What do Los Angeles, San Diego, Las Vegas, Chicago, Seattle, Portland, Detroit, Phoenix and San Francisco have in common? They’re all cities I’ve done stair races in! And now I can add a tenth city to the list – that’s right, MY TENTH CITY! That’s because this past weekend, I raced…
The event was the inaugural Heroes Memorial Climb, which benefited Heroes in Action, a non-profit that supports firefighters, police officers and veterans. It was held at Reunion Tower, which is 57 stories and 560 feet tall.
It was a foggy, humid, dreary day – we couldn’t even see the tops of the other downtown skyscrapers. My friend Mike, whom I’ve known since sixth grade and has lived in Dallas for eight years, came along, and it was great to have a friend there.
This was a multi-climb, so the race was twice up the Reunion tower stairs, for a total of 114 stories and 1,674 steps. They were short floors, though, as is common in towers like this. For comparison’s sake, the US Bank Tower in downtown Los Angeles has 1,664 steps, and it’s 75 stories tall.
We got there around 7am, with plenty of time to check in and stretch before my 7:40 start time. I was in the first wave, of competitive climbers, and the race began in the basement. The stairs were wider than many stairwells, and each flight was a little longer than usual – 14 steps. (It seems like, in this tower, one flight equaled one floor.)
Longer flights could make for a more open space, like in the Stratosphere in Las Vegas, but in here there were actually two sets of stairs, snaking around each other, the whole way up. That meant some tight spots. I’m 6’4″, and I came very close to smacking my head on every turn. There was maybe 1/2 an inch of clearance between the top of my head and the landing above me. I’ve never been concerned with staying concussion-free during a stair race before!
My favorite part of the stairwell was that you could look over the outside rail and see all the way down, hundreds of feet. This is not a stair race for folks with vertigo or issues with heights! There are just a few steel bars between you and certain death. This is looking down, from near the top:
I knew my challenge for this race would be pacing. I tend to go out too hard at the beginning, and there are a lot of steps to climb before the finish line. I made an effort to slow myself down at the start, and I found a nice rhythm pretty early on – after figuring out that I should crouch on the landings to avoid a head injury.
Because there aren’t doors on the landing leading to offices or hotel rooms, it’s hard to tell where you are during the race. Every so often there was a number stenciled on the concrete wall on a landing, which I assumed was a floor number, but I didn’t know for sure. Not knowing how far I had gone was both awesome and frustrating. At other races, seeing the floor count makes a race go by even slower, but not knowing anything makes it harder to pace.
The stairs changed, though, when we made it to the actual three-story sphere at the top of the tower. There, it switched to a very unique triangular stairwell, with a lighted, modern chandelier hanging down the center, and murals on the landings.
I reached this point at the top of my first climb, and switched into sprint mode, which was hard, since I was exhausted. I stumbled out onto the 57th floor, which is a Wolfgang Puck restaurant, took a bottle of water from a volunteer, and looked down at my feet. I didn’t want to enjoy the views until after I was done, and this marked the halfway point.
According to my own watch, my first climb took 9 minutes and 15 seconds, and while my legs were aching, I felt ready for more. It took a few minutes to walk down two stories and find the right elevator to get back to the basement. I rested for a few more minutes in the basement (none of this was including in my final time – the only time that counts is the time spent climbing up) and headed back into the stairwell.
It was easier, the second time around, to get into a good climbing rhythm, because I knew the stairwell. My legs were on fire shortly into the second climb, and even though I single stepped a little more than I wanted to, I kept chugging along, pushing and pushing.
I took two short pauses, near the top of my second climb, to snap a couple of the above photos, but they couldn’t have been more than 30 seconds combined. By the time I reached the triangular stairs, everything felt wobbly and even though I was trying to sprint, I doubt I was physically moving any faster. I crossed the finish line and promptly collapsed on Wolfgang’s nice wood floor.
My heart rate was in the 170s, but it quickly settled back into the normal range, and I stood up to take in the Dallas skyline. The fog and the glare of the windows made taking photos a challenge, but I loved the view and will never tire of seeing cities from this vantage point.
It’s a long way down to the sidewalk!
The tower had some fun, illuminated walls that provided nice selfie photo opportunities:
It took a little while before the official results became available, so Mike and I hung out in the plaza, where we met not one, but two, beauty queens! Here I am with Miss North Carolina…
…and Miss Texas International:
As for my time, well, I’m really happy with it. I finished 114 stories in 19 minutes, 53 seconds! Organizers divided participants into three waves, and in my Competitive Wave, I finished 4th in my division (out of 5), 16th out of 23 men, and 21st overall (out of 34).
And, for those keeping count, this was my 7th stair race of 2015 (see more recaps here) and my 21st career race.
Keep it up, David!
PS. Coming soon: more photos from Dallas, including lots of food porn!