2010 Bennington Monument Climb Results

Wow! What a blast! This was my most fun climb yet – not just because it was the shortest and least painful, but mainly due to the fact that it was with my   stepbrothers, Mark Trahanovsky, Tim Van Orden, Jesse Berg, and Kevin Crossman. I also got to meet David Tromp, another super nice guy, and now another stepbrother I have the honor of knowing a little better. These chaps are all mega-stair climbing stars, ranking in the top 20 on the planet, but they still let me into their inner circle.

And the winner is…

These guys all smoke me by pretty hefty margins in most other climbs, but since God has blessed me with power and speed as my strong suit, and this was a short sprint race, I did especially well on this climb.

Everyone gets two runs up this 438 stair race, and it’s an all-out sprint right from the bottom. My first run came in at 1 minute and 23 seconds, earning me 3rd place behind Jesse’s 1:17 and Tim’s 1:21. My second run was a little faster at 1:21, but so was Tim’s at 1:20, and Jesse ran the same 1:17 that he did on his first attempt, so I stayed in 3rd. Keven also smoked it at blazing 1:23, so he secured 4th overall, and Mark won his age group with a 1:39. David Tromp rounded out the top 10 racers with a 1:29, so the X Gym/West coast Labels/RunningRaw.com team dominated yet another stair race in a big way!

Check out the main scores here. Note that both runs are listed, but the fastest run is the one that really counts.

Our team won by such a margin, it will never be broken (unless we do it of course). Check out the team scores here, and notice the gap between 1st and 2nd place to see what I mean.

Who wins what and why

Most climbers are good at either short sprint climbs or long climbs, but not both types. This is due to genetic predisposition of either fast twitch or slow twitch muscle fibers. Climbers who are great at long climbs are born with a majority of slow twitch fibers, and the climbers who are better at short climbs (like me) are born with mostly fast twitch fibers. You can train fibers to become more one type or the other, but to get to world class levels, your genetics will determine what style of climb suits you best, since they aren’t all completely convertible.

Then there is however, the occasional genetic freak like Jesse Berg, who blows everyone away in both kinds of climbs. I actually think he is an alien. At least that theory makes me feel better about myself since he always beats me by so much, no matter what the race length. If he was human, I’d have to admit I’m vastly inferior, so the alien story works best for my ego. Tim Van Orden is another freak, because he is fast in both types of climbs as well, but Jesse (usually) beats him too, so I see Tim as the fastest earthling for both kinds of climbs. Besides, Tim is a raw vegan, and no alien would be able to survive on that type of diet (just kidding Tim – I had to get another jab in on that subject, because you don’t have the password to this blog).

The climb

This stair race is inside an old revolutionary war monument, built 1887 to commemorate the battle where General John Stark defeated two detachments of the invading British army in 1777. The stairs are normally closed to the public, but for this race, benefiting the American Lung Association, they open them up for the day.

The staircase is suspended, hanging from the inside of the wall all the way to the top, so it’s square in shape, with 90 degree turns instead of the usual 180 degree switch-backs found in typical stairwells. The stairways are long, especially at the bottom where the base is the widest, so you build up a ton of speed by the time you get to each turn, making it hard to pivot that 90 degree bend without losing too much momentum (or crashing into the wall like I did a couple times).

Foot speed is much faster than normal stair races, so agility seems to be a huge factor as well. I tripped a couple times by missing steps, because I found myself doing 3-4 steps at a time due to the higher velocity, instead of the normal 2 step, slower, regulated speed of other climbs. This made it more interesting though, because your brain has to stay engaged the whole time instead of zoning out like usual.

Because of the short length, the pain doesn’t register nearly as high as the longer climbs. It still hurts like a bugger, but not until after the race is over, so it doesn’t affect the race itself. Fatigue isn’t really an issue either, so velocity doesn’t change a whole lot at any point. The biggest challenge comes at the end, where the finish line is preceded by a tight, 20 foot spiral staircase about as wide as a standard commercial doorway, which makes switching gears from long, high velocity flights to this slow, tight spiral a super weird and new experience.

The after party

After the climb, Kevin and I hung out with Tim, Jesse, his lovely wife Shannon, and their new baby Indigo. Since this is Tim’s home town, he was a great tour guide and showed us all the best stuff. We all hung out more on Sunday, and then on Monday, Kevin and I hopped back in our rental car to drive back to New York. We drove through Massachusetts and Connecticut along the way and soaked in all the beautiful countryside scenery. Once in New York, we drove around the city to take a gander at the Big Apple and some of the skyscrapers we plan on running up.

All in all, this was the most enjoyable climb I have done so far, as well as a great mini-vacation with lots of history lessons and amazing scenery to enjoy. Thanks guys, and especially Tim, for hosting your stepbrothers in your great hometown!

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