Updated Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday

Monday, October 26, 2009


So, unfortunately Saturday and Sunday ended up being busy days post-climb... so the update is coming today.

Saturday morning was a bit crazy, I'd managed to get myself up and out of bed for 5:30am, I was dressed, I was ready, I was thinking 'hey, no problem I'll just walk on over to the Metro Toronto Convention center'.

Turns out it's a bit longer of a walk than I'd anticipated.

On the bright side, I realized just how beautiful post-rain Toronto is at 6-ish in the morning.

It ended up being close to a 40 minute walk just to get down there. Again, I figured I'd show up, get in line, get up the tower and head right back off to bed. This was wishful thinking in the extreme.

See, I wasn't the only one who had the idea to climb the CN Tower as early as possible (you know, to beat the crowds). As I walked into the room my jaw dropped: hundreds of people stretching and milling and lining up... at 6:30 in the morning!

I get into line -- apparently I was an 'early bird' because I showed up before 7am, so I got a free ticket to get back up the CN Tower later. Pretty cool.

Anyways, yeah, I get into line to hand in my money and register proper. Then I get in line to get to the coat check, then I do a bit of stretching and head off to line up to get into the CN Tower.

From there I walk outside the Convention Center where I'm 'scanned' with wand for any metallic devices (absolutely no cell phones, cameras, mp3 players, or anything!), walk up a ramp, check through another security check point and finally line up at the 'stairs' entrance.

All told, I didn't step on the first step of the tower climb until 7:22am.

But I was finally there, finally on my way up.

And that's where I learned a very specific lesson in training: The stair climbing machine is not like climbing stairs. See, on the stair climbing machine there's a bit of give in it, a subtle bounce in each step that pushes your feet back up.

Not so with the hard metallic steps they have in the tower. No, I put my foot down and it pretty much went 'thud'.

Which led me to my next revelation: I was getting tired, and fast. I looked up to see that I was on the 10th floor... of 144... and I was already sweating. Worse: my legs were burning.

By the time I hit floor 30 I realized I was in real trouble -- what had happened to me? Where did all my training go?

And that's when a thought bloomed in my head, "Stop looking at the big picture. Small goals, baby steps if you have to. One foot in front of the other". I started counting the steps on the next landing.

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12.

12 steps.

And that became the plan. 12 steps, mental checkmark. 12 more, check again. Head down, one foot in front of the other. I try to push every single thought out of my head. Nothing but the numbers, nothing but 1, 2, 3, 4, 5...

Next thing I know I'm on floor 52.

Emboldened by this revelation, I start to think about how many stairs I've climbed, how many stairs I'm doing per minute... and then I drop kick that thought out of my head.

1, 2, 3, 4...

Another twelve steps down and I'm officially making progress. I pass some people sitting off on the sides as they fight to catch their breath. A few more floors, I pass an EMT as some guy is being helped with an oxygen mask.

Don't think, don't worry, keep your head down, keep counting.

Legs burning? Who cares, keep counting.

Around floor 90 I think I got my my second (or 3rd?) wind. The pain in my legs finally goes away, but my pace is definitely slower. Still, I just keep on moving.

Keep counting.

After floor 120 and I start to feel a tinge of hope, I get excited, I want to make a break for it. But I know better now. I know that I've made it this far -- without stopping! -- only because I've been careful to stay within my limits. I know that if I stop, I won't be starting again any time soon.

So I keep on pushing, landing after landing, watching the people by the wayside as they gasp and fight the pain in their lungs. A few rush by on the Left, taking stairs 2 at a time, I stay far out of their way.

Finally, I hit floor 143 and my knees almost buckle with excitement. I look above me and sure enough, only one floor left. I push on, forcing my legs to climb the last 12 twelve steps. I tell myself that the journey's over, that I've made it.

I hit floor 144 and hurdle myself through the open doorway. I stop, confusion turning to frustration.

More stairs. Several landings worth.

I suck in a gasp of air and I run. I climb floor after floor, giving it every last sweaty bead of juice -- time card extended as the people at the check-in desk cheer me on.

I dive forward, handing off my card and it's punched with my finishing time.

I'm there, I'm done... what the hell?!

More steps. 9 more landings up (okay, who's idea was it to get creative with the floor count?!).

And yet up I go -- 'cause, really, what's 9 more floors after doing 144? -- soon I find myself on the main deck as a nice lady claps and hands me a bottle of water. I whisper 'thank you' from my parched throat and chug the bottle.

One thing I have to say is that going out on the observation deck at quarter to 8 in the morning is one hell of an experience. Nevermind the view, standing out there as the morning wind whips through me is the best part of the whole experience... the only word I can use to describe it is 'cleansing'.

Yes, my legs ache, my body's cold and my throat is raw... but I can't help but feel amazing as I stand there watching the sun peek out from behind the clouds.

If the climb was the test then surely this moment was the reward.

Unfortunately, time flies and soon I'm sent packing down the elevator, back into the Convention Center. I hand off my timecard and watch as numbers are written on the back of T-shirt for me.

My final time? 27 mins 15 seconds

And, as a bonus (for me at least) I made it all the way from the first landing to the last without stopping. Yes, I definitely slowed at a few places, but I never allowed myself to stop.

Always one foot in front of the other, counting my way, 12 steps at a time, up the CN Tower.

I want to say a huge thank you to everyone who supported me through this grand adventure... because, more than just the physical aspect (I'm absolutely more in shape than when I started), I definitely feel like I've learned something more out of it all:

Sometimes when I'm presented with a problem, it seems so big, so insurmountable that it becomes disheartening. It sucks the wind right out of me.

I've since come to learn that that is absolutely the wrong way to look at it.

See, it's good to know what the big picture looks like but the more important part is to know how to pick away at the problem; to figure out how to accomplish it bit by bit while knowing that, sometimes, it's all about just knuckling down and doing the work.

Cause, no matter what, eventually, I'll get there.

Cheers all!

1 comment:

Erin said...

Small steps is something that we all really need to be reminded of from time to time. I think writers - and artists in general - tend to get overwhelmed by their undertakings from time to time, simply because there's no single construct or system in place to help guide you to where you want to go. It's really all up to you, and unless you break it down into smaller bites, it's terrifying.

Bravo on your accomplishment!