The Misnomer

After my last blog post, I wasn’t sure if I would be writing here again. I had settled into a pleasant routine of non-competitive exercise for fun and health, and that felt pretty good. I enjoyed the challenge of pushing my physical limits last year, but I also had the realization at some point that I was pushing too hard for all the wrong reasons. It felt good to take a more moderate approach to fitness and life.

I haven’t totally tossed out this “moderate” thing, but I am actively training for something and feel like it’s worth sharing. So, here I go again!

About midway through January, I heard about an event called the Mountain Marathon being sponsored by my employer on February 28th. The title of the event is a bit of a misnomer, as the event does not take place on a mountain, nor is it an actual 26.2 mile foot race. Oh, who am I kidding- it’s a big misnomer. The event is, in fact, a stair climbing challenge where the “lucky” participants will have the “joy” of climbing 24 flights of stairs in the Humana Corporate building in downtown Louisville KY. With all that going for it, no wonder the event creators decided to come up with a really zingy, alliterative name.

Last year, I knew several co-workers who participated and it honestly sounded a little crazy to me. Being drawn to the power and majesty of nature and climbing a real mountain makes more sense to me. Stairs are not very romantic by comparison. Nevertheless, for whatever reason, this year something pinged in my brain. Could I climb 24 flights of stairs, if I really wanted to? Did I want to?

I surprised myself by realizing that I do want to! It’s the dead of winter here, so the outdoor running I love is not practical for me right now. (I know people run year-round, but the cold aggravates my asthma. Ugh.) I definitely do NOT love running on a treadmill, which makes indoor endurance activities harder to come by. Climbing stairs is an activity that pretty much demands to be done indoors, and it doesn’t involve running in place! Also, since I work in a building with 12 floors, I knew it wouldn’t be a big hassle to make time for training.

Everything seemed to be pointing to “Sign up!”, so I did. Just that I was willing to consider this as possible shows how far I’ve come since last year Even more enouraging, I didn’t just sign up and hope for the best. I drew up a training schedule, and I’ve been at it for a little over 3 weeks now.

I started with marking down 24 flights on February 28th and working my way backwards over six weeks to figure out how to work my way up. At first, I was quite winded after just a few flights. I learned pretty quickly that the key is pacing. I cannot sprint up 2 flights of steps and expect to do much more. This challenge is all about endurance over speed for me. Even though this training can feel pretty grueling at times, it’s also super satisfying to just keep putting one foot in front of the other, and know that I can do so much more than when I started. 17 days to go, and I’m feeling pretty good!

I have to say, the most surprising thing about training so far has been finding a stair climbing partner who is just as committed (read: crazy) as I am- friend and co-worker Deedee. Finding a good workout buddy is no easy task- it’s like trying to date someone but instead of taking them out for fun and romance, you just get to sweat like crazy, negotiate schedules, and say “WHYYYYY ARE WE DOING THIS?!?!?!” a lot. (Okay, maybe that last bit is just me.) Deedee consistently beats me to the top, which I think is a nice arrangement for both of us- I get to aspire to catch up to her, and she gets to win all the time. Score!

Last night I did 24 flights on the Stair Climber at the Y- 8 flights, three times, with walking breaks on the treadmill in between. I didn’t time the whole thing, but I’d say it took about a half hour. If nothing else, I know I can make it 24 flights total with enough resting. I know I’ll still need some rest breaks on the day of, but I hope I can still shorten them up some. Still, no time goal… just one foot in front of the other. Again and again.

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