Monday, March 27, 2023

Fight for Air Climb - 2023 recap

Oops, I did it again...and for the 10th time in Des Moines!

I'm talking about the Fight for Air Climb.  Affiliated with the American Lung Association, the Des Moines Fight for Air Climb is now in its 20th year. This is an event like none other, where its participants "race" up stairwells as they raise funding (and awareness) to benefit those afflicted with lung disease.  

Not only is this a physically demanding endeavor, but it's also pretty emotionally challenging. That said, its also quite an empowering conquest...

Most know that I'm no stranger to the sport of stair-training or the Fight for Air Climb. As mentioned, this was my 10th Climb in Des Moines. I first took to the stairs in 2013, and I have gone back every year except for 2019 (when I was in DC for the Cherry Blossom 10-Mile) and in 2020 (when the Climb had to go virtual, leaving me to climb at home on my own stairway). I also climbed the Chicago venue in 2014. If you care to read about the previous Iowa climbs, you can check out the recaps ... 201320142015201620172018, 2021, 2022  (you're welcome).

Anyways, in keeping with Covid safety and protocol, the 2021 and 2022 Climbs were held outdoors, at Principal Park (a baseball stadium in downtown Des Moines). This year, the Climb returned to the great indoors, so to speak, and had us back in the stairwells of a few of Des Moines' taller buildings.

My scheduled climb time was 9:35 (I was in Wave 20). I arrived at the host site, the Wellmark YMCA, shortly after 9:15, which gave me plenty of time to get my race packet and do some pre-climb stretching and dynamic warm-up exercises.

The first building, EMC Insurance Companies, had us climbing 15 floors (371 steps). 
After my wave had been called, an escort walked us through the extensive Des Moines skywalk to the official start line. Gotta say, it's pretty easy to spot the first-timers because they're the ones posing like rock stars by the first building's start line...not really knowing what lies ahead. Then there's seasoned climbers, like myself, who still forget to take the first building slower than what feels natural (not unlike road racing, LOL). I took the first five or six stairways pretty fast, double-stepping and sailing around the turns on each of the landings. By the time I was near the halfway mark, I had to slow down. I still was able to take the steps "by twos," but I utilized the handrails (a trick I'd learned several years takes some of the strain off your legs when your arms share in the work by pulling/pushing-off from the handrails). 
Climbing time - 3:30 

Once we get to the top, we cross the "exiting" timing mat, and our climbing time is paused until we cross the "entering" timing mat of the next building. All climbers are required to take the elevators back down, eliminating the hazard of having the stairwells overly crowded with people going both directions (up and down) on the steps. 

The second building, The Financial Center, featured 22 floors (464 steps).
By now, I was thoroughly warmed up, in more ways than one. Having been outdoors the two previous years, I had completely forgotten just how hot it was in those confined stairwells. I was quite grateful for the water stands, just outside of the elevators of each building! This second building, though it had seven more floors to climb that the first building, seemed to go much smoother. Yes, it still was a hot adventure to the top, but starting off slower than I had in the first building, allowed for a more evenly-paced trek to the top.
Climbing time - 4:49  (cumulative time - 8:19)

The third building, a repeat climb of The Financial Center's 22 floors (another 464 steps). 
A never-before-feature for 2023 was climbing this particular building twice. Since I had honed-in my "slow-it-down" skills, and had finished Building-2 feeling better than Building-1, I had high hopes of climbing it with a slightly better time (I mean, why not turn this into a friendly competition with thyself?). I, again, started with a slower-than-normal pace, and pulled/pushed-off with the handrails. I kept double-stepping the steps, which (at least for me) makes for fewer steps because you cover twice as much distance. Also, by double-stepping, you better utilize the quads and glutes as opposed to hitting every step on the stairway (which works the calf muscles more). All told, my second climb of Building-2 resulted in a slightly improved pace.
Climbing time - 4:44 (cumulative time - 13:03)  

The final climb, Ruan Building, had the most floors (32!) and therefore the most steps (637).
As in years past, the Ruan Building was (again) the grand finale, which (again) seemed a bit cruel since it was the tallest building of the event. I knew to just keep doing what I'd been doing - (1) keep climbing slowly, (2) continue taking the steps "by two," (3) use the handrails, and (4) don't pay attention to the numbered signs as I pass each landing, LOL. So, I crossed the final start line and followed my plan, so to speak. I definitely was starting to feel fatigued, my legs were feeling strained, my forehead was glistening & glowing like crazy, and my throat was very scratchy and parched. There were volunteers every few floors, in the doorways, cheering us on, though. Things were going fine, and when I heard a volunteer say we'd passed the halfway mark, I felt a huge wave of relief wash over  me. Before long, I could hear the cowbells and cheering, and as I rounded the final turn (on the final landing), I sprinted up the final stairway and crossed the final timing mat.
Climbing time - 7:07 (cumulative time 20:10)

At the top floor of the Ruan Building, there were beverages (water and juice) and snacks (muffins and yogurt). The prelim results showed I'd finished in 8th place in my age group, but I haven't been able to access how I placed overall or among the other females. Oh well, in all honesty, this event is more about the cause than the "win," so no big whoop.

As I was walking back to the staging area, to get my stuff from the gear check, I saw a bunch of firefighters getting lined-up for their turn on the stairs. I'm always amazed seeing them, in all their gear nonetheless. The rest of us really have it pretty easy.

As for the swag, this year's shirts were a vivid turquoise, and the graphic was eye-catching...but they were cotton. In years past, the shirts had always been tech fabric, so this was a bit of a disappointment, but not a deal-breaker. 

All participants received a finisher medal. I'm glad this year's medals had the event's city showcased on the ribbon. There were alumni pins, available for purchase, but I passed. I'd gotten 2-year and 5-year alumni pins for free before (in my packets), so it seemed a bit odd that the 10-year pins came with a price tag, LOL.  

A few things worth noting:
**The Fight for Air Climb is a national event, with local venues in numerous cities throughout the US. You can find a nearby Climb by clicking HERE.
**While there are four buildings, participants can elect to climb just one, two or three of them (but they do have to climb them in sequence, and have to climb all four to be eligible for awards). 
**Like with running/walking and road races, you do not need to be in optimum physical condition to participate. There are people of every shape, size, and fitness level climbing the stairs. You can go fast or slow; all four buildings or just one.
**There is a $100 fundraising minimum to participate, so it's pretty neat seeing all of the climbers come together for such a great cause.  
**My fundraising page is still open for a short while; if you'd like to donate to the cause, click HERE

So that's the nitty gritty of my 10th Des Moines Climb. I'm grateful to have this event within reach every year, and I'm honored and humbled to take part in it.

Have you ever participated in a climbing event? Ever heard of the Fight for Air Climb? Do you know anyone afflicted with lung disease?

I'm linking this with Kim and Zenaida for the Tuesday Topics Link-Up

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  1. What a great effort and an important cause. I have heard of this event from you and Ithink we have one here.
    Not something I could do... you are inspiring.

    1. It has a great deal of significance to me since I know so many people afflicted with lung disease. I also know many who have quit smoking and I know many who physically aren't able to climb all those stairs. It's an honor to climb on everyone's behalf.

  2. Ah, so this is how it looks like when it's indoors! What an amazing event!
    Well done for pushing through on all four climbs. I would find it very difficult to do, especially since there's very little to distract you in a stairwell.
    I see that you raised nearly the triple amount!! Well done!!

    1. Yes, the stairwells do get a bit boring! It's a great test of one's mental grit, LOL

  3. Congrats on climb #10! I always enjoy reading these recaps.

    I am kind of tempted to do this someday...

  4. Congratulations Kim! Also I love that you have done this for 10 years - such an awesome tradition.

    1. Thanks, #KimTwin! It's an honor to do this every year ;-)

  5. Congrats on another year of climbing! This always sounds like such a great accomplishment. I am also impressed that those firefighters can climb with all their gear one!

    1. Honestly, the firefighters are heroes! I'm amazed at them!

  6. Yay! Congratulations on #10! This sounds really fun, although also hard- stairwells are not exactly fresh and breezy. i can see why your throat was dry. Yes, imagine doing it in firefighting gear- those guys must be in incredible shape.
    Bummer that the shirt is cotton- other than that it's a cool shirt!

    1. Honestly, the shirts never really fit me right anyways, but still. Cotton? UGH.

  7. Congrats, Kim! That is great that you have been doing this for ten years. I've done a similar one but it is one building. It is quite an experience. I remember being cocky and thinking it would be easy because I am a runner. Ha, the joke was on me. Definitely not easy.

    1. It's tough, no matter how many buildings. I love that kind of challenge, though ;-)

  8. What a great accomplishment, Kim, and so inspiring! I know (from you) that this event is done all across the country, but I've only heard of it through you.