This afternoon was the YMCA Stair Climb to the Top up the U.S. Bank Tower in downtown Los Angeles. I’ve heard about this for years, and I’d always wanted to try it. So now was the time. Unlike the AON Tower stair climb last April, this one was held on Friday afternoon. This meant that riding my bike there was not really an option, since it was going to be dark by the time I went home. Friday traffic is the stuff of nightmares here, so I rode the train. The Pershing Square Metro station had some nice neon art in it. And of course, I took the stairs both in and out of the subway. Never too early to start warming up.
I walked over to the Ketchum Downtown YMCA and registered. Then I went into the locker room and changed. The YMCA is up on Bunker Hill, while the entrance to the building is down on 5th St. So I walked down the Bunker Hill Steps to get to the starting line. At the time, they were running the “Highrise Heroes” division, which is to say, firefighters in full gear. I rather doubt any of them turned in great times, but just the fact that they were able to make it to the top carrying all that stuff was impressive.
After the last firefighters had gone, they ran the individual age groups, starting with the 10-14 and 15-17 groups, and then working down from 60+. When they called the 40-49 men to the line, I got in line about 3/4 of the way back. I figured that would give me more guys to catch and pass. That’s how I get motivated in these things. I just focus on catching the guy in front of me. It’s sort of like that old joke about the bear: “I just have to outrun you.”
When it was my turn, I started up the stairs, doing two steps at a time. Back in April, I managed to maintain that pace for 32 floors. This time, I did nearly the entire thing two steps at a time. A few times, I dropped back to single steps to try and catch my breath. Which turned out to be fool’s errand, as you can see from the picture. That was taken about floor 50 or so. I was very deep in oxygen debt from the start.
At the top, I ran out of the stairwell onto the roof. Once I’d passed the timing pad, they gave me a bottle of water and a little medal to say that I’d made it. Then I immediately sat down and proceeded to pant like a dog. After about five minutes, the pain subsided, and I figured out how to hold the camera steady enough for a nice souvenir photo from the roof with the sunset over Hollywood in the background. Then I headed back down the other stairs to the 69th floor elevator lobby. We had to ride down to 54 and then get the express elevator back to the lobby.
The elevator let us out in the lobby on 5th St. Which meant that we had to go back up the Bunker Hill Steps to get to the YMCA, where they had food, drinks, and race results. Bein’ a badass, I ran up the steps. Wow, did that hurt. I went into the locker room and changed back to my street clothes. Then I went to the little beer garden they had set up. They gave every finisher a ticket for a free beer. By then, I was hacking up phlegm at a furious rate. I talked to a woman who had won the 60+ division, and she said that that’s referred to as “Climber’s Cough”, and it’s a known phenomenon. In other words, it’s a Feature. She also told me about how there’s apparently a circuit of these stair climbs around the country. The one up the Stratosphere in Las Vegas sounds like a hoot. I don’t know if I’d be up for more traveling than that. Maybe San Francisco for the Bank of America building.
When they posted the results, I was pleased to see that I’d come in at 15:07, which was good for 7th place in the 40-49 division. I’d guessed that I’d be around 15 minutes. That time would have been good for 6th in the 50-59 division, and 5th place in 30-39. Apparently, us old guys are tough.
Since I wasn’t in the top three, there was not going to be a medal in my evening this year. So I headed back to the subway to go home. I still took the stairs, though.
It was a very fun adventure.
Update: The overall results are posted online now, and I was 28th out of 309 runners in the Open division. There were only five guys my age or older who went faster than I did. Results are here