I was almost defeated by the six little words, “do not crawl on the stairs.”
I lay in bed Saturday morning thinking, I don’t have to go, I could just say I went. The rain was pounding, not even my cat was bugging me for her breakfast. It was 5:30 am, I didn’t need to be up for an hour but I couldn’t sleep. I lay there trying to convince myself that it wouldn’t be that bad. I had been fine all week, until I read the “race information packet.” I skimmed the pages looking for something that I didn’t already know and then I saw it, “ you may run, you may walk but do not crawl on the stairs.” What? Crawl? Why would anyone crawl on the stairs? Was this event so tough that it brought people to their knees, requiring them to drag their half dead bodies up the steps? Holy shit! What had I gotten myself into?
All night I thought about those six words, “do not crawl on the stairs,” over and over they swam in my head. Finally I pulled myself out of bed and found the coffee-making gear. Two massive cups of Peet’s later and I was feeling better, although my legs had begun to shake. I texted Penny to asked her, “Why do we do this again?” Immediately Pen responded with “because we can.” It was seeing those words in the window of my phone that calmed me down. She was right. Because we can. I could do it, the feeling of relief almost made me cry.
As my oatmeal brewed Mo offered last-minute words of advise and support. My support crew had come through once again. I was calm and ready start the insanity!
Entering the underground parking garage at 555 California was not as smooth as I had imagined. Between the pouring rain and the fact that every car entering the structure had to be searched, there was a bit of a delay. However, once cleared by the Bomb Sniffer Dude I was free to enter the concourse and stand in the rain along with thousands of other nervous people waiting to retrieve our race numbers, timing chips and the coveted, event t-shirt.
The start was smooth. Racers went off at 7 second intervals, you walk up to the line, they snap your photo, you hear, beep, beep, beep and when you hear the loud BUZZZZ, that’s your cue to go like hell.
Off I went, trotting up the cement steps, gray, gray, gray all I could see was gray. I refused to look at the floor markers on the wall, they would mess with my head. It wasn’t until my ears popped that I looked at the marker, I was on the 24th floor. Wow, almost 50% done. I then realized that I was someplace high up in the sky. It seemed strange for some reason. I looked at my watch, 8 minutes.
I picked up the pace and passed a Fire Fighter in full gear having a hard time. Yikes, I thought, good thing there’s no fire.
At some point a dude in baggy drawers entered the stairwell from a water station, for some reason he was under the impression that I might like to chat as we climbed. I decided this was a good time to get a sip of water so I ditched into the hall hoping to lose Baggy D.
A quick sip of water and I was off again, up, up, up and then, damn, there was Baggy D. I put the hammer down to get away and began to notice a steady stream of raspy, gasping sounds rapidly approaching from down the stairwell. As the racket bared down on me I kept my eyes straight ahead looking only at the grey steps. Then, a huge foot wearing one of those shoes that look like a foot appeared to my left. Fat treaded toes attached to a leg that took two steps at a time. The next thing I saw was a muscular rear-end, then, as rapidly as it appeared, the foot the rear-end and the gasping vanished, never to be seen or heard again.
It was after being passed by Big Foot that I really picked up the pace. I came upon a Fire Lady wearing shorts and her big Fire Lady jacket looking like she’d seen better days; again I wondered what goes on when there’s a fire. I looked at the floor marker, it read 50th floor. Holy shit, only two more floors? It must be a trick (I really did think that!). But alas it was no trick. I arrived at the 52nd floor, somebody immediately said, “smile” I looked up, they snapped my photo and I trotted down the hall into the Carnelian Banquet Room to a throng of clapping, cheering, photo snapping people. It was over. Time on my watch said 14:20, unofficial time (official time, 14:00!). Not bad, I thought.
I’m glad I did it. It was fun and for a good cause. I’ll do it again but next time I’ll go a little faster knowing that I won’t need to crawl. That’s my only regret, I finished the race with gas left in the tank, or money left in my pocket as Laurel used to say (but that’s a story for another day).
When I got home I looked at the event t-shirt for the first time. It was bright cherry red; the usual sponsor logos covered the back. The copy on the front read “I climb because I can.” Words to live by…