The end of the year is fast approaching, and I’m in the home stretch with my 2016 races. My last two are both in December, and the first was on Saturday, at Angel Stadium in Anaheim.
This race is called Hike the Halo (benefiting the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation), and it’s my fourth consecutive year participating. (Read my recaps from 2013, 2014, and 2015!) It’s a fun, different race, because there are a ton of stairs, but it’s outdoors, and not confined to a ugly, hot, claustrophobic stairwell, like all the rest of the stair races that I do.
Plus, it’s cool to hang out in the venue – a Major League Baseball stadium – and we get access to places that would make baseball fans jealous, like the dugout…
…and home base.
Yup! I stood at home base!
I love these pictures, even though I don’t give a lick about baseball!
Did you notice my all-red clothing? It’s because red is one of the colors of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, and when in Rome…
Even though it’s a baseball stadium, the field had been prepped for football, so I hung out and stretched on the 50-yard line before the race began.
A bunch of friends raced, too, which always makes an event like this more fun. Here’s Mary, Alberto, Leland, Madeleine, and yours truly (and yes, my head is about twice the size of all of theirs!):
The race itself is a doozy. The start line is in the outfield…
…and you run to a gate that lets you into the stands, and then run up and down all the aisles in the lower deck. After you finish that, you run up a series of ramps on the concourse, up to the upper deck, where you run up and down all those aisles. The upper deck is about three times as steep as the lower deck, so this is a challenge.
And that’s not all, folks. After you finish on the upper deck, you run back down the ramps, behind the bleachers in the outfield, and down to street level. Then you run a lap around the perimeter of the stadium, before entering through a tunnel back onto the outfield, and across the finish line.
The course has 2,000 steps and covers about 2 miles. I used to think that this race was a cake walk, because the stair ascents were spaced out, but it’s TOUGH. Tougher than I always think it’s going to be. This race kicks my butt every single year.
There was a wave for elite runners, and I was in that group, so we were the first to enter the aisles in the lower deck. A handful of people zoomed past me at the beginning, but for the first half of the lower deck, I held my own, and stayed in 6th place.
There’s one point where you exit the lower deck, and run on the concourse around the Diamond Club Lounge that’s behind home plate. Then you run back in, and tackle more lower deck aisles. There are arrows that point the way. The route hasn’t really changed in the four years that I’ve done this race, so I knew what to expect and where to go.
But, when I turned a corner out on the concourse, I noticed an arrow that had been sloppily taped, and, as a result, it pointed the wrong way.
NOPE! Don’t head up the ramp! Stay to the right! When I noticed that, I simultaneously noticed that I could no longer see the five racers in front of me, and I knew, in that moment, that they had all followed the wayward arrow and gone the wrong way.
So, I took a brief pause, and fixed the sign. There were hundreds of racers still to come, and it would suck if they all went the wrong way. I know I’d be pissed!
(I recreated this moment afterward, to have these photos for the blog.)
My theory was confirmed as soon as I re-entered the lower deck a few seconds later. No one was in front of me. They were all running random ramps… and I was in the lead!
While it was cool that I was now the front-runner, I knew it wouldn’t last, and I also knew it wasn’t the result of my exceptional speed or skills. The five fastest runners had all gotten lost, and I was expecting them to find their way back to the course any minute.
That prediction also came true. I started getting passed on the ramps to the upper deck by runners that had been in front of me earlier. These folks were strong. They was their second time running up ramps (which isn’t easy), and they were flying by me.
After they passed, I kept my position during the brutal portion on the upper deck. My friend Madeleine was one aisle behind me, and seeing her back there pushed me to go harder, because she’s a speedy and competent athlete, and it’s super rare that I beat her at anything.
The upper deck seems endless when you’re running up and down the aisles. The views are great – I got to see a wave of runners starting the race as I headed down an aisle – but my legs were burning, and my heart was pounding.
Madeleine ended up passing me at the end of the ramps back down, and I was determined to not let her get too far ahead. After you exit the upper deck, there’s no more stairs. Just running. And running isn’t my strong suit. Naturally, a minute after Madeleine passed me, my side started cramping up. Damnit. But I’ve pushed through cramps before – even crippling ones that almost made me quit a race – and I stayed determined to do it again.
Most of the run around the perimeter of the stadium was uneventful. Madeleine stayed about 40 yards ahead of me, and we passed no one, and no one passed us. Then, a couple hundred yards from the finish, I noticed I was catching up to Madeleine. So I made my move, kicked my legs into a new gear that I didn’t even think existed, and pushed myself past her. I had headphones in, but I could hear her cheering for me – “Go! Get your PR!” – and I didn’t look back as I entered the tunnel, the finish line in sight.
My friend Leland, who had already finished, cheered me on those final few yards, and I crossed the line, stumbled over to a volunteer who removed my timing chip, collected water and my finisher’s medal, and collapsed on the field.
Once my heart rate settled down (I had averaged a heart rate of 169 during the race, and peaked at 186, a new high for me), I got up and had a couple fun on-field experiences. I met the cast of “Frozen”…
…got a post-race selfie with my buddies…
…and got myself on the Jumbotron!
My friend Paul owns the timing company that handled this race, so I wandered over and found him, and he delivered the news personally: I had finished in 26:47 – a 34-second PR! (And I beat Madeleine by eight seconds!)
This is the only race where I’ve set a personal record every single year. See?
- 2013: 30:20
- 2014: 29:31
- 2015: 27:21
- 2016: 26:47
I’ve shaved over three and a half minutes off my time in the past three years!
KEEP IT UP, DAVID!
A huge thank you to Dana, Amy, and Ann, all of whom made very generous contributions to my fundraising efforts for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation so that I could compete in this race. I have awesome friends and readers and I don’t ever forget that!
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