Hello, well, I did it. I made The Big Climb.
Below are some thoughts on the day of The Big Climb (the annual Leukemia & Lymphoma Society Fundraising Event.) Over 3,000 climbers went up the 1,311 steps of the Columbia Tower in Seattle (the tallest building in the state) on Sunday March 19, 2006. So far, donations have reached over $177.000.00.
At the bottom of this day's Weblog is a copy of the email I sent out to the many supporters who donated. You can donate for this fundraiser up to April 7th, 2006.
On Sunday, I got up around 7:00 AM (sleeping in, really). Emily was here from College (Spring Break) and Cym made us a nutritious breakfast:-) We left and headed south to our monthly massage with good friend James at Alexius Bodyworks (a Licensed Massage Therapist). I got a sports massage to prepare my muscles. Traffic was a bit thick and we got to the Columbia Tower a little after 1:00 PM (my scheduled check-in time was 12:45). I was afraid they would deny me my Climb cause we were late. (I was getting stressed, can you tell;-). It was a bit confusing, hundreds of people milling about but Cym and Emily had parked the car, found me and we asked various helpful people who got me to all the right check-ins, got my timing chip, bib number (#1181). I would be able to climb:-)! Cym helped pin my bib # and my montage of pictures of people I was running for to my Hardwick's T-Shirt. She took pictures. Then I hurriedly tried to warm up, stretch, and focus on the Climb. I joined the 1:30 Racing line and we went up (by escalator... odd I thought) to the 4th Floor. NB, Robin was not thinking of how that would throw off the numbers of the floors to climb. He only knew there were 69 floors to climb. More on that in a moment;-)
We were led to the starting entrance of the stair case. Then, one by one, they let us start. About 30 seconds separated each of us. I was about 15 people back. I set my 30 minute countdown timer (the time I wanted to be sure to beat) and my stop watch (to get an estimate of my actual time). I was getting pumped. I put in my ear plugs (to help me concentrate) checked my fanny pack (with tokens of importance from various friends) and prepared.
I shook the hand of the gate person, flashed my timing chip over the computer pad, it beeped showing it had me as starting, then ran into the stair well.
I was determined to start of at a measured pace. That thought vanished in a second. I was feeling so pumped I flew up the first 10 flights two or more steps at a time, passing the two people who started before me. Then about floor 14 or so, oxygen debt hit (ohhh, I was so wrong to start that way). I had to stop taking multiple steps and just established a rapid pace of hitting every step. I passed by a water-cup-passer-outer, took a Dixi Cup (r) and tossed it down. I wasn't really thirsty. I wasn't really sweating. I was just painfully trying to get oxygen into my lungs. The stairwell was moist with spilled water and hundreds of previous climber's panting and sweat. They had air being blown into the stairwell (thank goodness) but I was in pain. I have been training for the last two months, taking stairs at work (up to 121 flights of stairs in one day) but that is only 7, 8 or 11 flights at a time, not sustained. Right then, on The Climb, I had gone beyond my body's ability to catch up... unless I took a break at a landing... which, of course, my focused little mind was not about to do. I slogged on up, I could only wave off other water-bearers, I was unable to speak. I passed by other more sensible people taking a break... thinking about Joseph and the other people I was running for, thinking about getting a good time, looking up at the floor count ("Wow, what happened to floor 25? Here we are, landing 40+" "The stairwell is narrow, I can grab both railings... too bad my arms won't work anymore... I wonder where the bunnies are, why there isn't more grass on this steep lawn? Who am I? Why am I here? This smells like a locker room but where is the towel boy"... did I mention oxygen debt? My brain was already in hibernation but my legs (the main thing I had been worried over: their strength and the weakness of my knees, especially the 3-times dislocated left one, were not even hurting. My lungs were what were screaming.
Finally, floor 60, only 9 more. I should start seeing banners, hear the promised music, the clapping. Floor 65, 66, 67, I put in 'The Kick", pouring out what extra energy I really didn't have... Floor 68... 69 and the door is not open... no one is there... "What's that on the wall?" A small sign. "Look it has letters on it. What is it that letters do?" Ah, yes, words. It says "Almost there". My worst ability, Arithmetic, kicks in. "You started on floor Four. 69 plus 4 is... something more than 69". "Oh" think I, "I have to go up more stairs. OK." I keep what I laughingly call "my Kick" going - something like falling, but upwards - and there I hear the promised music "The Theme from Rocky". I was hoping for "Ode to Joy" but oh, well. I pulled out my little poster of Benjamin Franklin and my quote "I have not just finished. I have only yet begun my fight" from my token laden fanny pack and held it up. There was an open door. A person clapping. Through to door, wave my timing chip over the computer mat. I hear the beep, find with amazement that floors are flat... there are not always stairs involved... round the corner and a camera man takes my picture. I hold my little poster up high (sideways, I realize later) and go into the observation lounge...
I had done it. My Stopwatch gave me the unofficial time of 13.24. I knew it was a few seconds long as I started it before my timing chip got scanned and had a few seconds effort in trying to hit the 'Stop' button when I finished. My legs were fine, but my lungs didn't seem to know I had finished and were trying to create a vacuum in the surrounding landing by taking in all the air they could. There were many folks wandering around, looking at the stunning view. I looked out to the city and promised it would be seeing me again, faster and with a larger donor base, next year.
I went down to the 40th floor (we had to take the elevator, really, rules and all.) Got an orange slice and a yogurt. Signed the dedication sheet (they had over 3,000 climbers overall, the Climb started at 8:00 AM or so and they only had one sheet. There was not much room left on it, but I scribbled in something like "For You, Joseph, and all the others. Love, Robin" and made my way downstairs to the main floor, via elevator and escalator (rules, you know). There was Cym and Emily, surprised but very happy to see me back so soon:-)
I had beaten my planned time goal (30 minutes) by over half. I was coughing, but all else was fine. Legs and knees still fine. Lungs hurt. It was about then that my 30 minute timer beeped. Up, recovered, came back down all in 30 minutes. Cool:-) We got my stuff, returned my time chip, picked up the requisite T-Shirt, left and Cym treated me to fancy Ice Cream (Stawberry Cheesecake & Baklava Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream... Mmmmmm:-). The best part, emotionally, was how proud she said she was. She is my Lady, and such means a lot to a poet-knight. She is considering joining my team next year! Other folks have expressed the same interest. Wow!
A few months ago, someone brought The Big Climb fliers into Hardwick's. I told them they could display them and read one. I got interested and signed up and started doing stairs at work. About 3 weeks ago, I organized my donor Webpage and started putting out emails and letters about the effort and was amazed at the response, the first donor was at $100.00. Many others came in as well at all levels.
The site moved up to the top individual donor page for over a week (we got passed by someone who now sits at over $10,000, but we are still, at this time, #2 with close to $3,000.00). I have plans for next year and people have already said they want to join with me in The 2007 Climb.
This is a quest, a part of my pilgrimage and a great connection with a worthy cause. I was able to re-establish contact with the Boyles - the family of Joseph (see http://holding-yet-his-sword.blogspot.com/). One of the tokens I carried was my old right spur... something they have had since Joseph's funeral 12 years ago. We stopped by their house after the race and gave it back to them and are making arrangements to have dinner(s) and work together educationally as well.
I went to work on Monday, but my lungs were still wheezing. I took Tuesday off and am now home where Cym is taking great care of me (as always). I am staying warm, drinking my healing tea and resting.
I am glad I did this. Glad, a bit humbled by it (the donations and the physical challenge) and inspired for the coming year.
Thank you for your time. I must off to other writing.. and planning, and some rest.
Best of fortunes, safest of journeys, Love, Robin.
-- copy of my Email of Thanks to my Donors --
Greetings from GregRobin,
Thank you for your incredible support for The Big Climb 2006. I did the Climb (and made it to the Top:-)!! and my stats are below. The most important 'stat' so far: You donated over $2,900.00 through the Website
The Climb is over, but the Fundraising for this drive continues until April 7, 2006. If you know anyone who may yet be interested in donating, please send them that Webpage link with a personal note as to why you support this cause. Also, if your company has a matching donation program, please tell them of your contribution so they can match it. Write me for details or go to the main matching funds Website
http://www.leukemia-lymphoma.org/all_page?item_id=8024 for guidelines.
I am doing this again in 2007 and am forming a Team. If you wish to join our Team for the Climb, or work with us on other Fundraising work for the LLS, let me know at Ben@Ben-Franklin.org.
STATS: FULL Stats are at
The winning time for this year was 7:51. Wow!
Mine was slightly more modest;-)
Bib # 1181
Avg per Flight Time: 0:11
I was the 53rd fastest out of 138 males from 45-59.
I was 338th fastest out of 842 men overall.
I was 403rd fastest out of 1385 racers total (men and women, youth, teens, adults and masters)
I am putting the day's experience on a Weblog. For the fuller tale, go to
Be well, and thank you for the honor of your generosity, Robin.