Fight for Air Stair Climb Philly Recap

By Janelle @ Run With No Regrets | race recap

Apr 01

Hey hey!  I am so excited to share that I survived the American Lung Association’s Fight for Air Stair Climb in Philly on Saturday!  It was a fantastic event and perhaps my favorite experience since participating/volunteering these past 6 years!  Normally I climb up the building’s 50 floors, but this time I took it to the next level by climbing it twice!

Stair Climb 2014 Recap

The Night Before

Bret and I had a nice time going out for dinner and drinks, just the two of us.  I had an amazing burger and fries with a decent beer.  Then we went to a couple of bars and I indulged in two Hemingways…thumbs up!  I laid my clothes out to be ready the day of the event and was completely full of nerves!  I kept waking up in the middle night, having crazy dreams!  I dreamed that I missed my turn to go up the steps, and that everything just went awful!

Morning of the Event

I set my alarm for 6:30 am so I could calmly get myself together.  I had a simple breakfast of an English muffin with strawberry preserves.  We were supposed to get to the tower by 7:45 am since I had an 8:35 start time.   We left home at about 7:30.  I was still so full of nerves!!

The place was already buzzing when we got there and the energy was electric.  I picked up my bib and turned in a $10 donation from one of my coworkers.  I ended up raising $225 for the American Lung Association (and counting)!  I started looking for my teammates as Bret went off to find coffee.  I was still so nervous that I couldn’t even figure out how to attach the tracker to my shoe!  Granted, it used a cable tie, but still!

The rest of the team wasn’t climbing the stairs until 9:20, so I knew that for the most part, I’d be on my own. Before I knew it was time to line up to climb the stairs! I started freaking out that I was dehydrated, so I frantically grabbed a bottle of water.  I lined up and there was this sort of disorganized chaos…I guess I was at the end of the line for Century Climbers because I had these elite climbers (finish in under 12 minutes) egging me on to move forward.  I started up my music on my phone and tried to zone out as much as possible.  I gave Bret a look one last time before going outside and somehow it all clicked, and I realized that I was ready!

Waiting in line to climb the steps!

First Round Up the Steps

So the way the building works is that you actually have to go outside to start the Stair Climb.  It seems that every year that I climb, the weather is miserable!  Saturday we had a ton of rain and wind, so when I was standing outside waiting, it really sucked!

Me before heading up the steps

And then, off I went!  My strategy was to take every other step, keep my head down, and don’t stop moving, not even for a water stop, which was at every 10 floors.  When I passed the first water station the volunteers were so friendly, cheering me on!  The first thing I thought was “wow, these steps are a lot steeper than I remember!”.  But I felt pretty good for the first 20, definitely.  Then, my legs were feeling the burn.  Could I actually keep up climbing this way?

I did the best that I could.  People kept passing me, and there was NO ventilation in the stairwell.  I was essentially surrounded by still, HOT air!  But I still felt pretty good and solid for the first round.   I think I just should have had a better playlist than shuffle, because listening to Gavin DeGraw’s mellow tunes didn’t exactly hype me up to move faster!

I made it to the top and there were cheerleaders straight ahead, congratulating me on a job well done.  That pepped me up!  I saw Bret there and I smiled.  But this is just the beginning.  I got a bottle of water and before I knew it, they were telling us to go on the elevators for round two.

Second Round Up the Steps

I thought I’d have more time to rest between climbs, but it was probably for the best to keep things moving.  A bunch of us squeezed into the elevator (two guys had to get off because we were over weight), and down we went.

As I got off the elevator I saw my teammates!  They asked if I was all finished, and I told them “One more to go!”.  While I was one of the last to go up round one, it seemed like I would be one of the first to climb round two!

This time, I knew that my old climbing strategy wouldn’t work.  I tried it for a little bit, but quickly tried to shift to running up each individual steps, which really sucked.  I also tried to just hop every other step…but that wasn’t sustainable.

My breathing was noticeably heavy, so much so that a woman ahead of me looked down and asked if I was okay!  I was definitely okay, but ready for this whole damn thing to be over!

It had to be around the 35th floor when I really felt like things needed to be OVER.  I started using my arms more and more to pull myself up the steps.  Thankfully the steps were less crowded the second go-round, so I wasn’t inadvertently holding anyone up.  But one of the nicest things were the two people behind me, an old man and the woman from before, kept motivating to not give up!  I was so out of breath but as I got to floor 45, I started counting aloud how many were left to go!  Finally the 50th floor was approaching and I found a little burst of speed to make it to the top!  It was all over!!

Finally done with 100 steps!

I’m Finished!

So I got to the top of the stairs, again, and this time it was all over!  I desperately panted for some water, and then there was a video camera right in my face.  (I later found out that it was NBC 10 Philadelphia!  One of my coworkers saw me on TV over the weekend!)

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It was all such a blur, but at the same time, I didn’t feel nearly as bad as I’ve had at previous climbs.  Usually I’m coughing for a good 10 minutes due to the stale, dry air in the stairwell.  I think that starting the climb before the hundreds of other participants has its perks!

Oh and by the way, I just got my finishing time today.  While it seemed so much faster, I finished the entire thing in 24:33.5.  I did the first round in under 12 minutes, and my second round in about 12 and a half minutes.  I beat my goal of 25 minutes, woohoo!

fight for air climb

Once I finished the race, I just relaxed at the top, stretching a bit, enjoying the view and swigging water as I waited for the rest of Team Microturbines.  I figured we’d see them around 9:30 but things were running a little late.  Finally they started making their way to the top, full of sweat and smiles on their faces.  Everyone did a great job!

View from the top

After we were all finished, we headed over to Tir Na Nog for the After Party, where we picked up our T-shirts, a ticket for a buffet, and hung out at the bar while we awaited our race results.  They had a live video feed at the top of the steps so you could see people the moment they finished.  At one point we saw a man in a kilt and bagpipes!

We also took the time to reflect on the event. Most of our teammates had never done the Stair Climb, so it was fun to see their reactions to it all.  Hopefully they will join us next year, and maybe even try the Century Climb!

After making a post on Instagram/Twitter, Chris, one of my old Penn friends found me and I realized that he and his wife Annabelle were doing the Climb too!  So naturally we met up at the bar!  They got to meet Bret and we talked about the good old Philly life.  We’ll be practically neighbors pretty soon, so I really look forward to hanging out with them more!  After we chatted with them, it was time to head home.  Mischief managed!

Hey there Chris and Annabelle!

Final Thoughts

First, I have to thank my boyfriend Bret for being at the event with me.  He took all of my pictures, held my things, and was so encouraging and prevented me from completely freaking out!

The funniest thing is that I am still in awe in the overall lack of difficulty I had with the two climbs.  Now don’t get me wrong…it wasn’t easy.  It takes a lot of will power and apparently a strong lower body to get through it!  But I just didn’t feel as winded as I thought I would be…I recovered really quickly.  It’s just extra validation that my cross training is paying off!

I’ve been doing the American Lung Association Fight for Air Stair Climb since 2009, and over the years I have so many fond memories.  Unfortunately, things were not nearly as seamless as I’ve seen in past years.  But it takes the organizers and volunteers to make this event what it is, and I thank them for all of their hard work and enthusiasm!  I’ll definitely be back in 2015 for a second round of 100 flights!  Hopefully more of my teammates will join me!

Team Microturbines…well done everybody!

Last Week’s Workouts:

Monday 3/24:  2.24 miles on the treadmill in 30 minutes.  I did hill intervals with 8.5 and 1.0% inclines and varied the speed.  Got a great sweat in!

Tuesday 3/25:  Bret and I ran 4 miles together in the beginnings of an evening snow storm!  It was SO hard.  I started feeling trouble in my left ankle (I’ve been trying to adjust my laces with limited success),and my knees felt everything.  Foam rolling, icing, and stretching!

Wednesday 3/26:  Core and More cardio kicboxing class.

Thursday 3/27:  Rest day.

Friday 3/28:  Morning Yoga.  It was intense!

Saturday 3/29:  The Fight for Air Stair Climb!

Sunday 3/30:  Yoga for Beginners.  We learned more poses, and we did our first vinyasa.  We also did the bridge pose, tree pose, upward facing dog, bow pose, locust pose, cobra pose, chair pose, and high lunge. I need to practice more this week!!

Have you ever done a stair climb race?  What was the highlight of your weekend?

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