Time: 6:15 p.m.
I’m officially starting to make it hard on myself to climb the “home turf” US Bank Center.
In four races there, I’ve now PR’d every time, cutting off roughly 20 seconds from each of my previous times. I went from 8:01 in March 2013 to 7:39 in November 2013 to 7:21 in March 2014 to 7:02 at last week’s Cystic Fibrosis Foundation race. That, of course, means I’m on pace to be in the 6:40s next March.
As fast as of a time as the 6:40s would be, the crazy thing is I don’t think that will be unattainable by then. In fact, I was gunning pretty hard for sub-7 at this race. And while I’m sure that cleaning up a couple small things here and there throughout the climb could’ve cut those three seconds off and dropped me below 7, I’m not terribly disappointed in my performance.
I pushed it pretty hard and felt pretty spent once I crossed the finish line, but I think I might’ve been able to start my final push up the last few flights a flight or two sooner.
Since the US Bank Center is a shorter building than my last few climbs, and I don’t have a step-by-step, turn-by-turn breakdown of the stairwell, I didn’t really have solid pacing plan. I just knew I needed to push the pace, similar to how I’d run a one-mile footrace. (On a related note: I think that, much like in road races — or possibly even more than in road races — the shorter the stair race, the better/faster I am at it.)
I half thought of just going out as hard as I could for as long as I could, see where I was at when I burned out, and then try to see what I could do with remained of the climb. I think it was probably good I ruled that out, though. Burning out probably would’ve made me stop for a break on a landing or two, or caused me to single-step, both of which likely would’ve killed my time more than I could afford, even if I’d started out sprinting.
What was nice is there was a non-publicized elite start wave Stephanie and I were able to get into. I lined up about 10th or 11th, and pretty much everyone in front of me was a known quantity who I didn’t have to worry about getting stuck behind. There was one guy who started I think two ahead of me that I did eventually catch and pass, though. (It took him a floor to realize I was behind him and trying to make a move to pass, but he wasn’t moving too slow, so when he slid over on a landing, I got in front of him, created some distance, and he never caught up.)
Since I was aware the race ended on the 42nd floor (or, at least that’s what I thought beforehand — turns out it’s the 41st), I ultimately decided to break the race in half and climb a fast, but not too fast, first half. My goal was to be at the 3-minute mark (a 6-minute pace) by the 21st floor and then just see how long I could maintain it, knowing that I couldn’t maintain it the whole way. I hoped that would still put me in a position to finish sub-7.
For the most part I wasn’t looking at my watch, as I’d done in the last few tall buildings I’d climbed; however, I made a point to look at it when I hit the 21st floor. As it turned out, I was about 15 seconds behind pace at that point. Somewhere shortly after that floor, though, I caught up to an elite climber from Chicago I’m acquainted with, who I had talked to beforehand and who had a pacing plan aiming for just under 7 minutes. I stuck with him for a while, knowing that because he started a few people ahead of me and if he was on a just barely-sub-7 pace, keeping up with him would definitely put me below 7.
But then I started to fizzle with about a quarter left. I lost sight of the guy I’d caught up to, and then another guy who started immediately behind me (who I knew would be faster than me, but refused to let me have him start before me) caught up to me and passed me. He was behind me for a few flights, and I tried to keep in front of him at his pace, but at one landing I finally had to him go because I didn’t have it in my tank to keep the pace he was pushing.
At right before the 40th floor, I glanced at my watch and saw 6:50. It was at that point I started hearing the finish line beeping from people finishing ahead of me. There were still four short flights left, but I really cranked it up into as much of a sprint as I could muster — even activating my glutes for the first time ever in a stair race — hoping I could knock those last few flights out in 9 seconds.
As I crossed the finish, I clicked my watch and saw 7 flat. I was hoping I’d started it a few milliseconds slow at the start, but turns out it was the opposite: official results had me at 7:02.
Obviously I wanted sub-7, but coming off a bad performance at the Willis Tower, being sick before that race, and not being able to train how I wanted to the last few weeks leading into it, I wasn’t too disappointed. I’d recovered enough to rebound for a good finish at this home climb, and I’d still knocked a chunk off my previous best.
For the moment, I have a sort of mini training “offseason” planned before I hit it hard again, but I’m anxious to give sub-7 another shot here next March.