Milwaukee CF Climb Race Recap AND Photos From My 17 Hours in the Badger State

Milwaukee is COLD! I was only there for one night, but the temperature, with wind chill, was in the single digits. Brrrr! Preparing for my latest race in my hotel room meant dressing for the race, then layering on a hoodie, two jackets, plus a hat, scarf and gloves.

I was staying in a downtown hotel (more on that later), and I walked to the race, about 6/10th of a mile away. Despite the layers, my teeth were chattering when I turned a corner and saw the race venue towering above the neighboring buildings.

That’s the US Bank Center. It’s 42 stories, and the tallest building in Wisconsin. It’s the home to two different stair races, but I was competing in the Milwaukee CF Climb, benefiting the local chapter of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

The building looked taller than 42 stories, especially when you’re right next to it!

I could tell from the get-go that this was a well-organized event. Signs everywhere, lots of volunteers. A gear check would’ve been helpful (it’s like a coat check), but apart from that, this race had everything you could want.

The race was promoted as being a 47-story climb, and a couple friends pointed out to me, before the race, that we started way down on a basement level and only climbed to floor 41. When it was time to line up and race, sure enough, we took a series of escalators down, down, down, winding through hallways and past the enormous mail room.

The first group of climbers to start racing was a small group of competitive athletes, and I positioned myself near the back of the pack. The start line was in a hallway filled with lockers, and it reminded me of being in a high school. And there were cheerleaders there, from the UWM Panthers Dance Team!

The race itself went pretty well, although I wasn’t completely on my game. I started the race going a little too fast and a little too hard, which meant I slowed down later in the race a bit more that I would have liked. The stairwell was consistent and racer-friendly (all right turns, consistent step counts, good handrails, plenty of room to pass).

Somehow I got it stuck in my head that I was racing to floor 42, even though I had been told otherwise, so I started my end-of-race sprint a floor later than I should have, and the open door and finish line on floor 41 came as a surprise.

A slightly-less-than-perfect race is still an exhausting race, so I sat my exhausted butt down until I could catch my breath. A volunteer brought me a glass of water, and an EMT asked if I was ok. I shook my head ‘yes’ to both. My new friend Andrea photobombed my post-race selfie.

I absolutely love the 41st floor. It’s just a hallway that goes around the entire perimeter of the building, with giant floor-to-ceiling windows along the entire thing.

We got to walk around and see the views in all directions, and they were stunning.

I didn’t time myself during this race. I used my iPod to estimate my times during my Chicago races over the weekend, but I didn’t this time. Since it was my first time competing in Milwaukee, I didn’t set a goal, other than give it my best and leave all my energy in the stairwell. Which I did.

After chatting with friends at the top, my buddy Andy and I headed back down to the start line… and climbed the building again, just for fun. Because why not? It was a casual climb, and the volunteers and cheerleaders at the water stations were surprised to see me climbing again. I have ‘Keep It Up, David’ on the back of my shirt, and the cheerleaders at the 30th floor water station cheered me on by name.


…BUT WHY NOT GO FOR A THIRD? Andy and I headed back down to the start line again. One of the start line cheerleaders called me a rock star as we entered the stairwell for the third time.

Andy’s a much faster climber than I am, and he zoomed ahead pretty quickly, even on casual climbs, but it’s great having a friend who’s down for multiple climbs.

Roughly an hour had passed between the start of my first climb and the end of my third climb. I completed a solid race and had a great workout. Time for a freight elevator selfie!

I didn’t get my time for the first climb until after I finished all three, but I was very happy with the results. I climbed 47 stories in 9 minutes, 14 seconds, and finished 6th in my age group (men 35-39). That’s pretty close to what I’ve done in buildings of a similar height – most notably, my race in San Francisco’s 101 California Street earlier this year, and I was satisfied with my performance. Add in the casual climbs, and I climbed 141 stories that evening.

Furthermore, this was my third race in five days, my 51st stair race altogether, and Milwaukee was the 18th city I’ve raced in!

I only spent 17 hours in Wisconsin, and those 141 stories would’ve been enough of a workout, but it ended up being a much more active excursion for me. I arrived on the train at 2:30pm, and got my first taste of the bitter cold and wind when I walked a mile to my hotel. I stayed at the InterContinental, which is clearly geared for business travelers, based on the desk I had in my room.

I was hoping I might have a view of the US Bank Center from my window, but it was blocked by this gorgeous structure, which I later learned was City Hall.

My hotel room had a ‘snack basket’ sitting on the counter, instead of a mini-bar, so I hid it in a drawer to resist temptation, because that Kit Kat was calling my name.

I walked to the race, but I didn’t walk back afterward, because I went to dinner with my friends Mike and Bohdan, who are local. We went to a restaurant called Emperor of China, and I ate a big meal of egg drop soup, a couple dumplings, and we shared shrimp in garlic sauce, lemon chicken, and beef with broccoli. (I posted photos of all of it on Twitter.) What do you think of my fortune cookie?

My train left at 8am, but I woke up at 6am for a morning workout. My hotel had a well-equipped gym, and I wanted to take advantage. They had a rowing machine, which I haven’t used in over a year, so I did a 10-minute rowing warm-up, followed by 35 minutes of weightlifting.

After showering, packing, and checking out, I walked the mile to the train station.

I bought cheese curds at the train station, which seemed like a very ‘when in Rome’ thing to do, and almonds as well. I ate half of each bag before arriving back in Chicago. I’ve only had cheese curds once before, and they are delicious!

It started snowing while I was on the train. At first it was just a gentle dusting, but by the time the train arrived Union Station, it was a full-fledged winter storm.

My sister Laura picked me up, and brought along my doggie nephew Conrad.

I spent another day and a half in Chicago before heading back to Los Angeles, and I’m going to have more dirt (and photos) on my Chicago activities in my next post.

Keep it up, David!

A giant thank you to Mike, Joanne and Joe, and Jen, who all contributed to my fundraising for the Milwaukee CF Climb. I couldn’t have experiences like this one without help from my very generous donors, and I never, ever forget that.


Follow me! I’m @keepitupdavid on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat, and I’m on Google+ too! There’s also a “Sign Me Up” box on this page (at the top of the right-hand column) where you can subscribe to receive new posts via email!

3 Responses to Milwaukee CF Climb Race Recap AND Photos From My 17 Hours in the Badger State

  1. Karen Geninatti says:

    I always very much enjoy reading your race recaps!

  2. Sugar Lee says:

    Amazing! Love your recaps.

  3. lunchmuffin says:

    I lived outside Milwaukee when I was a kid (Fox Point). It makes you want to chapstick your whole face before you go outside it gets so cold sometimes. Ice skated on the Milwaukee river once. Kids, don’t do that stupid stuff, stay on the rink.

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