94 Floors. 1,632 steps. 22 minutes and 45 seconds. That’s how long it took me up get to the top of the Hancock Center on Sunday. I made it to the top.
The climb was both harder than and easier than I expected. Having picked up our packets and finding out we had wildly different start times – I had the “coveted” 7am start time and Rick was at 1:45pm – we had a bleary eyed beginning to our Sunday. We got to the Hancock by 6:30am, at which point I lined up by an escalator to wait for my wave to get the green light. Participants are released into the stairwells individually, so it was a few minutes after 7am before I stepped on the first stair.
The first thing I noticed: the riser height on those stairs was greater than the riser height on the stairs on which I trained. For 5’3” me, this was potentially a big deal. I had trained taking the stairs two at a time, but I had to revise that and began taking the stairs individually. I quickly realized that wasn’t going to work, as taking stairs two at a time uses your muscles differently than taking stairs one at a time. It wasn’t going to be enough to just admire the new definition in hamstrings and glutes – I was going to have to use them. I gave myself a few flights to acclimate to the height difference, then gingerly began taking every other step. To provide myself some extra balance, I gripped the handrail and used it to help propel myself forward with each step. Because I had not done this during training, this extra bit of power proved exceedingly beneficial.
It is, at first, disheartening to see climbers breeze past you as you struggle with your first few flights. It is less so when you later see those climbers fighting with every bit of strength they have to get up those higher floors. As with any race, pace was key. I started slowly. I continued slowly. I made my goal to keep going, to tackle one flight after the next, to just not stop. I distracted myself by counting my steps on each flight: two, four, six, eight…two, four, six, seven (the flights were uneven). I told myself to keep going just until the end of whatever song was playing on my phone. With each passing flight I felt more and more encouraged. By the 45th flight, I knew I was going to do it.
It is a funny thing when you complete a major physical feat that when you hear your name announced you feel the need to wave to the crowd, kiss your index and middle fingers, and offer up a peace sign. Or something. After 94 flights I’m not exactly sure what I did, just that I was surprised to hear my name as I came through that final door and I did some sort of waving thing while hacking up my respiratory system. I grabbed my medal and a bottle of water and sat down on the observatory floor to catch my breath.
I wish I had some sort of lesson to tie all of this into, but truth is that I trained for the climb, I felt confident going into it, and I did it just as well as I suspected I would. Perhaps that sounds a bit egotistical, but I think it’s a product of the fact that as I’m participating in more of these types of events, I’m getting to know my body and my physical abilities better. I know what is outside of my reach, but I also know that what I’m truly capable of. Maybe that’s the lesson. That and the view from the 94th floor is often so much more spectacular when you’ve worked really hard to get there.