VUE climb 2015

charlotte teamThe 50 floor climb up the VUE luxury apartment building in Charlotte NC was a new one for me. It went quite well, which is to be expected since it was an ALA climb in its 2nd year. The view atop the VUE was indeed amazing, being one of Charlotte’s tallest buildings. The floors were relatively consistent, right turn and residential height, with one flight being 8 steps and the other being 9 most of the way. This made it run faster than an industrial building with 10 and 10 per floor. This climb measured 479 feet as you can see in the report from my watch here:

You will also see, if you click the vertical speed tab below the graph, that I hit a “wall” after about floor 10 and then stayed relatively slow through the rest of the race. This was weird for me, being a short-ish race, but I now know why it happened, so I thought I’d write about it, both to make me remember for the future and to help anyone else avoid making the same mistakes.

First, I booked a flight that left too late. This put me in Charlotte at 10:30 pm their time, for a race starting at 8 am their time (which to me, feels like 5 am my time). That put me at the car rental place around 11:15 pm. Then the car rental line took forever, so I didn’t get to the hotel until midnight. After unpacking and preparing all my stuff for the race in the morning, I finally got to bed around 1 am. Normally, I stretch, foam roll, etc. to recover from the long flight, but I skipped all that because I figured rest would be better.

I set my alarm for 5:30 am so I could be fully awake by race time. That was pretty tough to wake up, because my body thought it was 2:30 am. It said, “Why the heck are you up now, and did you really just say that you intend to run up a skyscraper in a couple hours?” So I went down to the gym to do some warmup on the bike to wake my legs up. Then I ran back up to my room, using the stairs, to the 6th floor. That was hard. Bad sign.

I showered, stretched and did my normal pre race stuff and left my hotel around 7:15 am. I got to the race site around 7:30, to find a long line for check-in, which was moving very slowly. I wondered if I would miss my start time, so I asked. They said it should be fine and that they wouldn’t start without me there. Typically ALA cooperation and understanding. They are awesome.

The line was outside, so while I stood there, I ended up getting quite cold because the temperature was in the low 40’s. Charlotte was having an unusual cold snap that weekend. The fastest local racer, Zack Kessel, showed up soon after I did though, so at least I had a cool step bro to talk with while waiting.

Zack and I got our bibs just a few minutes before we were supposed to start, so we quickly maneuvered to the front of the line. I still had my pants, shirt and coat on when I heard the timer guy say, “OK let’s go.” So I’m frantically ripping clothes off and trying to put gloves on, when by that time, the timer guy is telling me that it’s my turn. I go, but without my metronome, so I now have to follow my instinct and guess at the 110 steps per minute pace I had planned on running.

That instinct started me out too fast, plus I started feeling fatigue around floor 10. Bad sign, because that feeling usually happens at floor 25 or so for me, even when I start too fast.

Then something else interesting happened. I hit a speed limit. It felt like the electronic governor in a car. You know, when the redline reaches a certain point and pushing the gas pedal down further doesn’t do anything? It’s a great feature and it’s meant to protect the engine so it doesn’t blow up. Apparently my body was trying to protect me from blowing up, because even though I had plenty in the gas tank and knew I was physically capable of going faster, my body wouldn’t let me – even at the top, where I’m often able to speed things up.

It actually felt like my typical practice speed. Like this one for instance, 3 days prior, in a building only 35 feet shorter:

If you click the vertical speed button below that graph, you will see my average speed was faster in practice (around 104 feet per minute) than at the race (about 98 feet per minute). This NEVER happens. I am ALWAYS significantly faster in a race than I am in practice.

When I was finished, I was standing, walking and talking. No need to lie down and writhe around on the floor in pain like usual. Within 5 minutes I felt fully recovered. More bad signs.

So, from what I learned, I made 5 new rules for myself. I hope they will help you too.

  1. Book your flight so you ARRIVE at least 5 hours before your bed time (with your new time zone factored in).
  2. If you are flying east, see if you can get there TWO DAYS BEFORE the race, so you have a full day in between travel and the race to recover from the flight and adjust to the time change. If you are flying west, you’re lucky. Time is on your side.
  3. Go to bed at least 8 HOURS before you have to get up.
  4. Get to the race AT LEAST AN HOUR BEFORE your start time, to account for any delays that might come up.
  5. Get in line AT LEAST 20 MINUTES BEFORE your start to warm up, psych up and be mentally prepared.

When all was said and done, I still did fine, winning 2nd fastest overall male. I figure I should have been around 30 seconds faster than I was, so Zack still would have beat me (no surprise – he’s amazing). So from a placing perspective, it didn’t make any difference. I might have got Steph though, but I don’t mind when she beats me, because she’s no joke. She’s the real deal. #JustWannaBeLikeSteph.

The overall experience was fantastic. Linda Viner (the 2nd place overall fastest woman), was an amazing hostess and team captain. We won fastest team too, which was a bonus. The team name was “Vertically Challenged,” which was quite appropriate for me that day.

Here’s the official results:


  1. Tom Grant says:

    Thanks Pj,

    I made many of those errors in November, I feel a little better that someone as storied as you are could make the same mistakes.

  2. Brady Renshaw says:

    Try Master the Met in STL next year. It’s a very similar height and it’ll be competitive.

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