Turned out, whew, it was only 52 floors. As usually I didn't pay too much attention to the details when I signed up for this fundraiser, sponsored by the American Lung Association. It could have been 70 floors or even a 100.
just in case, I quit climbing two stairs at a time, and slowed down to
a bit more reasonable pace. As I went up floor by floor though I kept
passing San Francisco firemen who were climbing with their protective
suits and oxygen masks. Yeah, sure they had 70 extra pounds, but
they're much younger than me. As firemen you'd think they would be
in excellent condition.
Should I be proud that I so easily passed them by, or worried? If the building was burning, I thought, by the time these doofuses get to the top everyone will be dead from smoke inhalation.
What's the point? Besides supporting a good cause (we collectively raised over $300,000) for me it all about lung capacity and the fact it declines in most people as they age. According to the findings of the famous Framingham Heart Study, the "bigger your lungs are, the longer your life will be."Though I've never had my lung capacity measured by a "spirometer" I'm sure I'm way ahead of most people my age, and if anything the capacity, or more accurately, the efficiency of my lungs is increasing, not declining. I know this because just like you might exercise your biceps I exercise my lungs on a nearly every day basis.
How do I do this? When I swim, I take a breath at the beginning of a lap and hold it until I get to the end of the 50-foot pool. My first lap is under water, and my subsequent laps are all above water--swimming the crawl as fast as I possible can. It's what some people called "interval training" and theoretically in addition to improving my lung capacity, this type of exercise also releases growth hormones, which is probably why at age 62 my legs are getting way hairier!
In little ways, I also train my lungs by holding my breath whenever I have to walk by someone who is smoking a cigarette or when I'm near a car with a faulty exhaust. I avoid breathing in toxic fumes as much as possible.
Am I obsessive about breathing? Maybe a little bit but not nearly as much as David Blaine, who can hold his breath for 17 minutes. There's no way I could ever do this, nor do I care to.
Once I reached the top of the stairs, I drank a bottle of water and was pretty much ready to get on with my day. There were lots of people up there and a live band and mind boggling as it might seem, a full bar! However, I was really hungery and had something very specific on my mind.
I hungered for the sea food salad at MOCCA, the classic Italian deli on Maiden Lane where you can sit outside on the pedestrian-only street looking out on Union Square. On my way, I passed by the opera singer Robert Close who's been singing at the Stockton entrance to Maiden Lane for nearly 20 years. He's a beautiful singer who once sang in the SF production of Phantom of the Opera.
I imagine Mr. Close, though he is a very large man, has way better lung capacity than I have! Outside of swimming or running, singing is probably the best lung exercise you can do.
My salad a MOCCA was totally satisfying. Consisting of incredible fresh, cold marinated shrimp, calamari and scallops mixed with finely chopped celery, peppers, chives, etc., on a bed of lettuce, it provided the perfect protein and otherwise nutritious boost I needed after climbing up all those stairs.
Will I do this again next year? Maybe, but to be perfectly honest with you, I could have climbed 100 floors. At the end of the day, it wasn't that big of deal.
Keep on breathing!