Hustle Up the Hancock (Read 2993 times)

    EDITED 2/28: added race photo Today was not your ordinary race. I have no idea how far I ran, and I have no idea what my pace was. Some runners started the race 4 hours ahead of me, and, as I write this, some runners have not even begun the race. The elevation profile for this race is, well, a vertical line. Welcome to the wacky world of the urban stair climb. The 10th annual "Hustle Up the Hancock" runs from the ground to floor 94 of this: That's a 1,000-foot vertical climb up 1,632 stairs to the observation deck of the Hancock Center in Chicago, Illinois. The scenery during the race kinda sucks, but the view at the finish line is nice: Runners are assigned to starting waves throughout the day in order to minimize congestion in the building and the stairwell. Even with the staggered start times, the lobby of the building is solidly packed with people, and it has the same energy and anxiety level as any other race I've attended. Also, because its primarily a charity event, there are a lot of people there with little to no running experience. Its fun to see whole families, friends or co-workers gathered together to share the experience. As your assigned start time approaches, you get into a long line and wait. After about 30 minutes, you finally get to the stairwell to start the climb. Its a chip-timed event, and they start runners with an 8 second interval between them. As I cross the start mat I leap onto the stairwell, taking the stairs two or three at a time. The flights of stairs are short, and I can't see anyone ahead of me. I'm freaking out because I can't see anyone ahead of me. I think the guy ahead of me was an ok athlete (he was wearing a triathlon t-shirt), but without anyone in sight, I fear I'm running ridiculously slow. The burning in my lungs starts by floor 4. It feels like I'm at full sprint effort, and I realize I can't maintain this for 90 more floors. Fortunately, I start to see people up ahead of me, and I realize that I'm doing ok. Once I pass Mr. Triathlete, I realize I can I moderate my pace, and I try to hit "5K effort" on my perceived exertion scale. A few minutes into the race, and now I'm passing people constantly. As I said before, not everyone in this event is a runner, and by the 10th or 15th floor, the non-athletes are showing signs of pain. Even people who are fit and healthy are going to have trouble if they aren't runners. By floor 20, people are stopping to catch their breath by the stairwell doors -- and we aren't even a 1/3 of the way yet. I get into a good rhythm finally. About 70% of the race I take one stair at a time, using my left hand on the rail (the stairwell turns left, so left is the "inside" lane). The rest of time I use my right hand and take 2-stairs at a time. This takes more effort, but its the best way to pass people and/or get a short burst of speed. The air in the stairwell is dry, and the burning in my lungs does not stop the entire race. I get passed by only two people. A teenager who was about 4 spots behind me in line passes me at about floor 50. I'm not happy about it, and I stay on his heels the rest of the way. I never managed to re-pass him, but I didn't let him get more than 4 steps ahead of the rest of the way. We both get passed at around floor 85 by a guy who is cruising up the stairs. Meanwhile, I have passed a lot of guys younger than me (call me foolish, but at age 39, one measure of my running success is beating younger guys Wink). The race distance is technically less than 1/2 a kilometer in distance, but the last 10 flights feel like miles 24-26 of a marathon. My legs are absolutely burning, along with my lungs. I'm now using two hands to pull myself along. When I finally see daylight from the 94th floor stairwell door, I lunge myself across the finish line. I can barely walk now, and the flat floor feels strange and uneven. I collect my medal (!) and gather my breath, and all is well again. My finish time was 16:27 and my placements were 310/2737 (overall), 271/1452 (M), and 92/460 (M30-39). That puts me in the top 11% of finishers, and the top 19% of men and top 19% of my age group. This is about were I usually finish in races, so I feel pretty good about the effort. Racing stairs is a very different experience than a traditional road race, and, to be honest, I enjoy traditional races more. I will probably do another stair climb at some point in the future, but I think I'll keep my racing focus on marathons and halfs. But, if you have never tried a "vertical road race" before, I recommend that you give it a try. If nothing else, you'll undoubtedly be contributing to a worthy charity (the American Lung Association raised over $1.1 million from this year's Hustle alone). Here's a list of stair climbs around the world to help you find one close by.

    How To Run a Marathon: Step 1 - start running. There is no Step 2.

    Princess Cancer Pants

      That is amazing, but I doubt I will ever do one. I HATE stairs! What a cool system, though. I had wondered how that was done. 16 minutes to the top of that sounds pretty speedy, indeed! Big grin k

      '17 Goals:

      • Chemo

      • Chemo-Radiation

      • Surgery

      • Return to kicking my own ass by 2018


      She was not strong. She was valiant. Radiant. Brave and broken. The beauty she discovered in the aftermath was unparalleled to anything she had known before, because it had come at such a cost.

      ~ Unknown

        Now *that* was a race report. Well done! And a medal to boot. Not too shabby for 16 minutes work. Thanks for the link; there's one in Cincinatti that looks fun. (Although one no longer active race on that list made me kind of sad. Now that would have been a tough, but great one ...) I assume you're doing the Sears Tower in November?
        E-mail: JakeKnight2002@aol.com

          WOW!! Great race report! 16minutes!? I think my legs would have been noodles by the 50th floor! Dead
          Jennifer mm#1231
            I assume you're doing the Sears Tower in November?
            Ask me again in a week when my thighs stop screaming, cuz right now the answer is "no f-ing way." Undecided

            How To Run a Marathon: Step 1 - start running. There is no Step 2.

              That is so cool -- and congratulations on your finishing percentages Smile I think "jelly" would be a good way to descrive how my legs would feel halfway up! Wow, very cool race (I didn't even know there WERE stair races .. learn something new, eh?) And nice medal!
              2009: BQ?

              You'll ruin your knees!

                Great job in getting up those stairs, love the use of pics in your report! Congrats! Lynn B

                ""...the truth that someday, you will go for your last run. But not today—today you got to run." - Matt Crownover (after Western States)


                  Awesome Berner! Hope those legs are feeling better! ...And not to take away from your performance, but who is the 44 year-old gal that placed 9th overall completing the climb in 11:50 Shocked Shocked Shocked!! I didn't know they let cyborgs into the race!

                    OK, here's another stunner....a 6 year-old girl completed the climb in 22:52! Holy Cow...is she like a Sherpa child?
                    Mile Collector

                    Abs of Flabs

                      That is way cool Berner! What kind of preparations did you do? If you do this again, how would you train for it? I've been pondering if I should do something like this but the thought of burning quads knocked some sense into me. Congrats!
                        That is way cool Berner! What kind of preparations did you do? If you do this again, how would you train for it? I've been pondering if I should do something like this but the thought of burning quads knocked some sense into me. Congrats!
                        Thanks! I didn't do any stair-specific training, but if/when I do my next one, I think I would try the following: 1. Short interval speed work. Maybe something like 400m or 600m repeats. These races are basically a bit shorter than a 5k, so the exertion level is basically on par with 5K effort. As such, I have to imagine that speed work appropriate for 5Ks would undoubtedly help here. 2. Practice stair climbing. Even if I could only find a four-story set of stairs, I'd do some practice (maybe 20 minutes intensive, once a week) specifically on stairs.

                        How To Run a Marathon: Step 1 - start running. There is no Step 2.

                        I fly.

                          That is really cool. Thanks for the report!

                          Bring it on.

                            Very cool, 5 or 6 years ago I did one in Montreal that was a 4K followed by finishing up the Montreal Olympic Tower with 800-some steps. A lot of fun and a great change of pace.
                              Talk about running one big hill. Wink Congratulations. This is truly impressive. Ewa
                              I would rather wear out than rust out. - Helen Klein You create your own universe as you go along. - Winston Churchill

                              I fly.

                                That's a great race photo and you don't look like it hurts too bad!

                                Bring it on.