Sunday, March 23, 2014

Tallest Building in Washington Stair Race

The tallest building in the State of Washington is the Columbia Center in Seattle. On March 23, 2014 I joined 6000 other people in “The Big Climb” race to the top of the building making Washington the 11th state I have ran the stairs of the tallest building in.

This race is on a Sunday morning so I booked a 6:15 pm Saturday evening flight out of Utah to Seattle followed by an 11:00 am Sunday morning return flight. It is a quick trip but knowing I will be away from home a lot over the next three weeks I need to spend as much time with my family as possible.

My son had his first golf tournament of the year Saturday afternoon and the tee time was set for 3:17 pm 45 minutes south of the airport. I was very disappointed when the times were posted since I love to caddie for my son. After getting lost driving for 2 hours to find the golf course we made it to his tournament and I caddied for the first 3 holes and he was doing great. My brother in law came and swapped me out so I could get to the airport. My son ended up taking 4th with a few triple bogeys that hurt his round but I am super proud of him.

I arrived at the airport just in time to board my flight and was off on my trip. The flight to Seattle is a nice short 90 minute flight and the views on a clear day coming into Seattle are breathtaking with the snowcapped mountains,  lush green forest that leads to the ocean and many bays. I have lucked out that every time I have been to Seattle it has been sunny.

I rented a car and began the drive to downtown Seattle while driving past the large Boeing air field. 35 years ago my father had a job offer out of college to be an engineer at Boeing in Seattle and I sometimes think how different my life would have been if he would have taken that job and placed our family in here. I don’t know exactly what point of the highway it was but I came around a bend in the road and there was downtown Seattle towering in the distance. There was the Columbia Center towering over all of the buildings and my heart kind of sank and I said out loud “WOW”. I don’t know if it is due to the building being on a hill and the ocean being close but considerably lower, but I was intimidated!
My bed at the Artic Club. Eskimos.
I booked a Hilton Doubletree called The Artic Club that on the map looked close to the Columbia Center. When I arrived and parked on the side of the street it was funny to see that the building is actually kiddie corner from the hotel. This Artic Club is very unique with a wall of old pictures of people and a shelf full of top hats. Maybe my favorite part of it was the white tall glowing polar bear in the lobby.

Being a Hilton Honors member I always seem to get upgraded and have in my profile to stay in a room on a high floor away from the elevator. They put me on the 9th floor at the end of the hall in the corner. Funny thing about this spot is out of the corner window was a direct view of the Columbia Center. I opened the window, stuck out my head and couldn’t even see the top of the building. Intimidated again but laughing at how perfect not only the hotel was but the room.

View of Columbia Center from my Artic Club room

My room is the 9th floor with windows open

I’ve posted before about the president of the US StairClimbing Association is PJ Glassey. He owns a gym in Seattle called XGym and specializes in stair race training. He has a great website with tips for getting into this crazy stair racing world and is often featured in articles as an expert. He invited me to register for the race on his XGym team. This team wins the race every year and also gets to begin the race first at 8:30 in the morning. While I am nowhere near as fast as these guys it was an honor to run on their team and I made sure to position myself at the back of the line so they wouldn’t have to pass me.
Xgym team I was a part of. Xgym won the race with the fastest individual and fastest team
After a team picture we lined up and started the race. The stairwell is tight with 8-10 steps before hitting each platform and turning. It started on the 4th floor and ended on the 72nd floor so is actually a 69 story climb. At the starting spot before entering the stairwell there is some strange artwork with these bodies of people and rather than having a head they have a ladder that another guy is climbing on. One of the strangest pieces of art I've ever seen. 

I made it about 15 floors with a quick jog until I needed to skip steps at more of a walking speed. It was honestly a tough climb. Around floor 35 some negative thoughts started to creep into my mind when I realized I was barely halfway there. I didn’t let those thoughts stay in there long as I began to think of my niece Whitney who cannot walk and how I have this body that is very tired but capable of doing this. It was a dark dusty concrete filled stairwell, I didn’t have any headphones on so I only heard my breath and feet plodding along but I began to feel very grateful in my heart to be at this place at this moment in my life. This gave me the focus to keep pushing myself floor by floor.
This is the sweaty mess I am sitting on the floor trying to slow my heart down after the finish line
I hit the top floor in 12 minutes 45 seconds, grabbed a water bottle and found a place on the floor to fall down to let my heart pounding sweaty body cool down. After relaxing for a few minutes I stood up and could not believe the beautiful view out of the windows. One window I could see the space needle, out another was the Seattle Seahawks football field and out the other was Pikes Market and the harbor. What an amazing sight and if you are ever visiting Seattle on a sunny day I highly recommend taking the elevator (or the stairs:) to this viewing room.

The final results of the race placed me as the 89 fastest out of 392 males 30-39 years old. I was confused at the preliminary results that listed only around 3300 racers. The website proudly lists this race as the biggest in the US at 6000 racers. Thanks to PJ's article on the US stair climbing association website I learned that 2000 of the racers are non timed. Another 700 racers simply started the race and didn't finish. They must have stopped at one of the many water stops and took the elevator down. It really is one of the toughest buildings I have run and reading the article about elite climbers having a hard time it makes me feel a little better about my "wall" I hit at the 35th floor.

I took the elevator down, went to my hotel to shower and drove to the airport to catch my flight. I made it to the gate just in time to board. The view flying out was spectacular as usual. Looking down at the city skyline from the airplane I felt grateful for this experience and the memories this goal is providing me. My body feels healthy my mind is clear and I feel in a strange way like this goal is making me a better person.

The next couple of weeks I will be travelling to Kentucky, Indiana, the Philippines and Guam. I hope I get the opportunity to run some more stairs and will post about it when I do.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Tallest Building in Michigan Stair Race

Renaissance Center Detroit Michigan

Renaissance Center in Detroit is the tallest building in Michigan and on March 1 2014 I ran the stairs of this building marking the 10th state I have completed on my quest to 50. March 1st marks almost a year since I started this crazy goal and I am now 20% done. It feels great to have a goal and see progress coming after a lot of hard work. I am getting faster and my body is getting stronger.

When I first booked the flight to Detroit I thought I was being so smart by booking the redeye that arrived at 6:35 am Sunday morning so I didn’t have to pay for a hotel. A few weeks later I realized I was not so smart…the redeye I took got me in 6:35 am on Saturday morning…not Sunday morning. For weeks I wondered what I could do that Saturday. On Tuesday of this week I received a call from my mother in law asking if I was ever going to be in Cleveland, and if I needed to go there to climb a building she would pay for it if I could clean out and ship the contents of my sister in law’s storage unit. Amazing how things work out!

Friday evening at 1:10 am I sat in my first class Delta seat and slept for one hour of the 3-hour flight to Detroit. Landed at 6:35 am and drove for 2 hours 30 minutes to Cleveland. I pulled over twice due to fatigue, I was so tired and the long flat boring roads didn’t help. After arriving in Cleveland I took multiple loads of stuff to dumpsters and to FedEx to box up and ship to Denver. It was an 8-hour day of cleaning a storage unit that is actually quite small.

Once finished, I made the long drive back to Detroit in a snowstorm. The city of Detroit had an inch of slippery snow covering the roads when I arrived. Due to the city being in bankruptcy they don’t send plows out to clean off the snow or tow abandoned cars. By the next day the snow was still on the road and there were many abandoned cars on the side of the road.

I finally checked in the hotel with a sore back, a foggy mind but enjoyed the beautiful view out of the 58th floor windows. I hit the bed at 8:15 pm and didn’t move until my alarm was blaring at 8:15 am. Although I had slept for 12 hours I was completely exhausted. I couldn’t believe I was going to take my body to the top of a 72 story building in an hour.  I opened the drapes and along with the rush of cold air I noticed my window was covered in frost. It was quite strange but a very neat sight.

I found the check in room in a large lobby area with windows overlooking the cold Detroit River with Canada on the other side. With the amazing views, DJ playing music and the general excitement among climbers it was a great atmosphere.

Check in Area with Beautiful view

The first group they let start were the “Elite” climbers. In order to be in this group you had to submit times of other races to qualify. There weren’t many elites and it took 5 minutes for them all to be in the stairwell running. My start time wasn’t for another 55 minutes and it was with the regular group of people. I did not want to have the same crowded stairwell that I experienced in Denver the previous week. I tried to have them let me in with the elites or early but it wasn’t happening.

Pre race in the check in area
Finally at 10:00 am they let a large group of 300 runners line up. I had positioned myself well and was the 3rd person in line at that point. The start line had a strange foil type path leading to the stairs with a volunteer typing in runner’s numbers in to a little calculator type thing. They warned us not to get too close otherwise our timer might inadvertently start….strange set up.

Entrance to the stairwell
After the first two people started I was off. I ran through the strange starting tunnel and jumped up to skip my first step. Only problem was these steps are all-concrete, not very tall and are very slippery. I fell onto my hands and knees immediately and laughed as I got up. One step up and I’m already on the ground….not a great start.

The stairwell was unique where most stairwells you run up a few steps, make a turn and run up another set of steps and you are on the next level. For this building they had longer sets of stairs so each time you hit a platform you are on the next floor. This was great. It is easy to lose time while turning on platforms so I could just run fast and make the turn to the next floor.

I passed the other two people while on the third floor and was all alone the rest of the run. It was fun to hear the volunteers talk to me and say “You are the first one!” “Great job keep going”. There was one guy on the 32nd floor that said in a kind of grumpy voice “you have a reeeaaaallllyy long way to go….slow down.” I had to laugh to myself, not the most encouraging things to say to someone in a race.

Post race picture in the restaurant on the 72nd floor overlooking Canada

I was able to skip a step the whole way up and felt pretty good when I hit the top floor. The view from the top was incredible with the snow-capped city of Detroit, a large river and a great view into Canada. This is one impressive building and location that my engineering and architect family members would appreciate.

The medals area was down on the 4th floor so I had to make my way back down the elevator then into a large room with snacks and vendors. The best part was a bunch of nice ladies and a couple of guys with pompoms were cheering for everyone as each group exited the elevator and entered the room. Yes it did make me smile but I appreciated how generous these volunteers were to spend most of their Sunday morning cheering on random people.

A couple of hours later I was able to see the final results and I did the best I have ever done in a long race.  I ran the Renaissance Center in 9 minutes 34 seconds placing me 47th out of 852 racers that completed the race. Considering this building is 72 floors tall and the Denver race the prior week was 56 floors and it took me 11 minutes 11 seconds. 

What a great experience. I am really enjoying the journey of accomplishing this goal and look forward to my future climbs. Washington in a couple weeks will be my next race and I am going to be ready! 10 down 40 more states to go!!

"The Fist" statue out front of the Renaissance GM building

Friday, February 28, 2014

Tallest Building in Colorado Stair Run

Republic Plaza Denver Colorado, Tallest building in Colorado
Happy stair race season….what is that?? You didn’t know there is such a thing?? Neither did I until entered this crazy/fun sport last year. Stair race season is generally defined as February and March of each year. This is due to American Lung association holding their Fight for Air fundraisers during this time period.

The stair climbers use these timed events to add the results to the national stair climbing rankings. It is tricky to figure out which races you are going to run in since they are all so compressed. For example the weekend of February 22-23 there were 7 ALA stair races across the US. 

I competed in the Utah race and the Colorado race. This weekend on March 2nd I will be running in the Detroit Michigan race but most of the elite stair climbers will be in Nevada for the Stratosphere race. This Colorado stair run represents the 9th state I have run the tallest building in.

My 5 year old daughter and I made a daddy daughter trip out of this weekend. She joined me and stayed with my sister in law Julie and her fiancé while I was at the race. Claire brought her little suitcase she packed 3 days earlier and we had an excellent trip.

The morning of the race I realized in my rush to head out the door I failed to pack running shorts. My jeans were not going to be sufficient in a 56 story race so I rushed over to the local Walmart at 7:00 am and purchased some $10 shorts….thanks Walmart.

I made the drive into downtown Denver for the race and there were low clouds with some snow on the ground making Republic Plaza look extra tall and intimidating.

In Utah the previous day there were no more than 300 people running where the Denver race had over 3000. In Utah I was able to wait 4 minutes with no on entering the stairs before I ran. In Denver they send someone every 5 seconds. This made the stairwell packed with people walking up. I passed around 40 people on my way up.
9:00 am starting group for the Denver ALA stair race
There were times when I would get to a packed group of people or a very large person using both handrails and I would slowly wait behind them until I could pass.

This is ultimately a charity race and I wasn’t about to be rude by pushing people out of the way or yelling for them to move so I remained patient even though it was a bit frustrating to think of what my time could have been.

The last 12 floors of the building I was stuck behind R. Macias, a firefighter from Denver. He was in 80 pounds of gear and was using both rails to pull himself up. I slowly followed him until the finish line.

My time was 11 minutes 11 seconds (isn’t that a lucky number?) putting me in at 142 out of 1029 male racers. Not a bad time.

It was a great race and I was surprised to not be sore at all from the two races. My lungs were certainly overworked and a bit fatigued but my legs are fine. 9 down 41 to go!

Monday, February 24, 2014

Utah Stair Race Zions Bank Building

On Saturday February 23, 2014 I ran in the American Lung Association Fight for Air climb in Salt Lake City Utah at the Zions Bank building.

This building is 18 stories tall and 256 feet tall so this race is a sprint race. Last year the race was in the Wells Fargo building which is the tallest building in the state of Utah. From what I heard at the event Zions bank employees really stepped up to help ALA and that is the main reason for the switch. There were 18 employees from Zions Bank spending their Saturday volunteering to help the race run smoothly...pretty impressive.

In my quest to run the tallest building in each of the 50 states I was quite disappointed for the change. I live in Utah and have waited for almost a year to run in this race. The day the online registration opened I was the first person to register. The website still listed Wells Fargo center as the building the race would be in. It wasn’t until a week before the race when looking for the start times did I find out it had switched. By that point I had already paid the $35 registration fee and $50 donation which my company matched.

After all of that there wasn’t a point in complaining, I had never done a short race so I prepared to run an 18 story race. My strategy was to run as fast as I could skipping steps until my lungs hit a wall then walk briskly skipping steps to the top. I only made it 7 floors when I had to slow down.

I made it to the top in 2 minutes 26 seconds  and spend 15 minutes laying on the ground with my head pounding from the blood pumping through it. I was pretty exhausted and the EMTs kept a close eye on me from across the hall. I really should have warmed up more.
View from the top of the Zions Bank Building
After the race there was a party in a large room overlooking Temple Square and all of downtown Salt Lake City. It was a great view. One amazing aspect of these ALA races is the involvement of the firefighters. Many of the local firefighting crews come, wear 80 pounds of gear, including oxygen tanks and masks then they run up the stairwell. These guys are in such amazing shape.
Firefighters preparing to run the stairs in their full gear
When the results are announced and awards given they start with the firefighter group and add up the total time of the 4 fastest firefighters from each station. The winning station was Park City Firefighters and they were given a very cool ax with an engraving of each years past station winners.
Fireman cooling off after the race
When they showed the results for men over the age of 14 there were around 45 in this group and surprisingly I was in 3rd place. It was the first time I have ever placed in the top three for a race. Pretty cool!

There was no prize for 3rd place but first place guy that ran in 2:06 won a pair of new running shoes of his choice from the local running store.

While I probably wouldn’t have signed up for this race since it isn’t at the tallest building in the state, I am motivated to sign up for next years race to try to get 1st.  Short races are very fun. Next year I will see if I can get some other friends and family to join, especially my 8 year old son...I think he would love it!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Tallest Building in South Carolina Stair Run

On February 11 2014 I ran the stairs of the tallest building in South Carolina, the Capital Center in Columbia.

With this run I have now run up the tallest building in 8states.  I am finding that each state has its own unique circumstances that are making this quest more fun than I would have imagined.

I had a training meeting for work scheduled in Raleigh North Carolina this week. I decided to fly in a day early so I could drive to Columbia to attempt to run this building. I landed around 11:00 pm and drove south to Rock Hill South Carolina to stay the night and drive the 90 minutes to Columbia in the morning. I needed to be back by 5:45 pm for a work event.

When I left Utah the snow on our putting green in the backyard had all melted for the first time in 3 months and it was 50 degrees. I checked the weather when I arrived in Rock Hill and saw that a major ice and snowstorm was heading directly for South Carolina and North Carolina, the weather channel called it winter storm PAX.....when did they start naming winter storms??

It looked like it would be below freezing until 10:00 am so I decided to not leave the hotel until then. I began the 90-minute drive to large snowflakes falling fast.

They don’t have many snow plows in the south so I knew If it snowed/iced too hard I would be stuck in Columbia for days which would not go over well with my employer. I started considering turning around and skipping this run…but really how often am I going to have an opportunity to go to South Carolina for minimal costs so I continued.

Once in Columbia the snow had turned to mostly rain. I pulled up next to the building and noticed the South Carolina state capital building was directly across the street. If it wasn’t the largest snowstorm in 20 years I would have taken time to tour the building, but for this trip pulling over, rolling down the window for a picture is all I was able to do.

I parked in the covered parking garage in the rear of the building and entered onto the 2nd floor. There is a little restaurant where I bought bottled water then sat down to change into my running shoes and survey the area. 

The 2nd floor is open to the 1st floor and there were two security guards at their stations. I saw the information for the property manager and the unlocked door to the stairwell. It had a beautiful lobby area on the first floor.

My typical process for running these buildings includes talking the property manager and getting official approval to make the run in the building. Considering the stairwell was open, there were no signs indicating I couldn’t enter and most importantly I didn’t have the time to get approval I decided to just go for it and hope to go unnoticed.

I entered the stairwell on the second floor, walked down to the 1st floor and dropped my backpack. Decided to run the 26 floors in my jeans and golf shirt I was already wearing.  I took a quick picture and sprinted up the first 12 floors before I got tired. I continued up to the 26th floor and then there were stairs continuing to the door to the roof. It was very dark and creepy up there. I stopped my timer at 4 minutes 35 seconds then started back down.

When I was on the 24th floor I thought I should take a picture with me there as proof I was there. As I was taking my ‘selfie’ I heard the door on the 23rd floor open.  Right as I was taking the picture I looked down a little as you can see. 

Many times employees that have two floors they work on will take the stairs to be quicker. I figured this was the case but sat quietly to see if this person would go down a floor rather than up. Then I saw a man in a suit walking up so I started walking down and acted surprised when we met around the corner and I said in a startled voice “Oh....Hi there.” To which he responded somewhat confused “Hello.” 

After he entered the office building I bolted down the stairs to the first floor, grabbed my backpack walked past security to my car and was on the snowy road to Charlotte.

I made it back to Charlotte, returned the rental car and headed to a Charlotte Bobcats NBA basketball game with my coworkers for the night.
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The next two days the airport and city were shut down and luckily Thursday afternoon the snow stopped an hour before my flight and I was on one of the first flights out of Charlotte in days. This was certainly a fun experience and I am happy to have South Carolina off my list. Next up is Colorado this weekend. 

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Tallest Building on the West Coast Waterfront

The Manchester Grand Hyatt at 40 stories and 497 ft tall is officially the third tallest building in San Diego. Since it is on the marina waterfront or the Pacific Ocean it is the tallest building on the waterfront on the west coast of the United States.

San Diego has many different skyscrapers but they all have something in common. None of them are over 500 feet tall. When you fly into San Diego it is easy to notice that the airport is right next to the city. Due to this the city has a height restriction on buildings downtown that has been
in effect since the 1970's. The tallest building in San Diego is only three feet taller than the Hyatt.
USS Midway
The Manchester Grand Hyatt is near on of the top tourist attractions in San Diego, the decommissioned aircraft carrier that is now a museum parked in the harbor. The Grand Hyatt does look very tall at 397 feet yet it is interesting to note that the USS Midway is 1000 feet long. If it were turned pointed in the air it would be two times taller than the tallest building in San Diego…..impressive.
Manchester Grand Hyatt Lobby
With all these unique facts I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to stay at this hotel while here on business and run the stairs even though I am typically a Hilton and Marriott loyalist.

I first warmed up by running on the sidewalk at the marina just outside the doors of the hotel. With million dollar yachts and beautiful shops all along the boardwalk makes it hard to want to go workout in an inside stairwell.
Bottom floor of stairwell
It can be difficult finding a good entrance to stairwells on the first few floors of large convention type hotels. I took the elevator to the 7th floor where the rooms were and then found my way to the stairwell. I then took the winding path down the stairwell until I was at the doors on sea level.

The run up the stairs were 40 floors with an additional set of stairs leading up to the roof. It only took 5 minutes but was a good workout for my lungs. I was able to exit on the 39th floor and look out the window to see the beautiful view.

On the 40th floor there is the Top of the Hyatt bar that is looks out onto Coronado Island, the harbor and the beautiful sunset. I was able to walk by the bar and enjoy the view from the windows.
San Diego Sunrise

From my two days in San Diego I learned that it is a very special place. The food is incredible, the traffic is minimal, the weather year round is magical…..If only the home prices were more reasonable and the taxes were less. But I guess if that were the case more people would move there. For now I will move San Diego to the top of the list of places I need to visit with the family.