Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Fight for Air Climb 2018

I took it to the stairs on Sunday morning, April 8th.

Four buildings. 85 flights of stairs. 1,796 steps. It was all good!

I climb in honor of friends and family members who have successfully kicked butt (and stopped smoking). I climb in memory of my late mother-in-law who was a lifelong smoker and suffered from COPD in her final years. And I climb in tribute to those who are struggling with lung disease.

Affiliated with the American Lung Association, the Fight for Air Climb is a national event with numerous venues all over the United States. This was the 15th annual Climb in Des Moines, and my 6th year taking part (I also did the Chicago Climb in 2014).

Anyways, this event has always been a favorite of mine. My first year (2013), I climbed it on my own. For the past four years (2014, 2015, 2016, 2017), I was part of a large team. This year, a group of us from work decided to climb together.
Ashley, Michele, myself, and Hannah
Unlike a simple road race, this endeavor requires a substantial commitment...not just in climbing the stairs (of potentially four tall buildings) but also in fundraising. The registration fee is minimal at $25, though I always get in during the early bird registration period (up until January 31) and pay $15. All climbers are required to raise $100 in donations prior to event day, but many go well beyond that (this year, I raised $250).

The Des Moines event utilizes the stairwells in four of the city's buildings...the EMC Insurance Companies building (15 floors), the Financial Center (22 floors), the Hub Tower (16 floors), and the Ruan Center (32 floors). All of these buildings are in close proximity to each other and are connected by the elaborate downtown Des Moines skywalk system.
a glimpse of the buildings from the Instagram page
Participants have the option to climb one, two, three, or all four of the buildings, but all have to be climbed in sequence (as listed above). We are given timing chips, and the doorways (going into and exiting) all the stairwells have timing mats. In other words, we're only timed while we're in the stairwells, and are free to have as much "downtime" as we wish in between buildings. Believe me, that's a huge advantage for the venues that utilize multiple buildings (instead of climbing just one very tall building).

So, how did the day play out? Well, being my sixth year, I was eager to set a new PR. In earlier years, there were only three buildings. This was the fourth year that these four buildings have been the "course" for the Des Moines event. My PR (19:02) is from 2016. Last year, I came close but finished in 19:07. I had scribbled the splits from the four buildings (from 2016) on my forearm, so I would have a guide to gauge my climbing.
kind of sloppy, but it got the job done
Building 1 (EMC Insurance Companies)  - The first building is always tricky. Similar to the start line of a road race, it's tough to know just how fast to go. I was taking the steps "in two's" and using the hand rails (for a little extra oomph and balance). I didn't feel like I was going fast at all, but by the time I had reached the fourth floor, I was already feeling tired and my heart was racing like crazy. I finished those 15 floors in 3:35...already 10 seconds behind my goal pace.

Hannah had finished ahead of me, so I met up with her at the top of the building. As a team, we had agreed to wait for everyone to finish each of the buildings' stairs and then walk together to each of the remaining buildings.

Building 2 (Financial Center) - Since I was only 10 seconds behind on my time, I was hoping to make up a few of those seconds in each of the remaining buildings. We'd had several minutes of rest, and it took awhile for an available elevator to take all of us down. Mindful of my too-fast start in the first building, I tried to start out a little slower in the second building. Again, I used the handrails, and took the steps "in two's," but tried to go easy and steady and avoid needing to single-step any of the stairs. I caught up with a few other climbers, and it's always a challenge to pass others in the narrow stairwells. After a couple of  flights, if they're not pausing on the landings (to allow me through), I'll ask if I can sneak around them. Most times, other climbers will let you through. Sometimes, though, it doesn't happen as easily. I finished the second building (according to my watch) in 5:10...although that was the exact time I had climbed it before, I had not been able to make up any of those extra seconds yet.

Building 3 (Hub Tower) - The third building offers a welcome "scale-back" reprieve since it's only 16 floors (after the second building's 22 floors, a 16-floor climb seems easy peasy). Again, my hope was to climb the entire building "in two's" and not need any single-step climbing. And, again, this strategy didn't seem to work effectively. I didn't really feel tired, but my legs just seemed to be moving in slow motion. My breathing was heavy (par for the course LOL), and my heart definitely was working, but it was frustrating that my legs were moving slower than I wanted. Again, I got behind some slower climbers, and (again) it was difficult getting around them. I finished the third building with my watch showing 12:12...so I had at least made up one second in my overall time (small victory!).

Building 4 (Ruan Center) - The final building is always the toughest one. Not only is it the tallest (32 floors), but your body is feeling the fatigue and strain from the previous 53 floors already climbed. I tried to keep my pace steady, but it gets difficult with the constant pausing/turning on the landings. I did a lot of double-stepping at first, then had to do some single-stepping intervals. Ironically, this building seemed to feel the easiest to climb of the four. It felt like I was able to keep a steady pace....but, again, there were the recurring issues with the other climbers who wouldn't let me pass. There was one gentleman in particular whom I followed for the last 3-4 floors. He was grabbing at the railing and not letting go (even on the landings), and he looked like it was taking every last bit of strength for him to continue climbing. As much as I wanted to get around him, I just didn't have the heart to do so. Alas, I crossed the final timing mat with a finish time of 19:22. Instead of making up those extra 10 seconds, I wound up adding 10 more. Oh well LOL.
At the top of the final building
Some interesting stats:
**There were 924 total climbers who did all four buildings, and I finished 246th. Of those 4-building climbers, 511 were females (I finished 90th), and 40 of those gals were in my age group (I placed 12th).
** The fastest male overall finished in 9:52 (he is 34 years old)
**The fasted female overall finished in 12:04 (she is 37 years old)
** Approximately $355,00 has been raised for the American Lung Association, just from the Des Moines venue (and funds are continuing to come in)

This event comes with some decent swag, too. All participants get an event shirt (tech fabric) and a finisher medal. I also received a pop socket with the Fight for Air Climb graphic on it (I'm not sure if that was an alumni climber promo or a fundraising incentive award).

And, since I have alumni status, I get a little publicity.
I bet you didn't know I was famous
So, another successful Climb, but no new PR.  Although my finish time is a little disappointing, I'm grateful for the strength and stamina to climb 85 floors. And, I look forward to doing it again next year.

I had trained a lot for this event, but all of my training was on a single flight of stairs (in my house)...not on multiple flights of "split stairs" that required constant turning on all of the (42 total!) landings. I did run eight miles the day prior, and then spent 2.5 hours of hip-hop dance instruction (for which I am horribly uncoordinated), so maybe there was a bit of fatigue at play. Also, there were several times when I got stuck behind slower climbers and was not able to get around them as fast as I'd liked...whether those extra seconds here and there could have made that much of a difference in my finish time is debatable. Bottom line, though, this event is not about winning, or even setting a new PR. Even if I get held up by slower climbers, I applaud their efforts...I know each of them raised at least $100 for the American Lung Association, and it's great that they are on the stairs (and not on a couch back at home).

If you'd like more information about the Fight for Air Climb, or are interested in finding one in your area, please check out their website - Fight for Air Climb.

What do you think? Would you consider doing a stair climb event? Do you know anyone afflicted with lung disease?

**I'm linking this with Debbie and Rachel and Lora for the Running Coaches' Corner.

***By the way...are you following me on social media? You can find me at these various platforms:
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  1. Congrats! This is such an interesting event. Do you think the people who won pretty much ran up the stairs? I feel like I would worry about falling. Thats a lot of flights of stairs to do all at once! But its awesome that this is for such a great cause.

    1. The people who finish really fast do, indeed, run the steps. Some of the venues utilize a single really tall building, others (like Des Moines) use several buildings. There's definitely an advantage in having a break inbetween the buildings!

  2. Congrats on another successful stair climb! I didn't realize it was a competitive event. Really, at the end of the day, isn't it all about the fund raising? What a great cause.

    1. I agree, it's all about the fundraising. As much as I get annoyed by the slower climbers not yielding, it's awesome to see them there ;-)

  3. Congrats again on another year of completing this challenge. I had no idea it was timed! So do you have to walk down the stairs too or take an elevator? Are the stairs crowded? I think I might feel anxious in there.Great job for a fantastic cause!

    1. All participants are required to take the elevators down...it would be major chaos if people were going both up and down the stairs ;-) We have staggered starts (climbers are spaced out every 5-10 seconds or so), enabling for some spacing on the stairs.

  4. This is really fascinating. We have one of these climbs here in Cleveland but I've never done it. I think it's only one building though? Great job on another year! And those numbers are impressive!!!

  5. I do love everything about this. It's definitely a different kind of race, and I love that so much money has been raised for the cause! I'm sorry you didn't hit the time goals you were hoping for, but it sounds like you did a great job anyway.

  6. Congrats on a great effort Kim! One of the women I coach is an avid climber. The multi-building climb here in is in the 4 Presidential Towers. I do think you might be at a disadvantage in not training on stairs like the ones in the climb. Nevertheless you are a rockstar.

  7. Congrats! I am happy to race up mountains...but racing up stairs sounds terrifying for some reason.

  8. 85 flights of stairs?! That's amazing, and I love that it was for such a wonderful cause! <3 Best of luck to you for next year too! <3

  9. Congratulations! As you know I'm also a big fan of the Fight for Air Climb! I would love to try your challenge of climbing in multiple buildings! It's definitely frustrating when you get stuck behind slower climbers...but you still did great!