Race Recap (and VIDEO!): Is the Third Time a Charm in the Aon Center?

Another weekend, another stair climb race! For the third time in six weekends, I’ve opted to race up an ungodly number of stairs for fun.

David-pointing-Aon-Center-Los-AngelesWhether or not these races are actually “fun” is debatable. (It’s a debate that still rages in my own head!)  What’s not debatable is that they’re intensely difficult, extraordinarily challenging, and immensely rewarding. In other words, totally worth it!

Saturday’s race was at the Aon Center in LA – the 63-story building that I’m pointing at in the photo. This was my third time competing at the Aon Center – in a race that benefits the American Lung Association – and I was determined to set a personal best time.

Plus, this recap has something that none of my recaps have ever had: a VIDEO! I filmed my entire climb and made a 4-minute video that takes you along for the ride. So go make some popcorn (hold the butter) and settle in. Are you ready?

Before I get to the video, just a touch of context. The Aon Center has 1,393 steps. In 2012, I climbed them in 15 min., 24 sec. Last year, I climbed them in 17:21 (I was less prepared and getting over a cold). So my goal was clear: Be faster than 15:24. I felt as prepared as I was going to be – and my recent races in Las Vegas and San Diego helped get me in a great race mindset.

How did I do? Let’s go to the videotape!

If you can’t see the embedded video, click here to watch on YouTube.  (You should also click that link so you can share the video on Facebook, Twitter, and with all your friends and family!)

Pretty sweet video, huh? I’m really proud of how it came together. Big thanks to Jeff Dinkin and Cindy Levine – couldn’t have made it without either of them!

SPOILER ALERT – Don’t keep reading until you watch the video! If you’re reading this, than you know I reached my goal. I beat my previous best by 10 seconds, and finished in 15:14. Woohoo!


AND I got my now-standard selfie with the building towering above me:


AND I got an awesome shot from the roof, 850 feet above the ground:


That’s right, lucky number 669 on my bib! Last week, I had bib #69 in San Diego… coincidence?

The professional sports photographer in the stairwell snapped this photo of me:


It’s a little grainy because I only paid for the smallest digital size, but… good form, David!

The video really says it all for this race. Well, almost. A few more thoughts:

  • Strapping a camera to my forehead did wonders for my form. I didn’t want evidence of any slacking, so I buckled down, even when I was exhausted, and focused on using the rails and double-stepping the entire way (there were about 4 half-floor flights that I single-stepped, but that’s it). This is a marked improvement over my Stratosphere climb, which is very similar in height and was a mess when it came to form.
  • All my training in the Aon Center paid off. In the past few months, I went to five practice sessions (one of which I blogged about), and climbed the building a total of 15 times. I know that building inside and out. There were no surprises. I was the least nervous before this race than I have been in a long time, and I think that’s why.

OH – the STATS! My time of 15:14 means I finished:

  • 23rd in my division (out of 96 men aged 30-39)
  • 83rd among all men (out of 309 total)
  • 113th overall (among 749 racers)
  • My average pace was 14.5 seconds per floor – my best ever for an Aon Center climb!

Thanks to an amazing group of friends and supporters, I also raised $155 for the American Lung Association. Big thank-yous to Anne, Amy, Felise, Joanne, Dana, Ben and Jesse! In total, the race raised $165,000+.

Best of all, with this climb over and done with, I can take a little breather from the stairs. I’ve earned a hiatus. I’m staying off the StairMaster and out of skyscraper stairwells, at least for a little bit.

For a long time, it looked like my next race wasn’t going to be until the U.S. Bank Tower climb in September. But now I have my eye on another stair race in a few months… and it’s a race unlike any I’ve done yet. It scares the crap out of me, which means I should probably do it, just to conquer that fear. I’ll share specifics after I officially register – if I officially register!

In the meantime, I’m still high as a kite from my crazy successful Aon climb. With eight stair races under my belt (recaps for all of them on my Races & Events page), I’ve become a pro at tossing around times and numbers and floor counts. Every once in a while, though, I’ll slow down for just a second and consider what I’ve actually accomplished – in this case, climbing a 63-story building in just over 15 minutes – and the next thing I know, I’m picking my own jaw up off the ground.


22 Responses to Race Recap (and VIDEO!): Is the Third Time a Charm in the Aon Center?

  1. Jeff Dinkin says:

    Awesome video which captured an excellent accomplishment. As far as that “if” you sign up for the stair event that scares the hell out of you, I’m pretty confident it will be “when” you sign up……

    Regardless, you’ve definitely earned a break from the stairs. I certainly know I’m taking one! 🙂

  2. Dana says:

    Awesome! I love the video. Can’t wait to hear the details on the next race, if and when, you sign up.

    In the mean time enjoy your well deserved break!

  3. Maggie says:

    I’ll plan on seeing you in San Diego 🙂

    Great job at Aon!

  4. Mom says:

    great video – I was exhausted too! Love the music, great accomplishment – 23rd out of 96!! Proud of you, son!

  5. Sarah Van Houten says:

    Did you collapse at the end? I love the music!! Nice job. Looks really hard

    • David says:

      I wouldn’t say I collapsed. I purposefully laid down because I was so exhausted. Couldn’t stand for much longer! I was on the ground for a few minutes, just until my heart rate simmered down a little bit.

  6. G.M. Grena says:

    Great job on this climb & your overall fitness improvement, David! Was nice meeting you at the training sessions (I’m the guy packin’ an extra 50# occasionally). And thanks for sharing your video with us. Excellent production job! I especially like the ending so non-climbers can get a feel for the struggle & exhaustion leading to the collapse. See you in SD at TT for FJV (whatever that means)!

    • David says:

      Thanks for stopping by, George, and thanks for such a great note! Great meeting you in the stairwells as well. Have no idea what you’re talking about in that last sentence. 🙂

  7. Alexis Garcia says:

    Wow, you kicked a$$ up the stairs! Watching the video made me want to cheer you on and give you a high five. Seeing you do this is inspiring. A well done climb and video!!

  8. Bob Dailey says:

    This was my fifth year climbing the AON Tower. They changed the course this year compared to previous years and I noticed that everyone’s times (mine included) were around one minute slower. Given that, you should be extra proud of your improvement over last year. Here’s a link to my blog post on the event:


    • Jeff Dinkin says:

      Hi Bob, the only “course change” this year was using the right door to enter the building, instead of the left one. The Stair count is identical from the ground floor to the 4th floor (80 stairs).

      Once we reach that long hallway on the 4th floor, the remainder of the climb is the same as past years. Still a total of 1,393 steps and 858 feet to the glorious rooftop finish. Most of my friends times were comparable, or faster than last year. I set a PR by 7 seconds over my 2012 time, and was 10 seconds faster than what I did last year.

      Good luck with your future climbs!

    • David says:

      Thanks, Jeff, for the additional info! Thanks for stopping by, Bob. I just read your post – congrats on a great climb, and hope to meet you at AON next year!

    • G.M. Grena says:

      Hi Bob! In addition to what Jeff-the-PJ-Beater said, the difference between last year’s 1st set of flights & this year’s only amounts to about 2 or 3 horizontal steps. I, too, did better this year than last, & your remark about “everyone’s times” being slower got me curious. So here’s how the top 29 repeat climbers did in terms of seconds (positive values are faster this year; negative values are slower; after these 29 it became more time-consuming to search for repeat climbers):

      Ronkainen, Travis 309
      Ronk, Stephen 131
      Flores, Baudelio 104
      Levine, Cindy 79
      Stocker, Matias 76
      Pais, Douglas 58
      Stermer, Steve 48
      Whitney, Chris 47
      Zivkovic, Zivadin 33
      Watkins, Derek 31
      Wiebe, Natalee 30
      me 24
      Bester, Adam 17
      Jeff 10
      Ruiz, Maria 9
      Fontillas Ronk, Madeleine 0
      Glassey, Ryan -3
      Kriozere, Steve -6
      Glassey, P J -8
      Harris, Chris -11
      Stocker, Veronica -14
      Trahanovsky, Mark -14
      Zeigel, Lisa -20
      Altamirano, Luis Cesar -21
      Aklufi, Erika -22
      Hensley, Brett -25
      Lopez, Alberto -25
      Dailey, Bob -44
      Schwarz, Stanley -56

      So 15 improved, 1 stayed the same, & only 13 were slower. And I know at least 3 of the ones who were not faster were due to recovering from serious physical impairments over the past few months.

      • Bob Dailey says:

        Thanks for that research. I’ll have to train harder and find more speed.

      • David says:

        Wow George, thanks for assembling all that data! I’d like to add my name to that list:
        David Garcia 127 (and 10 compared to 2 years ago)

      • G.M. Grena says:

        Yes, David, you had an excellent improvement too. I thought about you after I had already posted the list. (D’oh!) Each of the people on my short list had climbed under 14 minutes either last year or this year (13:42 to be exact). If you continue improving at your current rate, it’ll be exciting to see if you can go sub-14 at this one next year. But meanwhile, let’s revisit these statistics for the US Bank climb in September.

        And Bob, please say “hello” if you see me at the YMCA training climbs this summer, & I’ll be glad to follow you up a lap to see if I can help you “find more speed.”

      • David says:

        Sub-14 is a tall order! Sub-15 may be more achievable. 🙂

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