I signed up for this event because it was different and because it would be a good training event for one of the many mountains I’ll be racing up this year.  I didn’t expect it to be such a fun little event.  As instructed, I showed up about 45 minutes before my scheduled start time of 8:38:45.  The lobby of the Lexington Financial Center was buzzing with excitement.  The first 44 racers were in the public service division and consisted of fire, police, and rescue personnel.  They were in line by bib number awaiting their start time of 8:00.  The MC was giving directions and people were busy signing in, getting their chips, checking bags, and stretching.  Although the little lobby was crowded, it was organized well and there were no bottlenecks.  I took care of all the pre-race assignments and found a back hallway by the elevators for active stretching.

It wasn’t long before the announcement that everyone with bib numbers 45 to 100 should get in line.  I found my position (after 59 and before 61, guess what my bib number was) and as usual I started looking over the competition to see who I thought was going to be the toughest to be beat.  There were several younger runners ahead of me wearing track shirts, triathlon uniforms, etc. so most of them looked pretty formidable.  The race itself consisted of chip-timed racers departing every 15 seconds and running up the 29 stories of the Lexington Financial Center.  The starting line was a couple yards away from the stairwell door and you had to make a sharp right turn to enter.  As I toed the line, I kept switching my lead foot so as not to waste any steps in making the turn.  That was a little trick I learned as a kid from a “The Baseball Bunch” episode on base stealing.

When the monitor hit 8:38:45 I took off as fast as I could go.  In hindsight, I may have started too fast, but I’m happy with my performance so who knows.  Instead of running up the stairs 2 at a time like I expected to do, I just started jumping as many as I could at once, swinging myself around the turns, and repeating.  It was like I was trying to get out of a burning building, but I was going the wrong direction.  I passed 1 racer within the first 30 seconds, another one 2 stories later and another one a minute or so later.  After about 8 or 9 stories I hit a wall (not an actual wall, but the proverbial fatigue wall) and had to slow to the 2-steps at once routine.  Legs were burning and I was gasping for air, but this was an extremely short race so I had to go all out.  There were exit points with water stations and medical aid every 7 stories or so.  Smart move.  There were people standing at those exit points cheering as you went by, but I honestly did not look at them or pay any attention.  I was too focused on getting to the top as quickly as possible.  The last 10 or so floors were brutal as legs were like concrete and my fastest speed didn’t seem all that fast.  I heard footsteps below me in the stairwell from the guy who started behind me and that gave me enough of a competitive boost to sprint (if you can call it that) the final 2 floors to the top.  I came out of the stairwell gasping and barely remember getting the post-race water or having my timing chip removed by a volunteer.  It was at least 2 minutes before I could catch my breath enough to take a drink.  The people who finished before me were lying on the floor or sitting in the couches hunched over.  No one had lolly-gagged in this event.  The really neat thing that I did not enjoy as much as I should have was the view over Lexington.  It was spectacular, but all I could think about was breathing and getting my heart rate to dip back under 300!  I finally got my legs and breath back, but that creeping sensation of stomach sickness hit me.  That feeling kept growing stronger and I then had to concentrate to keep from hurling.  Of course there wasn’t a bathroom or trash can accessible in this penthouse area.  I held it in long enough to take the elevator back down to the 2nd floor for the post-race stretching.  Still no bathroom!  However, I found a cool hallway and leaned against the wall for a few minutes until the feeling subsided.  Success!

The post-race stretching area was staffed by a triathlon coach and was stocked with foam rollers and “sticks“.  I have been wanting to try out the stick and this was the perfect opportunity.  I rolled my calves, thighs, and quads out as I chatted with the Crossfit Maximus co-owner who was the racer behind me.  I’ll be placing an order for the stick after I finish this post.  I then went downstairs and put my warm-up suit on, collected my belongings, and went to the heated tent outside that had music and food.  I grabbed a banana, but could only eat half of it as my stomach was still not very pleased with me.  I waited with 50 or 60 others for awhile until the printed list of finish times was posted on a board.  Over the shoulders of a couple of other people I scanned the sheet until I found my name.  My time of 8:38:45 surprised me and I was disappointed until I realized that was my start time!  My elapsed time was 3:35 and my brief scan told me that was pretty good.  The winning time was 2:42 by a local triathlete.  That was a blistering pace!!  There were 2 more times faster than mine:  3:20 and 3:27.  There were prizes for the top finisher in each age bracket, but I had no idea how old those guys were.  I hung around for more music, door prizes, raffles, etc. waiting for the awards ceremony to find out.  To make a long story short, there were issues with the computer/printer so they couldn’t announce the age bracket winners so we left without knowing.  Good enough for me.  I had the 4th fastest time overall out of 344 and I was thrilled with that!  I was only 15 seconds away from 2nd place, but I didn’t have another 15 seconds in me.  As it turned out, the guy who finished 2nd was also in my age bracket of 36-45, so I didn’t win the 3 month membership to Urban Active.  That part wasn’t disappointing since I’m not a gym guy anyways.  Takes too much time.  The other guy who beat me was in the 26-35 bracket, so at least I wasn’t beaten by anyone my age or older.

Will I do this again?  Absolutely!  This was a challenging and competitive event.  This was also quite a change for me in that I could compete without getting on an airplane or driving 4 or more hours to get there.  I have heard that next year’s event will be bigger and I’ll be back.  I would like to shave about 25 seconds off my time, but I’m getting older every day so we’ll see.