So, aside from my big personal news at this past Saturday’s stair climb, while the race itself could have been better, it still wasn’t too bad.
The race was the Minnesota Cystic Fibrosis Foundation’s 33rd Annual Climbing For The Cure, which took place at Minneapolis’ IDS Center. At 50 stories and 1,280 steps, not only is it the second tallest building I’ve climbed (for the moment), but it also has the most stairs per story.
At 25.6 steps per story, the IDS Center trumped Milwaukee’s US Bank Center, whose 22.0 steps per story was the previous most I’ve encountered.
I wasn’t totally sure how that would impact me. For that amount of stairs, it meant less landings to turn at, which should save time. But since each story is basically split into two flights, 100 is still a lot of landings to turn at. Even having said that, each flight was still a step or two longer on average than the US Bank Center.
Granted, I train on long bursts of steep stairs in a short building where each story is only one flight, so in theory that should’ve helped for this race. But I’m not sure if did or not. It definitely works me out, but it’s not totally the same as the constant “climb-turn-climb-turn-etc” routine of a tall building race. However, even though this race had longer consecutive stairs to climb, they seemed less steep, and still weren’t that many in a row compared to what I’m used to.
Stephanie and I participated in a team-oriented fitness challenge, which was the first of three race segments. The second was a public safety challenge, comprised of fire fighters and police officers. The third was an untimed general climb for general members of the public who don’t care how fast or slow they can climb a bunch of stairs.
In general, people in Minneapolis must not really care how quickly they can climb stairs, because for being the tallest building in Minneapolis, the fitness challenge was a very small race. There were only 96 participants, and it didn’t really draw a lot of solid, competitive climbers. It was a hometown race for Jason Larson, an up-and-comer into the elite ranks of stair climbing, so he was there. At 7:29, which is an excellent time, he finished second. The only reason he didn’t win was because there was some guy named Tim Donahue also there, who blew everyone away with a 6:31 finish time. Afterward, I found Donahue on Athlinks. He doesn’t have a super extensive stair climbing background — well, at least as extensive as many of the other elite climbers — but he is a Sears Tower and Empire State Building veteran, and he’s no doubt at that elite level. Why he showed up at this small, not-as-competitive race, I’m not sure.
My time wasn’t really anywhere near those elite times. I finished in 9:37, which was good for 13th overall and 12th among all men. Stephanie finished in 10:06, which was 20th overall and 2nd among all women.
Donahue, who raced as an individual climber, apparently started in front of the pack (so I learned afterward), while Larson led off for his rather large Minnesota RED team. The team was filled with climbers of varying speeds and abilities. Several finished faster than me, but since the two-man “Altitude Adjustment” team of Stephanie and myself started immediately behind them, a lot of the slower members of Minnesota RED clogged up the very narrow stairwells (I could easily grab each railing on both sides of me at the same time) at the start and slowed each of us down.
The race wasn’t really well-run in terms of start times. The event info said each team would be allowed to start together, and that the next teams set to start would be required to wait two minutes before being released up the stairs. This was not the case at all. There wasn’t even the staggered start pattern of releasing individual participants every 7 to 10 seconds to prevent stairwell clogging. The way this worked was, basically, everyone lined up in a single-file line, and just went one after the other with no delays.
Stephanie is confident she would have finished sub-10 if not for the delays early on in the race. I have no doubt she’d have cut those 6 seconds off and then some. She didn’t start forcing her way past the crowd as early on as I did. I probably still didn’t do it soon enough, either. For me, it’s hard to say how fast I could’ve finished, because I was mainly focused on simply finishing before Stephanie so I could get the engagement ring out of the Ziploc bag in my pocket before she made it to the top. If I were to guess, I’d say I could’ve cut 10 to 15 seconds off my time. Maybe 20 seconds?
A thought I had after the race was that maybe I should’ve waited for about 5 minutes after the last team had gone up the stairs so that a lot of the crowd would’ve thinned out. A few of the climbers went in a second and third time, untimed, for endurance-building purposes, but up until the public safety challenge, they were likely among the few in the stairwell.
Optimally, you want to start as close to the front as you can, so you don’t have to pass a lot of people. Passing in stair races takes a lot more energy and effort than passing in road races. The “wait it out” strategy would’ve really only worked at this race, or any other with as few participants as this one.
Ultimately, it worked out perfectly for what my main concern was: proposing to Stephanie. While we didn’t finish as fast as we could have, we still didn’t do terribly. I finished ahead of her, got the ring out of the Ziploc, there weren’t a ton of people at the top when we finished, and she could hear me when I popped the question.
That said, I’ll take 13th place.