Stan’s Obligatory Blog



Filed under: — stan @ 11:19 pm

It’s November, and that means it’s time to go to Chicago for the stair climb up the Sears Willis Tower. The beast hasn’t gotten any smaller. I’ve gotten a bit faster this year, though, so I thought that this might be the year I could break the 20-minute barrier.

On Saturday, we took an architecture tour on a boat on the Chicago River. This gave us a good view of the tower, and it gave me a chance to think about the insane thing I was going to be doing in the morning.

On Saturday evening, we met up with the West Coast Labels team for the pre-climb dinner at the Elephant and Castle. That was a nice time. Then we headed back to the hotel to try and get a good night’s sleep before the next morning’s ordeal.

In the morning, I got up and took the train downtown. I didn’t get up extra-early to make the 7:00AM start. I thought it was probably more important to get sleep, although in the end, perhaps that wasn’t the best idea. I ended up starting up the stairs at about 8:40, and the traffic in the stairwell was like the Harbor Freeway at 5:00 on a Friday. I had to push through many groups of people. Nobody passed me, but I can’t even begin to estimate how many people I passed. And I was going at a pace that I consider slow. I’d brought my metronome out of retirement for this climb. I was planning on doing 11.6 seconds per floor, which is a modest pace, but one I thought I could maintain all the way up to 103.

At the beginning, I felt like I was going very slow. That feeling lasted up to about 50. At that point, I was starting to get tired, so maintaining the pace was becoming a little bit of an effort. By 75, I was having to push to maintain the pace, and by 90, it was getting grim. I don’t remember much about the last 13 floors. I was in a bit of a fog. I remember seeing the light coming through the door at 103. I stumbled up onto the landing and over the finish line. The timing mat was right in the doorway, and I tripped on it, and I went down like a sack of potatoes. I guess that means I’d picked the right pace, since I had nothing left at that point. Fortunately, my left foot made it on to the mat, so my time was recorded properly. I could hear the finish line people talking to the climbers coming up behind me to watch out and not trip over me, since I was sort of lying on the finish line. I stayed there for about 10 seconds before summoning the energy to get up on all fours and crawl out of the way.

Sadly, I don’t have a picture of this, probably my most-dramatic finish yet. So I had to simulate it. I hope the picture gives you an idea of what it must have looked like. And it wasn’t until much later that I even noticed the scrape on my knee and forehead bruise I’d gotten from doing the face-plant. At least this, of all the races I’ve done, is the only one that finishes in a carpeted room. That’s better for face-planting than the bare concrete or linoleum that is usually at the finish of these races.

After about five minutes lying on the floor, I managed to get up and make my way to the elevator for the trip back to the lobby. When I got there, I sat down leaning against the wall for a long time. This was the most wiped-out I’ve ever been after one of these climbs. I had originally planned on walking up slowly a second time to do a survey to make a chart of the stairs, but by then, I knew that just wasn’t in the cards.

My time was 20:57, which is a solid 20 seconds faster than last year. But it’s still not sub-20. I think if I’d not had to fight traffic, I might have gone about 30 seconds faster, so that’s my plan for next year. If I get up early for the early start, then I only have to shave off another 30 or so seconds to get under 20.

So I’ll be back next year. And I’ll get you yet, Willis. And your little dog, too!

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