Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Fight for Air Climb 2016-Climb, Conquer, Cure



Upping my game.Taking it to the stairs. Powering UP.

Call it what you will, Fight for Air Climb is a challenging event that I have eagerly registered for since my first Climb in 2013.

This was my fourth time taking part in the Des Moines venue (I also did the Chicago venue in 2014).The first two years, we climbed the same three buildings (the EMC Building, Hub Tower, and Downtown Marriott). Last year, a fourth building, the Ruan Center was added (bringing with it an additional 32 flights of stairs). This year, The Marriott exited the event, and was replaced by the Financial Center...giving us a grand total of 86 flights of stairs to conquer.


As a participant, everyone has a registration fee of $25 (or, if you register during the early-bird period, you can get in for $15!) as well as a mandatory fundraising obligation of $100. I have never had to pay the full $100 myself (I've had lots of generous friends and family members, as well as my employer, contribute to the cause), but I have donated towards the funds.

Also new this year, the event was hosted at the Des Moines Partnership Building. All of these buildings are located in close proximity to each other, and are connected by the elaborate skywalk system, so you never have to go outside (until it's time to find your car and head home). You check-in at the host site, and are assigned a wave (for your start time). When your wave is called, you line up and your wave "group" is then ushered to the first building. Each wave has about 20-30 participants, and each of the climbers are allowed to start in (approximate) 10-second increments.

Ready to climb!
Here's a brief rundown (no pun intended...we have to take the 'vators down after climbing each building):

Building 1 - The EMC Insurance Center  (15 flights of stairs) 
Consistent with my three previous climbs, I started off too fast. I do most of my climbing in two-step intervals, and I have so much energy at the start, it's really difficult to hold back. The stairways (in all four buildings) are split-stairs....each flight actually has two sets of stairs- instead of going straight up 10-12 continuous steps, you have maybe 8-9 steps in one direction, a small landing, then 8-9 steps in the opposite direction. It's basically a constant spiral adventure to the top of the buildings. I usually can make it about halfway to the top before I need to slow down. I continued taking the steps by two's, but did more of a "walk" instead of a "run."  There's volunteers every third or fourth floor, with water and lots of encouragement. I made it to the top of the EMC in 3:25 (official split time).

EMC Insurance Building
We are required to ride the elevators down after each building's climb, which is really a good thing. You can hang out in the hallway as long as you wish before going down. When you're back down on the skywalk level, volunteers are stationed to point you towards the next building. There are plenty of signs (with arrows) along the short walks between the buildings, as well as water stations.

Building 2-The Des Moines Financial Center (22 flights of stairs)
Leary about going out too fast (again), I tried to take the stairs a little bit slower (but I still started out too fast). I was wearing a tank top, but had also been given a team shirt (short-sleeved, tech fabric). And I was a hot, sweaty mess! My throat was extremely dry, and I could feel my heart beating like crazy.
Des Moines Financial Center...image by briangongol
I made it about halfway and decided to take the steps by singles for a couple flights and give my self a chance to catch my breath. I didn't really slow down much, but the single-stepping was a nice (brief) break. Almost every landing between the stairs had motivational posters, which not only are a good distraction, but also a great reminder why this event exists. I finished the 22 floors of the Financial Center in 5:10 (official split time). And I stripped off the team shirt and rolled it up and used it to wipe my face.

Building 3 - The Hub Tower (16 flights of stairs)
Frustrated with the fatigue from starting out too fast, I decided to try a different strategy in the third building - intervals. I'd try to take the stairs by-two's for 4-5 flights, then do a few flights of singles, then resume the double-stepping, etc. The first set of doubles went well (and I was careful to go easy and not "run" them), so I switched and did a few flights of singles. This worked well! I switched back to doubles (around the 7th floor or so).....and before I realized what was happening, I was almost to the top. And I had forgotten to switch back to singles. Oops.

Hub Tower...image by lorwester
I  had written my splits (from the previous year's Climb) on a paper, to give me something to gauge my climbing time.  Secretly, I was not only hoping for a PR, but also to place in my age group. I had placed 5th in 2014, and 4th in 2015...so I was hoping to continue the momentum and snag a third place (or higher!) finish. Since the Financial Center was a new building (with no previous "climb time") and the Ruan Center had been moved to the last building to climb (it had been building #3 in 2015), my previous splits were only a guide.  The Hub Tower climb went well; I made it to the top in 3:28 (official split time).

A welcome sight! Headed to the fourth building!

Building 4 - The Ruan Center (32 flights of stairs)
Wouldn't you know it? They saved the tallest building for last! The Ruan Center was a "new" addition to the Fight for Air Climb in 2015, and I remembered it as being the toughest building of all of them. Knowing this, I knew I had to really pace myself well to climb 32 flights of stairs.
Ruan Center
Similar to the previous building, I decided to start out slow and easy, but still take the stairs by doubles. No racing. No running. Just slow and steady. I also paused a couple of times to get pictures of  some of the posters.
Powerful poster!

I did a couple flights here and there with single-steps, but I much prefer double-stepping. Stair-climbing is really a lot like running hills (steep hills!). When it comes to running hills, I have learned that I can sometimes "walk" a hill faster than I can "run" it. The same goes with stair-climbing....I'm stepping "slower" by taking the steps by-two's, but I'm covering twice as much distance (with less effort). I climbed most of the final building (by taking the steps by-two's), and passed the halfway point much faster than expected. It turns out, I climbed the Ruan Center almost an entire minute faster this year, finishing it in 6:50 (official split time).

WHEW!
All done! Another Fight for Air piece of bling

Usually, there's a timing station near the finish line, where you can get a printout of all your splits (each building is timed individually, with timing mats at the bottom and top of the stairways). Things were a little chaotic this year, probably a result of the different location for the host site. Not a big deal, but certainly frustrating. Anyways, My watch showed my finish time as being 19:13, which was a substantial PR from the 20:26 from last year. I should mention there were seven fewer flights of stairs this year...but with that change (the Financial Center joining and the Marriott leaving the lineup), the climb actually was more difficult. Even with fewer stairways to climb, all 86 flights were now "split-stairways." Losing the Marriott meant losing all of its single-stairways (which, by the way, are much easier and faster to climb than the split-stairways that require twice as much pausing/turning on the landings). In my opinion, losing seven total flights really did not give us any advantages over the last year's venue.

Imagine my surprise to see my actual "official" finish time posted as 18:53! Granted, it was a great surprise, but I do question how accurate it is since my watch recorded a 20-second (slower) difference. I can understand my watch not being exact to the timing mat, but 20 seconds? At first, I was a little upset that it didn't reflect what I think my "authentic" finish time was....but I assume it would also be off in other participants' times as well. I have scoured the posted results (numerous times), and it appears I placed in the top five in my age group. I was hoping for a higher placing, but given the circumstances I'm just accepting it for what it is. I did have a faster time this year (even with a more challenging race), so I'm calling it good and letting it go.

As mentioned, I climbed as part of a team. I was recruited by Team 27 for my second Climb (in 2014), and have been a part of the team since. It's actually one of the top fundraising teams in the country, and definitely the biggest team at the Des Moines venue. Other participants climb as individuals (which I did my first year).

Walking to the first building..."Who is this chick taking a selfie with us?"

An especially neat aspect is the challenge that exists amongst fire fighters! Every year, there are numerous teams of fire fighters from various towns...and all of them climb in full gear. They always get a standing ovation as they line up and make their way to the stairs.

Despite the slight discrepancy (?) with my official results, and the chaotic atmosphere in this new setting, the Fight for Air Climb is definitely a favorite event. I'm a huge advocate for fresh air, healthy lungs, and strong bodies. I also love the challenge of doing something (like racing up 86 flights of stairs!) that most people are afraid to attempt. Although my finish times have improved each year, the challenge never really gets easier. Why?  As I improve with my stair-racing abilities, I also challenge myself each year to climb faster and do better.


So, what do ya say? Are you ready to take on a Climb? Have you ever participated in an event where you've had to fundraise for the cause? Ever felt your official results were "faster" than what you thought they should be? 






33 comments:

  1. I feel winded just reading this! I struggle going up the two flights of stairs in the parking garage at work. Isn't it funny how we can be in shape for one sport and not for another? This sounds like a lot of fun! Great job.

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    1. This event really is a lot of fun, but it certainly keeps me humble. ;-)

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  2. I need to do one of these stair climbs sometime! I am always so impressed when I read about your training it looks exhuasting

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    1. It can be exhausting, but it's over and done so fast!

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  3. This is awesome. I climb the stairs at my job and there is nothing like it. As much as I work out I am still very out of breath when I take the stairs. Great job and great cause.

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    1. Thank you! I trained pretty hard for this event this year...but if I start out too fast, it's still a challenge to keep going. It is such a great cause, lung health affects all of us in some capacity.

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  4. What a cool event. I always assumed the Fight For Air race we have here was in one building, but maybe not. It's so interesting that yours is broken into four!

    Great job, even though you didn't place as high as you wanted. You really trained hard for this and your big PR reflects it!

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    1. Some cities that have tall enough buildings do have it take place in "just one" building (I think New York City has a similar event at the Empire State Building...not sure if it's a Fight for Air event or for another cause). Having the event broken into several buildings definitely gives the climbers an advantage in that they can pause between buildings without it reflecting on their finish time.

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  5. Congrats!! I've always wanted to do a stair climbing race! I need to find a good one in NYC.

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    1. I think there's an event in the Empire State Building, not sure if it's affiliated with the Fight for Air Climb or not. It's on my bucket list!!

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  6. I did a fundraising spot for my first marathon - it was super rewarding but the fundraising aspect is definitely a whole other commitment in and of itself. These stair climbs look like such a challenge - I know I can run slow and steady for a long time but can imagine myself getting easily worn out in a stair race!

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    1. Stair-racing is very similar to road racing....pacing is key (and I'm still trying to figure it out LOL). It feels pretty amazing to finish the final building and realize what you've done ;-)

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  7. Wow, I'm so impressed with your climbing time!
    I'd be so scared of slipping on a stair I'd probably wind up super slow.

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    1. No fears of slipping, I utilize the handrails ;-)

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  8. What a fun and hard challenge! You did amazing.

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    1. Yes, it's quite a challenge, which is what makes it fun ;-)

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  9. Just amazing. We have one here. Don't think I could. But maybe I should try.

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    1. YES! YOU should!! I forgot to mention it...although there were four buildings, a lot of people don't climb all four. Each building is timed individually, and all the buildings have to be climbed in sequence. I bet you would do great!

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  10. I'm glad that I am sitting, lol. This is intense! Great job! I can't imagine doing it with full firefighter gear on!

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    1. It's pretty amazing seeing all the fire fighters! One of the guys told me that his gear weighs about 80 pounds. #heroes

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  11. This is an incredible event. What a great challenge to support such a great cause! That is a lot of stairs!

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    1. It is a great cause! I know several people who have kicked butt and quit smoking, I think of them with every step. My MIL was a lifelong smoker, and had a lot of health issues in her final years....she passed away a year ago, so she was definitely on my mind as well.

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  12. You are one strong mama! Those are awesome results! Congratulations on your PR. We wouldn't have enough tall buildings where I live to host an event like this!

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    1. This event really is a great challenge! If you think my 19-ish minute finish is fast....the overall winner was a guy who did all four buildings in 10:07! The fastest female finished in 13:31 ;-)

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  13. THIS IS AMAZING!!!! SO impressive!!! I have never heard of this event until I 'met' you. Just amazing!!

    I would be in to do something like this....maybe starting off as a relay -lol! All of my jobs for the past 15 years have been on a 1 level building. The only stairs I climb in a day is the one level up to my bedroom-lol!

    GREAT job!!!

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    1. Well, if you can google Fight for Air Climb (Or American Lung Association), there's probably one somewhere in your area. Some venues have you just climb one TALL building, others have you climb multiple buildings. The events that have multiple buildings don't require you to climb all the buildings.....some people only climb the first building, etc. Give it a GO!! ;-)

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  14. Holy stairs!!! That is incredible!! You are a total rockstar for doing this!! This sounds like a lot of fun and totally challenging. I would totally be into trying this!
    Great job!!!

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    1. Thanks ;-) I totally love this event, even though halfway up the second building I was really questioning my sanity. It's over and done so quickly, though, and it's SUCH a great cause. It's really inspiring to see all the people climbing!

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  15. Thanks for the recap ! This has inspired me to look into something like this here in France... there are not a lot yet, but I am sure I can find something. I am just scared of wing dizzy going up !
    Congrats on your finish time !

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    1. Yes, Karen, you should find a climbing event! If you can't find one in France, simply hop on a plane and I'll meet you on a tower somewhere over here ;-)

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  16. Wow! That's awesome! I never knew that races like this existed! Definitely sounds like you had a blast!

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    1. I had seen this event on the Sunday evening news (always after it had happened) a couple times before I could figure out how to get registered for it. I'm totally committed to doing it every year (as long as it's still happening). Next year, I'll get my 5-year Alumni pin (for Iowa)!

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  17. I didn't realize you would be doing different buildings!! Man, that is challenge. Well done on the top 5! That is am impressive time. I can not imagine taking the steps two at a time,but I am not very tall.
    This sounds really awesome,I have not seen anything like it here, I'll be on the look out.

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