It’s June, and time again for the two-hour suffer-fest known as the San Diego Towerthon. Climbing a 20-story building is really no big deal in my book. But doing it over and over and over for two solid hours is a whole different experience. Last year, I managed to climb the building twenty times. This time, I wasn’t feeling quite so confident, and I didn’t think I could manage that. But I wanted to see how close I could come to it.
When it was time to go, I started my watch as I headed in the door for the first time. The rules of the event are that your two hours begin then, and as long as you’re in the door and climbing when the two hours runs out, you get credit for the last climb. So I started up the stairs. My target pace was 4 1/2 floors per minute. This used to feel like a very slow pace, and it used to be that I could climb a 50-story building five times in a row at that pace without slowing down.
I managed to do the first three or four climbs averaging about 4 – 4 1/2 minutes each time. But after that, I started to slow down. It was very hard to just put one foot in front of the other and keep moving. It was hot in the stairwell, and we were all suffering. They had powerful fans on the landings at 7, 11, and 16, and those helped a bit. It got to where when I came to those floors, I went up the flight below the fan on all fours to stay low and get the maximum cool air exposure. Still, I was dripping sweat and soaking my clothes.
I took a small cup of water at the top at the end of each climb, and I stopped briefly at the bottom at 30, 60, and 90 minutes in to swill some Gatorade that I’d brought along. That helped a little bit. But by the last half-hour, my socks and shoes were completely soaked. My shoes were heavy, and my feet were making squishy noises like I’d stepped in a puddle. Yick. By that time, I’d lost count of how many times I’d gone up. So I just kept on going. I was going slow near the end, but I didn’t stop. And when I got to the top and my watch said something like 1:52, I knew I’d have time for just one more climb. I rode the elevator down, and headed back up for the last time. I knew that it didn’t matter much how fast I went on the last time, but I wanted to get to the top as soon as possible, since it meant that I could stop. So I kept up my pace, and even had a little bit left for a burst of speed at the end. And then, like I’d promised myself, I got past the timing mat and immediately collapsed on the floor. And apparently, Madeleine was there to take a picture. I don’t even remember seeing her there.
So the final tally was nineteen climbs. That’s 361 floors, about 4,560 vertical feet, 1,390 meters. Truly a unique experience. And in the end, that was good enough for 3rd place in the 50-59 age group. Only four people older than me did more. So I can’t complain. All told, it was a good outing.