Sunday, February 19, 2012

I Fought For Air, Alright


Yesterday, I participated in the Fight For Air Climb in Springfield, Illinois.  It's a fund-raising event for American Lung Association in which participants climb the 32 flights of stairs in the Hilton hotel.  I competed in the Ultimate Climb for the second year, completing as may trips as possible (descending via elevator) in one hour.  In the 2011 climb I completed nine trips and my fastest was 3:53 (slowest was 5:27).  Five climbers completed more than nine and I was the fastest person to complete just nine.  So, I was sixth out of forty-plus climbers.  My first goal for 2012 was to complete one trip under 3:30.  Second, I wanted to complete between ten and twelve trips--my primary focus.  I knew I could do ten because I came very close last year and this year I'm stronger and lighter.  I really wanted to get eleven, but twelve would be awesome.

My wife, Pat and I drove over Friday afternoon to do some shopping before I registered for the race and we checked into the Hilton for the night.  We then had a relaxing evening and listened to my friend's samba band play as I pre-hydrated.  I also had a look at the race start and the stairwell to refresh my memory.
Race morning, I was up early--didn't sleep well anyway.  I had a refreshing shower, then got a half-caff coffee and some oatmeal at Starbucks in the hotel.  Then, I waited....the caffeine made me jittery and by 7:00ish, I was becoming impatient.  We received our chips and last-minute instructions in the basement and lined up according to our bib numbers.  The eighty or so Ultimate Climbers would depart every 10 seconds starting at 8:00.  I was number eleven.

Many of the competitors start very fast since the time of the first trip is counted in the overall competition for the fastest single-trip climb.  This wasn't a big concern of mine.  As I previously stated, my main goal was a big number of trips within the hour, so I needed to conserve energy.  However, in the heat of the moment........I took off just a bit fast, pushing the pace, but remembering that I would be able to rest in the elevator on the way down.  I was feeling pretty good on this climb because I wasn't being passed.  I pressed the lap button at the top and saw 3:15.  I smiled inwardly: first goal achieved.  I had a quick trip down and jog from the elevator to the stairs and started trip two. After a while all the laps ran together and I had trouble keeping track how many I had done.  I think it was after the second--but it might have been the third--as I neared the top, I started getting nauseated. Uh-oh. I stayed by the trash can as I waited for the elevator at the top, hands on knees.  Same thing on the ride down.  I also paused a bit at the bottom before I started climbing again. When the feeling was mostly gone, I was back up the stairs.

After four or five climbs I settled into my pace and felt pretty good.  I remember being passed a few times by just three or four people, so I felt confident about the overall too.  As I had planned, I alternated between running up, pulling myself up with the railing hand-over-hand like a rope, and walking, pushing on my knees with my hands. I nearly always took steps two-at-a-time.  Early, Pat was in the stairwell cheering for me and taking photos as I passed.  Later, she was in the basement accompanied by my cousin's family--he was climbing too in his firefighter gear.
Last year, I remember chatting with people in the stairwell and in the elevator a lot more.  This year, I was breathing too hard to be as sociable.  Both years, I have breathed harder than in any other events in which I have participated.  The event is aptly named.  In fact, my throat was still a bit scratchy this morning.

My plan was to complete six climbs in the first hour and hang on.  I really, really wanted to get eleven trips.  I just had to complete ten trips and get to the bottom and start my eleventh before my sixty minutes were up.  If I start the climb, it counts.  As the hour wore on and I checked my watch, I knew I was getting close.  Just like last year on trip number nine, on trip number ten I really pushed it to get to the top, get in the elevator, and sprint around to the start line.......only to be told I was done.  #$%&!  Last year, I was about a minute too late.  This time it was less than ten seconds, I think.  Oh, well.  Nothing to do about it.  I'm certainly not going to make excuses either.

Results: My fastest single trip was 3:15 (The fastest I saw was 2:07. A-MA-ZING.)  I completed ten trips--two did thirteen; one did twelve; three did eleven; four of us did ten and I was the fastest of that group.  So, I was seventh overall.  Compared to last year: faster single trip, faster average climb, more trips, higher percent ranking overall, and it took me less time to complete.  Of course, I am pleased.  

I earned a finisher medal and received a black, technical t-shirt and some other goodies.  The expo was good with about a dozen vendors.  Post race treats included Clif Builder bars and Lara Bars--two of my favorites--and doughnut holes that went down quite well.  However, I saved myself for our planned brunch with friends at Cafe Brio where I had the tamale cakes with eggs and bacon--excellent meal.

Next up, Quivering Quads trail half marathon........

1 comment:

  1. After reviewing the complete, official results:

    The fastest time on the day was 2:07--14 seconds faster than last year. The guy was impressive to see. Mine was 3:16, 17th fastest out of 542 climbers. Surprise! Last year I was 35th out of 416.