I had one of my worst stair races yet this past Saturday, at the Big D Climb in Dallas. Probably the biggest factor was residual fatigue from 3M half marathon a week prior, plus of course the things that made that go poorly (lack of training, excess weight). It wasn't an entirely negative experience, however. My West Coast Labels/X-Gym team was well represented, drawing racers in from around Texas and around the country, and even as far away as Denmark, so I got to hang out with my "step siblings." And of course this is a charity fundraising event, benefiting the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, which has become more relevant to me since Austin pro triathlete Amy Marsh was diagnosed with AML.
While the race this year was in a new building, it was about the same height as last year's race (finishing on the 53rd floor of a 62-story building) so it was very disappointing to be 2 minutes slower, at 9:34. While 34th (out of 1387) may not be my lowest finish in a stair race, it is really disappointing for the level of competition.
Friday evening I made the dreaded drive through Austin traffic up to Dallas, getting into my hotel at 9 (which happens to be the venue for an upcoming race in May). I got my clothes and such ready for the next day and went to bed, or at least laid in bed and played with my phone. I woke up at 6:30 Saturday and had a bar and Dr Pepper for breakfast. I jogged the mile from my hotel to the Comerica Bank building (past the 70-story Bank of America building), and even that didn't go well. It was kind of awkward since I was wearing a backpack, but still my legs didn't feel great for whatever reason. At the building, I was at first slightly panicked because there was a line for bib pickup and it felt like the time was nigh. But the race didn't wind up starting until 7:55, about 10 minutes late, so there was time to mill about and catch up with my teammates. Of course I know the Texas folks from all the other races, and I knew most of the out-of-town folks from Chicago or Las Vegas races.
When the race got under way, they were sending us every 10 seconds. I started maybe 10th, letting the guys I knew would be faster, like Martin, Steve, Scott, Robert, Ignacio, David, go ahead of me. The stairwell in this building is pretty narrow, just enough room for two people (which on the plus side allows for using both rails), so I didn't want to be in their way. Much to my dismay, the three guys after me wound up passing me. The guy right after me, not on our team and nobody knew him, passed me within the first 10 floors. My first thought was that he started too fast and would blow up later; he did slow a little after he passed me, but still blew me away; he was probably the guy who finished in first place. I was a little too hypoxic to be sure, but I think the other two who passed me were 70-year old Ned and 52-year old Duane, which was not a great feeling.
The stairwell was so dry. It hit me almost immediately. I had been sipping water up until the start of the race, but within 10 floors my mouth was like the Sahara Desert. It quickly got to a painful stage and I grabbed a bottle of water at the 25th floor. I sipped and just walked like it was a regular day in a regular staircase, that's how desperate I was for water. I sealed it up and tucked the bottle in my waistband to resume more deliberate (but not fast) climbing. I walked/sipped another stretch in the 40s before a "big finish." I was set to sprint it home from 50, only to be confronted with a landing on 51 and a jog ~20 feet to the left before the last flights of stairs. I normally prefer to walk it off after finishing a race, but this time I just wanted to drop and lay down. The finish area was just a small hallway, and with a table of water and bananas, plus several bodies already on the floor, I had to walk a bit before I could find a place to plop down. A volunteer handed me a coin that served as the finisher's medal while I laid catching my breath. Since there was no place to linger up top (despite what looked like an empty suite), we loaded into the freight elevator (no idea why they didn't want us in the regular elevators) to go back to the lobby.
There was talk of going back up, but at least for a while there was a huge number of people lined up to climb. Eventually it got a little calmer and some friends jumped in line to go again. I thought about going again, mainly so I could take my GoPro and get some footage, but I was coughing really bad and decided it was best to skip it. My legs didn't really feel that bad at that point, but later they were sore enough that more climbs were not necessary. A lot of the WCL crew did a total of 3 climbs; Scott kept going and going for a total of 12. While he was still climbing I went back to my hotel, showered, checked out, and drove back to the venue. A number of us hung out through the awards, which weren't until after noon and amounted to reading off the names of first place in each age group. After losing more and more folks to attrition, eight of us had lunch together nearby. I headed home at 1:30 and pretty soon hit the rain I had been expecting, but hadn't made it as far north as Dallas.