PJ's Fitness Blog

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X Gym Schools Chicago Stair Climbers

SearsX Gym’s the three man Delta Force stair squad definitely left their mark on the Sears tower in Chicago today (11/15/09). As you may remember, X Gym members and trainers typically dominate any and all athletic events we enter, and stair competitions are certainly no exception.

The 103 story Sears tower climb is the second largest turnout of any stair race in the country with 1,800 participants showing up this year. It is surpassed only by the “Big Climb” up the Columbia center in Seattle. The Sears tower is 34 floors more than the Big Climb however, and since each floor is longer and taller, it is much harder and more competitive.

It is in fact, the hardest and highest climb in America, with the nation’s top climbers showing up to strut their stuff each year. Despite this incredible talent pool, The X Gym ended up owning two age categories to prove once again that we are the most successful training studio in the northwest as well as the most intense and effective training system on the planet.

Kevin Crossman, an X Gym member, along with his twin brother Brian, took 4th and 3rd in the 20-29 age bracket. Placing 11th overall out of 1,800 racers was amazing for Kevin since this was only his 2nd race ever. Brian’s 9th place finish overall was simply miraculous, considering this was his first ever stair race! The twin assassins blew away the stair climbing “veterans” with their astounding performance. No one could believe how well these newcomers did!

I competed in the 40-49 age bracket, and took 3rd place in that division. Since I am still relatively new to this sport as well, my dream was to place in the top 20 overall. Had I not invited the Crossmans, I would have achieved that goal, but because those darn kids both smoked me, I placed 22nd overall. Still not bad for the hardest and longest stair race in the USA, so I can’t complain.

Although we were mainly there for a quick trip to “divide and conquer,” we also had a great time outside of the race. We flew in on Saturday, got picked up by Jeff Dinkin, an elite climber I know from LA, and went straight to dinner out, hosted by Mark Trahanovski, another elite climber from LA. Besides being the guy who beat me, making me 2nd place in the men’s open category in the US Bank climb in LA last month, Mark also works at West Coast Labels and has an amazing ability to get top climbers in his company logo race jerseys.

I have met the most incredible elite racers through Mark. His jerseys are worn by the likes of Terry Purcell, Jesse Berg, and Tim Van Orden, who are arguably the top 3 racers in the nation, and have each won the Sears tower climb at least once. Terry and Jesse in fact, won 2nd and 3rd overall today. The number two ranked racer in Germany showed up to take first place. Terry and Jesse both ran faster than the race record, but were edged out by the German. This just shows how fast this sport is growing and how incredibly competitive it is!

Tim skipped it however, because he is training hard for another race on Thursday, as well as the upcoming Empire State building competition. Tim did show up to film the rest of us however, and will showcase his mad video skills on on his web page www.runningraw.com so check there soon.

Jesse and his wife Shannon were kind enough to host Jeff, Kevin, Brian and me at their place so it turned out to be as cheap a trip as it was short. After dinner Saturday, we went back to Jesse’s and crashed early. We had to be up at 4 am Chicago time (that’s 2 am Seattle time mind you), to get ready, out the door, and in line for our crack of dawn start times.

None of us slept very well, but we had all slept well the night before, and since that night is the most important for athletic performance, we weren’t too concerned. The race went well, and we all finished strong.

The staircase was much steeper than any building we had trained in though, so that was the biggest surprise. The combination of taller floors and a steeper stairwell made it the most grueling race I have run so far. I’m glad I prayed with Jesse and Mark before the race. They both share my faith, and it helped me tremendously. I also found myself reciting Philippians 4:13 most of the way up.

I paced a little too slow in the middle, so I had plenty left at the top. Jeff made the same mistake, so because we felt so strong at the finish, we did what any normal stair climber would do, and went up a second time. Jeff and I had the pleasure of meeting Mike, a 61 year old brand new stair racer at Mark’s dinner the night before, and saw him at the starting line after we got back down. We decided to join him so we could be an encouragement to him on his way up.

I filmed his climb with my video camera so he would have a copy to study for future reference. This made for an interesting climb though, because it required me to hold the camera in one hand, so I had only one hand left to use on the rails. Mike did really well, so he made me work hard. It was worth it though, to see his reaction and satisfaction at the top. It really is a feat to climb a building that tall!

Jeff then wanted to do it a 3rd time, but Jesse was Jonesing for protein. There was a restaurant across the street named “The Protein Bar,” and as most of you know, I am a hopeless protein addict, so I couldn’t resist. I told Jeff that I would catch up with him later for the 3rd assent. Jeff has two screws loose in his brain though, so he went up for his third time right away, intending to do it yet again when I got back.

When I did return, the race was closed, so I couldn’t do my 3rd and Jeff couldn’t do his 4th. I wasn’t nearly as disappointed as Jeff though, because I only have one screw loose. I did learn from Jesse however, that he also had snuck in a 2nd climb, as well as Brian and Kevin, so I guess they have screws loose too. Eric Lenninger, another elite racer I had the pleasure of meeting (who has also won this race before), was another crazy member of the “two screws loose” club who ended up going 3 times.

After the race we hung out at Jesse’s, had a wonderful lunch prepared by his beautiful wife Shannon, and talked and joked until it was time to go back to the airport. Jeff was kind enough to drive us again, so our 2 day trip ended up being as convenient and easy as it was hard and intense.

What a blast to be a part of such a fun group of crazy people! There really is an unusually strong bond between stair racers, and to be accepted by them into their fold is an honor to say the least. It is one of the only sports that you can start at any age or ability and keep getting better each year. It is safer on the knees (because we always take the elevator down), and harder on the muscles than any other form of cardio. You’ve simply got to try it. I for one, am hopelessly hooked for good!

P.S. The videos are now posted to www.filghtclubseattle.com, and the official race results are posted at http://www.theracershub.com/results_view.php?id=763&result_type=file