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!!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

climbing cough, wobbly legs and a new Z tower PR

my training the past few weeks has been encouraging, ive been nailing the volume and intensity. I havent had a rest day in a few weeks so im never sure how the legs will react to what I throw at them day after day. I created a spreadsheet comparing my training over the past 10 weeks to my training before my best two races this year - hancock and aon LA, the training was relatively similar in some aspects but quite different in others. When I compared this year to my training before sears last year and there was a drastic difference. the exact numbers of what ive been doing this year will remain my training secret but its been good. The major difference was amount of time on the stairs, I think this year ive been in the stairwell like 3x more than I was last year!! and I have the times to prove it.

Our past couple of stair workouts have been sears tower simulation climbs, ie short rest at our goal pace. My goal pace on the Z steps was like 2:55-3:00, I decided to bypass those times and start hitting brady's goal times which were in the 2:40s. And I felt good doing it.

The next surprise came during our workout this morning. The past few days have had a decent dose of volume including a 2 hour computrainer cycling class (I call it spin on steroids) on thursday followed by a gray zone 8 miler into the wind on friday and a 12 miler yesterday morning, the legs are bound to be tired. The goal for today was unclear, steve and sherri were climbing with us for the first time so I wasnt sure how many reps we'd do or at what speed but I knew we'd get in at least 5 climbs. We decided to skip the short rest too so everyone could start at the same time.

The WU climb was a bit faster than usual by about 10 seconds (2:46), eh alright im feeling ok, can tell the legs are a little fatigued though. The 2nd climb was about 5 seconds faster (2:41) than the 1st one and my legs were feeling it a bit more but the pace was still manageable. We decided to head into the other stairwell for the next two climbs so we could practice turning right. Turning right feels awkward (we did 7 climbs on wednesday) but the stairwell lacks the 2 monster tall floors so it feels a bit easier, at least mentally. The climbs are probably about 20 seconds faster than in the big stairwell so we hit 2:25 (so maybe 2:45), 2:18 (~2:38). after that 2:18, I was definitely feeling it and I could tell everyone else was too. My legs were a bit wobbly but I knew I had to crank out one more climb.

During the rest after climb 4, I was telling sherri about the climbing cough caused by some dusty stairwells (the us bank building in milwaukee to be specific), that stairwell makes me cough uncontrollable for hours!! and you get that blood iron taste in your throat and your chest just burns, it really is an unpleasant feeling. In between the coughing, im usually yawning so its like never-ending. Nothing seems to help either, water nah, banana, nope, just keep hacking and the burn will go away, eventually...

we got into the stairwell to start our 5th climb, I thought id suffer though this last one and barely make 2:45. brady volunteered me to go first, he likes to give me (the antelope) a head floor start and hunt me down like a lion. Usually when this happens, I end up with my fastest times. I heard him say 2:30 and I was like yea im not so sure about that.

I gave in and started off. It freaks me out when I know he's coming after me and I blaze off, I was bounding those first few flights. Made it to floor 12 which is the halfway point at 1:05, oh my gosh, 1:05, im not sure ive ever seen that on my watch!! just keep it up, stay strong and fierce. floor 14, oh I feel my legs starting to slow down, start bounding, do something. He's gaining ground, I can see him out of the corner of my eye. Floor 16, ugg still 4 floors to 20 then the 2 monster floors. My mind was spiraling in different directions, one side said slow down your legs are tired, the other side kept nagging dont give in, bound some more, do whatever you can. My arms feel tingly, actually my whole body feels tingly, unsure what that means. Ok, 2 floors left, you can do this. I raced up those last couple of floors, brady was hot on my tail, I gotta hold him off. Done! 2:22!! oh my, thats like a 5 second PR!! I was shocked couldnt believe it. This has gotta mean something good. And I didnt let brady catch me although I think hes a nice coach and didnt wanna discourage me by passing me but his watch time was faster - 2:20. steve and sherri did great too, i think sherri had her fastest time on the last climb as well, way to go!

then the throat burn started, I shot brady a dirty look, he knew I was blaming him. I cant remember the last time ive had this feeling, not sure whether thats a good or bad thing, ha. my legs felt like jello as we walked to the elevator.  at that point, i was praising the creator of elevator because im pretty sure i wouldve bit it if i had to walk down 20 floors of stairs.  Once we got back down to floor 2, the coughing started and didnt stop for like an hour. I got home and decided to go for a run, 6 miles, not too shabby after that workout. The cough stopped but I can still feel that tickle in my throat and its been 5 hours!! the joy of stair climbing :)

next week im off to seattle for my 1st climb of the 2011 fall season after that its only 2 weeks till sears. That building is mine this year!