This weekend I am visiting my parents in my hometown near Cleveland, Ohio, in order to attend my sister-in-law's baby shower. Being the Obsessed Runner that I am, I always check a race calendar to see if there is anything going on in the area every time I come down here. At Thanksgiving I ran a Turkey Trot race with my dad. This time, however, there were no road races going on. I did see this "Tackle the Tower" thing that sounded interesting, so I registered. It took place at the Galleria at Erieview high-rise in downtown Cleveland. 37 flights of stairs for 646 total steps.
I drove downtown by myself; my parents live only 25 miles away from Cleveland. I stood around for a while until it was time to line up; participants were staggered 10 seconds apart and were ordered numerically. My start time was just after 10:13 am. I was #380. At the bottom of the stairs, a race volunteer with a stopwatch stayed me until it was time for me to head up; with a simple "Three..two...one...go!" he lifted his hand from my shoulder and I was off. I went up the first five or so flights with a perky spring in my step. Then my thighs started aching. My heart rate shot up. I started breathing extremely hard and fast. By the eighth floor I was plodding. I couldn't believe how fast I had deteriorated. And I still had 29 flights to go!
I trudged onward. Eventually I started trotting up the steps again. My heart rate wasn't coming down at all and I was breathing just as hard when I walked as when I trotted, so I figured, why not just trot? It will make this torture end sooner. The flights were laid out in three segments: a stretch of seven steps, a small landing, a second stretch of three steps, another small landing, and a final stretch of seven steps to the next floor. I would trot up the initial stretch, take a walk break on the second, and trot up the steps to the next floor. In this manner I grindingly continued upward. I eventually passed three people who had started just before me. I was passed near the end by someone who had started behind me. I was done. Utterly spent. I trotted the final flight to the 37th floor where someone ripped the tag from my race number and I staggered through the stairwell door onto the top floor of the building. I grabbed a bottle of water and sank down against the wall. I thought running was hard. This was by far harder than almost any physical exercise I have ever done.
Results were posted this afternoon and I finished 14th out of 42 women in my age group with a time of 7:21. Longest, hardest 7 minutes and 21 seconds of my life.
Anyone who wants to really test their mettle should do a stairclimb.