[Editor’s note: Fearless RRR member Bruce Yang took on another major stair-climb challenge on Sept. 27, the US Bank Tower stair climb in downtown Los Angeles. At 75 floors, it is the tallest building in the U.S. west of the Mississippi River. Here is Bruce’s riveting account of his preparation for and participation in this grueling event.]
By Bruce Yang
US Bank Tower in downtown Los Angeles (75 floors) was the third-tallest stair-climbing race that I have participated after Taipei 101 (91 floors) and the Empire State Building (86 floors). It is the tallest building in the U.S, west of the Mississippi River.
Preparing for the race, I increased the intensity of my stamina training during July and August by regularly participating in the RRR summer track workouts. In addition, I utilized some of the local events to further enhance my strength by participating in the hilly Masters Challenge 5K at the Rockefeller State Park, running nine loops of Rockland Lake during the Self Transcendence Marathon, and competing in the South Nyack 10 Miler. Finally, to get accustomed to the anticipated quick lactic acid build-up during a stair climb race, I trained several times at the Kensico Dam in Valhalla, Westchester, for its challenging outdoor steps.
The total participants for the US Bank Tower downtown LA stair climb numbered around 4,000. The majority are mostly recreational athletes who just want to complete the climb. About 10 percent of participants are aiming to climb up as fast as possible in a competitive manner. Even for the elite climbers, if one runs up too fast, usually by the 10th to 15th floors, the body will completely shut down when exceeding the anaerobic threshold. Even many experienced climbers could slow down and suffer drastically after about 20 floors or so and many might not complete the climb because they started out way too fast.
I stuck with my game plan and started out slowly for the first 20 floors and then tried the best I could to maintain a regularly rhythm in order not to get burnt out. By floor 50, there was almost an urge just to bow out and stop due to the extreme discomfort of the breathing and muscle fatigue. The only good thing about flying out to a race far away is that it will be hard to explain to myself and others why I flew a few thousand miles away to climb the stairs and DNF (did not finish). Therefore, I had no other option but to keep pushing beyond the body threshold.
When I reached the top of the building, I tried to walk as far as possible to cool down. After being careful not to step on any other previous finishers on the floor, I collapsed at the end zone in extreme fatigue.
My final time was 13 minutes and 22 seconds, good enough for 26th place out of the 107 elite starters.