(This post is a little late. My bad.)
Time: 7 a.m.
Total: 51:08 (4:21, 5:08, 6:00, 5:53, 5:50, 6:00, 6:00, 5:59, 5:57)
* – For people who participate in the power hour, the triple climb, and the double climb, their first climbs are listed in the standings alongside those who do just the single climb. It’s so everyone can be listed in the standings together, even though they’re doing different events. The standings for the power hour and each of the multi-climbs are listed separately as well.
* * * * * * * * * *
While this was not my first ever multi-climb race, or even my first “power hour” (climb as many times as you can in an hour), it’s the first time I raced a power hour as intended.
(At last year’s Milwaukee race, I was assigned a really terrible late start time, so I paid the difference and switched to the power hour at the last minute to avoid the likely crowded stairwell the late start would’ve provided. Power hours tend to start first, before the crowds show up. I climbed my first time as fast as I could, and then proceeded to climb only two extra times at a more leisurely pace because I’d paid the extra and had the opportunity — I could’ve climbed more.).
The Oakbrook Terrace Tower is a good size for a power hour — at 31 stories and 680 steps, it’s a little smaller and allows more climbs than a taller building would. Based on the times I put up at Bop To The Top a month earlier, combined with what I’d seen in previous year’s results from people whose ability levels I’m aware of, I expected I’d be able to climb the building 9 times or possibly 10, and average around 5:30 per climb, if I felt great and everything fell perfectly into place. Aiming for a 5:30 pace was also advice I was given by a competitive climber I know who’d done this race in years past.
The closer race day became, the more nervous I became. I started to worry about how I’d never pushed through an entire hour of climbing before, even in training (the closest I’ve come is 45 minutes straight). I’ve only even run for a full hour only twice ever — both somewhat recently, though. But climbing’s totally different than running. I thought about how at Bop, my four climbs were all separated by about 45 minutes of recovery each. Would I really be able to do this as well as I thought I should???
While the logical part of my brain thought I should hold back for my first climb and try to pace myself evenly across all my climbs, the part of me that knows I’m faster at shorter distances wanted to rip it for my first climb and then see what I could maintain after that. It’s also always nice to have that first climb show up high in the searchable standings among everyone who participated in any climb that day. But never having done a power hour before, I knew that would be stupid. Yet, even up until right before I went into the stairwell, I wasn’t totally sure what approach I was going to take.
What ended up happening was I went in with my “rip it!” approach, but a few floors in tried forcing myself to slow down. I wasn’t doing too good a job, though. I maintained high adrenaline for a while, which helped keep me moving quickly. My first climb ended up being a 4:21, and I reached the top feeling both like I could’ve went faster and that I’d just gone too fast.
For my second climb, I mainly tried to see what sort of speed I could muster after my quick-ish first climb, but also wanted to try to start settling into a rhythm I could maintain for the remainder of my climbs. I finished with 5:08. The third climb was a chore, and I finished right about 6:00. Coming in, I knew 6:00 was a number I didn’t want to exceed, so based on how I felt at that point, my goal simply became sub-6:00 for all of the rest of my climbs.
The climbs didn’t get any easier. I just sort of had to put my head down and go to work, so to speak. All that climbing was pretty grueling in the middle few climbs. The elevator service back down to the main floor (there were four elevators!) was extremely quick and efficient, which on one hand was great, but on the other hand, was discouraging. I felt a lot of pressure to keep things moving as fast as possible. I was hoping I could catch more of a breather between climbs without feeling guilty for carving out my own rest breaks. However, there were a couple times I did stop and snag a few extra seconds of rest at the bottom before I walked back into the stairwell.
One of those times was before my last climb, which came at the same time as the guy who finished first started his last climb. Granted, he was three climbs ahead of me, and also ended up with the fastest first climb (2:58!). I saw him stop before he went back in, so I thought it wise to do the same. I figured I’d let him go first, though, so I wouldn’t have to move out of his way when he’d ultimately need to blow by me.
At a certain point, though, I felt as ready to go as I would be, but he was still recovering. So I went in. I made it up one flight before he rumbled into the stairwell. As I turned and started up the second flight, I saw him powering up the stairs with a super-intense look I’ve never seen on a stair-racer’s face before. Especially so deep into a climb event. I hurried up the second flight so I could get out of his way at the landing. It was perfect timing, because by the time I got there, he was right on me.
Once it was all over, I took the nice big rest on the floor outside the upper level elevators that I’d been wanting to take since after my first climb.
Being that this wasn’t necessarily one of my target stair races, I was happy with how it turned out. I didn’t fall short of 9 climbs and my first climb was relatively quick (I know I could go sub-4:00 if it were only one climb, though). It was more of a tune-up, work-out, and experience-builder of a race. I’ve been having some foot issues since the Icebreaker Indoor Marathon Team Relay, which have derailed my running a little and altered my training in general, so this was good for my fitness. And if I do this one again, I have a baseline for improvement.
* * * * * * * * * *
After the race, I decided to look up the results of the Fight For Air Nashville climb, which was being held the same weekend. At one point I was considering climbing in that race instead. One of my college friends lives in the Nashville area, I haven’t hung out with him in a while, it’d be fun to go somewhere warm in February, and it’d be fun to rope a friend into a climb.
The Nashville climb is a newer climb, and in a smaller building, so in looking at the few previous years’ results that exist, I figured my chances to finish well would’ve been pretty high. Well, in looking at this year’s results, I’m pretty sure I’d have won. As in, the whole race. As in, finished first overall.
The building is 27 stories and 638 steps, or four stories and 42 steps shorter than Oakbrook Terrace Tower I’d just climbed at. My first climb pace — which, again, I’m sure I could’ve finished faster than — would’ve put me at a 4:05 finish in Nashville. The winner’s time was 4:15. Second place was 4:58.
If I could’ve finished sub-4:00 at Oakbrook if given only one climb, I definitely would’ve gone under that mark in Nashville. Maybe next year.