US Bank Center Stair Climb, Milwaukee

It’s been a very exciting week here in the windy city, and feeling more and more like home everyday.

I was a bit disappointed with my third place at the Sears Tower, so I drove up to Milwaukee yesterday afternoon to compete in the Climb for a Cure tower race up the US Bank Center. Although it’s the tallest building in Milwaukee, it’s only half as tall as the Sears Tower in Chicago. I thought a 45 storey climb would be a sprint compared to the 103 floors of the Sears Tower. I thought wrong.

Anxious to “redeem” myself in this race, I edged to the front of the line as the racers began to line up. Standing next to me were a group of some of the finest examples of athleticism I’ve ever seen – The Milwaukee Bonecrushers arena football team. These guys have speed, strength and quads that go on for days. In addition, there were several elite stair climb athletes that I’ve seen in LA, Chicago and NYC. So needless to say, I was VERY nervous. When the starter announced that the race would begin in 30 seconds and asked who would like to go first (15 seconds separated each racer), everyone backed away, leaving me standing alone. I’ve never started first in a stair race, and the thought of there being no one to catch and EVERYONE behind me chasing my heels, made my pre-race jitters even worse.

The gun went off and I ran like an antelope with a cheetah in hot pursuit. I knew my pace was unsustainable, but the fear inside of me drove me on with reckless abandon. I didn’t want to have ANYTHING left in the tank when I finished this race.

When the pain in my quads, the nausea in my stomach, and the sandpaper-like feeling in my throat had all reached an intolerable limit, I lifted my head to see how much more of this torture I had to endure. The sign said 21. I was not yet halfway done. But I was DONE. I slowed my pace a bit and lurched forward with pride being my main fuel at this point. I pulled myself up the stairs with mostly my arms (using the railings) as my legs just wouldn’t cooperate anymore. I drifted into some safe place in my head where I wouldn’t feel the pain anymore. I imagine it’s similar to the experience of going into shock. That only lasted until I lifted my head again and saw that it only read 30 – I still had a long way to go. At this point, the high volume of dry stale air I was inhaling began to really burn my trachea and lungs, my throat was beginning to close off, and it was becoming hard to take a full breath.

At the 35th floor I began to somehow pick up the pace. Not because I wanted to finish with a good time, but because I could no longer endure this, and I needed to be over as soon as possible. In a flash I was coming through the door at the top and people were cheering, and then I collapsed. I laid there writhing in pain for quite some time as others began to finish behind me.

It would be half an hour before my throat would open up enough for me to get more than a thin wisp of air in my lungs. I swore to those around me that I’d never do another tower race, that I hated them.

Half an hour after that, I was informed that I had won the race by 50 seconds, finishing in 5:23, well ahead of the Bonecrushers, the other elite racers and besting all but one of the 3 person relay teams (they ran 15 floors each). With the taste of victory in my mouth, it didn’t take long for someone to talk me into doing the 84 storey Aon Center in Chicago in January, and the 90 storey Hancock Center in Chicago in February. The ego is a funny thing. I just hope that someone, somewhere is inspired to make healthier choices because of these events.

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