So, last weekend, I did the American Lung Association’s Fight for Air Climb at the U.S. Bank building, here in Milwaukee. Which is considered a run.
If you know me, I just blew your hair back, because everyone who knows me knows I don’t run. At all. Ever. And when I do, it’s a disaster. It’s always been like that. In Junior High, one of our Fall/Spring skill tests was running a mile. I usually snuck in just under the wire with a grade D time of 14 minutes plus. Over 15 minutes was an F. A few times I got a pity D- when I should have gotten an F. This was a big mystery to everyone—why the kid who could do the splits all three ways, touch her nose to her knees, prance around a stage for half an hour, biked and walked all over town—couldn’t run.
I’ve never really understood it myself, just knew that about one hundred yards into any run I was half as far as anyone else, gasping for breath and on the verge of collapse. The kids with arthritis and asthma who were participating for fun and not testing would walk by and watch me gasping on the ground and would say, “you know, it might be easier if you just walked fast.” Some people have told me I’m a distance runner, not a sprinter, and I’m trying to sprint. Yeah, OK, I don’t actually know what you’re talking about at all. I think it has something to do with getting going too fast and wind up on the ground before I know it. From aerobics, I know that if you’re heart rate gets too high, you start to feel bad and worn out, and if that happens you’re supposed to slow down.
How did I wind up in the stairwell of the U.S. Bank building, with a pounding pulse, drenched in sweat, breathing like a bellows somewhere around the 26th floor? Well, it seemed like a fun idea when I saw it on the TV news. 47 floors isn’t that much. Sounds like good exercise, I don’t really care about times and stuff. There’s probably a nice view from the top, get a sense of achievement . . . . I didn’t really think of it as a “run” with all those bouncy people in their running outfits taking their pulses and comparing to target heart rates and warming up with their $300 shoes.
It was a bit confusing, but I managed to wend my way through the sign in process, get in a “wave” and even tie the timer chip thingy into my shoelaces in a way that wasn’t to bothersome and that seemed to stick. With the idea in my head that this was a “run” and I was supposed to “run”, when it was my turn, I started to “run” up the stairs. I even passed someone. It worked OK, for about the first ten flights. When I got to the first aid station, I was definitely in need of aid. I got some water and rested for a bit, and then started up again, going a bit more slowly this time. At this point, other people were passing me left and right. Ten down, thirty-seven to go, I just wanted to be done, so I kept going. And going and going to twenty-five, more than half way. I stopped longer this time, because by now I was really hurting, and it was really hot. Ugh, I was totally overstressed—and people want to know why I hate running—and I really just wanted my bicycle. At least on a bicycle you’re guaranteed some breeze.
I got going again, but this time it was no good. I was stopping and starting every flight, practically dragging myself up. At 30, I was seriously wondering if I would make it to the top. I kept going, though, and at the 35th floor, I took refuge at an mysteriously untended aid station. At this point, I realized the stairway was rather empty. I knew I was in one of the later waves and figured I needed to pull myself together and finish before everyone cleaned up and went home and I was stuck at the top of the building. A few other people came by—I handed them water as I huffed and puffed. My legs felt fine, and air was definitely going in and out, I guess just not as much as I needed. Finally, my pulse had slowed somewhat, as had my profuse sweating and wind tunnel breathing. Twelve floors to go, I started slowly, but steadily and deliberately up, the final few flights, counting backwards as I went.
I finally made it to the top. I got a medal and a wonderful birds-eye view of Milwaukee. I had to turn in my shoelace timer chip, and for the first time in my life, I couldn’t get my shoe untied. One of the volunteers had to do it for me. After the elevator ride down to the start, I got my time for my first run: 32 minutes. That’s four minutes faster than a participant with COPD who had a supporter carry her oxygen tank.
So, time passes and things change, but some things stay the same. I guess I’m still a crap runner. Of course, it might help if I wasn’t trying to run straight up. On my first organized run. I had thought about doing a 5K Hot Chocolate fun run late last year, but it turns out the one in the DC area was an epic disaster of mostly humorous proportion, so I guess it was best I didn’t do that anyway.
Maybe someone will organize a chocolate-centric run, over flat ground, and I can try that. And go slowly at first. And not go that far. And get chocolate at the end. 😀 Anywho, as much as I sucked at the Climb for Air, it actually was fun. And the view was awesome and now I feel totally motivated to do more cardio. Score 1 for letting myself be bad at something, and enjoying it anyway.