Saturday was my first stair race of the year, the 52-story Big D Climb benefiting The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. This event had over 1100 participants (much more than my last Dallas climb), including quite a few uniformed police and fire fighters. There were about a dozen climbers in the "elite" wave (notably Norbert Lechner from Austria), plus some really fast folks among the rest of the field. I may not have had my best race ever, but I was able to finish in the top 10 with a time of 7:51.
Soon enough, actually it seemed to come before I was expecting it, it was 7:45 and it was go time. Scott was first to go; I had bib #2 and was slated to go second, but I was quite willing to have the guys I knew would be faster go ahead of me. When nobody stepped up to go, I went. This was my first time in this stairwell, and I had no idea what to expect; I tried to peek in beforehand, but couldn't really see anything. There was a short hall before the stairs started. For the first 5 stories, they were sort of a triangle spiraling up. It was different, but I kind of liked it because there was more to it- more turns, more landings. I thought "this is interesting, I can do this" and then that section ended there was a jog to a more traditional two flights per story staircase. I did the first section pretty fast, and was still running up to about the 10th floor. I got close enough to Scott to hear him breathing, right before my heart about pounded out of my chest. With the adrenaline of the start, and not running beforehand to get some of the "go fast" out of my system, I started too fast and my heart was racing. I slowed down to a fast walk, two steps at a time, around 10 and maintained that until around 20. My heart rate was still pegged, I was panting for breath, and my mouth was bone dry. I slowed down to single step at a quick walking pace, using both rails, but more for stability than to pull myself up. It was somewhere above 20 that my teammate Robert was catching up. He wasn't going too much faster than me, but enough that I knew he was going to pass. Before he did, though, Norbert and Zack also caught up and quickly passed both of us. While the stairwell was narrow enough to use both handrails, there was enough room to let everyone past me. After Robert passed, I stuck to his heels for about 5 stories before he ground out those stairs just a little quicker than I could manage. With all the excitement of passing, I lost track of where I was and suddenly I was in the 40s, almost there. I hardly had any sprint left in me, really I was almost glad just to still be moving. There was one last traverse across 49 or 50, before the final flights. I gave them my best effort, but nothing that would qualify as a sprint.
Once I caught my breath a little I was desperate for water; my mouth was about as dry as it's ever been. At first I thought I might have escaped the "track hack," but after a few minutes it came on and was fairly bad for the next three hours. We were hanging around on 52 for a while as more and more climbers finished. Because of the triangular shape of the building, it's not a large floor, and it was starting to get crowded. I didn't want to skip out on my friends, but I needed to get going. When I went to the elevator, a volunteer stopped me and took me to some stairs. I was thinking "they can't really be making us take stairs down," but it was just one story, since most of the elevators only go to 51. The lobby of the building is not particularly large either, and it was quite crowded. I got my stuff and headed back to the hotel. After a shower, I walked over to the "after party," which was several blocks away in the arts part of downtown, near the theaters. Two of the restaurants were giving out food; I ate some at one place before going next door and finding my friends. Then it was just hanging out for another hour or so for the awards. Scott and Norbert couldn't stay since they had a flight up to Chicago for the 80-story AON the next day. It was after noon before they got everyone out of the stairs and the results tabulated. Most people had left by that point, and when they called WCL/X-Gym up for the team award (best three times combined), there was only me and one other guy to accept medals. Once everything was wrapped up I had a three hour drive home; six hours of driving for eight minutes of racing, what a crazy sport.