Climb Tampa – 42 floors in Shower Shoes

My original intent on traveling to Tampa, FL was to compete in the Climb Tampa race up the 42 storey US Bank Plaza. As plans for the trip evolved, the race took back seat to all of the other events that had been planned for me. The heel injuries that I had sustained two weeks earlier prevented me from wearing any type of shoes other than flip flops or shower shoes (sandals with a wide velcro strap fastening just below the toes). This in turn forced me to take two weeks off from training. So as the race drew near, I had decided that it would not be in my best interest to participate.

The thud of a flying kumquat landing on my chest aroused me from sleep. It was rather late in the morning on the day of the race (the one I wasn’t doing). Clint, my host, had prepared a delicious breakfast of sliced fruit for us to enjoy. As I groggily shared the locally grown bounty, we discussed my plans for the day. Clint thought that it might be a good idea for my sister Merrie and I to head down to the race and hand out flyers for my talk at the Glass Onion that evening. I agreed.

The race had long since started when we arrived and the excitement in the air was palpable. The rush of race day energy was now coursing through my veins. It didn’t take long for me to get sucked in. I jogged over to the registration table, which was packing up and asked if it was too late to register. After a short pause they said OK, but that I needed to hurry. The last person was about to head into the stairwell and I would need to be right behind them. I already had my “Running Raw” gear on as an advertisement for the talk that night, so all i needed to do was to take of my jacket and warm up pants and put on my racing shoes – wait a minute, I can’t wear shoes!! I had on my Adidas shower shoes, which flopped around on my feet as I walked, and ever tenth step I’d have to scuffle my feet to force my toes closer to the front of the shoes again. I had no choice. Using safety pins, I attached my timing chip to the large velcro strap on my left shoe and I dashed into the building. There was no time for a warmup, there was not even time to get nervous. As I followed the pink signs which directed me down a long corridor into the basement of the building, I caught up to a fireman wearing 60 pounds of gear. Seeing him made me relax. In comparison, I had it easy, and I had nothing to prove today. I was ill prepared and ill equipped and I was going to have fun for the first time in a stair race.

That lasted for all of 3 floors, and then my competitive engine took over. My legs felt really stiff, but my lungs felt great. I charged up the stairs, pulling the railings with all my might. It’s only 42 floors I told myself, as I kept pushing the pace. The shower shoes were light, breathable, and yeah, they flopped around on my feet and nearly came off a few times, but they did the job. The intense heat and humidity (think Florida) in the stairwell actually helped my throat, as the moist air coated my trachea. When I arrived at the top I was exhausted, but had none of the usual fear of suffocating from throat closure. My watch read 5 minutes and 11 seconds, a respectable time under any circumstances. An hour later when the results were posted, I learned that I had won the race by over a minute, a huge margin for such a short race. Within minutes I was approached by a few members of the media. As much as I tried to guide their attention they were not interested in my diet, they only wanted to know about the shoes.

This race makes me reflect on a statement that many of us uttered as children while playing hide and go seek: “Ready or not, here I come!”. I had always seen that phrase in terms of the hider’s preparation, but now I have a different perspective. There will be no more excuses or reasons for not doing, there will only be doing. Whether I’M ready or not, here I come.

Here is the race video:

Here are my Florida Adventures videos:

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