The Next Big Thing: Stair Climbs

We remember back in 2008 when we were on our way to our first Warrior Dash. We really had no idea what to expect since obstacle course racing wasn’t really a thing in the US at that point. We weren’t sure how to explain it our family and friends. Fortunately, it was only $35 or so, so you wouldn’t feel too bad telling people who you were paying to run through mud and fire. 

Fast forward nearly a decade and everyone is on the lookout for new competition. Everything that involves competition, with either yourself or others, is becoming increasingly more popular, especially in the world of fitness and athletics. Obstacle course racing is a hundred-million dollar per year industry. CrossFit has a national level competition to bring their top athletes into a professional sports stadium for their apex event.  Even triathlon is becoming more mainstream as far from elite athletes are willing to shell out ten-thousand dollars on a top bike to compete at their highest level. Still, our attention span can be lacking and as everyone gets bored with the same old thrill, the question is… what is the next big thing?

Now, I’m not going to be so bold to claim that Stair Climbs are going to be anywhere near that level, but they’ll certainly become more popular than they are now. The Los Angeles YMCA has hosted their annual Stair Climb in the US Bank Tower, which is the tallest building west of the Mississippi River, for the past seven years or so. We’ve been fortunate enough to compete in it the last three years, but we really only went for it this year. What do we mean by that?


If you’ve trained with us, you know that we always have an obstacle course or triathlon training group. Generally, we train our groups leading up to a race that they all agree to compete in, and we stay at the back of the pack to ensure everyone finishes safe and sound. This was the case the last two years for the Stair Climb, but this year, Hungry had the chance to go for it. Unfortunately, it didn’t go as he planned, as you can tell from the results below. Here are his reflections on the race.

Training, training, training. Repetition, repetition, repetition. For me, footwork and agility isn’t an issue. I can generally step into a race course and let my instinct guide me, so training on stairs wasn’t a necessity. Looking back, training on the course once or twice wouldn’t have done me much good, but there are two things that I could have done differently for a much different result. If I had done these two things, I would’ve been far more likely to maintain my pace. That pace had me set to finish with the best time after 1/3 the race. If I kept my pace halfway into the race, I would’ve finished in second. Unfortunately, something happened between the 38th and 54th floor, and by the time I reached the 54th floor, my legs were nearly useless and even though I had plenty left in my lungs and my upper body, it wasn’t nearly enough. 


Here are the two things that would have made a difference. First, and this one is simple, would have been not training legs the morning of the race. I decided to go through a leg workout to make sure there wouldn’t be any pain in my joints during the race. Well, I can’t control myself and ended up doing far more volume than I expected. As you’d imagine, I didn’t recover in time for the race and felt it by the 15th floor. The second would’ve needed to be done months in advance, and although I started early enough with conditioning my legs and working on my muscular endurance, I stopped after straining my achilles. Looking back, I should’ve done more recovery work on my achilles and continued to hit the Stairmaster for the weeks leading up to the race.


My teammate ended up beating me by nearly 45 seconds, even though we were even going into the 54th floor and even a few floors beyond that. She finished third among all female competitors and showed a tremendous amount of heart in her effort. She takes a certain instructor’s class weekly, and that woman (Michelle) really knows how to develop the lower body by focusing on proper execution of key movements over and over again. I might have to take her class leading up to the race next year. 

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Even though the race is expensive, the fee goes to help those in need as it is run by a charity. It might seem a bit boring to simply climb stairs, but you’re anything but bored as you push yourself past your limit, going from sea-level to over 1,018 feet in less than 20 minutes. Let me know if you want to join my team next year because taking on new challenges is one way to get hungry and fit!

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