Taking another step

If I found the SkyRise Chicago stair climb at Willis Tower this past Sunday to be the biggest disappointment of my young “weekend warrior” race career, then I must be a sucker for punishment.

That’s because yesterday I discovered that next Thursday, Nov. 14, there’s a 47-story stair climb in Milwaukee benefitting the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation at the US Bank Building—the same venue as the first stair climb I did back in March that benefitted the American Lung Association.

So, of course, Stephanie and I registered within a half hour of me discovering this climb.

And even despite how I felt following the Willis Tower climb, I’m pretty excited about this one. I’m anxious to get out there to try to best my time of 8:01 from March. I felt like I could’ve finished at least 30 seconds better then, so with all the training I put in for Chicago, I’m hopeful I can be at least a second or two faster here than I was in March.

On that note, here are some leftover thoughts about the Willis Tower climb that didn’t get to last time:

* I registered as an elite climber for SkyRise. In hindsight, there’s no way I should’ve been allowed to do so. Sure, I finished 94th out of nearly 2,300, which is pretty good… for a mere mortal. However, the truly elite climbers were several minutes faster than me. It was eye-opening how tough it was to maintain the pace I expected on a building that tall. It showed me how truly elite the elite climbers are.

* I didn’t actually get to see or rub elbows with any of the elite names I’ve read about, such the Jesse Bergs and the Cindy Harrises of the sport, but I learned that the top group of the stair climbing seems to be a fraternity. As far away from finishing as well as them as I did, I’d really like to keep working to get at least somewhat near that level. I’d like that fraternity to know me someday.

* Most of the elite stair climbers seem to be sponsored by West Coast Labels, a label producer for nutritional products based in California. It makes sense that these people would have a sponsor; stair climbs are EXPENSIVE. There’s usually not only a registration fee, but also a minimum fundraising amount required, as these are usually charity-based competitions/events. I’ve done only two, and I’m already tired of asking people to donate on my behalf. Short of Stephanie and I being good enough to somehow get invited to the WCL crew, we’re trying to figure out ways to set aside money for stair climbs and/or find other sponsorship opportunities near us. Because we plan to do a lot of these. And get good at them.

* Stephanie’s experience in Chicago was like my experience in Milwaukee. When I finished in Milwaukee, I felt like I could do more, or have given it a better effort. I had also been slowed down in the stairwell. Stephanie was just spent after Milwaukee. In Chicago, I had the conditions I wanted: not really any obstructions and the freedom to move as fast as possible. I was spent. However, Stephanie, who’d upped her cardio big time since March, was slowed down for about six stories by someone in the stairwell in Chicago, and felt like she expended even more energy when she was done. With that feeling in hand, her enthusiasm for stair climbing jumped way up, which I liked, because my enthusiasm for it has been high ever since I initially learned about it.

* Not having really met any of the elite, it’s probably not cool that I do this, but I need to call out one West Coast Labels’ elite climbers: the person in the stairwell who slowed Stephanie down for six stories was some old lady from Guadalajara. I saw her cutting in front of people at the elite group start wave; however, she still started after I did, so I didn’t think too much of it. That is until Stephanie pointed her out after the race. Apparently this lady, who was wearing one of West Coast Labels’ shirts (I assume she’s elite for a 57-year-old woman), was pretty spent during her climb and took to death-gripping both railings on her way up. As Stephanie, who started nearly six minutes after I did, and probably five minutes after this lady, neared the lady, Stephanie began announcing that she was coming through. Stephanie said she got within an inch of the woman without her so much as attempting to move out of the way; her hands stayed clutching both rails. After several people had caught up to Stephanie to create a full-on traffic jam, she finally grabbed one of the lady’s hands and moved it so she could pass. Stephanie said she was unsure if maybe she was using incorrect terminology to pass, but was frustrated regardless since so many other people would automatically move if they could even sense her coming up behind them, let alone if she got half as close as she did to this lady. I don’t understand what she was doing by blocking Stephanie and a crowd of others; if she was simply unaware, then that’s ridiculous for a so-called elite climber. If she was doing it to make her own finish time appear better at the expense of others, then she’s simply a terrible climber altogether, especially since she wasn’t close to placing, even in her division. Find a new hobby, lady.

* All the climbers in the stairwells during my climb were super friendly and understanding of my need to pass if I got close. Likewise, when people got close to me and were clearly looking to pass, I cleared out of their way. I can’t remember for sure, but I believe I passed five people while I was passed by only two. There was one other man I passed somewhere near the middle of the race who then passed me back about 15 stories later. Additionally, one of the people I ended up passing was a guy I pretty much caught up to around the 70th floor. I stayed a flight behind him for a little bit. At the 73rd floor, he started calling out how many stories left: “Thirty to go!” … “Twenty-nine!” … etc. Around floor 85, he seemed to slow down a little, so I made my move to pass him. As I got close, he asked if I was passing. I huffed a weak, “yeah,” which must’ve powered his motivational enthusiasm, because when I said that, he yelled, “ALRIGHT! GO!” and stepped out of the way. When he yelled, I literally ran as fast as I could up the next flight and a half to make sure I would stay ahead of him. You can’t let that opportunity be in vain. When I got to floor 95 or so, I started to notice another guy in the stairwell about a flight and a quarter behind me. He was gaining on me, but I was determined not to let him pass me at the finish. I pushed as fast as I could, which paid off because he did not pass me to finish. However, if the building were five stories taller, he would have.

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