Sunday morning was a little dreary in San Diego – it even rained a little while I was driving in – but the sun started peeking through the clouds as I approached the 500-foot One America Plaza building.
With 34 floors, One America Plaza is hardly a record-breaker. It may be the tallest building in San Diego, but it’s 20 floors shorter than other other building I’ve raced up. Still, it’s imposing when you’re directly out front on the sidewalk.
And, of course, my obligatory selfie with the building:
Good shot of the building… and good shot of my man-boob!
I arrived nice and early, at 8:30am, so I had plenty of time before my 9:30am start. One of the big sponsors was an ambulance company named Falck, and they parked a vehicle right out front. It reminded me of some very important people in my life (who have that last name), which, in turn, gave me a big ol’ smile.
My smile got bigger after I registered and got my bib, because I had the BEST BIB NUMBER EVER!
Good ol’ lucky number 69! No, I didn’t ask for it. And no, I didn’t mind wearing it, either!
I warmed up by running for a few blocks, and followed that up with lots of stretching. My team, the West Coast Labels/X Gym team, got to be the first group to enter the stairwell, and that was exciting. So many folks on that team are elite runners – the best of the best – and to run with them (or, actually, just after them) motivated me.
The race was up 32 of the building’s 34 floors, and because it’s on the shorter side, I basically considered it a sprint. This was my first sprint race, and I wasn’t sure how it was gonna pan out. Stair climbing is so difficult to begin with, and I get wiped out pretty quickly on longer climbs, so I might get wiped out even more quickly during a sprint.
Still, I had a goal, and that helped me focus. I wanted to finish in 7 min, 12 seconds. I got that time by multiplying my best seconds-per-floor average (13.5 seconds) by 32 floors. While I was training for the race, I kept thinking that goal was generous, because surely I’d be able to improve my pace during a sprint, right? But then, 5 days before the race, I did a time trial during a practice in the Aon Center, and made it 32 floors in 7:09. I was happy – three seconds faster than my goal – but I started second-guessing my sprinting abilities.
In the final few seconds before entering the stairwell, I repeated some positive thoughts in my head: You can do this. You got this. You’re gonna kill it. And then I was off! I maintained a good form and focused on the stairs in front of me, which kept me from noticing many of the floor numbers. When I did notice floor numbers, I spun them into positive reminders: Floor 17 – already over halfway done!
I pushed myself hard, and started feeling the burn and exhaustion quickly. Because the building was short, I pushed through it. Tried to ignore it. Focused on double-stepping the entire way (which I think I did, although can’t quite remember). This was the first race where no one passed me, and I passed no one. It was like I had the stairwell to myself, and I loved it. When I hit floor 27, I rallied to give it more gas and finish strong. I switched from a hand-over-hand technique on the inner rail to using both rails, and it seemed to work. The 32nd floor arrived quickly, and after I crossed the finish line, I could barely stand. First I braced myself against a wall, and seconds later, I was lying face down on the carpet.
After recuperating for a few minutes, I picked up my finisher’s certificate.
And the view from 32 stories up? You’re looking at it. The race concluded in an interior hallway. No windows. What a bummer!
Within minutes of returning to the lobby (via elevator), I received an email from the timing company with my official time: 5 minutes, 32 seconds. WHAT?! That’s 1:40 faster than my goal! HOLY CRAP!
For a few minutes, I was three seconds away from cracking the top ten:
But that chart was preliminary, before tons of racers had even started. At the end of the day, I finished in 46th place – a number I’m very happy about!
I’m most thrilled with how I crushed my goal. Destroyed it. Smashed it. Shattered it. Gutted it. Annihilated it. Oh – and check this out: My pace was a staggering 10.4 seconds per floor – over 3 seconds faster than my previous best!
I stuck around afterwards to chat, congratulate, and catch up with friends, and ultimately stayed until the awards ceremony, where I watched friend after friend pick up medals for their amazing climbs – including my pal Tommy, who I cheered on at “American Ninja Warrior” a few weeks ago, who won the entire race with an unbelievable time of 2:56. That’s right, 32 stories in under 3 minutes.
At one point, my buddy Mark interrupted me mid-conversation, took my hand, and literally dragged me across the lobby to the event’s emcee, local ABC news anchor Steve Atkinson, who was interviewing participants. Mark bragged about my weight loss, and Steve interviewed me for a few seconds in front of the crowd, which was fun, although I was caught off-guard and stammered a lot.
Big thanks to my donors Sheryl, Felise, Margaret, Diane, Dana, and Jesse, whose generous contributions to the American Lung Association allowed me to participate. The event raised over $55,000! This race was a fun experience, and a testament to what I’ve capable of. I’m still stunned by my time. And now I can add One America Plaza to the list of skyscrapers I’ve raced up!
No time to rest on my laurels, though… I have another race this Saturday, at the Aon Center in Los Angeles. With 63 stories, it’s almost twice as tall as One America Plaza. Another opportunity to smash a goal!
KEEP IT UP, DAVID!