Alice McNamara Triumphs In Taipei

on May 03, 2016
Alice McNamara has proven time and time again that she has the legs of a champion. Before boarding her flight home, we asked Alice to share her thoughts on her Taipei 101 triumph. Taipei 101 Run Up = 91floors and 2,046 steps. There are no landings. The stairs go 10-2-7-2 clockwise all the way up. It's the 2nd longest building race available. Very similar to the Willis Tower in Chicago, but I think there is only one or two longer, in Shanghai and Guangzhou! The Taipei event is sanctioned by the Towerrunning World Association. I won the women's race in a time of 14:23 which is 16secs quicker than I "climbed" in my only other attempt in 2014. I was second then to an Italian mountain runner. The challenge of returning to a race where I was defeated was definitely one of the draw cards. I worked on preparing myself for the longer race, and I also ensured I traveled better this time and rested up the afternoon and night before. Spending only 48hours in a new city, with the excitement of exploring (on your feet), does not lend itself well for fresh legs, no matter what your preparation back home! The race was 14-15minutes, so with the help of Dr Rod Siegel, Dr Harry Brennan and Bill Tait at the VIS (Victorian Institute of Sport) I prepared for largely an aerobic event. I was doing several "longer" sessions ie 2-3 16-20km rowing sessions a week and some bike rides and trail runs or long steady ergos. The modalities would vary as to which friends were keen to do what! My goal was to re-orient my feet with running, and to keep some hill climbs on the bike for quad and glute strength endurance. Having not done a great deal of running kms in the last few years, I was careful not to increase my running sessions exponentially over my familiar modalities of rowing and cycling. A graded increase in load bearing exercise is important, and because I'm doing that, I'm managing niggles as they come up rather than ending up injured. Crucially, we targeted 3 "hard sessions" a week. Each session we would aim to spend 40mins at threshold. 6 weeks out from the event we split them up to be 2 weeks blocks of 8-10min efforts, then 10-12min efforts, then some Short High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT ergos) with a group in the final 2 weeks. I think the "top end" ergo work on top of a fairly solid aerobic training base really allowed me to be comfortable at such high HR and levels of acidosis, and feel strong for the entire climb. I was also doing 2-3 gym sessions designed by Harry to be 45mins of circuit around explosive leg exercises and core work. These were time efficient and effective! Taipei 101 has the challenge of a very steep, continuous staircase. Like I said, there are no landings, just a 10-2-7-2 stair configuration all the way up. It is almost like climbing a steep spiral staircase on the 2 stair "landings" so it was very important to use the handrail on my right hand side to partially pull myself up. The ergos had come in handy. I worked out a pattern of striding out two stairs at a time and being technical not to cover any additional distance around the turns. I had 91 floors to practice! I kept my breathing deep and in rhythm with my leg lunging. Another useful tool we used at the VIS was the heat tent. Taipei was 28 degrees but 70-80% humidity. While I only used the heat tent a few times, it accelerated my bodies sweat response in humid conditions, coming out of a crisp Melbourne winter. The runners were sent off 30secs apart in time trial format. I had a clear (but steep!) stairwell ahead of me for the first 30 floors. At that point I overtook two of the last starting elite men who kindly stepped aside. My HR climbed to 188-194 over the first 45 secs and stayed there for the duration of the climb. This is 95% of my max (200) so I always choose not to look at my watch while racing! As I approached halfway I passed the Czech girl who started 30secs in front of me. Approaching her you consider how you will pass, hoping they move to the side away from the handrail to allow you though. This is stairclimbing etiquette! She did so, and then on to my nemesis! The Italian! I spotted her up ahead! To go "harder" at this stage seems "impossible" but you create a block in your head that you will go harder for, a push to get past, and then in order to not allow her to stay on your heels you keep the push going! Often when you settle again is when you realise how expensive it is in energy to overtake another climber. Having overtaken her at level 70 I was able to settle and just maintain for the last 20 Floors. With wobbly legs and blurred vision I counted those down! Seeing a glimpse of daylight and chattering of voices is a welcome sound to empty the tank and finish strong! It was a wonderful feeling emerging 1st above Taipei and getting the win from 2 years ago. Now for the next stair challenge!?! Thanks to 776BC for the support! The new run shorts allowed for the really great range of hip flexion I required, climbing the spiral stairs two at a time. Thumbs up. - Alice
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