Sunday I participated in my first "Scale the Strat" stair race, 1455 stairs up one leg of the Stratosphere tower in Las Vegas. The finish is called the 108th floor, but it is not nearly as high as the 103rd floor of the Willis (Sears) Tower since it is not an occupied building for most of its height (the Stratosphere is a roughly 850 foot climb to Willis's roughly 1350). While this was not the tallest stair race I've done, it was very unique and quite challenging. I can't say I'm entirely satisfied with my 10:48 time, at least it gives me a mark for next time. This race was also the US Stair Racing Championship. I may have finished last in that (I'm not entirely sure, I was 29th American male overall), but it was an honor to have qualified for it by finishing in the top 50 in the US for 2013.
A bunch of us went down and had dinner at the diner at the base of the tower. It was a lot of fun getting to know my far-flung "step siblings" a little better. After we all parted, in one of my less wise moves, I decided to use my free ticket to the burlesque show "Pin Up" starting at 10:30 and going until midnight. It was a lot of fun for free, and I figured I would be okay sleep-wise since I had gotten a nap. You only live once.
I woke up at 2:30 and had to stretch my legs; I fell back to sleep quickly and woke up just before my alarm went off at 6:40. I got dressed and had my glamorous breakfast of a muffin and Dr Pepper from a gas station. I wanted a warmup, after not really getting one at my last race, The Big D; rather than go out for a run, I ran up the stairs from my room on 11 to the top of the hotel tower on 24. It was a short run, but my hope was that it would be enough to burn off some of my typical start-line sprintiness and I could have a more evenly paced race. Down by the start area, I saw my teammates again, as well as the other representatives of "Team Texas," Sarah and Scott, who I hadn't seen previously. It was a really nice morning outside, not nearly as cold as the forecast made it seem like it might be. I did some lunges and stretches in the parking lot, along with fellow climbers warming up. A little before 8, the elites lined up outside the fire escape of one leg of the tower (apparently each leg has a staircase). I was not familiar with the start procedure, so it seemed very odd to me when we started going up stairs, but the race had not started. The actual start line was on level 6, where there is a transition in the stairs. Apparently there was a major air pressure difference between the interior of the tower and outside, as there was a strong breeze blowing as we stood waiting to start. Since they were only starting climbers every 30 seconds, and I was toward the back of the "elite" wave, I was standing there a while getting a little chilled. Once I was on deck, it was pretty nice that Bill, the organizer/head of the regional American Lung Association (the event's beneficiary), was there; he asked my name and remembered me from our email interactions. About 8:10, it was my time to go.
As much as I tried not to, I started out way too fast, as always. I'm not sure at what point in the tower it was (less than 1/3 the way), I caught up to David, who had started 30 seconds before me [read his report]. By the time I did, I was already fading, having gone from running two stairs at a time to fast-walking 2-at-a-time. I did not try to pass, already pretty sure that I would never be able to stay ahead of him. I figured that I would basically try to ride his coattails, just keep up his pace, and at least I would beat his time. That lasted for maybe one flight, as he realized that he was behind his intended pace and sped up, while I continued to fade. At some point later, Steve, who had started behind me, was steadily gaining on me; I stepped aside and let him pass, not to be seen again (I remembered passing him at Willis, so I lined up in front of him).
Once folks were back somewhat to normal, there were a lot of "how'd you dos," which in some cases sounded a little more like "did you beat me?" Once times had been exchanged, it was pretty clear Görge from Germany was the overall winner, and Alex and Erika (of WCL, naturally) were the American winners. I stretched, had a banana and OJ, wandered around taking photos, and did a bit of chatting. We all eventually headed down to get a group shot. We got one in the auditorium, which was kind of surreal because they had live feeds from cameras in the stairwell projected on big screens. When we broke up around 9:30, there was a vague plan to meet up for brunch. I showered, checked out, and headed to the buffet. Six of us ate together, and I'm pretty sure we all made the most of the all-you-can-eat; I know I did. I didn't really have a plan for the afternoon until my flight home; as we were leaving, I was invited to join folks on a stair adventure. I was hesitant, since I was wearing jeans and would not have an opportunity to shower before my flight; I was assured it was would be easy and nobody was planning to break a sweat. The plan was to go down the strip and climb the stairs of whatever hotel we could get into.
recap] and Syd (who is nearly twice my age and beat my by 4 seconds in the Strat race, BTW) followed shortly behind. It was just before 3pm when we got back out to street level, so we stuck around to see the fountain show set to "Singin' in the Rain." Cody, who had major trouble getting in and had basically been traveling all night before the race, took a cab back to the Stratosphere while the rest of us walked the roughly 3 miles. Syd and Karen were staying the night, and parted for their rooms; Maggie and I got pizza before our respective rides to the airport. Again my flight was delayed, so I killed the time in a bar watching the Oscars (those were the only drinks I had while in Vegas; also I didn't gamble, though I considered putting $20 on black on roulette). A woman from the ALA was there, and I chatted with a woman headed to Austin on business. The flight left after 8, and I slept most of the way. Still it was pretty tough getting home after 1am and having to get up for work Monday morning.