So in my last post I focused on the weekend of events while in New York City for the Tunnel to Towers Climb at One World Trade Center. In this spot I want to talk a little more about the climb itself and really give a review of what you might expect and hopefully push you to sign up when it opens up again (hopefully).
Seldom have I ever had my entire being moved emotionally the way that I was Sunday morning. It was of little surprise to me that it would happen, but the extent I was taken back by. As an American the presentation of colors and the playing of our National Anthem always move me, but to hear it sung and literally fill the air around ground zero left my hair standing and eyes wet for quite some time. It was one emotion after another, building to the point of goose bumps, shivers, and literally taking over my mind any body. I won’t recap the ceremony more since I have already covered that one in the other post titled “New York City, the WTC, and a recap”
This was a climb that was announced without too much advanced warning, I was shocked by how quickly and well it was put together. I had just gotten back from Seattle in March and it seemed that BAM here is the next thing, and one that I could not pass up! Registering was a breeze, and the crowdwise site that was used worked well for what I needed.
The level of communication with the people of the Tunnel to Towers Foundation about the event was stellar for something of this size. I send an email and had a quick reply with the answers that I was looking for. I’ve struggled with smaller events to get that kind of service, but it wasn’t too much of a surprise. I’ve contacted the T2T about runs before and been met with the same level and quality of support, so hats off to you. I think when Mike Burke mentioned the “Tunnel to Towers organization to run everything,” that he was spot on. I’ve been to excellent events and some that weren’t so much. Great job!
The WTC building as you’ve seen from most every picture is large, and something that just looks massive, but nothing is quite as intimidating as standing at the base and looking up at the correct angle. Freedom Tower literally looks like it extends into heaven. As Dennis and I toured the area the day before the event we really got to take in the size and what we were about to do. One World Trade Center, our climb was 90 floors and 1970 steps to a very amazing view.
Security was of the utmost concern, as it should be, because of what we know can happen in the new world that we live in these days. I knew ahead of time that there was going to be no music, no phones, no nothing, but losing my sports watch was a surprise. I don’t want to discuss security and the aspects of how that was handled so that we can keep seeing this event happen. I will say this, they handled It with extreme professionalism and did it well. Hats off to all agencies that were a part of this!
Dennis and I got into our corrals with Wave 1 (Fire/EMS/Law Enforcement/Military) that was supposed to be the first waves released. Now this is where I may step on a few toes, but will say there were MANY first responders around us surprised to see the Elite runners (Wave 2) go up ahead of us. From being competitive and this being FAR from my first tower race I understand wanting to not be slowed down, but it was a little disappointing.
Gloves on, all warmed up and ready to go, they waved me on and I entered the stairwell at 8:38:17. I immediately was welcomed to a wide, bright, stairwell that was nothing like I had seen before. I had my song in my head and instantly was in the pace that I wanted to start with before the heat and the pain had any chance to take over my body and mess me up. Climbing without a playlist is very different, I don’t like it, but if it means climbing this bad boy again, I will in a heartbeat! Most buildings have their surprises and this was no different, like all the missing floor numbers on the lower levels and BAM I was up in the 20’s. There were hallways which I used to overtake a few people and stretch my legs on a little bit and change up the pace.
Water stops were in a corner on a landing and ran well. I think for the size of the tower maybe a third might help some that aren’t in the elite group and maintaining a different pace.
I got out of pace a few times when the stairwell was 5-6 people wide and felt like I had hit the grocery store on the eve of Thanksgiving where the aisles are full of carts. Trying to jockey for position at times I felt like I could have been more aggressive and didn’t, I think clearly that is an area that I will improve on and I know I can gain back valuable seconds. I never once during that climb forgot what I was there to do, regardless of how competitive I was being, I was remembering and playing back the moments of September 11th through my head and pushed on by the quote by Captain Billy Burke, “keep going I’m right behind you.”
As I continued climbing I noticed more and more of the wave 2 “Elite” climbers that I was passing. Now back to the competitive side of me that felt a sense of accomplishment as I passed up those that attempted and were there to get the best time possible. I would pass one, then another, and use that to keep my head high. As a tower climber I typically do these events first in running gear, and then go back and throw on my fire gear (42.5 pounds) and race back up again just as hard. So to see where I started out in 2007 and where I am now was a great accomplishment for me personally.
We kept going, again wow what a building. Clean, not filled with dust being kicked up or met with heaters at face level on the landing blasting your lungs like you’re in an oven. I’ve seen this at greater than 50% of the buildings I’ve climbed and was a nice change to not have the smokers cough at the top! Floors 65-76 were a little tough for me and the lungs and heart I was maxing out on, I didn’t need my watch to tell me that I was peaking here. I began to single-rail and use the left hand to push off on my knee to keep me going. At floor 80 and above I might have been peaking, but I thought of my fallen 343 brothers and used every bit of emotion to push the mental game and keep me going, I never stopped. Floor 89 was that surprise of the extra flight before I turned and burned to the finish line.
Collapsing to the floor by the windows on the cold concrete I was done and struggled to regain not only composure, but also had to get the heart rate down quickly. Plenty of water up there that was handed out and when I had my wits about me I was able to find out my time by watching the screen…silly me that still had the tunnel vision going on didn’t think to look for the computer where we could search by name/bib number. I finished the climb 90 floors with a time of 20:11. We continued to cheer on the others as they came across and see what they thought of the climb.
I waited for my brother Dennis to come across the finish line and make sure he was doing ok before we moved to the next step that was unexpected. Not only was there a banner to sign on the 90th floor, we were given the opportunity to SIGN the concrete wall and be a part of the unfinished area. Now I don’t know what will be done with that whether they will glass over it, build over it, but I know this, I can point out where we are a part of the “rebirth” of the area! Excellent idea especially for us first responders to have that opportunity, thank you!
Elevators down to the party on the 64th and we were starting to feel a lot better. Excellent race medals, plenty of great people, food, drinks, and race swag. If you left hungry, thirsty, or without your hands full….you missed out. This was a great way to finish this off and celebrate. A wall for photos was a welcome spot to capture the moment of the day.
Race aside, competition aside, the meaning and the people that we were there for that day was the most important thing. The money that was raised (I’m hearing $500,000?) is going to build an adaptive home for a catastrophically injured veteran, which is an amazing cause.
Thank you to everyone that made this event possible, it truly was an excellent way to honor the memories and make sure they are never forgotten. Hopefully it was as inspirational to others as it was to me.
God Bless America!