I’ve Been Called a “Celebrity Stair Climber” and No One Can Take That Title Away From Me! (2018 Portland Fight For Air Climb Race Recap)

Some Sunday mornings are meant for sleeping in and lazing about. Other Sunday mornings are meant for racing up 200 stories! Guess which experience I had yesterday?

That’s the US Bancorp Tower, in Portland, Oregon, and I climbed the 40-story stairwell inside five times. It was quite the morning, in ways both expected and unexpected.

It’s a long way to the top!

This is my third time competing in this race, a fundraiser for the American Lung Association. I was here in 2015 and 2016. I was planning on totally kicking butt, because of two reasons:

  1. In 2015 and 2016, I had done this race just one day after racing up 160 stories in Seattle, so I wasn’t exactly coming into it feeling fresh and rested. This year there was no Seattle race the same weekend.
  2. I’ve been feeling gung-ho ever since the Dallas Vert Mile race last month, where I scaled 600 stories in one morning. This race only required me to do 1/3 of that!

My plan to totally kick butt hit a major snag, though. My day started with me feeling incredible sore, stiff and with slightly limited mobility. It was a situation that had begun the day before, and while I took it easy that day and stretched, I woke up on race day feeling a slight throbbing deep in my glutes, and some pain if I stood or shifted my weight a certain way. I had done some awesome killer workouts earlier in the week, so maybe I had pulled or irritated something?

I literally had a pain in my butt, but it wasn’t going to stop me. I warmed up before the race, by climbing the lobby stairs a few times. I also stretched.

That’s me near the top!

I felt pretty good, but knew that I probably wouldn’t feel good for long. At that point, though, I had something else to focus on… I was going to be speaking to the entire crowd of 350+ climbers!

The American Lung Association in Oregon had invited me to deliver the welcome message before the race began. What an honor! Cathy Gidley, the organization’s Executive Director, introduced me as a ‘Celebrity Stair Climber,’ so YEA, THAT HAPPENED! Turns out she’s been a fan of mine since she heard me on the “Missing Richard Simmons” podcast.

I kept it short, telling my story and delivering an inspirational message in less than four minutes. There’s no point in describing what I said… because you can just watch it! My friend Erin captured it on video, and I put it on YouTube:

I got many very nice compliments, and it was a fun diversion that kept my mind off the race. And did I mention I’m a Celebrity Stair Climber now?

Once I finished my speech, though, I had to start thinking about the race, because I was scheduled to begin 10 minutes later. I stretched some more, and decided on a major strategy shift. I was certain that, because of the stiffness and soreness in my legs, I was going to collapse (metaphorically) rather quickly in the stairwell.

So, instead of trying to stay strong and power through all 200 stories, I decided to try my hardest on the first climb, and gun for a personal best for 40 stories. After that, I would finish the remaining four climbs at a consistent but much slower pace, while focusing on having fun and enjoying my time in the stairwell, and not on pushing myself overly hard and further worsening my hip/butt region.

Never once did I consider pulling out of some or all of the race. When it comes down to it, I’d rather regret pushing myself too hard than wonder about what could have been.

I started at exactly 9:08am – and took this picture nine seconds before entering the stairwell.

I told myself, again and again, to leave it all in the stairwell on that first climb. My hip/butt situation made that a little difficult, but I did it anyway. The thing about racing up stairs is that it’s excruciatingly hard, so it didn’t take long before I wasn’t thinking about my legs at all – not because they no longer hurt, but because everything hurt. I’m used to that feeling.

My fastest time for one 40-story climb in the US Bancorp Tower is 7 minutes, 42 seconds. And despite the less-than-ideal circumstances, I managed to swing an eight-second PR for that first climb, finishing in 7:34! Woohoo!

I stayed true to my word, and joyfully abandoned my race mode for the remaining four climbs. My prediction was accurate – the pain from my hip/butt area made it very tough and slow going. But I was surprised at how much I was able to smile and stay positive, in between my wincing, and that’s because I gave myself permission to take the pressure off. It was a smart strategy, and it worked.

An elevator selfie after three climbs:

Biting the lip of the glass because I had no free hands: one’s holding my phone, and one’s holding up three fingers!

The water stations were meticulously maintained. The one in the lobby looked like that carnival game where you try to throw a ping-pong ball in a cup to win a goldfish. Never did I pass by without the entire tabletop covered in a perfect grid of glasses.

Halfway through my fifth climb I decided to see how strong I could finish, since I’d be able to relax afterward. I slowly tried to nudge up my speed, and sprinted the last three floors. I was relieved to cross the finish line that final time, and it felt so good to lie down in the hallway and take all my weight off my legs.

Five Climbs Done!

I stayed horizontal for longer than usual, but eventually I was able to, very ungracefully, make it to my feet. This race doesn’t have any window access at the top, which is a bummer, so I snapped a photo with the floor number instead.

I was on the 41st floor, but the race was only 40 stories, because there’s no floor 13.

Back down in the lobby, I chatted with my buddy Tristan, whom is definitely a celebrity stair climber. He’s won this race the past five years, and climbed 40 stories yesterday in 4:18!

And I got my view too! The ALA had an after-party brunch at Portland City Grill, a restaurant on the 30th floor, and it provided a great view of Portland. (I posted pictures of what I ate on Twitter.) I think skylines always look better after a stair climb!

I’m very happy with my times:

  • Climb #1: 7:34
  • Climb #2: 10:26
  • Climb #3: 10:13
  • Climb #4: 10:56
  • Climb #5: 9:35
  • Total stairwell time for 200 stories: 48:42. (My total time, including breaks, was 1:10:47, which means my four breaks averaged about 5.5 minutes each.)

I finished 66th out of 142 people that competed in the 200-floor event. (Another 200+ people competed in the 40, 80, 120, and 160-floor events.) I was 38th out of 61 men, and a whopping 8th out of 9 in my division (Men 30-39).

But you know what matters to me? That 8-second PR. Because it showed that I adapted to a tough situation and still achieved my goal. That’s what’s important. That’s what makes me a Celebrity Stair Climber!

Five stickers on my bib, one for each of my five climbs.

Keep it up, David!

Lots of gratitude to Sandee, who made a very generous donation to the American Lung Association so that I could participate in this race. My supporters are the best!

And thanks to the American Lung Association, especially Brian Mayo and Cathy Gidley, for inviting me to speak at this year’s race and making me feel so welcome. I don’t have a picture with Cathy, but you’re going to see more of her in my next post – and it’ll be outrageously cool! Here’s me and Brian:

Lastly, a huge thank you to my sponsor Bowflex. Bowflex invited me to join their corporate team for this race, and brought me to the Portland area a few days early, so I could speak to their employees and be a guest on their Facebook Live show, and it’s been a truly tremendous experience. I’m going to share so much more in the days to come, but for now, here’s me with my friends Erin Beck and John Fread, two of the warmest, kindest, most generous people around. 


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!

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