Bisbee Stairclimb 
Wednesday, October 22, 2008, 10:56 PM
Posted by Administrator
Since our very first year of dating, the Bisbee Stairclimb has been a tradition for me and Paul, making this our 6th annual Bisbee weekend as a couple. While advertised as "The 5K that feels like a 10K," the race is actually about 4.3 miles (according to the shoe pods of various runners) and involves climbing 1,034 stairs spread among 9 staircases. It's killer. In fact, the winner of this year's event said that he has done stair climb races all over the country and this race was the hardest he's come across. And's somehow fun and we keep going back for more!

For the second year, we stayed in suite 201 at the Gym Club Suites. It's a spacious apartment with a huge balcony overlooking the town.

Last year, we shared the rental with two other couples, but they have since moved out of the area, and so we were on our own for the overnight. We made the two hour drive to Bisbee after work on Friday and, the next morning, enjoyed the rare race morning treat of sleeping in.

While picking up our numbers and chips, we were thrilled to discover that the race organizers FINALLY decided to have a staggered start. In past year, when the gun sounded, 1,000 people would take off running until they reached the first set of stairs, at which point an enormous bottleneck would form, forcing racers to actually stop and stand in place while waiting for their turn to ascend the two-person-wide staircase. Very frustrating.

Paul and our other speedy friends started in the first of the four waves, while the less speedy (a.k.a. the wives) positioned ourselves at the back of wave #2. Well, that's where we thought we had positioned ourselves, but, apparently, the people in waves 3 and 4 didn't know enough to get the hell out of the starting line area because, when we saw our wave leaving, there was a whole crowd of people in front of us who were not moving. We had to fight our way through the crowd and duck under the starting line tape to catch up with our wave. Not a big deal since the race was chip-timed, but it's not a good feeling to start a race in a state of panic.

Staircase #1
There is lots of chatter on the course until runners reach the first set of stairs, at which point they remember that climbing stairs is hard. It gets rather quiet except for the sound of heavy breathing and the occasional announcements by those who actually count the steps as they go. Yes, all 1,034 of them. While my marathon training has given me plenty of endurance, stairs are a whole different story and they send my heart rate skyrocketing.

Staircase #3
Three out of the five years I've run this race (I sat our one year due to injury), my downfall has been side cramps. I'm fine on the stairs, but as soon as I pick up the pace, it's like I have a knife twisting in my side. So I walk; I stretch; I massage the cramp (as you can see in the photo below). I run until the cramp comes back.

Staircase #5
Still cramping... I'm frustrated that I cannot run. I have a lot more to give in my legs and lungs, but the cramp is too painful to run through. I see a guy throwing up at the top of the stairs. situation could be worse.

Staircase #7
I ascend some stairs overlooking the finish line and see Paul, Chris and Chase enjoying post-race bananas and energy drinks. I'm happy to see them...and a bit envious that they are all done. I try to just keep a steady pace up each staircase and, along the way, I see many people stopped, hanging onto the rail for dear life and wearing a"Why the hell am I doing this?" look on their face. The cramp goes away for short periods, but always comes back. I walk; I stretch; I massage the cramp. I even try the "ti chi" breathing another runner recommends. Somewhere around here, I'm passed by Tri Girl Kristin who is looking great!

Staircase #9

It's all downhill from here! Of course, I still have the freakin' side stitch and so I'm not exactly flying. And there's Paul, my number one cheerleader and personal photographer!

The Finish
I crossed the line in 1:02:40, which falls squarely in the middle of my five finishing times for this race. I placed 541st out of a total of 1,109 racers and 32nd out of 78 in my age group. It's slightly disappointing because I know I could have done much better without the cramps. However, as my focus has been on the marathon, I was not expecting great things for this event. Paul, on the other hand, did a fantastic job, finishing in 36:09 which was good for 19th overall and 2nd in his age group! He got a beautiful hand painted tile to add to his collection of Bisbee awards.

The Rest of the Weekend...
...was pretty much a reading marathon. Paul and I both had books with which we were completely absorbed and so we literally read for hours. We did take breaks to browse the stores in downtown Bisbee and enjoy the sunset over wine and cheese on our balcony.

On the way home on Sunday, we stopped in Tombstone to check out their Hell Dorado Days celebration. It was quite a spectacle!

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