Friday, March 4, 2016

Hustle Up the Hancock Recap

Hello, all!

I've been talking about this consistently for nearly 2 months, and finally the day arrived! Sunday was the Hustle Up the Hancock - a "race" up 94 floors (1,632 steps) to the observation deck of the John Hancock Center in Chicago.

A few facts before we get started: The Hancock is one of the most well known buildings in the city. the 4th tallest, and this was the 19th annual climb event.

Before the Climb

The morning of the climb started very early - my company's team had a 7:15 "launch" time, and we had to be there about an hour before. So my alarm went off at 4:30 (just like on a work day!) and I laid in bed wishing I didn't have to get up (also like your average work day), especially because I hadn't fallen asleep easily or slept well. I actually had a super bizarre dream that I ended up having to carry a 30-lb pug-from-my-past in a back pack all the way to the top of the Hancock. I'm not kidding, I really dreamed that.

The pug in question:

Anyways.  I'd stayed at Cam's Saturday night so I only had to drive the 10 minutes to work and then I carpooled in with some other people (including my bff from work, Travis).

On the way in I drank some regular coffee (and was wired after) and right when we parked I ate a Clif Bar with peanut butter. Pre-event breakfast of champions, I'll tell ya.

We got to the Hancock around 6:15, put all our non-essentials in the trunk, and went off to find the rest of our group. I had some cash donations to turn in, so I did that, went to the bathroom, attached my bib and chip (to my shoe) ,and then spent some time stretching while Travis and I talked to some other coworkers. We're both on PrideZ and we had the chance to meet and connect with a few members from the Chicago office, which was pretty cool.

I also had a funny conversation with some people because I didn't bring or wear my event shirt - and I told them I was thinking about it, but decided against it because it was like tempting fate. I don't wear race shirts until I've done the event because I don't want to jinx things. One person said, "What, are you afraid you won't finish?" And I laughed and said, "Oh no, I can definitely do it. But if I wear that shirt I might fall and break my ankle on the 80th floor and then I'd have to keep going up with a broken ankle!"

They laughed at me again, and I said, "Hey! Every athlete has their superstitions, this is mine!" And it's true!! No tempting fate, people. (Sidenote, the shirt, which I thought at first was really ugly because it's this obnoxious bright orange, is actually one of my favorites now!)

Right around 7:00 our group moved to the start of the full climb line (there's also a half climb)...which was actually a line to the starting line (I know, confusing). With races, they have corrals, but with this event your team assembles to be let into the line. There were something like 4,000 participants, so it must be an efficient way to do it. Our team went right after the elites because apparently our team wins almost every year (whodathunk?!). The estimated time from the start of the climb line to the actual start was about 15 minutes, and takes you from the lower level to the first floor.

As we were approaching the start, there were signs everyone could sign about why we were climbing. I put a message about my grandpa on one, and signed the second since it was just for signatures. I really wanted to write more but didn't have time (which is also why I didn't take a picture).

The starting line was so weird for me because, unlike a road race, they were only letting one person start at a time. So one person would go, and then a buzzer would sound a few seconds later, and then they'd let the next person go. Travis went first, and about 10 seconds later I caught up to him and we did the whole climb together.


All week leading up to the event I was telling people how I couldn't wait for it to be over because, "Stair climbing really isn't my favorite thing to do. I'd rather be running."

No joke, I told that to at least a dozen people this week. But I was committed, and when I commit I like to follow through. Also like every single training climb, when I got to about the 5th or 6th floor I thought, 'Why the effballs am I doing this, and how on Earth am I supposed to do another 90 floors?!?!'

Now the good news about stair climbing, should you ever decide to do a challenge like this - around 25-30 floors after you start, your legs pretty much stop hurting, and it's just your lungs and heart rate to contend with.

To combat weariness, I developed a strategy. A goal, if you will. Every few floors they had volunteers (mostly teenagers) encouraging the climbers, holding signs that said various motivational things, or handing out water. I made it my goal to thank every.single.volunteer. Every one of them! I didn't want a single one to go without a thank you. Then, when Travis and I started passing people, I decided I should also encourage every person we passed.

I am proud to say I followed through with both of those things! Later I ran into one of the security guards going back to the parking garage and I said, "Hey! I remember you! You were on one of the floors before! Thanks again!" and he told our little group that he was so inspired by all the climbers that he's going to participate next year! That was really cool to hear - that just watching us all go by made him want to take part. I think that's pretty cool!

I couldn't believe it, but I was the annoyingly upbeat and optimistic person during the climb. It is so easy when you're climbing to get into the mindset of, 'this is awful, I want it to be over', because you spend so much time with your heart rate soaring:

Average Heart Rate of 165!!!!!!!!!!!!
For me, around the 80th floor I started feeling nauseous from it, which I knew would happen because it happened during training. But's definitely a mind game, and my obnoxiousness was to help people through that mind game.

I think know (because Travis told me...) that the only thing I said that didn't help, was when we got to the half climb point I said, "Just think, if we were doing the half climb we'd be getting off here...but because we're AWESOME we get to keep going! Second half!!"

This was everyone's reaction.
Lol, apparently no one wanted to hear that, but I stand by what I said. It's about the second half and pushing yourself!

I think the real impetus for saying that was that, in the moment, even if my lungs were on fire, I was really, really happy. I've wanted to do this climb since I was 16 years old (12 years!), and I was finally doing it. It was a barrel of fun to be able to climb and keep going, thanking and encouraging people. I had a smile on my face about 90% of the time, and I truly enjoyed (just about) every step.

It also caused me to reflect on my level of endurance, physically and mentally. (Allow me to be vain for just a minute...) I I am really, really fortunate that my body can just pick up and do these things. Yeah, I train and work at stuff like this, but it wasn't until I was almost at the top that I felt anything less than great. I could see people around me struggling, and though my lungs hurt, I felt awesome. Afterwards I really wanted to go for a run...I just didn't have time!

The Finish
The race ended at the 94th floor observation deck, and since the balloon arch was set up just outside the stairwell it was almost like a finisher's chute. It was pretty cool, actually, because you end up going through it one at a time. I crossed the finish line and felt fantastic (as I've already stated), and since I'd had a total Dory moment, forgetting that we'd get medals, I was ecstatic when a volunteer held one out for me!

Travis and I decided to take some selfies, and here are the ones I snagged of myself:

That smile on my face on the left? That doesn't even begin to touch how great I felt about this.

I also pulled my stats and the team stats off the website to share with you - I finished with an official time of 20:55!! And my age group rank is in the top 1/3!

 And look at this, our team DID win!
Our average team time is insane to me. I mean...that's an average!

And nbd or anything, but I wore my medal around town all day, and I also wore it to work on Monday. That's right, I was strutting around all over with that thing on, and I'd do it again! (Watch out guys, there might be another medal-worthy event coming up...)

The Stairs
The second most frequently asked question I answered was "What kind of stairs were they?" So I wanted to be sure to say it here:

They were normal stairs. Just steel stairs in a stair well, and you could comfortable fit two people side by side (with room to spare).

Fun fact though, the floors got smaller as you went up! (Kind of.) From floors 1-70ish there were 20 steps per floor. From 70-90 the number of steps dropped to 14 per floor. It was so exciting, thinking all the floors would be short until the top...and it was A GIANT LIE. It was like not knowing there's a hill at the end of your run, because at floor 90 those 14 steps increased to like 22 per floor! Totally unexpected, and yes, another mind game, but I conquered those things.

Also, I didn't run. I walked. I probably would have died if I'd tried to move faster than I did.

The Cause
Finally...the money raised. When everything with cash donations were said and done, I managed to raise (through the incredible generosity of my friends, family, and coworkers):


Eight hundred twenty-five!!!

That's amazing!!! I ended up being the top fundraiser at my company, which I have to admit feels pretty awesome.

Post Race
After the race we checked out the Expo (across the street and around the corner) and I had a fun time talking to some different vendors (Nuun, Clif Bar, and Fleet Feet were my favorites!). I even scored a free Clif bar when I told them they're my go-to pre-long-run meal (Clif with peanut butter, baby!). I ate a banana and a tangerine and just hung out talking to people until it was time to go.

Afterwards I got an Uber to my friend Gloria's place and we went out for brunch before I had to head home with more stuff to do!

All in all...On Sunday I cruised through nearly 17 hours of the day on very little meaningful sleep, a ton of adrenaline, and lots of endorphins. I ended up having way more fun at the event than I expected - it wasn't all labored breathing and stair climbing after all!

Now my problem: Next year is the 20th anniversary. I'm sure it will be good. *sigh* I might have to do it again.



1 comment:

  1. This sounds awesome! I want to do this someday. Congrats!