Race Recap: 2013 CF Climb

Damn, Saturday was an exciting day! I competed in the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation’s CF Climb, and it was a milestone race.

Not only was it my 5th stair climb race, but it was my 10th race overall! (That number also includes a 5k, three 10ks, and an open water swim. Read about all of them on my Races & Events page.)

BEST YET, I set a personal record! More on that later. First, check out the building I scaled: The 54-story Figueroa at Wilshire building in downtown Los Angeles:


figueroa-at-wilshire-buildingWhile it’s certainly impressive, and a notable feature on the Los Angeles skyline, the Figueroa at Wilshire is no record breaker, and never has been.

At 717 feet, the Figueroa at Wilshire is the 8th tallest in Los Angeles, the 10th tallest in California, and, depending on where you look, either the 96th or 107th tallest in the country.

Despite all this, it’s still a formidable challenge to race up the building’s 54 stories in a stairwell. And it’s because the building isn’t the tallest that I gave myself a goal time to beat.

Normally, making it to the top of a skyscraper without stopping is goal enough for me, because they are brutally difficult races. But I was up for a bigger challenge, so I calculated my average seconds-per-floor pace from my previous races, and based on those, set a goal to climb a floor in this building every 15.5 seconds. With that pace, it would take 13 min., 57 sec. to reach the roof. So I made that my goal.

I felt more prepared for this race than I have for any other, thanks to a ton of training and the Hike the Halo race that happened just 6 days ago. But that didn’t mean I wasn’t nervous. They let a climber in the stairwell every 15 seconds at the start line, and my friend Madeleine sneakily got this pensive photo of me while I waited for my turn:


And a stranger took this photo of me and my bib – good ol’ lucky number 123!


Once I got in the building, I felt at ease. The nerves went away and I just climbed. I started by doing as many floors as I could taking the steps two at a time. That lasted about 10 or 11 floors, and then I switched to a system where I was climbing every 4th flight two steps at a time. That system provided me a burst of energy every time I started feeling myself slow down, which was helpful.

I had the same feelings of utter exhaustion and complete misery that I’ve had during every stair race, but this time around, I powered through them quicker and more easily. I focused on my footwork and making efficient turns on the landings. I tried to use the handrails to my advantage. I gave it everything I had, and before I knew it, I was standing on the helipad… ON THE ROOF!




My favorite rooftop photo is this one, featuring me with the two other skyscrapers I’ve climbed behind me:


When I crossed that finish line, it felt like my heart was going to burst from my chest, from both the overwhelming sense of accomplishment and the excruciating physical exertion. If there’s one thing my previous climbs taught me, it’s that going 100% during a stair climb race results in what I imagine a heart attack would feel like!

By the time I made it back to earth (via elevator), they had started posting results. My jaw dropped when I saw my time:


TWELVE MINUTES, TEN SECONDS! Holy cow! I beat my goal time by 1 minute, 47 seconds! I ended up finishing 13th among Men 30-39, and 58th among all runners, but that time is what’s important to me. That’s the result of hard work, my friends!

**UPDATE!** According to revised official results, I finished 15th among Men 30-39, 51st among all men, and 62nd among 239 total runners!

Best of all, I set an ALL-TIME PERSONAL RECORD for my pace per floor! During my very first race, in the AON Center, my pace was 14.6 seconds per floor. A year later, in that same building, I slowed down to 16.5. In the US Bank Tower, I averaged 16.4. My pace during this race was 13.5 – I beat my previous best pace by OVER A SECOND!

Here’s where things got really crazy. I spent some time in the plaza out front, catching up and congratulating a bunch of stair climb friends (a group that grows at every race I attend), and, less than an hour after finishing my climb, I got talked into climbing the stairwell again. The peer pressure came from Madeleine and Veronica, two stair climb pros that finished 2nd and 1st among all women in this race. Here’s the three of us before entering the stairwell a second time:


The second time up the stairs was very leisurely. We weren’t racing. We chatted and goofed off. Here’s Madeleine and I battling for the lead, and then crawling from exhaustion:


Here I am defending my lead from Veronica…


…And Veronica taking her revenge:


But we made it to the roof… a SECOND TIME!


For those keeping track (like me), that’s 108 stories that I climbed!

I also got some pointers during the climb from the ladies on posture, how to better use the handrails to help me, and how to cut down on time spent making turns on the landings. This was all valuable information to a relative new stair climber like me. Another stair climbing friend suggested that with some changes to my form, I could easily shave a minute off my times. Looks like I have some work in front of me!

We got back down to the plaza just in time for Veronica and Madeleine to get their medals during the awards ceremony. Then, Madeleine took this awesome photo of me and the building I conquered… twice!


There’s a mountain range between my home and downtown Los Angeles, so I don’t see the skyline every single day. Here’s a pretty picture of the skyline at dusk:


Now that I have another skyscraper climb under my belt, I love that every time I head downtown or see that skyline, this is what I’ll think:


That picture gives me goosebumps. In the best possible way.


PS: I ran this race on my sister’s birthday… HAPPY BIRTHDAY, SARAH!

PPS: Thanks to all the donors that made this race possible for me! I’m looking at you, Chris and Ron R., Laura G., Linnea and Robert S., Emily S., Sarah V.H., Annie and Dean F., and Joanne and Joe G!

10 Responses to Race Recap: 2013 CF Climb

  1. Karen Geninatti says:

    Really enjoyed reading this!

    Karen Geninatti Sent from my iThing


  2. David you are amazing and such an inspiration. Once I move back to somewhere that has skyscrapers I am for sure doing a race. Hope to see you at Fitbloggin’ this year! 🙂

  3. I really enjoyed the photos of the “second time” It looks like you were having fun.

  4. Toledo Lefty says:

    Wow — doing it twice. That’s hard-core!

    BTW, I showed your paper weight graph pictures to my husband the other day because I find them so amazing. Sometime I’d love to hear a recap of how you got started.

  5. Lisa Zeigel says:

    Fun read David! Glad you had such a great experience!

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