I Made It To The Top! – CN Tower Stair Climb for WWF

Monique's Stair Climb Time of 22:02

This morning I completed my very first CN Tower stair climb challenge! That’s right: I climbed 1,776 steps and lived to tell about it.

My initial plan was to wake up at 5am, so that I could get to the Tower before the rush. Of course that didn’t happen. When I looked over at my alarm clock it was 6:30am (I need to really stop hitting the ‘off’ button when it starts buzzing). It’s a good thing registration for the event was from 6am – 10am, so I had enough time to eat some breakfast for once, because there was no way in Hades that I was walking up the CN Tower on an empty stomach. Had a bowl of oatmeal with strawberries and a glass of grapefruit juice. Took my vitamins, found my workout clothes and I was out the door.

When I got to the Atrium around 8:30 I was able to register, submit my pledges, and check my belongings (the climb is hands-free, no phone, camera, fanny-pack, water bottles, or iPods). They gave me a small, white card with my ID# on it so that my time can be tracked, and that (along with my coat check ticket) was the only thing in my hand as I went up.

Seemed like a lot of people slept in, because the place was pretty busy. There were people of all types there (even saw a pregnant woman with a picture of the earth painted on her belly). Once inside Skywalk I waited about 10-15 minutes, then our portion of the line was escorted around to the front of the CN Tower. There were several security check points: Had to spread ’em at the main entrance while I got scanned with metal detectors, the usual explosion detection system inside the Tower, and a few other volunteers just checking wristbands along the route. So far the organization by both WWF and the CN Tower has been pretty good.

Card in hand, I was directed to a side door on the mezzanine level, and my stair climb journey officially started. I got time-stamped (09:11:35)  and was off! I mentioned in my original post that I actually worked at the CN Tower in my youth for a couple of years. But this is the first time that I actually got to step foot inside the centre staircase. It’s what I expected, nothing to brag about. Just a bunch of metal steps (about 12 between landings) inside a shaft that wasn’t as claustrophobic as I thought. There was even some cute paintings on each landing done my elementary and high school students that spoke words of encouragement and the reason behind the fundraising climb.

Days leading up to the event I was trying to think about the best strategy that would benefit me on this climb. But I was swamped with work stuff this week that I didn’t really get to train as much as I wanted, plus I was going on a limited amount of sleep due to pulling an all-nighter the night before. So I remembered the children’s tale about the tortoise and the hare: Slow and steady wins the race.

I didn’t want to break any records and I was not going to wind up being one of those people getting carted off on a gurney because they overexerted themselves. Thank goodness there was a paramedic on every 12th landing, just in case. I took each single step at a time, and I think at the steady pace I was going it worked out to be a little over a second per 2 steps.

I’m thinking, this isn’t to bad! But by the time I got to the 20th level I was feeling a little burn in my thighs. But I kept my pace! I noticed a few people taking breathers on the landings by the time I got to the 30th level. Other climbers were breathing heavily by the time the 40th came around. But not me! I actually didn’t really break a sweat until the 60th floor. You don’t understand, this is unheard of for me. I don’t know if it was my technique or what, but I actually felt okay going up all those steps (and I usually stop for breath climbing up the stairs to the second floor at work). I’m proud of myself for keeping my pace… I didn’t even stop for any breaks!

I wanted to run the last 10 flights or so (there’s 144 floors in total), but I didn’t want to overexert myself and end up making my time even slower. So I just doubled up on the steps the last two flights to add to my great finish. Handed my time-card to the volunteer: 09:33:35! Just about 22 minutes. I knew I shouldn’t have kindly stepped out of that way for that aimless chick on level 83, it messed with my flow… could’ve clocked in at 21 minutes and change instead!

At that point I thought I was finished. Nope… just when you think you’re done, there’s actually about 10 more flights of stairs to climb to get to the Glass Floor level. But after those, I exited the doors and was greeted with encouraging cheers by WWF volunteers and spectators (That was a lot of fun… I felt like a celebrity).

I was given a bottle of Dasani water and had to swim through the large crowd in order to find the end of the line for the elevators down. The quote was an hour wait, at which point I was thinking that it probably would be a lot quicker to take the stairs back down. But the wait wasn’t that bad… got to chat with some tourists who mistakenly came to the Tower during the Climb and were hoping the wait time wouldn’t mess with their schedule, and a mother-daughter who amazingly did the climb even though they both have a fear of heights. I was on the elevator down just after 10am.

Trekking back to the Atrium, I collected my donation prize (whoo-hoo, movie tickets!), my official WWF T-Shirt which had my time of 22 minutes, 2 seconds on it, and collected my coat and headed home after a great morning. Of course I had to make a pit stop first for some well-deserved poutine (I was starving)!

If you have never did one of the bi-annual stair climbs at the CN Tower, I strongly encourage you to try at least once. For me it was an amazing experience, and I learned what my body can handle in terms of exercise.

Stair climb tips that worked for me:

  • Eat a decent breakfast – This is important before your climb, as you don’t want to end up passing out due to an empty stomach with all that exercise. Plus, your body needs the energy and nutrients.
  • Get there early – If you don’t want to to spend the entire morning in cues, then try to make it to registration before 7am.
  • Breath in through your nose and out through your mouth – Aside from the fact that it makes the breathing process more effective by supplying sufficient oxygen during exercise, do it if you’re worried about foreign pathogens being exuded from a concrete shaft full of sweaty stair climbers.
  • Dress for fitness success – A good pair of running shoes is a must (make sure they have good cushioning). Workout leggings/capris, shorts, T-Shirt, tank-top (and ladies, be sure to wear a sports bra), etc. Remember: deodorant is your friend.
  • Pace yourself – Don’t start off too fast, because it’s going to catch up with you by the end. Take your time: You’re only racing against yourself. Use that handrail if you need to. It will help pull you up while your legs do their work
  • Enjoy the day – Everyone there is aiming to make it to the top, whether it’s in 15 minutes or in 50, with your friends or by yourself. Be encouraging to others who might not be able to go all the way. And also appreciate the hundreds of WWF volunteers and staff that help pull off this wonderful charitable event.

The only think I regret about my first stair climb experience was not being able to capture myself on camera just before and after the event (I wanted to pose with the WWF panda mascot… haha), because I participated on my own, plus the hands-free rule kind of got in the way.

I would definitely climb those stairs again. I already recruited a couple of my friends to join in on the festivities for the United Way CN Tower Climb in October. Perhaps I’ll try to aim for a personal best and beat my time of 22 minutes.

A big thank you to all the people who sponsored me for the climb. I truly appreciate it. I managed to raise $254 in donations to help the World Wildlife Fund Canada. Online fundraising is still open until the end of May, so you can visit my page during that time and donate for a good environmental cause.

It’s one step at a time for the planet.

8 Responses to “I Made It To The Top! – CN Tower Stair Climb for WWF”

  1. Cheryl says:

    Great post!!!!! I am planning on doing it in October so the tips were very helpful!!!

  2. col says:

    Wow Moni!! Good for you :) sounds like you did quite good!!
    Take Amaya next time :) she will increase your stress level.. A challenge is just what you need! :p

  3. Dee says:

    Doing it for the first time this October with work friends! Looking forward to it – curious, how did you train fo rit?

  4. Monique says:

    Good luck Dee! I’m going to sign up again for October as well. I just tried my best to do a lot of cardio: did a few kickboxing classes, and took the steps in buildings whenever I could to try to build up my metabolism. :-)

  5. Jocelyn says:

    I climbed the CN tower 2x already. I did not really trained on my first climb, the only training I have was work out 5x week and I did it in 24:47 mins. On my second one however I trained well by climbing my building 12 floors 10x, 2x week and my time is 21.09. But it wasnt easy. I struggle, but I beat my time though, I am happy. Stair climbing is probably the hardest cardio for me.
    I dont know if I am going to do it again, time well tell.

  6. Oliver says:

    Thank you so much for taking the time to write about you climb in such detail. I am scared as I am a dat heavy. I will not give up as I will follow you good advise .

  7. Meg says:

    Climbing this April (2015) and am definitely in shape, but worried about not being able to bring water. I’m dying for water after about 10 minutes of stair climbing!

  8. Monique says:

    They’re probably worried about spills and such, so guzzle down some prior at the hydrating stations! I’m aiming to do the climb again this Fall. Hopefully I won’t be quenched for thirst until after I reach the top. Hope your climb went well! :-)

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