Editor’s note: “I Did It” is a feature post running on I’m Skinny, Now What where I will tackle a new workout or diet for a week and give you my opinion. Wish me luck, because I don’t like changing my routine.
Before the Race
A couple of months ago, my workout nanny sent me an email about a race to the top of Rockefeller Center benefiting multiple sclerosis research. All I saw was “stairs, lots and lots of stairs.” Sixty-six flights of stairs, to be exact. She got super excited about it and kept sending me discounts for registration. The details on whether she said she actually signed up are muddy (I say she did, she says she didn’t), but eventually I signed up. She did not.
How does one prepare for a stair-climbing challenge? Had I taken the race more seriously, I would have gone here, here or even here. I didn’t. The winter doldrums got to me. I’d half-ass some workouts at the gyms with 20-30 minutes of cardio and some squats. Or I’d make full use of my workout DVDs so I wouldn’t have to deal with this.
As the date for the race neared, my training remained non-existent. When I told my boss about the race, he snapped me back into my senses with a couple of questions.
Boss: Have you trained at all?
Me: I run. I work out at the gym and do squats.
Boss: But have you tried like going up 20 flights of stairs?
The day before the race, like all races, nerves started to settle in. I climbed the stairs from a very deep subway platform and got winded. That’s just a subway platform! I’d be climbing 66 freaking flights of steps! What the hell did I get myself into?
I get to Rockefeller center nervous and pissy—nervous because race day; pissy because I had to get up at 5:45 a.m. and I’m not a morning person. As with any race, there’s an overexcited guy on a mic trying to get the racers at least a tenth as excited as he is. I wanted to throw my shoe at him. My workout nanny came for support and also tried to allay my nerves. I just wanted it to be over. As my 7:20 heat line filled, the nerves started to dissipate. When we got to the third floor to begin the race, I barely felt a flutter in my stomach. When I got the cue to go, the nerves were gone.
I ran up the first six flights…like a BOSS! Then I hit the wall. For those unfamiliar, a wall is when you’ve exhausted your extra energy and are forced to move at a passable pace. By floor 13, my thighs were burning. By floor 18, I was grateful for the water station because my chest was feeling tight. By 35, I was praying that my 15-year streak sans asthma attack would continue. By 45, I’d accepted my fate as woman taking sips of air with supertight thigh muscles. By 53, the only sound you could hear were people trying to breathe. By 60, I knew we only had nine more flights. Then all of a sudden I was on top of Rockefeller Center looking at downtown Manhattan. I finished in 18 minutes, 42 seconds.
What I learned
- I can climb 66 flights of stairs in 18 minutes and 42 seconds! What?!?! On the registration site, it says the average participant makes it up in about 30-45 minutes. I was shocked.
- Being short of breath is the pits. I haven’t had an asthma attack since college, but the familiar sensation that comes before one hits isn’t pleasant. The water stations helped, but I would have appreciated a few more of them. I talked with a coworker who reminded me that stairwell runs aren’t the same as regular races. There’s dust, lack of air circulation and a confined space. When running outside, those factors are minimal. He said I’ll be a little wheezy for a couple days. Great.
- Read the fine print. I’ve done a few charity races before, but this was the first time where I had to raise a minimum to participate. I was nearly turned away at the check-in counter because I was short. I made up the difference, but it didn’t help my sour mood seeing as how it wasn’t 7 a.m. yet.
- Size means nothing. There was a big, fit guy in front of me whom I ended up lapping. I was proud of myself for lapping a quite few people. Nothing boosts the ego quite like passing up some of your fellow racers.
- The only good thing about an early morning race is the post-race pancakes. Yum!
You really never know what you’re capable of until you try. Sixty-six flights is A LOT. It’s not something a logical person would consider for a Sunday morning activity. But when challenged to do so, it’s amazing to me how willing and ready I was to accept. I would definitely do it again. However, I’ll read the fine print next time so as not to harass friends and family to donate at the last minute. Speaking of, thanks to Ingrid, Willa, Quiana and Beth for helping a sister out! If you’d like, you can still donate here.