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).
Building 4 - The Ruan Center (32 flights of stairs)
|A welcome sight! Headed to the fourth building!|
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.
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.
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).
|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?