I'm not sure if it was the slower pace, the fact that I'd had the practice a few weeks before, the break in the middle, the staggered start and overall chill nature of the event, or the layout of the stairs, but this event was a total piece of cake. My brother and I both agreed that we could have easily done a third time up the staircase with no problem.
It started a little badly, though. They had assigned us a 10am start and told us to arrive 45 minutes ahead of time. We got there at 9:15 on the dot, and the only t-shirt sizes they had left were men's L-XXL. This made me irate. With fundraising, this race cost me well over $100, and I had even told them in advance that I wanted a size small - and yet they couldn't get the sizes correct?
Calmed down, I ate a cupcake from the pre-breakfast buffet and we got ready. Our team uniforms were grey shirts, black shorts, and black sweatbands. Ready to go. The lobby was milling with dozens upon dozens of firemen in full gear, waiting to do the climb - in full gear. (Our father later informed us that technically it wasn't actually full gear, as the heaviest part of their uniform is the undercoat that many of them were not wearing.)
The start was kind of funny. We had chips on our shoes and they had chip mats set up at the stairwell. They were spacing everyone out arbitrarily, though - like, "Okay, you can go at 29:30, you can go at 29:40, you can go at 29:55." They said, "Okay, go!" and my brother and I both crossed the start line. The woman - it was a man and woman working the start - turned to the man and said, "What did you just do?!?" and he said, "I let them both go at once. They're together. Isn't that alright?" She was furious and said, "NO THAT IS MOST CERTAINLY NOT ALRIGHT!" It seemed like... an overreaction, especially considering that these were the same chip mats that are able to manage 40,000 participants at the start of the Chicago Marathon without needing to space them out.
On the second go up (we staggered), we realized that they were husband and wife - that goes far in explaining her freak out.
Honestly, there's not too much to say about the climb itself. It was desolate and lonely because of the staggering of the starts. It was quiet. We chatted and paced ourselves by my brother's heart rate monitor, which was a good gauge for us and set a nice pace. We breaked for water as it was available but we never felt like we had to stop. Honestly, it felt easy. The steps were low enough and the staircase just simply circled up, two flights to one story, the entire way. At the top we took the elevator down and repeated. Same thing. Easy. No cough, no soreness, no nothing.
At the end I fell for what my brother referred to as "snake oil," which is to say that there was a chiropractic clinic's table set up and I let them do a simple diagnostic of me. Basically I just wanted to hear what their spiel was, knowing that I would never be able to use their services anyway (I'll travel 900 miles for a race, but not so much for a doctor). Sure enough, I'm in dire need of chiropractic care, they say, because of my forward head carriage. She was also concerned because of my pulmonary embolism, and how that was centered in the back area and she thinks that it could all be connected. Oh, dear. I don't quite think that I got a PE from leaning my shoulders too far forward!
Another cupcake and we were out of there. No times posted yet, but that wasn't really the point, was it?
On I went, out of the wood, passing the man leading without knowing I was going to do so. Flip-flap, flip-flap, jog-trot, jog-trot, curnchslap-crunchslap, across the middle of a broad field again, rhythmically running in my greyhound effortless fashion, knowing I had won the race though it wasn't half over, won it if I wanted it, could go on for ten or fifteen or twenty miles if I had to and drop dead at the finish of it, which would be the same, in the end, as living an honest life like the governor wanted me to. -Alan Sillitoe, "Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner"