This weekend was the “Scale the Strat” stair climb in Las Vegas. This is my fourth time doing this event, and the first time since I did the survey climb and made the chart of the stairway at last year’s event. I thought this would help with planning.
A few days before the event, George had emailed me and asked about some discrepancies in my chart. It seems that some of the step counts and the elevation signs posted on the landings didn’t agree. We decided that either I’d made a mistake counting the flights, or some of the elevation signs were wrong, or perhaps both. In the meantime, I worked out some planned times for the three big landmarks on the way up the tower, based on the posted elevations above street level:
- The first rest area at 247 feet;
- The second rest area at 522 feet;
- The top of the tower core at 775 feet.
The climb up to the top of the tower core is just a little bit more than the practice climb from 4 to 55 that I’ve been doing at the Aon building in downtown Los Angeles, so I figured on being at the top of the tower core at about 9:15 or so. For the other two, I made up goal times based on the elevation. And this was where the trouble began.
When it was my turn to go, I started up at a reasonable, but brisk pace. Taking a quick look up, I could see the first rest area up above, and headed for that, reaching it right at 2:30, which was my goal. At that point, my lips were tingling, which doesn’t usually happen until the end of these things, but I figured that since I was on schedule, it was all right, and I kept going at the same pace.
I reached the second rest area at 6:00, which was also on schedule, but I was in trouble there. And I hit The Wall very soon after that. By the time the elevation signs got over 600 feet, I was slowing down, and when I got into the final staircase up the pod at the top of the tower, I was happy just to still be upright and moving. I made it to the top and flopped on the floor. My time was 11:47, which was a full minute slower than my time from last year.
So I spent some time lying on the floor at the top before heading back down. Kathleen was downstairs in the theater, where they had a big video monitor set up showing the feed from the four cameras in the stairwell. She’d gotten pictures of it when I went past the second rest area, and also at the finish. And when she saw my time, she knew that something was wrong. We hung around and schmoozed for a while, which was fun. And then we headed back to the room so I could get cleaned up and try to figure out what had gone wrong.
I didn’t work out what had happened until a couple days later. When George sent me his notes from surveying the staircase, I could see that the sign that said “247′” by the first rest area had to be wrong. The starting line is about 47 feet above street level. Based on the count of steps to that point, the rest area was about 226 feet above the starting line, and I’d thought it was 200 feet. So that meant I was going about 14% too fast on the first leg, and because my projected time was wrong, when I got there, I thought I was on schedule and kept on going at the too-fast pace. To put it in perspective, when I’m doing the practice climbs, I aim to do about 10 seconds per floor, and my pace here was the equivalent of about 8.5 seconds per floor. Not much of a difference, but it adds up by the time you’ve climbed the equivalent of 45 floors.
So now it all makes sense, and I’ve corrected my chart. As it turns out, I’d missed counting one 20-step flight near the beginning, and I miscounted the last fight as 10 instead of 9. So the final tally for the climb now stands at 1,391 steps. And I know now that the elevation signs in the stairwell are not to be taken as truth, although they’re still useful as markers. Guess I’ll just see how that works out next time I do it.