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!