I competed, on Saturday, for my seventh consecutive year, in the American Lung Association’s Fight For Air Climb in Los Angeles. The title for this post comes from a sign I saw on the roof after the race, which echoed exactly what I was feeling after a particularly tough climb.
The race was up 63 stories in the stairwell of the Aon Center in downtown Los Angeles, all to raise money for the American Lung Association. This was my very first stair race, back in 2012, and in the years since, I’ve had all sorts of experiences in the Aon Center stairwell, from tremendous highs to excruciating lows. I even strapped a GoPro to my forehead one year, to take you along for the climb!
I get nervous before all my races, but my nerves this year were quite manageable, probably because I’m so familiar with this building. In addition to racing here, I’ve also trained here for years.
I also arrived on race morning feeling happy that the slight upset stomach I had experienced the day before had gone away. One less thing to worry about. I got my bib (good ol’ lucky number 139), stretched and warmed up, and got in line with the other competitive athletes in the first wave.
I could tell pretty quickly, in the stairwell, that something was off. There are races where I feel everything clicking into place, and this was not was one of those races. I thought I had been smart with my pace, but I felt worn out way too quickly. I stumbled with my technique, and fell into inefficient rhythms that were hard to break out of. It was a very hot morning, and the stairwell felt sticky with heavy, hot air. (I wore leggings under my shorts, instead of just shorts, and that didn’t help.)
Worst of all, a negative mentality slowly seeped in, and I found that hard to shake. So I reverted back to racing 101: KEEP GOING. DON’T STOP. That was my only goal when I raced this building for the first time in 2012, and it’s the foundation of my race strategies and mental gimmicks.
I reminded myself how awesome it was that I was there, that I showed up, that I was doing something that was so physically and mentally challenging. I reminded myself of all the benefits that I get from this sport, and all the reasons why I love it. And it helped. I kept climbing, higher and higher, my body getting more and more exhausted as the numbers on the landings increased.
I had one thought when I stepped through the doorway to climb the final flight onto the roof: IT’S SO FREAKIN’ BRIGHT! And it was. The mid-morning sun was nearly unbearable. I typically find a spot to collapse and lie down, on my back, until my heart cools off a little bit. This year, though, lying on my back wasn’t possible – it was too damn bright – so I collapsed but remained seated, sinking my head into my chest as much as I could. I felt wiped out, and while I wasn’t terribly enthused about how I did in the stairwell, I had made it to the top. And that’s worth celebrating.
After a few minutes like that, I went and collected my finisher’s medal…
…and then hung out with my friends on the helipad. Here’s me with Martin and Jeff:
And with the whole gang:
The views were incredible!
That’s one of the great things about this sport: I know so many awesome folks that even a crummy race is still a fun day. In fact, a whole group of us went and climbed the building a second time, just for fun, at a casual pace.
I didn’t have high hopes for my time, based on how I felt in the stairwell, but I was very pleasantly surprised when I saw my official results: 14 minutes, 48 seconds – only 18 seconds slower than my best time!
Furthermore, it’s my second-fastest time ever in the Aon Center! Check it out compared to all my other times:
(Click on any of the years to read the recap from that race.)
My time is a testament to the shape I’m in right now. I’ve been working hard and pushing myself during my workouts, and all that effort means that even on a bad day, I end up having a good day. And 18 seconds off my PR is not that much at all. If only I had climbed each story 1/3 of a second faster… I would’ve gotten my PR!
OH WELL. Nothing to do about it now… I’ll just have to kick butt in 2019!
Two more pictures to share – and these are for all the movie fans out there. A movie studio was going to be filming around the corner from the Aon Center, and they were setting up for the shoot during the race. I heard a rumor that it was for an upcoming Marvel movie, possibly “The Avengers” movie that comes out in 2019. That would make sense, because they filled the street with crushed cars and debris, and rigged a prop bus with gas tanks – maybe it was going to explode! I didn’t stick around long enough to find out.
Keep it up, David!
A huge thank you to Bowflex, my sponsor for this race. They are the best, and they make the best equipment, and I am so grateful for their ongoing support.
Lots of gratitude to everyone that very generously donated to the American Lung Association so that I could participate in this climb. THANK YOU, Mom and Dad, Suzanne, Dana, Stella, Judie, and Joe & Joanne!
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