This Next Race Is Going To Be A Killer…

…and I’m only exaggerating slightly. I’ve signed up for a stair climb race that sounds so difficult and grueling that I can barely think about it before I start wincing from the inevitable pain and exhaustion. Wanna hear about it?

The event is called the San Diego TOWERthon, and it’s happening on the last day of this month, at 550 Corporate Center, a 20-story building in the heart of downtown San Diego. It’s actually right around the corner from the other San Diego skyscraper I raced up about a month ago.


Twenty stories is short is the world of competitive stair climbing. Every other building I’ve raced up has had somewhere between 32 and 75 stories. So, in theory, I shouldn’t be intimidated by a 20-story building, right? Wrong.

Let me take you through the day’s activities. First, there’s the Tower Sprint. It’s just like every other stair climb race I’ve done – you start at the bottom, and you climb, climb, climb until you get to the top, and then you’re done. This part doesn’t worry me… it’s what comes next that makes me want to curl up in the fetal position and weep.

The main event comes after the sprint, and it’s called the Tower Climb. And instead of climbing the building once, you climb it over and over and over and over again. In fact, you push yourself to climb it as many times as you can during a two-hour window. That’s right, two hours of stair climbing. Whoever climbs it the most times wins. Last year, the winner made 26 climbs in two hours – and that was in a taller, 24-story building! That’s 624 total stories – equivalent to climbing the Willis (formerly Sears) Tower in Chicago six times.

I’m not at that level. I won’t be in the running to make the leader board. But I am super competitive, whether it’s a board game or a stair climb race, and so if I sign up for something, I’m going to give it my all. Honestly, the thought of racing for two hours scares me inside and out, from head to toe. And it’s because of this fear that I made myself sign up. I like facing fears. Well, at least the stair-related ones.

Here’s what I gotta remember: I will be completely in control of my own pace. The race is only up the stairs. I’ll be taking the elevator down, so that’s a little break from climbing built into the event. And I can hang out in the lobby as much or as little as I’d like between climbs. So, really, I’ll only be in the stairwell when I want to be. But still. Two hours of stair climbing sounds like an engraved invitation to the emergency room.

I have yet to figure out a goal for the TOWERthon, and I’m not sure I’ll set one. Survival might be the most appropriate goal. Because this race is so different from the other stair climb races I’ve done, I don’t know what to expect, except that my pacing and endurance will be put to the ultimate test.

So, all I can do is be as prepared as I can be, and that means training is in full swing. On Saturday, I met up with my buddy Jeff and we hit the stairs. Jeff, by the way, is currently ranked #8 in the country along all male stair climbers (I’m #471, thankyouverymuch) and he won his age group at last year’s TOWERthon with 22 climbs (!!). We wanted to train at a really cool location that I’ll blog about eventually, but it just happened to be closed that day, so we ended up at the same stairways in the Hollywood Hills that I was at 4 days earlier.

Our workout began at the 136-step Broadview Terrace Stairway, which we climbed five times. Two of the climbs were sprints, and my goal was to beat my best sprint time from earlier in the week, which was 1:19. Having Jeff around was good motivation, because that dude is fast. I followed him during the first sprint, and tried to keep up, and finished in 1:11. Sweet! (Jeff, meanwhile, finished in 41 seconds). For the second sprint, I went first, and since Jeff’s time was 30 seconds faster than mine, he started 30 seconds after me, and my goal was to not let him catch up. No knowing where Jeff was really lit a fire under my ass, and I finished in… 1:06! Hot damn! And I stayed ahead of Jeff the entire time.

Then we moved to the 213-step Glencoe Stairway, which we climbed twice. On the second climb, we turned the final 86 steps (roughly four stories) into one last sprint, and settled on a goal to finish in 20 seconds. Jeff went first, and crushed it – 12 seconds. Then I went… and finished in 19.46 seconds! Woo-hoo!  You can barely see me, as I’m wearing all black (and on a hot day, too – it was around 85 degrees), but here I am in a celebratory pose after the sprint:


Jeff’s GPS pegged our entire workout, including stairs, as 2.7 miles. I also jogged to meet Jeff from the train station, and that was additional .7, so my total for the day was 3.4 miles and 1,106 steps.

Keep it up, David!

4 Responses to This Next Race Is Going To Be A Killer…

  1. G.M. Grena says:

    Nice job, David! By the way, you said, “And I can hang out in the lobby as much or as little as I’d like between climbs.” Just to make your day a little more strenuous, one of the rules that the building manager(s) stipulated (for safety reasons I suppose) is that the “hang out” area is on the patio outside the south entrance; the lobby will remain clear except for climbers going directly from the elevator bank to the stairwell door. So you’ll have to walk a little more between laps, but on the bright side, you’ll get some free sunshine to keep you warm!

  2. Amanda says:

    You are in the top 500 stair-climb-men (made up word alert) in the country? That’s AWESOME!

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