Monday, January 30, 2012

80 floors...hurts so good...

Aon Center – Chicago – January 29, 2012
 As far as Aon went, I didn’t really put any pressure or expectations on myself but I had a certain goal time I wanted to hit.  11:23 – it just kinda came to me one day so figured I’d go with it.  Last year I had a sub-par climb at this race and only hit like 13:00 but a few weeks later at Hancock (which is about the same exact height and finishing times) I hit a 12:34 so knew I had to be faster than that especially since I’d been creaming my workouts in the stairwell.   It also seemed as though people tended to be 3:00 slower at Aon than they were at LaSalle, I hit like 7:55 at LaSalle so figured even if I blew up, I had to go under 12:00. 
I brewed some Brazilian coffee then Brady and I were headed to the city.  We got there a little before 7:00 but had to drive around the building several times trying to find the dang parking garage.   We parked and heading inside.  All of a sudden, it was already 7:40 and I still needed to warm up!  I started doing laps back and forth in the hallway, weaving in and out of people.  At about 7:45, I headed upstairs and hopped around with Brady in another hallway. 
We got into line and Eric was bouncing around to some tunes, I kinda started to bob my head then instantly remembered dancing before races was bad luck and therefore banned.   It turned out to be a good call.  There was a giant guy standing in the starting line, looked pretty fit, wearing a cycling jersey or something and had a ragged ponytail.  He seemed to think he was gonna come here and win the thing.  Kept looking us up and down, trying to get in front of us.  Eric looked up at him and said “wow youre really tall!”  And the guy just stared him down, Eric burst out laughing but the guy didn’t even crack a smile.  Brady and I refused to let him get in front of us. 
I’m not sure what kinda time was supposed to be between climbers but they started sending us in like 2 or 3 second intervals which is far from the norm of 7-10 seconds.  Brady started in front of me, he said that he didn’t want anyone to get in my way or slow me down and knew he could let me pass at any time.  He started off and the timing guys told me to go before he was even at the first landing! 
His watch was set to beep every 1:25 , the time it should take for approximately 10 floors and was set at 11:20 pace.  Since the space between climbers was so small, I was right behind him from the start.  Before the climb we had discussed having him pace me but never really decided whether or not it was a good decision.   About 5-10 floors in, I could hear the giant running behind us, all of a sudden he was right behind me and blurted out “passing on the outside”.  Yea ok, whatever, go on the outside, waste your energy, I don’t care.  Under my breath I muttered that he should slow it up and Brady thought “we’ll be seeing you again soon”.  Brady didn’t really care about the giant slowing him down but was worried about me having to use valuable energy passing the guy later on.
We were at about floor 11.5 when the first beep went off, ok cool, were a bit ahead of pace.  We continued climbing at a steady pace.  I was feeling pretty good and stayed a step or two behind Brady.  I was enjoying having him pace me, felt comfort knowing that we were going at a good clip and it was encouraging. 
Before long, we approached the giant, ah geez, now we gotta pass him!  But at least he was kind and said do you guys wanna pass?  I said “yes, please!” and he graciously moved aside.  Wonder what was going on in his head and if he thought he had a smart racing strategy, he probably needed the break anyways. 
We reached the halfway point and were still ahead of pace.  Im still feeling really fresh and was in a rhythm.  Probably helps that this stairwell is quite cookie-cutter, 10 floors per flight and turned to the left.  It was basically like my training building and was exactly 4 times the height so I could think of it in terms of Z towers, I was confident in what pace I could hit.  Now we only had 2 Z towers left, that doesn’t seem so bad. 
Shortly thereafter, Brady stepped to the side and told me to keep going but not to speed up.  I was confused and asked him where he was going.  He started following right behind me and at the next beep told me we were about 2 floors ahead, I wasn’t sure exactly what that meant but I knew we were faster than our goal time. 
We reached floor 50 and I thought, that’s only 1.5 Z towers left so maybe 4:00 or so, that’s nothing.  I can hang for 4:00.  Before the race, I told myself that I wanted to pick it up around floor 60, try to get a little extra speed for the last 20 floors and if not that, then at least the last 5-10.  We hit 60 and I surged a little bit.  Another 5 floors passed, Brady was still right behind me and I could hear Cindy breathing so I knew I was getting closer to her.  Tried to surge again.  Her breathing was getting louder and I think I kinda eased up a bit. 
10 floors to go, another little surge but didn’t keep it up.  Floor 73 – some boy scouts told me I had 10 floors to go, I was like umm, I got less than that!  I appreciated their help and encouragement but they were giving out false information.  I rounded the corner for the last 5 floors and could see Cindy’s white vibrams about a floor or so ahead of me.  I turned the corner to the top and there she was, I put in a final burst and basically caught her at the finish.  She collapsed on the map and I kinda collapsed / hopped over her.  I looked at my watch 10:48, holy bajabbers!!  I was not expecting that at all, I had no idea that I could go sub 11, the thought didn’t really even cross my mind.  I was in shock. 
This was another race where I think I paced it really good but I think I had some extra energy left in me.  I probably could’ve eeked out another 5-10 seconds but sometimes the feeling left in your legs is deceiving.  Perhaps I would’ve tried to bound more or speed up, but maybe I wouldn’t really even be going any faster.   Sometimes it’s just mental. 
Brady popped out of the stairwell shortly thereafter me and walked on by, I crawled on over to him.  He was sprawled out on his back, having trouble breathing.  Some EMTs came over asking if he wanted oxygen, he said yea sure.  So the guy brought over the tank and hooked him up.  After a minute or so, he decided it was time to get up.  The guy asked if he was ok and Brady said yea, this happened because I was chasing her.  The EMT said, you’ll get yourself sent to the hospital chasing her.  We both found that comical.   Brady was unsure of his time since he had the beeps set but knew it was definitely under 11:20.   When we finally saw the results, 11:01!!  A PR for him as well, it was a stellar climbing day for the 2 of us in the Aon Center :)  I’m not sure I would’ve hit my time without him pacing me and encouraging me along the way!  You’re the best coach ever!!  All of our hard training is getting results!
We decided to go up another 2 times, yea, crazy I know but slowed the pace.  The stairwell was crowded with people so it was great just encouraging other climbers and giving high-fives to little kids.  Since this race was for Children’s Memorial Hospital, there were plenty of kids climbing.  It was so inspirational seeing these kids climbing and pushing through it.   I think experiencing that is much better than winning the race or climbing your fastest. 
I ended up winning it for the females and I think I potentially sent a tower record but so far we’ve only seen results back to 2003 and Jennifer Carder was the fastest with a time of 11:23.  I’ve been getting progressively faster over the past several months to a year.  My Sears tower race was sub-par, I think my legs were still tired from climbing mailbox peak with the Crossman brothers and just had somewhat of an off day.  But since Sears, I’ve stepped up my training dramatically.  I’ve been putting in long, hard hours.  I’ve been hitting the stairwell and fending off snakes.  I’ve been pedaling my little legs off.  It’s been quite the commitment and has taken a lot of dedication but it’s worth it.   My races aren’t a fluke; I’m putting in the work and seeing the results.  I’m not a millionaire; I don’t sleep in an altitude tent.  I’m not taking some kind of magical potion either.  I’m tiny and a vegan but I eat a bunch, I have a square of dark chocolate every day and go on cereal and nut butter binges every night.  

I just put in the work, that’s why I’m faster! :) 

Check out this video that was on the ABC news to see me, Brady and Justin climbing at floor 77!  Were looking good!  Brady said I must’ve really put on the burners in the last 3 floors because I gained a bit of time on him so guess I did pick it up at the end even if I can’t remember doing so!


  1. Congratulations! What an exciting race for you!
    You really are inspiring.
    I love your explanation at the end -- "...I'm putting in the work and seeing the results..."
    IS there a magic potion that some use?? ha
    Aon was my first 80 floor goal was to finish, and to see how it felt. Met both goals. It felt fantastic!
    Decided to push myself the next time at Oakbrook's 31 flights, went out running first 10 floors (which for me is a lot) and paid for it at the end. Learning.

    Looking forward to the John Hancock and the Stratosphere!

    1. thanks again! i find all of my fellow climbers inspirational as well and helps push me to get better. looks like oakbrook was similar to my empire experience, too fast too soon! were both learning :) i just recently decided to do strat so if i dont see you at hancock perhaps we'll meet in vegas! i enjoyed your blog as well!!

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