X Gym Schools LA Stair Climbers


USBankTower-Oct08-010For those who love to get right to the bottom line, here are the results of my trip to LA on 9/25/09 with Chris Beams to take on the 75 story US Bank Building:

Chris placed 1st in his age bracket (30-39) and 3rd overall in the men’s open category. This was his 2nd competitive race.

I placed 1st in my age bracket and 2nd overall in the men’s open category. This was my 4th competitive race. For the official results on everyone, click here.

My niece Andrea placed 2nd in her age group and 16th overall. This was her first race!

For those of you who like videos, check out our stair blog at www.flightclubseattle.com.

Now, for those who like stories and details, read on, because it was a heck of a weekend filled with more fun and fitness insanity than I have ever experienced!

Wow! Now that was a hard climb! It was an eye opener too. All those piddly little 60 story practice climbs in Seattle helped a bunch until I got about that high in the US Bank building, but then I bonked. The remaining 15 stories were shockingly brutal! I felt like a little dutch boy in the Sahara dessert, walking up a sand dune wearing 10 pound wooden clogs!

My throat was part of that metaphor too. It got so dry and parched, I was horse for a few hours after the race was over. My nasal passages were also worn raw from air erosion caused by breathing so hard. I was still sneezing 3 days later!

My time of 12:14 was so far off the top 3 elites’ times, I thought I had totally choked, and would be lucky to get in the top 20 overall. I was pleasantly surprised however, to see the results when they posted, showing me first in my age group and 2nd overall for men’s open (the normal people category). If I had raced in the elites group, I would have placed 5th, so all things considered, it wasn’t too shabby of a performance after all.

Chris Beams was the real headliner though. He was the X Gym Biggest Loser Contest winner and chose to go to LA for this race instead of the normal w in ner’s trip to Vegas. He was only one second behind me and took 3rd overall and first in his age group! Holly schamolie!

Chris also had a little left at the top, which meant if he had a couple more races under his belt, he would have been able to pace himself better, and could have beat me too. He did well in the Columbia climb earlier this year with a place of 88th out of 3,000, but his finish in this race puts him well within the national elite category now. What a huge improvement for less than 7 months of training, and only his 2nd climb ever! I’m jealous!

Remember my niece Andrea, who was featured in the X Gym Newsletter? She climbed with us and kicked butt as well! This was her first competitive climb, but you’d never guess it by her performance. She got 2nd in her age group and 16th overall for women! Dang! She just started climbing this summer too! Talk about a natural!

Chris and got to hang out the next day with Jeff Dinkin and Tim Van Orden who are both elite climbers as well. Jeff is a sprint specialist and Tim holds numerous world records in stair climbs including this US Bank Climb. He shares the record with Terry Purcell (who I also had the pleasure to meet on this trip) at 9:32. Seriously? That’s insane.

I also got to meet Javier Santiago, the Mexican national champion, who put up a time of 9:40. Jesse Berg was there too, who is the guy who usually wins the Columbia Tower race in Seattle. Talk about living legends! Chris and I were invited to breakfast the morning after the race with Jesse, Tim, Jeff, and Mark Trahanovsky, the guy who beat me. Someone pinch me! This is just too good to be true!

Mark coordinated the breakfast. He seems to be the guy who keeps many of the elites in contact. Mark is a gifted recruiter as well. He works at West Coast Labels and sure knew who to give his logo shirts too. I forgot to make some X Gym shirts for Chris and I, so Mark gave us a couple of his. Mark ended up getting his logo shirts on the top 3 elites, the top 5 open category, and most of the age class winners as well. Nice job Mark!

After breakfast with the titans, Jeff Dinkin and Tim Van Orden agreed to hang out with Chris and I. To be good at this sport, you have to be a little crazy. To be great at this sport like these guys, you have to be seriously crazy. It didn’t really surprise me then to hear them suggest that we find some other stairs to run up.

Jeff lives in the area and knew of some stairs in Culver city that go up to a park on a hill. Tim had run them before of course, because I’m pretty sure he’s run every hard set of stairs in the world. He and his website http://runningraw.com promote fitness and vegan raw food eating, so this is his life and career. Tim let us in on a little fun fact when we got to the Culver city stairs: he holds the record time at 2 minutes, 21 seconds. Cool! Let’s try them!

These stairs are very strange because there is no rail, so it’s all legs. They are also formed by hand so they are all different heights and depths. We all ran up, and of course, Tim walked away the victor. He even reset his record with a time of 2:13. Chris got 2:32 and I got 2:34. Jeff was also well under 3 minutes, but he decided to run it again because once isn’t enough if you are crazy enough. Not bad for the day after almost dying!

As if that wasn’t enough high intensity exercise for two days, Tim and Jeff suggested that we go run up this certain sand dune in a nearby city that is so steep, most people can’t even make it to the top. They both can of course, and it takes them less than a minute to do it. Unfortunately, we got there only to discover that the dune was shut down because it was getting too popular and the neighborhood didn’t like all the traffic.

We all decided to wrap up the day with a late lunch, so we went to Whole Foods so Tim could get some raw vegan food there. He introduced me to coconut milk, which was surprisingly tasty, and let Chris and I pick his brain on nutrition philosophies for a while longer before saying our goodbyes.

My son Harrison and my nephew Ryan were with us for most of the day, and were incredibly good sports about all the craziness. We took Chris to the airport and then decided to go out to the dessert and shoot propane tanks. Harris and Ryan are both 18, so it doesn’t get much more fun than that. I have to admit that I was pretty stoked as well.

By 3 am we were done, and had our fill of guns and explosions, so we headed home. By 4:30 am we got to bed. I don’t know about you, but as for me, at 43, that makes for a long day. Then the neighbor with the back yard jackhammer project woke me up at 8 am. Sheesh! The 18 year olds could sleep through that racket, but not me.

I had enough time to think about getting beat by Tim and Chris, and it was eating at me. Stair sprints are my specialty, so I had a nagging feeling that I really didn’t give it 100%. I did have some energy left at the top, and could stand up when I was done. My legs didn’t burn much either, so I got the bug to try it again.

When Ryan and Harris woke up, I talked them into going back to the Culver stairs with me. They’re good sports, so they obliged. I filmed a quick clip at the bottom and gave the camera to Harris to drive with Ryan up to the top so he could film me on the ascent. I wanted to do better this time, and certainly needed to close that gap between Tim and myself. I needed to prove that the 2nd time would be faster, because Chris and I both felt that another crack at these stairs would show a different story than the one we wrote on our first try.

Indeed, it was a much different story. My main goal besides closing the gap with Tim, was to push hard enough that I couldn’t walk when I was done. I know what true muscle failure feels like, so I needed to experience this to assure myself that I really gave it my all. Well, it worked out even better than I had expected. I got to the top with a time of 2:11 and stole the record from Tim! You can be sure that I won’t let him live this one down. I have to milk it as long as I can, because I know he will be back as soon as he can to take back the record.

Well, I was hooked on stair competitions before this trip, but now I’m hopelessly addicted. Meeting the titans and getting to know them better just convinced me more that this is my kind of thing. What other sport has the following characteristics:

  • Requires less than and hour per week of training.
  • Can start at any fitness level.
  • Performance improves with age.
  • Makes joints stronger and less painful instead of breaks them down.
  • Poses little to no risk of injury (acute, chronic, or overuse).
  • Improves heart and lung fitness faster than any other sport.
  • Requires no expensive gear or training apparatus.
  • Trains mental toughness more than most sports.
  • Can become an elite level climber in less than a year.

Can you blame me? How about joining me? If you want in on this highly addictive sport, let me know and I’ll hook you up! My next climb is in November at the Sears (Willis) tower in Chicago. That’s over 100 stories, so I’ve got some tweaking to do with my training program! Chris and I just did our first Willis workout today. We went to our favorite building downtown and did it twice for a total of 105 floors. Whew!

The next local climb is the Wamu (Chase) tower here in Seattle on Thursday December 3rd. Talk to me about joining in because the X Gym has 3 teams this year, and we intend on dominating even more than we did last year!