Leg four began very early on a Saturday morning, with the clue telling us to hop on the TTC and get to the big pointy thing downtown Toronto. There was only one thing this could be, the CN Tower, which was, until 2011, the World’s Tallest Tower http://www.cntower.ca/en-ca/about-us/awards-and-records/records.html. I was actually really looking forwards to this – I’m still a Toronto neophyte and had never been up the tower before. I wanted to see the view, but also, I am really interested in someday doing the CN Tower edgewalk, where they basically strap you to a clothesline and let you pop out there and stroll around like that’s something people should be able to do. This was sort of my test, to see what level of backflips my stomach did when I looked down. However, in order to look down, you need to first get to the top, and we were doing it the old fashioned way, by taking the stairs. 144 storeys. No big deal. This was the World Wildlife Fund’s CN Tower climb for Nature.
So, we get there at 8, only an hour after registration had opened, and already we’re being passed by people in their Panda tees, their times emblazoned on the back, as they’re heading to the TTC on their way home. They’re done? Awesome. This is going to be even easier than I expected! I clearly have no idea about my physical capabilities, which as this challenge progresses, I’m starting to think is a good thing. It’s leading to me happily signing up for things and launching into them without my normal anxiety-riddled hesitation. I’m sure you’ll learn more about that later somewhere on this blog. Anyway, the point is, that all the way through check in and coat check and all the lines after lines after lines that you have to go through to finally be able to climb (there had to be 1000 people there when I was there), I was still freaking excited to go take on this giant tower. Like we literally jogged down the walkway and up the 4 flights of stairs it takes to just get to the starting point of the climb.
My first thoughts as the climb begins go something like this: “Oooh, it’s nice and cool and refreshing in this giant concrete tower!” “Aw, the artwork from the school kids adorning walls to cheer us on is really cute” “Oh holy fuck, it’s only been 30 floors?” “I can’t breathe. Why can’t I breathe?”. It becomes very clear, very quickly, that I’m conditioned fot HIIT and interval training. Long distance stair climbing is more akin to marathon running, just steady state cardio for an extended period of time. Totes not my wheelhouse. I quickly loose my friend (a runner) as I have to stop like every 20 storeys to get my breath back.
Random picture found from Google Image search. Don’t know who these people are, but they probably also beat my time. And that became the theme of the day. Me sprint climbing for a burst then standing on one of the landings that didn’t have paramedics on it, because I knew my face was like 100 shades of red, but aside from that I was ok, so I didn’t want them to think I was dying. And while I was taking short breather, I was being passed by 7 year olds with their little fucking hummingbird hearts, or 60-ish laddies in blouses and nikes who looked like they were out for a sunday stroll. How were they making it look so easy?
The climb felt like it took forever, but the second I reached the timing point at the top, the end of the official climb, I was like “that went by so fast!” I had done it. I had freaking done it. The chubby girl from Coquitlam had climbed the gooddam CN Tower. Booyeah, bitches. Then the volunteers tell you there’s still 6 more flights to go to get to the viewing deck, which was the only way out. What the actual fuck? Had I not given enough? I’m pretty sure I gave them a Luigi Death Stare as I passed.
Now I was at the top of the CN Tower for the first time. It was noisy, overcrowded with sweaty climbers, and all I wanted was water. Honestly, I didn’t care that I was at the top and surrounded by a spectacular view on a sunny day. All I wanted to do was sit down, but I knew that if I did it was all over. So I made sure to go out onto the viewing platform, in the cold, April wind to get a breath of fresh air and at least take a second to drink it all in. And to look down. This was basically the highest you can get in Canada, so if you’re looking for a place to tackle your fear of heights, this was it. I fully expected my stomach to lurch and my pulse to race just from being that high. Maybe it was the fatigue or maybe I’m just not afraid of things like I used to be, but I felt nothing. Looking down was strangely exhilirating, instead of terrifying. The whole ride down on the glass bottomed elevator I calmly watched as the ground came at us at 22kmph.
By the time we reached the bottom, I had my breath back, my heart rate had returned to normal, and the exercise endorphins had kicked in. The natural high hit me like a strong drink. 34:34. Bottom to top. A lower end of average time. I was definately disappointed, and my friend had beaten me by a whole 13 minutes. But I did it. I reminded myself everyone has to be a beginner some time, and this was my benchmark for improvement. Plus, I felt freaking great, and to my great delight, my muscles weren’t even sore afterwards. I had the strength conditioning down, just needed to work on the endurance. 1776 steps (plus the additional ones before and afterwards that they pretend don’t exist), no big deal. Giving myself a big “good game” slap on the ass for this one.
Leg four, pitstop: Second to last place. Dropped a few spots, but gained a better understanding of physical limits. Eliminated: it came down to a footrace, but getting lost en route to the CN Tower cost a team the race. Luckily we had that much of a head start and managed to stay alive, but if I had stopped to take one more breather we may be heading home now.