursday morning. My workouts for friday had to be reevaluated as well. Thats what I get for being stubborn and wanting the stairs so bad, had to give into my obsession and craving and now im paying for it. But it was so totally worth it...

tomorrow – back in the stairwell, my legs are gonna hate me but at least im back in my normal training building so I wont have to walk down 15 floors over and over again!

Bogota is right around the corner, good times to be had.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

sears tower - slaying the 103 floor beast

11/6/2011 – slaying the 103 floor beast

After months of training, I finally stepped into the stairwell for my target race – the sears (willis) tower - tallest tower in North America and was quite pleased with the result :)

The two weeks leading up to sears…

The last couple of weeks leading up to sears were a bit stressful, I had a great race in seattle and then climbed mailbox peak with brady and the Crossman brothers but my legs were trashed after that. 

Instead of resting for a day or two after the hike, I resumed my normal training load and just beat my legs to a pulp instead of giving them the much needed rest and recovery that they desired. 

Monday was an 8 mile run with kacie in seattle and Tuesday I ran a 6 mile run through the city weaving up and down the steep hills.  Brady and I attempted a stair workout on Wednesday (3 days post-hike) and both of our quads were obliterated, so we cut the workout short after 3 sets at a mediocre pace. 

Thursday was a 4.5 mile run and 2 hour steroid spin, Friday i ran 8 miles then Saturday was a long run of 12 miles, Sunday (1 week post hike) I decided to run a 5k as a tempo run.  by the time I got into the stairwell Sunday afternoon, I could barely survive the first climb.  My first time was alright but I could barely move my legs. they felt wobbly at the top, I staggered down the stairs and to the elevator, I felt worse than I did after the race in seattle. the 2nd climb was the slowest ive had in a long time which is totally unacceptable and the 3rd one was back to being alright.  I quit that workout after 3 sets as well, completely frustrated. 

I was freaking out!!  im not used to my legs feeling so demolished and im definitely not used to quitting workouts.  I knew something was wrong and if I didn’t act fast, the sears tower would be brutal from the start and my goal time would only be something I could achieve in my dreams.  Monday was a total rest day, Tuesday I did an easy 6 mile run, Wednesday it was back in the stairwell and once again my legs were still sluggish and heavy.  I only did 3 sets again, the times were decently fast but the effort was much greater than it should be.  I left with my head down, thinking nothing but the worst.  Thursday another total rest day and Friday we decided to get me back into the stairwell one more time and hope for the best.  I stood at the bottom of the steps, fearful of how my legs might feel.  we started off, 1:10 at the half, wow that’s a quick pace and I feel really good, my legs feel fresh!!  Finished that climb in 2:27, which is my 2nd best time and the effort felt easy!  I was shocked, surprised and relieved, I was gonna be alright for sears!! 

The night before

One of the best things about stair climbing (besides the pain and the challenge) is getting to meet all sorts of incredible people.  my step brothers and sisters are awesome to hang out with and I wish I could see them more often.  Mark planned a team dinner for the night before sears and of course it was a blast.  before dinner mark told me he had a special gift for me, it was a purple long sleeve WCL shirt to wear in Columbia and I love it!!  We played bingo and he gave out $100 prizes, I thought for sure I was gonna win but of course, I didn’t.  I met some new people that night and enjoyed talking to all of them.  That night brady, cody and nick were staying at hotel de Kristin so we watched the 2009 sears video to get some extra motivation.

on the drive home, we came up with splits for my goal time (16:00-16:30, last year I did just over 18:00).  I was gonna check my watch about every 25 floors, floor 25 – 3:45, floor 52 (halfway) – 8:00, floor 75 (go time!) – 11:30-11:35.  I was ready to do this. 


This climb starts at 7:00 so it was an early morning since I got up at 4:00 to start my coffee binge and wanted to leave by 5:00 to get there.  once we parked, we wandered around inside for a little bit, looking for familiar faces.  We went for a short warmup run outside, good thing it was somewhat decent out. 

we headed towards the starting area, I could see the stairwell, now was about the time for me to start freaking out.  my heart start beating like it was gonna jump out of my chest, my hands were clammy and my thoughts raced.  I tried to stay calm and remind myself, that itd be just fine once I got into the stairwell.  as we stood in line, I could feel my body shaking and just kept telling myself this was MY race.  they sent people off every 7 seconds, I approached the line and darted into the stairwell. 

the steps at sears are steep (kinda like the Z tower) and they turn right for the first 60 or so floors.  I felt like I was going at a somewhat quick pace, my legs felt fresh but kinda tired at the same time, wasn’t sure what that meant.  Tried to relax and get into a rhythm.  The floor numbers in this stairwell are hard to find and at times kinda cryptic because they list other floor numbers with emergency equipment or special exits, just makes my head spin when I just wanna see a solid number of where im at.  Floor 25 – 3:25-3:30, alright ok im fast just like I was last year.  lets try to keep this pace or ease up just a tad so I don’t burn my legs out.

the next 25 floors felt relatively the same as the 1st 25, I didn’t feel like I was slowing down nor did I feel super tired, my legs still felt decent.  So lets keep on doing that, I watched the floors tick away and caught up to a few guys on my team who moved aside, let me pass and offered words of encouragement. its always awkward trying to pass someone, because you don’t wanna waste energy going around them so you might follow them for a floor or two hoping they step out of the way, but sometimes ya just gotta ask “can I get by?!?”  its difficult to know if their pace is slowing you down or giving you a little extra rest that might provide ya with an extra jolt of energy towards the top.  floor 52, ok were halfway, lets check the watch – 7:45.  Ok wow, im still 15 seconds ahead of pace, I haven’t slowed down at all, that’s great news!  On some floors the railing was snug up against the wall so it was hard to get your hand in there, good thing I have small hands. 

Now theres only about 10 more floors until we run down the hallway, take on a massively tall flight and start turning left.  Once we get there, the flights become smaller so that makes it seem somewhat easier.  I told myself it was go time at floor 75, give it all I got for another 25 floors.  I knew that when I hit that floor theres only about 4-5 minutes left.  Floor 75 – 11:33, now I was almost dead on pace so somewhere between 52 and 75, I slowed down just a tad but that’s alright, still right on pace.  just gotta crank out these last floors.

Last year I seemed to lose a lot of time during those last 20 floors, it wasn’t pretty.  This year I tried to keep my pace strong, I told myself I needed to pick up the pace and I would for about a flight or a floor, my legs wouldn’t let me get too far.  I was breathing pretty heavy at this time and my legs were really starting to feel the lactic acid.  I thought the smaller flights would make things easier, but those last few floors had extra flights per floors which meant extra turns which makes ya lose your pace and slow down without even knowing it.  at 80, once again I told myself to pick it up and my legs gave an extra effort for about a floor.  90 rolled around, only like 10 floors to go plus a few bonus floors, that’s nothing.  a floor later, slowed down again.  100, only 3 floors to go!!  I turned on the burners and bounded/ran/sprinted the best my little legs could, gave it all I got.  Staggered to the mat, hit my watch, fell to the ground and crawled towards the others who were sprawled out at the top. 

Looked at my watch – 16:25!!!  I laid there on the ground for a while then propped myself up against a wall with my head kinda hanging between my knees, every time I’d look up a guy with a giant camera was snapping pictures of me.  I was ecstatic with my time, I hit my goal time and I felt good doing it.  maybe if I woulda paced the first half a little better, I would’ve ended up a bit faster but I was quite pleased with my race especially since I didn’t even know if my legs would survive.  Maybe if I had taken it easy after that hike, my legs would’ve had more umpf to give towards the end but it was all good.  I had a smile across my face and was glad it was over but i cant wait till next year.  Im in stair mode now and its all I can think about, once the end of January hits, ill have races for like 7 weeks in a row, awesome!

I took 1:40 off my time from last year and ended up 2nd place (cindy harris set a course record with 14:58 and creamed me!).  kourtney did great in her first attempt at the tallest tower and finished 3rd, with a time around 17:00.  Sherri also did great in her first tower race ever, finishing 4th overall about 25 seconds behind kourtney. 

me and cindy harris

norbert - the speedy european!
Post-climb celebration

After the race, we hung around for a while and decided to venture somewhere for breakfast.  I was happy to hangout with my step siblings, there were several of us wandering the streets of chicago and we each provided something unique to the group. 

Brady wasn’t there in the afternoon but he’s my coach.  he listened to me whine and complain for 2 weeks saying that my race was going down the tubes yet never gave up on me and kept reassuring me that I’d hit that goal time.  much appreciated!

Mark and PJ werent there either but theyre kind of the glue that holds this team together and I am quite appreciative of everything they do for us and the sport. 

Kourtney – my only step-sis that was wandering around the city with me and the boys.  She did a fantastic job tackling the giant tower!!  wish we could hangout more.  maybe veronica and I can convince her to start running

Veronica – its always nice to see her and shes conquered this tower numerous times and is obsessed with marathons just like me.  

Norbert – the Austrian - no kangaroos!  Also did a great job taking on this massive tower for the first time, did quite well despite being a sprinter who dominates the European circuit.  Looking forward to seeing him at another race soon and potentially venturing there to take on a few of the European stair climbs!!  And hopefully I get my chocolate soon :)

Nelson – has to be the most encouraging brother on our team!!  Im not sure I could climb in the pain that he did and he did it while blind in one eye, very impressive.  im glad we both have weird accents, at least we understand each other! 

Eric is now deemed the craziest of the crazy people by Norbert and I found he has an obsession with the color orange just like me and also needs an intervention for his beer drinking skills.  Don’t worry; ill have an intervention for being a cardio junkie too…

Brian walked the streets of chicago, rolling his suitcase down the sidewalks, good times. 

Kevin ate the butter that came with my toast at lunch and is always a wealth of information

Justin was also there, the youngest of the group.  Very eager to dominate this sport.   

Oz is always a blast to be around, his son david even climbed the tower in 28 minutes! and kept telling his dad that they were resting too long, that kid is a fierce little competitor.

I met plenty of new people at this race too, all great climbers and even more importantly, great people

I leave you with a quote from brady - “You are an out of control cardio junkie.  I'm putting you on that intervention show.  Only we'd try to talk to you and you'd escape because your tiny and agile, you'd run up some flights of stairs, hop out a window and down a tree, then you'd run away and none of us will be fast enough to catch you.”  thanks coach!

training hard...
Next up – I head to Bogota, Columbia for the Colpatria Tower Climb on december 8th.   it should be an interesting and unique experience, I cant wait!!  The CF climb for life at 300 n. lasalle in chicago is followed closely behind on December 11th.  sign up to be on the WCL team and you don’t have to pay the $200 fundraising fee!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

two union square - seattle

Two Union Square - 51 floors 

This past weekend I made my way to the pacific northwest, seattle to be specific for the first race of the 2011 fall stair climbing season.  Seattle is one of my absolute favorite places, when I went there for the first time a couple of years ago, I knew it was somewhere that I most certainly wanted to return to and was hoping that it would be sooner rather than later.  I was lucky enough to head there the following year in 2010 for the Bellevue tower race and returned again this year to take on a new challenge – 51 floors in Two Union Square. 

I was looking forward to exploring the city and really wanted to do some hiking.  On satuday, the day before the race, I decided to venture out and wander the streets of downtown.  I meandered around, found myself a coffee shop then came across a fancy chocolate shop called the chocolate box so of course I went inside.  i came out with like $20 worth of chocolate, a dark chocolate coconut almond bar for myself and a few pieces for my mom, nana and jen.  I also wandered into some kind of dog costume festival, which seemed entertaining.  by the time I got back to my hotel, I had been on my feet for like 2 hours.  hopefully this didn’t tire out my legs for the climb tomorrow but if it did, oh well, better than laying around in the hotel room.   that night a bunch of climbers met for dinner, I had a rental car so 6 of us piled in there, oz squeezed himself into the hatch which was quite the site to see. Dinner was at steak joint type restaurant, not really keen to catering to vegetarians, haha although they did have some awesome seared broccoli! 

I hadn’t really given much thought to this race since my main focus has been and still is on sears (which is now only 10 days away!).  shorter climbs aren’t really my forte, Im a cardio junkie so I think my endurance takes over in the taller buildings like hancock and sears.  anyways, I knew that I’d most likely get beat by my “step-sisters” kourtney and kacie so i went into this race with a relaxed attitude.  Usually stair climbs give me some major race anxiety and im like bouncing off the walls with nervousness when standing in the starting line, heart beating through my chest, hands sweating.  It was kinda nice having a calm approach to this one.  I figured I’d do my best and planned on hitting the stairs a few extra times at my goal sears pace, might as well get some extra use out of the taller tower. 

Before all our climbs, we usually talk strategy and splits, figure out the height of the building, number of steps, how many steps per floor along with which way the stairwell turns or anything else that might come in handy.  This race was no different, PJ created a video for us so we could see the stairwell and brady watched that thing repeatedly like it had won an academy award.  Im glad he did because he told me that the stairwell was almost identical to the tower we train it, turns left and has 20 steps/floor (with a few variances) and was the height of approximately 2.5 Z towers.  Two Union Square is also similar to the US Bank building Milwaukee so I tried to estimate my time and figured I’d shoot for 6:30, hit the half at 3:15 then try to hang on from there on up. 

The morning of the climb, i was up at 5:30 to start the usual pre-climb ritual including a banana with nut butter and obscene amounts of coffee.  caffeine is said to reduce pain receptors which is quite beneficial during a stair climb, gives ya that extra edge and allows you to push past the limits set by your mind and body.  we did a short warm up on the treadmill and in the stairwell of the hotel before heading over to the race.  we took some team photos and loitered around a bit before heading to the stairwell.  its always tough entering a stairwell for the first time, its hard to judge your pace and everything is different from what youre used to.  the railings in this tower, were a bit larger than what I usually grasp on to to which felt awkward in my tiny hands and the railing wasn’t continuous on the landing which kinda threw off my rhythm at times. 

I decided to check my watch at floor 21 (Z tower height) then again at floor 26 (half).  I felt like I was cruising, 2:31 at 21, awesome that’s a good pace and it didn’t feel like I was going too fast, I still felt relaxed.  3:11 at 26, even more awesome, I was ahead of “goal” pace and was still feeling quite good.   legs were getting a bit tired and heavy though, once I got to floor 30, I knew there was only the equivalent of 1 Z tower left.  I know how the last climb of a workout feels and sometimes that’s when I hit my fastest time so I knew what I had to do, push through and endure some pain for like 2:30.  That’s not too bad is it?  its only 2 minutes but its 2 minutes of pain!  Ok, pick up the pace just a bit, try to bound.  hit floor 40, only 11 left.  I started bounding but my legs would only cooperate for a flight at a time.  just keep pushing through.  With like 3 floors left, I really tried to pick it up to a sprint towards the finish but the legs neglected to listen to my brain, they had their own agenda in mind and no matter how much my mind told them to go faster, they tried but couldn’t muster up a final sprint.  It seemed like I went a smidge faster but that might just be my imagination.  I saw the mat, hit my watch (6:23!!) and staggered into the hallway, I took a few wobbly steps and fell to the ground and began to crawl to the end of the hallway.  Once I got there, I collapsed into a heap and just laid there.  some volunteer guy came over to take the chip off my shoe and I barely wanted to roll over.  I glanced around me and it looked like a battle field, brady was lying face down on the carpet, PJ was sprawled out next to me and oz looked like someone had attacked him in a dark alley.  Kourtney was sitting up against the wall and looked tired but still quite good. 

Kristie was at the top filming all of us finish, the video is quite comical, I cant wait for this video to be “released” to the general public so everyone can see what we really go through.  Everyone seems alright for those first few steps out of the stairwell then it sets in.  brady kinda staggered around but stayed upright yet when she panned back over in his direction, he was face down on the floor.  brian looked like he wasn’t even fatigued when he came out of the stairwell then during the next shot he was on his back kicking his legs like a kid having a temper tantrum.  Kevin who won by like 20 seconds was just fine, at least to my knowledge.  I came crawling in across the floor and kacie just collapsed past the mat and curled up into the fetal position.  What other sport has such carnage at the end of a race?  the only answer is stair climbing.  When I finally got up, the burn in my trachea was there and the coughing started. 

I was quite pleased with my time.  kourtney beat me by 5 seconds which was expected and mark was sandwiched between the 2 of us.  I knew kourtney would beat me, I also knew mark would beat me but I thought it would be by more than 2 seconds.  dang, I wish I would’ve pushed that extra little bit, would’ve loved to beat mark!! 

By the time we went to climb again, I felt sick to my stomach and still had the uncontrollable cough.  My legs didn’t feel too bad on the 2nd climb, we had plenty of rest and I hit 7:22, well below my sears goal pace.  the boys wanted me to stick with them on the 3rd climb, I finished at 7:06 but they were about 20-30 seconds in front me.  the effort felt comfortably hard. 

Mailbox Peak

Kevin and brian wanted to take us to mailbox peak, a 2.5 mile hike up 4,000 feet.  I was super excited and figured it would be a great experience and workout considering its like 3 sears towers in height.  I didn’t know what the trail was like, they predicted that it would take us 1.5 hours each way.  the path started off wide and gradual, I thought to myself this seems easy enough, little did I know that wasn’t the actual trail.  Once we got to the trail, it became narrower, steeper and muddier and there were lots of tree roots.  We started up and a tendon behind my right knee was giving me a little grief, it decided that it wanted to cause some sharp pain and soreness depending on which way I stepped up.  I decided to ignore it but the back off my mind kept saying sears sears sears.  ive had this pain before so I figured I’d keep on going.  at one point, I looked at my watch and it said 19:00, really, its only been 19  minutes?!?  oh geez, this is gonna be a long climb.  Kevin stuck back with me which I thought was nice of him, showed me wild mushrooms and berries. 

the guys kept talking about this rock wall that they figured would be added bonus to the already strenuous climb.  This rock wall consisted of boulders on top of boulders; my little legs didn’t handle these rocks to well.  some of the rocks werent exactly locked in place so I lost my footing a few times on shifting rocks.   I thought after surviving the rock pile, we’d be almost at the top but the mountain just kept on going and going.  my legs were getting tired and I could tell my pace had slowed a bit but I could see the mailbox at the peak.  Once I finally got there, the view was spectacular and well worth it. 

we took a few pictures and began our descent.  Of course I was cold by that point so I threw on my hoodie and we started the downward climb.  My hands started to get numb so I threw my gloves on and hoped that I’d make it down this thing without some kind of major injury. I figured this would be tough on the quads and I’d be sore but I did not expect what actually happened.  I think I won the award for the person who fell/slipped the most.  The traction on my shoes was poor and my legs were having trouble bracing myself, in the spots where I could kinda pick up the pace and run, I was fine but the steeper spots caused an issue for me.  at one point, I fell and grabbed a root for support, it was like I was dangling off the edge of something.  that’s when I jacked my knee, it’s all scraped and has a scab now, will probably leave a scar which would be fine with me. 

my knees ached and my hands were still numb.  The boys slowed down and kept asking if I was alright.  A group of guys were behind us and I felt like they were gonna trample me because they’d slow down then speed up and I knew if one of them fell they’d take me with them so when they finally passed me, I breathed a sigh of relief.  I started to warm up the lower we got and the terrain started to level off a bit, I survived and my legs were still in one piece. 

Later that night I couldn’t sleep since my legs were so sore and restless.  I went running with kacie the next morning, too bad we don’t live near each other, it’d be great to run with my step-sis more often.   we probably did about 8 miles and my legs felt trashed.  My arms were sore too from grabbing onto trees and bracing myself.  my entire body was demolished.  I think that the Crossman brothers need to put out a disclaimer regarding the intensity of mailbox peak.  I sure am glad I did it but I was not prepared for what that mountain had in store for me, haha

Many Thanks

I want to give a special thanks to PJ for being so generous throughout my entire trip, I really do appreciate everything he does for our team and the sport of stair climbing.  I’d also like to thank mark for coming up with some fun interesting dinner time entertainment including picking up burning rocks from a decorative fire pit and a get to know your "step" brother and sisters game.  I’d have to say this was one of the best times ive had with all of my “step” brothers and sisters, it was great seeing you all – brady, oz, kristie, kacie, kourtney, kevin, brian, nelson, pj, mark, bev and karen :)  see ya soon in chicago!!