Climbing the Willis Tower – Skyrise Chicago 2012
For five weeks, I trained for the opportunity to get to the 103rd floor of the Willis Tower, the skydeck with the glass ledges, via the 2,109 stairs versus the elevator. It was a fundraiser for the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago that took place this past Sunday.
I was hooked into this endeavor because a Facebook friend, fellow high school classmate, and sister of a very special family friend, also known as Wendy, mentioned she was doing the climb and encouraged people to join her. I took her seriously and joined her team within hours.
I enjoyed the training. It gave me an opportunity to check out different stairs throughout my town and in Chicago. I also took delight in seeing my fundraising dollars grow and took pride in the diverse membership of my honor roll! My goal was to raise $990, in honor of my Great Uncle Joe who passed away last month at 99. Thanks to my sponsors, I hit my sentimental number and then some.
The climbing experience was extremely organized. One could not get lost. I convinced my mom to come with me to be my moral support, “coat check”, and unbeknownst to my team, “Den Mom”. She happily found a sunny corner in the lobby and read her book while I climbed.
There were 12 people on my team and we bantered for about 10 minutes before we had to get ready for the climb. We all had one common goal, enjoy the climb and raise some money for RIC!
Our climb time was 11. So, at 10:45, we were corralled into a waiting area like cattle with a comedian warming us up before we launched toward the sky by foot on the stairs. Every seven seconds, a climber bounced off the timing mat into the stairwell.
My first thought was to make sure my heart monitor watch was turned on so I could time myself in case I messed up the chip loop mechanism on my shoe. As I started climbing, I wasn’t sure if I had turned the timer on the watch on. Are you kidding me? So, I pull out my phone and try to figure out where the stop watch is but I was too distracted so I shrugged it off.
I jumped out of the chute like I was doing the 800 meter back in high school. Rookie mistake. I should have just stayed behind Wendy and she would have paced me to have a more efficient climb but I pretty much bumbled my way upward. Water breaks were sporadic, as were bathroom opportunities but since I as sweating my water out, that wasn’t an issue.
I remember seeing a firefighter in full gear, stop and ask if someone was okay. How cool was that?! There was also a climber with Down’s Syndrome who was so giddy. Every time he saw a volunteer, he would ask, “How are you?!” I lost track of him after a while but his attitude impressed me.
The volunteers were very enthusiastic. Some sang in cheerleader fashion, others played music on a boom box. They held cardboard signs that turned into much-needed fans as they lifted them up and down as I passed them. Some would hand out water, others a napkin to wipe my “glowing” face. One volunteer was yawning and I told him, “You can’t do that!” He then woke up from his nap and said, “X more floors to go!”
The last twenty floors are quite simply, a tease so I started skipping a stair and doing lunges. They have fewer stairs in them but you have to do them twice! There were signs on the wall with attempts to inspire me but I didn’t feel liked reading.
I magically made it to the 103rd floor and had more than one person offering to crown me with my medallion. Dazed me had to choose which medallion would be mine! Eeny, meeny, miny, moe….
My legs were fine, it was just incredibly intense to climb 2,109 stairs in a row. My face looked like I had just been out in the hot sun without any protection. If my face were a tomato, it would be very ripe.
Fortunately, I found Wendy and she took photos of me on the ledge that I could zap to Facebook and have a texting tizzy!
The sad thing is that I didn’t even look down when I was on the ledge! I barely noticed the view. But I did notice those firefighters behind me. Thanks to my red face, they didn’t even know I was blushing!
After the euphoria of the day’s activity wore off , I immediately got the hangover blues. I was wiped out and didn’t want to sleep but was tired. I was also content that my time was younger than my age and I made it all the way up because some people don’t. It was a wonderful experience.
Fortunately, I have more than five weeks to train for next year! Tower Up!