(tackling) the tower

Dear Lord and the baby, I would never wish this experience on anybody.

So Saturday morning, I get all pumped up to do my harrowing event. I got dolled up in my new work out kicks hoping there would be a few handsome gentlemen there. As anticipated there were certainly several smokin handsome men out to complete this feat. However, as it turned out, I would be in no shape to woo.

My friend Karen (a.k.a my sporty spice trainer, a.k.a. Mr. Miyagi and now also known as Spiderman for her keen ability to scale large buildings) and my friend Kate met my sister and I at the Galleria. It was a little bit of a mad house. People in spandex and yellow event shirts crowded the once popular Cleveland shopping destination. We waited for about a hour for our start time as Karen, Kate and I were numbered in the 650 range. My sister didn’t register until we arrived so she’d be racing about an hour after us.

My anxiety grew as we waited for our spots to race. We watched the Firemen’s Race end. (Lots of lookers, for sure.) Their race involved climbing 22 flights of stairs, crossing a hall and then racing back down —in full firemen gear! Some of them were even toting heavy metal axes! I couldn’t believe that anyone could even conceive this event. (Yet, I suppose that this is fully acceptable as firemen should be able to do this in case of a fire. Thank God I do not have to combat fires as a graphic designer.)

I didn’t know why I was so anxious. On Thursday I scaled 109 flights of stairs on the stairmaster at the gym without even being sore. This should be nothing!  Everyone that had completed the race said it took them anywhere from 8 to 12 minutes. This was going to be quick and painless.

Yet I felt the walls collapsing in around me as I stood in the narrow stairway waiting for Karen to start. They had a runner start every ten seconds. First went Karen, then myself, followed by Kate. The very first flight of stairs was about thirty steps high. This was followed by a very narrow square stairwell. Our calculations averaged that there would be about 14 steps a flight. This was pretty accurate. However, when I imagined this event in my head, I thought it’d be 14 steps straight up. It was not. The fourteen steps between floors winded. Not in a circle, but it was so narrow that it almost felt that way.

Karen was out of view in mere seconds. As I embarked up the first flight of stairs I wondered if I would ever see her again. I pretty much ran up to the second story. Immediately my thighs and lungs began to burn. I was shocked by the pain. I’ve been pretty good about working out daily except on Sundays and the occasional mid-week break. I had yet to feel this way during any physical activity. I was completely floored (Haha)! Between floors three and four, I slowed my pace. I found myself pulling myself by the railing. How was I going to make it 33 more floors? People were beginning to pass me at an alarming rate. I forewent the water they were passing out on the fifth floor (BIG MISTAKE). How could I be expected to carry anything? I even considered chucking my beloved iPod down the stairwell to lighten my load. Not even my elaborate thought out playlist was helping. What the hell is Joe Espisito’s “You’re the Best Around” going to do for me when I couldn’t breathe?

I looked down and saw that Kate was pretty much keeping the same pace as me. She did not look happy. Around the seventh floor (I have no idea, because I might have been hallucinating at that point) I decided to wait for her. If I was going to die in a stairwell, I sure as hell was not going to die alone. The two of us on the tenth-ish floor were like a scene straight out of a horror movie. I felt like I was stuck in the room from the Movie, SAW, as the oxygen was slowly being sucked out of the room. You should also note that this stairwell was very dark. The burning in my lungs was beginning to produce a really sour taste in my throat and mouth. I felt like I was going to throw up. Everything was getting blurry. Every other floor one of us exclaimed that we had to quit. At some point we stopped being passed by other contestants. Was the race over? Were we really alone in the stairwell? Somehow we were able to motivate each other and reached a floor where they were passing out more water. (Which was great, but it was luke warm. I felt like I was pouring lava down my throat. Hello, Ronald McDonald House, you can’t spring for a couple of coolers? WTF?)

On the thirtieth floor we were offered another bottle of water. I replied that I’d prefer a piggy back ride. The water boys laughed. I wasn’t kidding. The air was getting thinner and thinner. I spent the last flights flipping every motivational poster my middle finger. When Kate and I made it to the to top we were greeted by two over-joyed volunteers. “Don’t you feel great?”

“No,” I replied, “I am going to find the friend who signed us up for this and punch her in the face.”

We turned the corner and there she was, super bubbly Karen looking quite refreshed. “Yeah, you made it!” she yelled, as Kate and I flung ourselves onto the floor. Both of us coughed and coughed, praying that the burning would subside. Other runners began to emerge from the stairwell yelling: “God, I feel great!” I didn’t feel any great sense of accomplishment. I felt horrible. I felt like I had barely crawled to the finish line.

I didn’t understand it. I know what you’re thinking: Well, you only quit smoking three weeks ago. Your lungs are probably still pretty week.

Riddle me this, Batman: Kate has never smoked and Karen does. It just doesn’t make any sense. Of course Karen is a very avid runner. Probably pretty trained. (She plans to run a marathon in the fall.) The only reason I didn’t quit is because of my friend Kate. If not for her I’d probably still be on the fourteenth floor screaming for help.

Anywho, when we met my sister downstairs I told her do not under any circumstances do this.

She, of course, didn’t listen. I full on expected her to come down from the race calling me a Sally. She has always been more athletic and ten times stronger than me. I anticipated that she would show her weenie sister what is up. I waited for her with camera ready to go.

Final times:

Karen: 8:49

Kate: 14:52

Myself: 15:00

Shannon: Swears she’ll finish next year.

I applaud her resolve, as I will be noticeably absent next year.

On a serious note, I am proud of myself for doing this. It did benefit the Ronald McDonald House of Cleveland. (Maybe I should find out what they do.) it’s definitely something that I never would have been able to do if I was smoking. Also, it was a good preview of what is going to happen when I run that 5k in April if I don’t get a little more serious about my training. I need to start running outside so that I know what it’s going to be like actually carrying my body weight rather than being propelled by a treadmill. Also they fed us breakfast. You can’t beat a free meal…

And while I made jokes (even telling poor Karen that I hated her as we waved good-bye), I am sincerely thankful to her. Her scheduled sporting events have been excellent in motivating me. So many, many thanks to Spidey!

Other items:

Stories coming soon by popular request: The Fat Slut Bite, The Boy who wrapped Everything in Plastic (more of a dare than a request), The Sailor from Barcelona and How to Pick Up a Guy. That last one is still getting worked out. (As if I know anything about this.) Stay tuned as I dive into week four of non-smoking…

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