There is nothing more exhilarating than standing on a skyscraper roof, looking for miles in every direction, after a stair climb race. I get the same chills every time, including this past Saturday, when I competed in the Los Angeles CF Climb for the third consecutive year.
It was an eventful, satisfying morning, and one that started on the wrong foot, when I arrived at the race and realized my phone was still on my nightstand. Not having my phone wasn’t the end of the world, but not having a camera bummed me out. I like taking photos at these events, and sharing them! Luckily for me, I know a lot of stair racers, and they’re incredible people, and a bunch took pictures for me. All the pictures in this post are courtesy Madeleine, Martin, or Esteban – with the exception of this photo, which I took last year:
That’s the Figueroa at Wilshire building in downtown Los Angeles. It’s 54 stories, and the venue for this race.
I was able to quickly move past the forgotten phone (after all, there was literally nothing I could do about it), and instead, I got in a nice warm-up (jogging up and down the block a few times), then did a lot of stretching. I was part of the Elite group for this race, so I was one of the first to enter the stairwell, shortly after 9am.
My goal was specific: set a new personal record. My approach for this race was also specific: SLOW DOWN AT THE START. My gut instinct is to fly up the stairs as fast as possible from the get-go – something I’ve done at more races than I care to count – and I always end up blowing my wad too early and slowing down way too much towards the top, thanks to sheer exhaustion.
There’s no avoiding the exhaustion when you’re racing up stairs. But I know that if I conserved a little bit of energy at the beginning, I’d have more I could use later on, and that would/could/should result in a more consistent and faster time.
Plus, I was able to train in this building’s stairwell a couple times in the past few weeks, and on Tuesday, I had a great training climb where this strategy worked really well. I felt ready for this race, and especially nervous, because I felt certain I could nail that personal record if I focused, pushed myself, and delivered.
The nerves went away, however, as soon as I entered the stairwell, because I had work to do, and climbing stairs isn’t easy. My buddy Z entered 10 seconds before me, and for the first 15 stories, I restrained myself, like I wanted to do, but still climbed at a steady, aggressive pace, trying to keep up with Z, who was two flights above.
By the 15th floor, two climbers had caught up with me: my friend Jeannie, and a guy I didn’t know. At first I thought I could hold them off and stay in front, but that didn’t last long, and I moved to the outside rail so they could pass. It took a few flights for both to pass, and staying on the outside means taking more steps on the landings, and that gave Z the chance to increase his lead.
Shortly after Jeannie and that other dude passed, another racer caught up to me – my buddy Esteban. We stayed more or less together for the remainder of the climb – he eventually passed me, but I was never more than a flight below him, and then I passed him towards the top.
Esteban provided some unfortunate and unintentional comic relief, because he cramped up during the climb, and proceeded to swear. A lot. While climbing. “Oh fuck…. Oh man… Shit, man…” and so on, for about 20 floors. I felt guilty because the swearing was funny, even though I could tell it stemmed from pain. I felt for Esteban, because I’ve had my share of cramps. They’re terrible. It was so impressive how he pushed through it, never stopping, addressing the pain by cursing like a sailor.
The 49th floor came, and it was time to sprint the final five floors. I always try to turn on the turbo boosters at the end of a race, but most of the time, the tank is running on fumes or altogether empty. That was the case, but I pushed myself up those final flights, utterly fatigued in every part of my body, sweat rolling down my face, heart pounding like a drum roll, until I could throw myself across the finish line, stagger off to the side, and collapse.
My friend Madeleine had finished a few minutes before me, and snapped this photo of me while recovering, flat on her back, a few feet away:
It wasn’t until I stood up, a few minutes later, that I realized I had injured myself. A slight skinned knee. It didn’t happen during the race – it happened when I collapsed afterward.
If there was any pain, I didn’t notice it. Maybe because my whole body ached. Maybe because I was still high on adrenaline. Maybe because I was thrilled to be back on the roof, 700 feet above the sidewalk!
Those shorts, by the way, are brand new, and I got a lot of compliments. They’re very bright, so I was telling people that, hey, since I’ll be on the roof, I might as well be seen from space!
I spent a lot of time after the race on the plaza, back on the ground, chatting with friends. (And if you’re wondering, yes, you take the elevator down.) Here I am with Esteban, who was no longer cursing (my finisher’s medal is perfectly catching the sun!):
And here’s Esteban and me with Dan and Jeff:
And I was really excited to run into my buddy Slade, who I used to work with (we even shared an office for a while):
I was feeling antsy after all that chit-chat, though, and when an announcement was made that it was last call for anyone who wanted to race or climb the building again, I headed for the door. Nothing like a second climb, just for fun! A group of five or six of us climbed a second time, and I chatted most of the way with my buddy Martin, who came over from Denmark for this race. He took a couple cool action shots of me climbing:
By the time I came down after the second climb, the results were posted. I climbed 54 stories…
…in 12 minutes, 27 seconds!
My personal record for the building is 12:10 – my time from two years ago. And even though I didn’t set a new PR this time around, I came close, and I was still two seconds faster than last year, when I did it in 12:29.
What’s really cool, though, is that I’ve raced this building three years in a row, and my times all fall within a very narrow 19-second range. I’m very proud of that consistency.
I’m grateful for my very generous supporters, who very graciously donated to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation on my behalf so I could race. Lots of love to Tavi, my parents, Dacia, Dana, Felise, Janet and Ann!
I’ll wrap up with one goofy photo, taken by Martin during our second climb. Greetings from the 50th floor!
I have photos with Martin, but I’m saving them for my next post, because Martin brought me a very thoughtful, kind, and hilarious present. I think you’ll get a kick out out of reading about it, and this post is long enough as it is!
KEEP IT UP, DAVID!