Wednesday, January 30, 2013


Want a unique challenge?!?
In late November, Kacie Fischer Cleveland approached me with the idea of attempting to set a stair climbing world record for the most vertical feet climbed by a 4 person relay team in 24 hours.  Without even hesitating, I said yes, I knew this was something I definitely wanted to be a part of and couldn't miss out on.  2012, was the year of new experiences and challenges so I was eager to tackle this one.  The only thing was that we were attempting this world record on January 4th, in Jacksonville, FL!!  Kacie was working with the ALA in Jacksonville for their Fight for Air Climb in February so we were using our event as a way to attract climbers and encourage enthusiasm towards climbing and general health and fitness.  

Our 4-person team was comprised of myself (top female climber and 10x Boston Marathon qualifier), Kacie (a world record holder and top short tower female climber), Mark T (founder of WCL and stair climbing obsessee) and PJ Glassey (fitness / nutrition expert, owner of X-Gym and stair sprinter extraordinaire).   I was thrilled to be a member of this unique team!  Our training background and stair climbing experiences were all different but we had the common bond of being obsessed with tower running!!  I come from an endurance background and Kacie inline skated across the county so were both familiar with endurance events.  Mark has done 100 mile races on the elliptigo but PJ is a sprinter, cross-fit guru thus doesn’t believe in working out more than 10-15 minutes a day!!

I wasnt really sure what to expect, anything could happen over the course of 24 hours!!  I had like a month to train so decided to do a few longer endurance type workouts in the stairwell, I convinced Brady, David Hanley and David McGrath to join me.  I hit a few multi-hour workouts, a 2 - hour workout and a 3- hour workout in addition to my normal training.  We would climb the Z tower 10x then take a 45-60 minute break to refuel, I wanted to see how it would be to have such an extended rest period since I would have that during the Epic Climb.  Tried refueling a few different ways, coconut water was a must have, I was also stock-piled with Raw Revolution bars.

I loved the endurance climbs, I had been feeling a bit sluggish in the stairwell post-Sears so doing endurance just let me do my thing without really pushing the pace or worrying about my times as much.  It was mentally encouraging and gave me a boost.  In order to slow myself down, I was using the outer rail or double railing it, if I clenched that inner rail I found myself pushing the pace and going too fast.  

Our team kept discussing the logistics of our climb and what kinda format we wanted to use.  Would we start from floor 1 or floor 9, how many times would we climb before switching off, what we needed to refuel, etc.  We all had different ideas but when it came down to it, we decided we were going to start at 6 pm on friday and go till 6 pm on saturday, we also decided to have floor 9 be our basecamp.  we had the whole floor so we could all spread out, store our stuff and have our own rooms.  That meant we we would be climbing from 9 to 42 every time and since there was no floor 13 (for luck reasons), we’d be climbing 32 floors.  we also decided that each person would climb 3 times before switching to the next climber.  another decision to be made was in regards to which elevator we should use, we could use the freight elevator which was slower but went directly to 9 or we could use the standard elevators but it was express to floor 1 so we’d have to get out at the lobby and change elevators to head back up to floor 9.  we decided to go with the freight elevator because it seemed like less of a hassle.  we set some goals, 100,000 steps, 5,000 floors and 65,000 vertical feet so the only thing left to do was climb!   

at the last minute, brady decided to come.  he wanted to support me and thought it would be an incredible experience to be a part of plus he could act as my own personal assistant or be an alternate if we needed someone.  we bought him a ticket and we were on our way.   

getting starting...

we got to jacksonville on thursday evening, took a look at the tower with kacie and just took it easy. friday we spent the day relaxing and resting before heading to the tower for media and the start of the Epic Climb.  we drew numbers to see who was climbing first and i was the lucky one!!  brady did a test climb and it took him just over 6 minutes going at a super conservative pace.  The clock hit 6 pm and i was off, i decided to check my watch at floor 20, it was an easy floor to remember even though it really wasn’t halfway.  The stairwell turned to the right and had 10 steps per one flight and 11 steps the next.  i finished my first climb in 4:58, whoa, blazing!! much quicker than anticipated, i ran to the elevator, ran down the hall and started up again.  i cranked out 5:09 and 5:08, everyone was shocked and even i thought it might be a bit fast.  i wasnt sure if i’d be able to handle that pace for 24 hours so told myself to slow down.  

i slapped the bracelet onto PJ’s wrist and he was on his way.  The order was me, PJ, Mark and Kacie.  we were sharing go-pro cameras so we’d have the whole 24 hours recorded and we were also keeping tabs of our splits on the overall clocks so everything would be documented for Guinness.  I took in some coconut water and chocolate espresso beans.  I wasnt sure how to refuel during this event, usually i kinda go no fuel but knew i needed to eat over the course of 24 hours.  I figured after 2 sets of climbs, i would have a banana with almond butter, plus a few other little nibbles of stuff but during the other rest periods, i’d just take in some chocolate covered espresso beans, almond butter, dried cherries, other dried fruits and nuts, was drinking plenty of coconut water too.  seemed to be working well, we had a scale to keep track of our weight as well.  

the rest periods ended up being about 60 minutes to start because we were each taking around 20-23 minutes/round.  i was up again and went back at it.  slowed it down a bit with a 5:23 but then came back with a 5:14 and 5:09, oops.  i told myself to slow it up and brady reminded me of my pacing as well.  the rest was about 1:00-1:30 so relatively short.  i kept checking my watch at floor 20.  at floor 27, i’d tell myself only 15 left then when it got to 32, id start counting down each floor.  i think i did that for 24 hours!!  but it let my mind focus.  there was also a shiny sparkly fuzzball on the landing heading up towards 32, i looked forward to seeing that sparkling fuzz, gave me a glimpse of the future, was a warning that i was almost done, at least with that climb...

i cranked out 5 or 6 sets of climbs at 5:00-5:15 pace, i wasn’t slowing down, there was no stopping me.  brady hopped in the stairwell with me, tried to slow me down and it worked for one climb but once i was on my own, i was back to blazing it.  i was feeling good, getting recovery and just kept doing my thing.  

bad things happen during the middle of the night...

sometime past midnight, kacie got stuck in the elevator!! luckily, she had her phone with her so could call for help.  we kinda stood around not knowing what to do, i was on deck so just got back in the stairwell and continued to climb, she just kept telling us “climb on, climb on!!”.  for the first 6-7 hours, i was going with no tunes.  i just wanted to figure out my pace and get into a rhythm, i knew that music would definitely make me pick up the pace so i told myself i’d start using it during the middle of the night or 12 hours in.  i decided this was the perfect time to crank it out so i plugged in kelly clarkson and started off, hit 3 sub 5:00 climbs.  whoa!  im sure that was a bit too speedy, darn clarkson!! but i was feeling good.  since kacie was stuck for almost 3 hours, the rest of us were getting shorter rest.  at one point, i only had 4 climbs as rest (maybe 30 minutes of rest) so i was up after no time, i was really starting to feel it during this time.  the lack of sleep was starting to get to me as well, we had been up since friday morning so i was getting sleepy tired although my body still felt alive while climbing.  we had an air mattress in our room, as soon as i’d lay down, i knew if i closed my eyes, i’d fall alseep so i wouldn’t let myself do that.  i wasn’t sure how my body would feel if  took a nap, might just wake up feeling groggy so i just stayed awake.  i spent my rest period jotting down my splits, snacking and making FB posts.  the middle of the night seemed to drag on, everyone was sleeping or just low energy.  i was starting to get irritated and kinda felt myself breaking down mentally during my rest periods but whenever it came my time to climb, i was ready to go and still hitting the same splits.  

after my 8th set of climbs, i had done 704 floors, that was the most i’d ever climbed and still had lots to go!!  the elevators were dragging a bit and since kacie was stuck in the freight, we decided to use the express so had to switch on floor 1 which was kinda annoying.  i kept having to wait for the elevators at the top which was frustrating and i was antsy.  not sure how many times i’d hit that darn button before the thing would show up.  

once kacie got out of the elevator, we all started to do 2 climbs per round, while kacie did 3 so she could catch up.  mentally it was a boost to only do 2 climbs.  i was still feeling pretty good but my legs were starting to feel it and i was starting to feel some blisters from yanking the rail so put on my gloves.  i was still using the inner rail and cranking out 5:00-5:15 climbs, no signs of slowing down.  a friend of Kacie’s was there to give us massages, which was quite beneficial when my calf started getting tight.  my left back/shoulder was also getting really tight from constantly pulling over and yanking the rail.  i had a few minor breakdowns during the middle of the night and was glad brady was there to encourage, motivate and support me.  he got me back in the stairwell and even climbed with me when i needed an extra boost.  another milestone came when we each hit 1000 floors, that was just incredible!!

and then there was light!

once morning came around, it was great seeing sunlight and more people were up and at em.  there was a practice climb for the Fight for Air climb so it was terrific having other people in the stairwell, it was encouraging seeing other people and just gave a mental boost when we all needed it.  

when we had about 8 hours to go, i was really dragging.  i was majorly sleep deprived and my legs were starting to get heavy.  thankfully, the massage brought them back to life.  brady made sure i was getting the proper nutrition and kept me going.   i was still hitting the same kinda times at the 20th floor but found myself slowing after that, i was still hitting 5:00-5:10 but the effort felt much greater.  i was breathing hard (i was the entire time) and my heart rate when we started was around 160 for the first climb and 170-180 for the other 2 climbs in the set.  after a few hours, i stripped the monitor because i was seeing any changes although it woulda been interesting to monitor at this point!!  i told myself that the sub 5:00 climbs were history, i just wanted to stay sub 5:30 and that i needed to slow down a bit so i could survive the rest of the climbs.  mentally i felt like i was just getting through it.  i was still listening to the music, katy perry and maroon 5, of course slow songs would always come on during my 2nd climb or towards the end, really?!? come on, thats not what i need!!  yet i finished with a time of 4:50, haha.  not sure where that came from especially since i was fried and though sub 5:00 were long gone.  i was feeling fresh again!!

we had about 4 hours left, so about 8 sets of climbs or 250 floors, yowzas!  but at the same time, that was nothing compared to what we had already done. i put on kelly clarkson for the next round and pounded out a 4:53 and 4:52, plus some really short rest.  was my fastest 2 climb time!!  totally shocked that i was still keeping pace and hitting these times with only 4 hours to go!!  kinda freaking myself out, super encouraged and excited.  when we had 3 hours left, we switched to single climbs.  so we probably had about 6 climbs each, it was mentally awesome to climb once, just made it much easier.  

the hours are dwindling, down to single digits!  i begged brady to climb with me during the last few hours, i was mentally needing some support and wanted someone in the stairwell with me.  i was listening to music so i couldn’t hear what he was saying but i loved just having him there.  it was a relief and just encouraging.  we started off on my 1st single climb, “stronger” by kelly clarkson came on and we just took off.  it was a blazing, almost all out effort, and it certainly felt like it especially after climbing for 21 hours already!!  we came in at 4:39, whoa!! that was about 11 seconds faster than any of my others and i was feeling it, i knew that was probably a bad idea.  not sure how i’d feel for the rest of my climbs but wanted to ease up just a tad to recover.  the break flew by, only about 20-30 minutes now so super short.  the next climb was 5:00, i was majorly feeling that freakish climb.  that was a bad idea...

i felt even worse on the next climb, came in at 5:09 but majorly struggled. the effort was super hard and my legs just felt shot.  what had i done?!?  the climb after that, i was totally frazzled., we only had like 2 climbs left each but the rest period wasn’t easy, i was doubting myself mentally and physically and just breaking down from lack of sleep and exhaustion.  brady was climbing with me again, we were a bit sluggish at floor 20 and i was totally feeling it, i felt like a slacker and that i was letting myself off the hook.  i decided to pick it up with 10 floors to go, at that point, i spontaneously burst into tears.  i just couldn’t help myself, it was so incredibly hard and i was pushing myself to the max both mentally and physically and felt like this was the hardest thing i’d ever done.  we finished with a  5:02 and i just kept on crying, i couldn’t help myself.  it was so brutal but i was proud of myself for pushing and really picking up the pace at the end.  i really picked it up in the back half, i had to drop like 5 seconds.

on what we thought was my last climb, brady took the lead to pace me.  i was still smiling and giving it my all even though my legs were wanting to just curl up and crumble beneath me, i was actually behind him and kinda wanted to pick up the pace but just went with it.  we cranked out the climb in a 5:09.  at that point, i thought i was done, finished, had done my thing and pushed to the limits the whole time but there was extra time so i was going up again.  mentally, i wasn’t really prepared for this, of course i had no choice.  brady went back in there with me and we blazed another super fast climb with a 4:43 or there abouts so my 2nd fastest time was my last one after 24 hours of climbing!!  

this was such an incredible experience, there were plenty of ups and downs and i found out a lot about myself over the course of 24 hours.  there were periods when i just wanted to give up, go to sleep or just lay around but whenever i hit the stairs, i was pushing the limits and giving it my all, i wasn’t backing down.  i forced myself to tears, i thought i’d fade towards the end but was hitting my best time.  i just couldn't believe it, i stayed strong the entire time and of course i couldn't have done it without brady, my parents, family, friends and epic climb teammates supporting and encouraging me.  we were always getting messages from people and it helped me get through it.  the toughest time was the middle of the night when the rest of the world was sleeping and we were climbing but having daylight and people around was incredible.  

EPIC - No Doubt!!

i will always remember this experience, i ended up climbing 1,472 floors and i kinda wanted to hit a  few more to get to 1500, haha.  we busted out goals, finished with 123,480 steps, 5,880 floors and 76,000 vertical feet.  i really wanna conquer this again, maybe in chicago?!?

after the climb, i gave myself a couple of days to rest.  my body was feeling pretty good, my legs felt fine but physically i was just exhausted so wanted to take it easy.  i was also struggling to get back into my routine since sears.  ive just been kinda burnt out and tired, i haven't been able to motivate myself to hit my normal routine.  i’d get it for a day or two but then would just wanna take it easy or rest, i was burnt out on intensity.  i was hitting the stairs hard for all of 2012 and now, i just wanted to do long endurance kinda stuff.  it seemed more appealing, pushing to the limits and always going hard didn't seem to suit my interests at the moment.  i was struggling with my training, my eating habits had suffered and i just wasn't there.  it was frustrating, i wasn't used to having a down period like this, especially for so long.  i didnt like it, i didn't know what to do.  i have all these stair races coming up but wasn't getting in my unique training and frankly, i just wanna have fun with it.  whatever happens, happens but i wanna enjoy myself.  

2012, was my year to hit all the races, travel.  i wanted to win and own the chicago skyline, which i did.  i wasn't sure that 2013 could live up to 2012 and i didn't wanna compete with it either.  i wanted to savor it and i wanted to appreciate what i had done.  i was looking for new unique challenges, the 24 hour climb opened up my eyes to something different.  i was kinda craving endurance again.  i have plenty of stair races planned for this winter and i’m gonna hit em up, hancock will be my main focus and the rest will be for enjoyment, to see my step-siblings and to participate in the sport i love.  i finally feel like i’m getting my groove back and am starting to get into my training so hopefully it’s another fun and exciting year.  i've got my eyes set on a couple of new opportunities and i'm thrilled for what the future will bring!