One Morning. Two Separate Stair Races. My First Triumphant Double Header! (2017 SkyRise Chicago and Chicago CF Climb Race Recaps)

November 7, 2017

There are many reasons why I love competing in stair races, but the very first thing that hooked me was the overwhelming feeling that comes after I cross a finish line – a one-of-a-kind swirl of pride, accomplishment, invincibility, pain and exhaustion. Prior to my involvement in this sport, I had never felt it before, and now I can’t get enough of it. This picture, taken moments after crossing a finish line on Saturday, is the closest I’ve come to capturing that feeling:

Now, when I look at it, I can see every component of that feeling pretty clearly: Read the rest of this entry »

One Hundred and Three Floors! (SkyRise Chicago Race Recap)

November 3, 2014

You know that feeling when you’re so exhausted you just gotta sit down? I had that feeling yesterday, and I found the best place ever to plant my tired butt:


The ledge on the 103rd floor of the Willis Tower in Chicago! I was exhausted because it was my first time competing in SkyRise Chicago, the annual race up the tallest stairwell in the country. It was a killer.

This was the first race where I Read the rest of this entry »

Christmas and New Years Recap 2012

January 6, 2013

Howdy folks. I don’t think I’m 100% better yet, but I’m feeling like this cold is definitely on its way out. Time to fill you in on my holiday adventures! As I mentioned in my last post (with much excitement and perhaps an exclamation point or two), I managed to make it through my holiday travels without gaining any weight. I made a concerted effort to make healthy choices and stay active, while still enjoying some of the pleasures of the season.

I’ll start with exercise. No, on second thought, I’ll start with what I was most hoping for: A white Christmas! There wasn’t a speck of snow on the ground when I landed in Michigan on the 23rd, but it started snowing in the late afternoon on Christmas Eve, and by Christmas morning, there was a nice white blanket covering everything in sight.


It snowed more the next couple days, and I loved being back in winter weather, if only for a little while!

Moving on to exercise! Read the rest of this entry »

Record-Smashing Workout

March 9, 2012

I’m in training, so the additions to my Skyscraper Collection are gonna come fast and furious. I have two big stairs-related challenges on the horizon – at the end of the month, I’m doing a charity climb in an actual skyscraper in downtown LA (click to donate; it benefits the American Lung Association), and I also challenged myself to climb 163 stories on a StairMaster, which is the height of the tallest building on the planet (this has evolved into a fundraiser, too – click to donate; it benefits Whaley Children’s Center).

For preparation’s sake, I’m going to push myself to do two StairMaster workouts a week for the next few weeks. I’ve already completed both of them for this week, although I only blogged about the first (read about it here; I added a skyscraper in Dubai to my collection). Before I get into the specifics of the second (and, based on this post’s headline, you might have guessed it’s somethin’ special), I wanna talk through my current StairMaster frustration.

Crunch, my new gym, has a different brand of StairMaster than my old gym. I was quite familiar and comfortable with the old brand, and the new brand is completely identical in every way, except for one key difference: how speed is measured. The old brand had levels, from 1-20, just like ellipticals and exercise bikes have levels of resistance. I knew what the levels felt like, and had a good routine down: I’d use level 7 or 8 to warm up, slowly ramp up to level 12 or so during my workout (occasionally up to 14 if I really wanted a challenge), and then I’d cool down on 5 or 6.

The new brand measures speed by Steps Per Minute (SPM), which means the numbers are completely different. If you want to climb 30 stairs in one minute, than you set it to 30. If you want to climb 50, than you set it to 50. You get the idea. The problem is that I have no idea what my SPMs are. The old brand offered that statistic on their display, but I never once paid attention, because I got used to setting the machine based on levels (which was the only way to do it).

Now I’m struggling to find my pace. I’ve done the StairMaster three times at my new gym, and it’s completely frustrating. I’ve been playing around with different SPMs, and then trying them out for a few minutes to see how they feel, but after doing that a couple times, it’s hard for me to evaluate them anyway, since I start to get tired and sweaty, as I’m in the middle of my workout. I feel like I have to relearn how to use the StairMaster, and it pisses me off.

I’m slowly (very slowly) settling into what I think might work for me: a warm-up pace of around 60 SPM, and then slowly amping up to 70-90 SPM during my workout, and then down to 40-50 during my cool down. But I feel slow and out of the groove, and that’s irritating. The other day, I caught myself being really negative about the whole thing, so, midway through my workout, I closed my eyes and paused my music, and told myself that I can’t compare these workouts to the ones at my old gym. Just focus on the machine I was on, and get the most out of my time on it.

That seemed to help, so it’s something I’ll repeat to myself at the beginning of my future StairMaster workouts, at least until I feel more familiar with the settings.

I take that back – my internal pep talk didn’t seem to work, it flat-out worked. I ended up breaking all my StairMaster personal bests during that workout:

  • DURATION: 25.5 minutes (previous best = 22 minutes)
  • CALORIES: 400 burned (previous best = 350)
  • FLOORS: 109 (previous best = 104)

That’s right, bitches, one hundred and nine floors. Holy Shit. ONE HUNDRED AND NINE FLOORS! Time for another iconic addition to my Skyscraper Collection! Can anyone think of a building that has 109 floors?

That’s a trick question. There aren’t any 109-story buildings, not anywhere in the world. But there is an 108-story building that, unless you live in a cave, you’ll definitely recognize. Here’s a hint – it’s the tallest building in this picture:

WILLIS TOWER! Or perhaps you know it by its former name. SEARS TOWER!

Willis Tower has been the tallest building in the United States since it opened in 1973, and it’s currently the ninth-tallest building in the world (a record that it held until 1998). There’s an observation deck called the Skydeck on the 103rd floor (the restrooms on that floor are the highest restrooms in the western hemisphere), and, in 2009, glass balconies were added so people could step out and have only glass between their feet and the ground, 1,353 feet below:

Very cool. I wish I had taken that picture, but alas, I did not. Even though I’ve been to Chicago more times than I can count, I’ve never been to the Skydeck. I really really wanna go!

Some other fun facts about the Willis Tower:

  • It leans 4 inches to the west.
  • The tower was half vacant for the first ten years it was open – Sears overestimated their own growth as a company, and the building was less of a draw for outside renters than anticipated.
  • There are 104 elevators, including 16 double deckers.

Yep, I climbed that! And I just added it to the top of my Skyscraper Collection.