Last year we spoke to two incredibly strong Aussie stair climbers, Suzy Walsham & Alice McNamara about their introduction to the sport, how they stay on top of their game and what keeps them motivated to continually improve. Now we switch to the men, and ask our Total Motion Towerrunners community to put their questions to serial race winner Piotr Lobodzinski. Piotr has won just about everything in the sport including The Empire State Building Run Up, 5 consecutive Vertical World Circuit Titles and 4 consecutive victories at The Eiffel Tower. In the week Piotr goes for his 5th title in Paris we catch up with him to find out a bit more…
What was your first experience of stair climbing?
First was stair jumping! In school if you wanted to be quick you had to jump down every half floor (8-9 steps) :) But seriously, I first heard about towerrunning around the beginning of 2000. Every year there was a few seconds on the TV about The Empire State Building Run Up (ESBRU), but my first stair race was in my city, Warsaw in 2011 and found out I was actually pretty good.
You’re a talented athlete, but why did you choose to specialise on stair climbing?
Before 2011 I was just playing sport, everything was for fun: cycling, tennis, badminton, athletics, running, but I didn't have any real successes. After my 4th place in Warsaw (May 2011) I took second place in Berlin (Park Inn) one month later, losing by just 0.5s to Thomas Dold. Then I placed well in a few races in Czech Republic. After my first year of competing I got an invitation for free trip to the Towerrunning World Association final in Bogota. It was an easy decision to specialise, I thought why not go harder and try and get better?
How many times in an average week will you train on stairs?
It depends. If I am concentrating only on stair races I will train a maximum of 3 times per week on stairs and every day I will do an easy run of 10-15km. However, usually it will be 1-2 times stairs, but I probably only average once per week over the whole year. There are some weeks with no stair sessions at all. After The Vertical World Circuit final in Hong Kong on 2nd Dec last year I didn’t go back to the stairs until mid January this year.
What would a typical stair training session look like? Shorter sprints, longer climbs, how many floors per session/week?
All depends. My longest session (8 x 49 floors) was before the (cancelled) World Championships 2018 in Guangzhou, the shortest (8 x 12 floors) before The UFO Tower. Typical is 3-4 times 49 or 38 floors with resting time 4-6 min between, but it depends on the height and length of the upcoming race.
What are your favourite and least favourite workouts?
My favourite is for sure running in mountains. I love polish Tatra mountains, and usually in July I try to go there for 3-4 days to make 3-4h trail running every day. Least favourite, are stair sessions. It is boring, stressful and hurts. All of my stair sessions are hard sessions, I am not doing easy runs on stairs (not sure if it is possible).
Do you have any focused technique training sessions, or does that just come naturally now without too much work?
No, technique is coming naturally. Sometimes before long races (like Taipei) I am using 'Rolf Majcen' technique (inside, both hands on inside rail, like pulling rope) in training to get used to the torsion of the torso. Normally I am running one hand inside (when turning) and one hand outside (if there is outside rail).
Are there any non-stair sessions that you do to improve speed or endurance?
Of course. I am doing flat running around 100km per week, in winter 120km. My training is very similar to long distance runners, but instead with more up hills or stairs. My PB in 5k is 14:36 and 10K 30:36. But I think will be no problem for me to row or bicycle instead of running for endurance.
Do you use a HR monitor during training or races, or use a watch for pacing?
Only sometimes. HR only when I am running 10-12km with pace around 3:30min/km to keep my HR between 160-180 (my max is 200). On stairs I only use a watch for time, my HR is generally around 190. I use GPS sometimes to know my pace or to know distance in new place.
Has your recent move in to OCR complimented your stair training?
I think it is without influence. Ok I can say I have better grip now, but does that matter? Maybe in Paris on wet, slippery rails :)
How do you prepare for racing in a new building? How much planning do you do in advance or do you just figure it out during the race?
It depends. If it is a short race everything is very important. For sure technique in such short staircase, and all changes, turns, and knowing where exactly the start and finish line is. If race is longer, pace is getting slower and there is more time for thinking. For sure it is better to see the staircase before the race but one photo, one month before to know if it is clockwise or anti-clockwise is enough for me to know how to train. If it will be new race for me I am searching movies on YouTube, like now before Milano, Allianz Tower. But it is quite short race 5min so will be nice to run few floors before the start on 14th April. Before ESBRU in 2017 (my debut) I was watched a GoPro movie on YouTube (whole 86 floors) maybe 10 times to learn the course.
What does your pre race routine look like?
Eat 3-3,5h (wake up 4h before) before start some bread with honey and cup of tea. Warm up the same as before a 5, 10K race. 15min running, 7-8 stretching, 3 sprints 80-100m, and go to start line. Go 3-4 times to the toilet in this 4h:)
How do you cope when the race gets painful, do you have any techniques to keep on pushing?
Difficult question. In every race I have few thoughts to stop and give up, but I never do. I try not to not look at floor numbers for as long as it possible. Thinking that others are more tired than me (if mass start) helps. After halfway saying to myself that it is now less than more. A lot of thoughts like only 20 floors to finish so I imagine 20 floors in my building that is easy.
Is there anything you’d still like to achieve in stair racing?
Course records in Taipei 101 and ESB. But I think without high altitude camp (never been) will be not possible
What keeps you motivated after having won so many races?
Beating course records:) Sometime it's prize money.
What is your favourite building to race in?
Eiffel Tower (especially from 2nd deck), ESB (without mass start). Mass starts are much more stressful. Osaka. So 8-10min races. But I think my best time ever comparable to Paul Crake’s record is Donauturm time 3:19.
Which professional athletes do you think would make the best tower runners?
Cross-country skiers (sprint), Rowing, cycling, mountain runners, maybe speed skaters.
Who is the best tower runner you have raced against?
If I have to choose one Christian Riedl. But all three with Thomas Dold and Mark Bourne I have a great respect for.
A huge thank you to Piotr Lobodzinski for taking tine out to answer these questions from The Total Motion Towerrunners. Piotr’s next race is tomorrow evening (Wednesday 13th March) at La Verticale de la Tour Eiffel when he looks to win his 5thsuccessive race at the landmark.
If you enjoyed this please go back and take a look at the Suzy Walsham and Alice McNamara Q&As - two inspiring women!
If this has inspired you to take on a stair climb then why not check out our upcoming events.
Join the Total Motion Towerrunners community for more chat about the sport as well as access to exclusive training sessions.
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