One of my most-utilized hashtags is #notjustarunner.
Running is, and probably always will be, my first and foremost preferred form of fitness (go ahead, try to say that three times fast!). But, running is not my one and only....I'm an avid advocate for cross-training, and stair-climbing is at the top of the list.
Enter the Fight for Air Climb!
The 14th annual Des Moines venue of the American Lung Association's Fight for Air Climb happened this past weekend (Sunday, April 9th). I was one of 931 climbers who to took to the stairs and played a part in the $350,000+ raised for the organization.
This was my sixth time taking part in one of these Climbs (I've done the Des Moines Climb the past four years, and also climbed in Chicago in 2014). If you're interested in reading about my past Climbs, you can find the recaps here for Des Moines 2013, Des Moines 2014, Chicago 2014, Des Moines 2015, and Des Moines 2016).
|My name is mentioned in the far left column, 13th from the top (above left). Pay no attention to the fact that I'm holding my 5-year Alumni pin upside-down (above)|
SIDE NOTE - I have been a member of Team 27 for the past four years. The team was formed (2010) in honor of a Des Moines banker, Tom Muselman, who had undergone a double lung transplant after living with lung disease for 27 years. Ironically, he was the 27th lung transplant recipient (at the University of Iowa Hospital) June 27, 2009. Tom and his family are very involved in the American Lung Association, and Team 27 has been the top fundraising team in the nation for the past three years!
|Ready to climb with my fellow Team 27 comrades|
The Fight for Air Climb takes place in cities all over the United States. Many larger cities have skyscrapers tall enough to have the entire Climb take place in a single building. Often times, as is the case in Des Moines, multiple buildings are combined to make the event a true challenge.
The Des Moines venue utilizes four buildings: the EMC Financial Companies Building (15 floors), the Financial Center (22 floors), The Hub Tower (16 floors), and the Ruan Center (32 floors). Participants have the option of climbing one, two, three or all four buildings, but the buildings have to be climbed in the predetermined order. There are timing mats at the start of each staircase, and timing mats as you exit the staircases at the top of each building. Participants are required to ride the elevators down (after climbing each building), and are then escorted to the remaining buildings (in sequence).
All of these buildings are connected to each other via the elaborate sky walk system in downtown Des Moines, so we never have to go outside. There are volunteers everywhere, plenty of signs, and water stations (and restrooms) available in each building and throughout the sky walk.
Being my fourth time climbing, I was hoping to PR (set a new personal record better than my previous time of 18:45). I was armed and ready, literally, for the task at hand.
|My scribbling (with a bad pen) of my splits from the 2016 Climb|
Building 1-The EMC Insurance Building. As is typical for me, I started off much faster than I should have. In my defense, it didn't seem like I was going THAT fast, but by the fourth floor, I could tell my heart was already racing and my quads were feeling cranky. I almost always take the steps by two's, but I tried to slow down to conserve a bit of my energy. I made it to the top in 3:19, so I was already a little ahead of last year's pace.
Building 2-Financial Center. After pausing to use the restroom, and grabbing a glass of water for the elevator ride down, I took my time walking to the next building. There really is no incentive to rush between buildings because your timing chip will not be re-activated until you enter the next stairwell. I climbed the first 3-5 floors easy, then climbed a little slower for the next couple of floors, then resumed my usual double-stepping pace. As I approached the remaining 3-4 floors, I caught up to a gentleman who was moving a bit slow...and I was not able to get around him. He was a "larger" man, and was holding both side rails for support, and was not pausing on the landings. It's always awkward when I find myself in a situation such as this, because I don't want to make anyone feel bad for holding me up...but I also try to give them the opportunity to move aside without me needing to ask them to do so. And, after all, this event is all about the challenge of climbing the stairs, and I have deep respect for all of the participants actively doing it! I never made it around him, and finished the second building with a net time that had me slightly "behind" my desired time (by nine seconds)....frustrating, but not impossible to overcome in the next building. Onward!
The second building was taller than the first, but the third building would give us a bit of a reprieve in that it wasn't quite as tall as the previous building. While waiting for the elevator, a gal grabbed me and asked for a quick interview, so that allowed me a few extra minutes to catch my breath (slightly, huh!) and tell my story of why I climb (in honor of all the friends and family who have quit smoking, and also in memory of my late mother-in-law who, was a lifelong smoker, and suffered from COPD in her later years).
Building 3-Hub Tower. As I began the third building, I had a necessary strategy to go easy, but steady, so I could make up for the delay from the previous building, but also not tire myself out in doing so. I was able to climb it well, and finished the third building with my pace back in sync with potentially PR'ing, and finished the third building about six seconds "ahead" of schedule. Funny how a 16-floor building seems so easy after having just climbed a 22-floor building. Right?
|As we were walking towards the fourth building, several police officers and fire fighters were approaching the first building|
Building 4-Ruan Center. This building is the tough one. Not only is it the tallest building in the event (32 floors), but by the time you reach the final building, your entire body is spent. My quads were hurting, my breathing was labored, and I was a very sweaty mess! I also had the self-imposed pressure to climb fast (to hit that PR), but also to climb smart (or that PR would not be happening). Upon entering the final stairwell, one of the volunteers told me that I was in for a treat....several fire fighters were already in the stairway. Really? Usually, the fire fighters go last because they go in groups (just as if they were on a rescue mission), they go slow (due to all of their equipment), and their uniforms leave an essence of smoke behind them (duh!). Hmmmm, this would be interesting!
I didn't see any fire fighters until I had already climbed several floors (but I could smell their uniforms). Every one of them, though, stepped aside and let me (and other climbers) go around them. I was sure to thank each of them for their service and wish them luck on the Climb. I was careful to climb the steps by two's, and then do a few flights of "singles" to conserve my energy. So far, so good. I was approaching the 25th or 26th floor, when I noticed a group of gals climbing together. Typically, you see one climber at a time, and the slower ones are instructed to stay to the right to allow the faster people to pass them on the left. Typically. These gals all were right behind each other, and none of them were pausing on the landings. As I caught up to them, I waited for someone to notice me, and give me clearance to get around them. I was ready for a bit of a break, so I stayed behind them for a couple of floors, and single-stepped the stairs, thinking someone in the group would realize that there was someone (ME!) on their tail who needed to pass through. Finally, after a couple more flights, I said, "I'm gonna squeeze around you ladies....thanks!" And I made my move. No one moved aside, so I (literally) squeezed around them over the course of the next flight of stairs. By then, I was almost to the top, so I took off and tried to run the remaining stairs to the finish. I crossed the final timing mat and glanced at my watch...it showed 19:07....so the PR was out the window.
To say I was frustrated would be an understatement. Big time. But, as I said earlier, this event is about people violating their comfort zones. There's a reason not every participant chooses to climb all four buildings (because it's tough!). This was late in the morning, too, so there had been over four hour's worth of hot bodies and heavy breathing before us....the stairwells were, indeed, hot and miserable. It's hard to complain about the heat, though, because I was not wearing full fire-fighting gear. My discomfort was pretty minimal compared to what all of those fire fighters experienced...and this was just a normal building on a normal day...not a smoke-filled building on fire. And those slow-moving gals? This may have been their first time climbing, so huge props to them (though I sincerely wish they would have let me through LOL).
My final stats showed I finished 236th out of the 931 who climbed all four buildings, I was 89th out of the 554 females, and 6th of 49 in my age group. Want a little salt in the wound? The 5th place gal in my AG finished 3 seconds ahead of me...3 seconds! Yes, I can't make that stuff up. The 4th place gal, though finished in 17:35 (or somewhere in that range), so I had no hope of placing better than 5th place anyways. Since we all climbed in waves over the course of the entire morning, I have no idea how early any of the other gals in my age group climbed...they could have been right ahead of me (in the heat of the morning), or in the first wave (with a cool stairway to conquer).
|How do you like that bling?|
Have you ever done a stair-climbing event? Do you know anyone affected by lung disease? Want to find a Fight for Air Climb event near you? If so, here's the website: Fight for Air Climb
I'm linking up with Marcia and Patty and Erika for Tuesdays on the Run... Join the party!
Also, I'm linking with Suzie and Rachel and Debbie and Lora for the Running Coaches' Corner
And with Nicole and Annmarie and Jen for the Wild Wednesday Workout