Banyan Tree Stair Climb – Bangkok Vertical Marathon 1/2012

Bangkok Vertical Marathon Race Start at Banyan Tree Saithorn HotelHere’s my rehash of my first stair climbing experience – competition.

I’m completely dissatisfied with the race. Not my performance, the race. I’ll explain in detail. Basically what it comes down to is that I’m 100% positive that my time was not what the official time states…

I guess first some backup information…

1. I’ve climbed 1,237 steps over 980 times now. Sometimes for speed, but usually just to climb. I can do that 1-4 times in a row, and have done it 6 times. With every time I climb up it – I need to also use the stairs to go back down. So, having climbed over 1,200,000 steps in the last 4 years, I’ve also gone down 1,200,000 steps. Let’s just say, I have a decent base – AND, I know what a fast time is for me… I know what a peak effort is from me. I know when I’m doing 2 steps per second or going faster or slower than that pace because this is the pace I try to keep on the mountain for the regular sized steps (not the giant steps).

2. Prior to the Banyan Tree Race I had my 2 hardest stair workouts EVER to prepare me for the race. I felt no quadriceps pain in my legs after these workouts. I never do anymore, after about the first 50 times I climbed the mountain. If I go hard I feel it as tightness in my legs, but never pain.

3. My fastest time at the mountain was 12:01 going up 1,237 steps. That is 1.71 steps per second. The average size of these steps is 8.85 inches. Some of the steps were 22 inches high. Many were 12 inches or so. It is quite hard to adjust to constantly changing step sizes, and double stepping is not possible for most steps.

4. I lost 5 kilograms – 11 pounds, before this race – I weigh the same as when I did 1,237 at my fastest 12:01 pace.

5. The director of the Banyan Tree race said the climb is 196 meters high. The mountain I train on is 278 meters high.

6. Approximately 100 minutes before the race began – I stepped on the starting pad – that registered a beep for my electronic chip I wore on my shoe.

Now, to show why the above are important to the outcome of the race…

The race results showed my time as 9:30. This is ridiculous beyond anything I would have guessed. My honest thought was that I absolutely killed it – and got 7 minutes or better. To say I was astounded is a giant understatement.

The following relate to the points above…

1. I know my pace was between 2 and 3 steps per second. At times I was doing 4 steps per second, and toward the top I slowed down for 2-3 flights to just 2 steps per second because I was pushing at maximum effort and needed to catch up on breath. If my pace was 9:30, that equates to 1.91 steps per second over the entire climb.

2. Within 2 hours of the race, both my quadriceps burned from the effort. I was absolutely pushing harder than I ever have up the steps.

3. I did the entire race by two-stepping, except for 50-60 steps near the top when I caught my breath and did singles. I’m including some singles that I did around the corners too. The steps at the race are nicely laid out – spaced perfectly for my legs and I was able to hammer them 2 stepping just about the entire race. The last 60 steps near the top – I sprinted up – two at a time. The race steps were 7.1 inches high on average versus my home climb 8.85 inches per step average. My climb is MUCH harder just based on average step size.

4. I felt very light and powerful during the climb.

5. This race was just 70% of the vertical distance I usually do – hence I can bang it out at a much faster pace over 196 meters that I can over the entire 278 meters.

6. What I think probably happened is that the timer started when I stepped on the mat. When I lined up to race 100 minutes later, and went across the mat again – it stopped my time and registered 100+ minutes. At the top of the climb when I went across the next mat – it registered that I started again. They clipped off my chip at the top. When they saw the results and realized that nobody took 100 minutes to finish – they realized my time was fooked. They slotted me in between others that ran in my group. They looked like they were 9:30 runners. I passed everyone in my group and the group in front of me within 20 floors and 40 floors (respectively).

So, overall, I’m expected to believe I got 43rd place. There were only about 200 runners. I was at the race for 2 hours before it started and saw everybody (or nearly everyone) that was competing. There weren’t even 10 people that looked very serious about it – and that had a thin enough, powerful enough body to beat me. I know that sounds funny, but it isn’t hard to pick out who might be competition and who might not be. To think that there were 42 people out of 200 that beat me – is ludicrous. It’s beyond ridiculous.

So, unfortunately I didn’t have the best time. I did have the race of my life though – and I’ll be back in October to the same building – when they have the 2012 October race. This January race was a hold-over delayed from Oct 2011 when Bangkok was flooded.

Tomorrow or next day I’ll figure out how many steps on the mountain is equal to 196 vertical meters and see how well I can do on it.

I’m definitely in the best condition to race. I wish we could to the Banyan Tree again this week!

There is a Baiyoke Tower Stair Climbing event in Bangkok in March at the highest tower in the city, but I heard there were many levels of running up the parking lot ramps… I’m not sure I’ll do that one, as it heavily favors runners – which I wouldn’t consider myself any more.

About Vern

I'm an ex-triathlete, bicycle racer, running racer, and a current step-climbing addicted expat living in Thailand.

3 Responses to “Banyan Tree Stair Climb – Bangkok Vertical Marathon 1/2012”

  1. Sorry to hear about the timing error but glad to hear you had a solid performance. I have witnessed your story before and it is unfortunate – it actually happened to Jesse Berg at the Big Climb in Seattle a few years back and it probably cost him a win.

    Timing errors are one the the unfortunate aspects of this sport and you will see them more often at events that opt for cheap or inexperienced timing companies. I have seen errors occur at big, prestigious events because accurate timing was not primary concern of the event organizers. A good timing company should have been able to resolve your timing issue.

    • Vern says:

      Thanks Kevin. I have pretty much just forgotten about it. Thais have a saying, “Mai pen rai” (my bpen ry) and they use it often. It means – no matter, or never mind… not a big deal. I have used this about 6,000 times since being in Thailand (7 years) and it comes in handy since many things are not the way they “should be” here!

      I’ll get a watch and then at least I’ll be able to dispute my time with something objective. My fault for thinking this race was being done the right way – I think they’ve done this a few years now. Oh well… preparing for next race in Bangkok at the Baiyoke Sky Run Up. They have no registration form available online, and only recently wrote me on their FB group and said the race is Feb 19th, not end of March, like it was last year. Nobody is registered… and there is no same-day registration – supposedly.

      It’s almost like they don’t want anyone to enter… and it’s for charity! lol.

      Mai pen rai… lol.

      Best of luck on your races coming up! Shoot some video if at all possible!



  2. Mel says:

    Hello Vern, well done. I raced this race too, but with an injury, went for just the experience over the ‘race’ if that makes sense. I found these staircases to be decieving, and the electrical wires hanging down at the turn of each staircase to be quite dangerous. I also thought there would be a bigger crowd. I hope to see you in October, you should consider the Ho Chi Minh City (Bitexco) race in October too, not so far from BKK and it was well organised last year.


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