Today I did something big. Something I have been wanting to accomplish for a few years now: The Fight For Air Climb. The climb is association with the American Lung Association, and the point is for the funds raised to benefit research on lung disease (including lung cancer, which my dad has). I read about this climb a few years ago and although my first reaction was that anyone would be crazy to walk/run 70 flights of steps, I also thought it would be so cool to do it one day.
So this year, I signed up. I trained. I started off small- when I first started training I could only do 5 minutes on the StairMaster. But I kept going, and eventually, I felt ready...or as ready as I could feel.
Both Friday and yesterday I was suffering from extremely sore legs. I had a tough workout regime this week that included a lot of squats, jumping jacks, and mountain climbers. The result? I could barely walk yesterday. Several times during the day I began to cry, worrying that I wouldn't be able to do the climb. How could I walk up 70 flights of steps when I couldn't even stand up from the couch?
Luckily, Tom came to my rescue yesterday. He helped me do different stretches, reminded me to take my Ibuprofen and drink my water, and bought SalonPas patches for my legs. By this morning I felt light years better.
As I stood in line waiting for my turn I couldn't help but feel nervous. I also couldn't help but compare it to the Hunger Games. As we got closer to the door of the stairwell, they let us in one by one, scanning our bib numbers. When it was my turn, I took a deep breath and walked up the first flight. Success.
I challenged myself to walk faster and by flight 10 I almost quit. Yes, just 10 flights in. I was already tired and could feel my lungs burning. But I told myself to get to 20. When I got to 20, I told myself to get to 40. 40 was the 1/2 way point. Many of the climbers stopped at 40. The volunteers and paramedics who were there with water asked if I wanted to stop. I couldn't talk, but I just shook my head and kept going.
I stopped several times. I would stand against the wall for 10-30 seconds at a time, breathing heavily and trying to force my legs to keep walking. The volunteers and fellow climbers helped- we all motivated each other. By the time I reached 60, I knew I was going to finish. I started to run. I let go of the railing. A volunteer told me I was looking strong. And when I reached that 70th floor, I...
well. I wish I could tell you it was a glorious finish. Instead I collapsed into the arms of a paramedic and threw up. The paramedic half carried me into a room and made me sit for 15 minutes, putting ice on my head and neck. I finally felt stable enough to go to the elevator to meet Tom, and THAT'S when the excitement took over.
I was smiling so hard that it hurt. I found Tom and grabbed onto him. I got my medal and checked my time. I had no idea how long I had been in that stairwell. It had seemed like hours. But next to my name read "19 minutes, 2 seconds". Holy shit. I really did it! I did it! I climbed 70 flights of steps in 19 minutes! And if I had not stopped at every water stop, it would have been even faster.
That climb represented so many things in my life....
After the walk my body ached and my lungs burned. I suppose, though, that was the point. My lungs burning for just a few minutes was a reminder of WHY we were climbing- for those who struggle to breathe EVERY MOMENT of EVERY DAY. What I felt was nothing compared to lung cancer patient or asthma patients. We must have more empathy for their struggles, and we must do something about it!
My climb was also nothing compared to the hell my dad has been through. As I took each step I thought of him, and how proud he would be of me for finishing. His strength, perseverance and determination rang through to me, and I kept going.
Finally, it was a reminder of my weight loss journey. I never would have been able to do this climb at my previous weight. Each new staircase was a gentle reminder of the milestones I have hit throughout my weight loss journey. I felt proud and strong. I felt more free than I have felt in a very long time. I haven't gotten to where I am now by magic- it has been all hard, hard work. It's been a climb. And as Miley Cyrus says, it's not about how fast you get there.
It was one of the coolest things I have ever done, and I plan on climbing again next year.