Wednesday, February 2, 2011

To the top of the world

Today was the 34th annual Empire State Building run up, consisting of 1,576 stairs to the 86th floor observation deck. I haven't run stairs like that since crew training in college and since that sucked a lot, I didn't train much for this race. I went out and ran the stairs on 187th Street one cold day in January but I was so sore for a few days afterwards that I decided it wasn't worth it to miss training days or injure myself.

This brings me to the first floor of the ESB this morning where I was able to chat and catch up with Robert and Antonio from my GMR team and a teammate from 2009 that I'd never met, Jeff. We hung out and killed the time before heading to the ground floor where we'd be jamming into the stairwell. I was nervous because what lay ahead was really the unknown. I only had a vague idea of what to expect and I was a little worried about being trampled.

Once the Invitational women's race lined up at the start, I looked around and saw that it wasn't all that crowded and I relaxed a bit. There were a total of 440 people who ran up, but there were so many different heats that it wasn't too crazy.

The race: We took off at the horn and I hung back just a bit instead of fighting my way forward to avoid being swept up into the folks who were starting (way) too fast. I settled very quickly into a steady pace, passed a few people who were really going too slow and tried to run my own race, not the race of those around me. By the 5th floor or so everyone was in a rhythm and breathing loudly. I followed the advice of a few people, EG told me NOT to fly out too fast and stay steady (check) and I ended up catching all of the girls who flew out before me at the start by the 21st floor. I'd also been told NOT to let myself look up at the signs on each floor to see where I was, I didn't look and was pleasantly surprised when we hit the water station at the 21st floor. The rest of the race went by really quickly. At the 43rd floor someone yelled out "halfway!!!" and I glanced at my watch and saw 9:10. That seemed like a good time, I was aiming for sub-20. At the 80th floor people started saying things like "almost there!!!" which made me want to punch them, that is the WORST thing you can say at any race, I don't care how close we are. The final 6 floors were all different lengths and it was hard to maintain a rhythm. I was struggling to breathe, but I really wanted to stay ahead of the chick in the orange shirt that I'd been leapfrogging every 20 flights or so during the whole race. When I hit the 86th floor and had to run on the flat ground I felt like a colt on new legs...eek. I could hear orange shirt chick behind me trying to eek ahead of me so I ran as "hard" as I could and we finished at the same time. The finish line was outside on the foggy, breezy, rainy observation deck which felt fantastic after running in the sweaty, funky stairwell and I was sad that we were ushered back into the building so soon. That finish area had more funk than Motown. We were herded quickly to the elevators but were stopped when there was some sort of medical situation in one of the elevators, so we all stood in a herd and coughed. And coughed. And coughed.

Finally we made it to the 61st floor for some post-race festivities and food. We had a nice time hanging out and catching a glimpse of Thomas Dold who won again for the men for the 6th time and Alice McNamara who won for the women. I even snagged a post-race photo and chat with NYRR president Mary Wittenberg!

I was feeling really great and I began reflecting on the race as we waited for the results. I had a LOT of fun! That was such a cool experience to tackle one of the iconic buildings of my beloved city and I felt great at the top. As the day went on yesterday I had thoughts about how I could improve on that time next year if I tried, etc, etc.

Believe it or not, my legs feel great this morning! I went for an easy 1000yd swim yesterday after the race and brunch to help stay loose and I think it helped. I could feel some tightness in my right arm already when I was swimming so I'm not surprised that my arms are sore today from "pulling" myself up with my arms during the race. That really helps save the legs, I was amazed (we weren't allowed to use the rails during crew practice).

What a way to kick off my birthday month!! Here are the results:

Overall place 178/440
Gender place 47/136
Age group 11/34
Final time 18:51

I'm happy with those results, but I do have some plans for improvement should I get accepted again!
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  1. sounds like a lot of fun! congrats!

  2. Hi Amy,
    I am the girl who was standing on your left at the start, in the purple bra! I just found out you know Robert (through his blog!). Glad you had an amazing race! I was a minute behind you but loved the race as well! hope to see you around, and nice meeting you!

  3. Congrats! What a great accomplishment...

  4. Again, nice work Amy! I forgot to mention all the post-race coughing in my post, but that was definitely something to remember. Too funny.

  5. I've done a few stair climbs, though none as high as the Empire State Building. I've done the Renaissance Center in Detroit twice, it's only 70 floors (1035 steps).

    I'm surprised they do a mass start instead of a timed staggered start, which would reduce crowding issues.

    People who start too fast, unless they are extremely fit, will wilt and die faster than they ever anticipated! Stairclimbing is so hard! Slow and steady is the way to go, as you found out.

    And yeah, I always have coughing fits at the end. What is up with that...? I felt like my lungs were full of sand.

    Glad you had fun!

  6. @Eliz: Ha! Small world :) I'm so glad that you and the girl on my right were there with me at the start, you both helped me relax even though we were discussing how we were "freaking out!" haha.

    Thanks for the comments everyone!

  7. Amazing job!! I don't think I could run all the way to the top. Stairs are tough although there is something rewarding about them.

  8. Great job, Amy, on the run and the race report. It was nice meeting you on Tuesday.

  9. Great race, Amy. That's quite the workout though. It's like doing 86 intervals.

    I wonder if the coughing could be related to all that CO2 you guys are expelling into the stairwell. I enjoyed your report.