You know what feels really good? When something that used to absolutely terrify you is no longer scary. In less than two weeks, I’ll be competing in my toughest stair climb race yet, the San Diego TowerTHON. It’s a two-hour endurance event, and I’ve never raced for nearly that long. To be quite frank, it scares the shit out of me (pardon my French). Well, it used to scare the shit out of me. It doesn’t anymore, and I can thank… a quick trip to Paris. Paris, Las Vegas!
I went to Las Vegas for 36 hours last week to visit my dad, who was in town for a conference. While there, I got in a great workout. The Paris hotel has 33 floors, so I hit the stairwell.
I’ve been doing a lot of sprints during my stair training lately (read about them in my Hollywood Bowl and High Tower Court posts), so I decided to focus on endurance. I gave myself a challenge that echoed what I’d be doing during the TowerTHON: How many times could I climb the Paris hotel in one hour?
I did some recon and laid out some parameters:
- The tower is shaped like a big “X,” with elevators in the center. There are four stairwells, one at the end of each wing. I would alternate stairwells just to switch things up.
- Stairs up, elevator down. (Actually, 2 elevators: one from 33 to the lobby, and another from the lobby to 4). The elevators were equidistant from all four stairwells, which were a few hundred feet away.
- No sprinting. I’d stay at a moderate pace the whole time and keep moving. This included briskly walking, not running, to and from the elevators. The only times I could stop was when I was in an elevator or waiting for one to arrive. (I paused briefly a few more times to snap photos.)
- I would start on the 4th floor, and climb to 33, for the sake of convenience. The 4th floor was the first floor with hotel rooms, and I didn’t want to go hunting for stairwell entrances in the casino and more public areas of the building.
- I had to climb the entire hour. If I made it to the base of a stairwell with one minute left in the hour, I had to start another climb. No bailing early.
I started right at 10am in the southeast stairwell. The sign at my starting point had some added messages:
- “He is among us.”
- “She is also.”
- “Tell her to blow me, then.”
In fact, there were doodles and notes all through that stairwell. A previous climber had drawn the same smiley face on nearly every floor, and someone else had come along and added dialogue. I’m no Nancy Drew, but I was still able to deduce that the captioner had one thing on his mind.
At another point, a landing was saturated with the pungent smell of bleach, so that was probably the most recent place Drunky McSixPack puked their guts out. Stay classy, Las Vegas!
Back to the stairs. They were a pretty standard affair.
There were 16 steps between most floors, divided 8 and 8, with all left turns. At the very top, the floors got taller (to accommodate the fancy-pants suites, I imagine). Floors 28, 30, and 31 had 20 steps, and the final flight, between 32 and 33, had 26. Altogether, there were 470 steps between floors 4 and 33 (including the fact that there’s no floor 13).
The first few climbs went very well. I restrained myself from pushing too hard, but kept at a steady, even clip that was maintainable but aggressive. (FYI, even this moderate pace got my heart rate between 160-170 during every climb.) I had my stair gloves and focused on technique, specifically using the handrails effectively and making efficient turns on the landings.
Here’s the view from the 33rd floor, including Planet Hollywood and City Center…
…and a selfie in the elevator with an ad for Gordon Ramsay Steak, a Paris restaurant. Here’s my best bad-ass Gordon-esque pose:
I crossed the 30-minute mark during my fourth climb, and started to figure out that it was taking me roughly 5 minutes to do a climb, and another 4 to navigate the hallways and elevators back to the start.
I was expecting to hit a wall during the second half, but that wall never came, and that was hugely motivating. I keep climbing, finishing a fourth ascend… and a fifth… and a sixth! I reached the bottom of the stairwell with 3 minutes left in my hour, and started my seventh climb, which I finished at 11:03am.
Seven climbs in slightly over an hour! The crazy thing is, I could have kept going. I was tired, but not nearly as wiped as I thought I would be. Here am I about to take the elevator down for the 7th and final time:
STATS FOR THIS WORKOUT:
- Number of Floors In Each Climb: 28 (33, minus 4, minus 1, as there’s no floor 13)
- Total Number of Climbs: 7
- Total Number of Floors Climbed: 196 (!)
- Number of Steps in Each Climb: 470
- Total Number of Steps Climbed: 3,290 (!!)
- Total Number of Hotel Employees on the 33rd Floor Who Asked If I Climbed All the Way Up: 1
After the workout was over, I showered and met my dad for a late breakfast. Afterward, I stopped at the 3rd floor rooftop pool to snap this photo of me and the building I just conquered:
One hour of continuous stair climbing is not the same thing as two hours, which is what I’ll be doing at the TowerTHON. But still, in addition to being physically demanding, this workout was hugely empowering, because it showed me that, endurance-wise, I’m in good shape. I’m in really good shape. My training isn’t over yet, but this one workout turned the TowerTHON from an imposing nightmare into a manageable, conquerable challenge.
I’m no longer scared for the TowerTHON. I’m excited for it!
Keep it up, David!
More photos from Vegas in my next post, including me and my dad, and all my meals!