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Climbing the Space Needle, step by step

By on October 25, 2017 in Articles with 0 Comments

Joel starting out: Pace yourself, what?

By Joel Lhamon

It started with a commercial I saw on KING TV last summer, bringing my attention to the Base 2 Space: Seattle’s Most Iconic Climb — an opportunity to raise funds for Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle.

In exchange for fundraising efforts, the participants would have the opportunity to climb the 832 stairs of the Space Needle, right next to the perfectly serviceable elevators.

The idea spoke to me for two reasons.

First, I have lost dear friends and family members alike to this disease, and I wanted to be a part of this constructive energy. Also, I grew up in Seattle, and the steel used in the Space Needle’s construction was fabricated by my father’s employer, then Pacific Car and Foundry, later known as PACCAR.

I began my brief training for the event by short climbs on a stairmaster, first 100 steps then 200, and so on. When I achieved the desired 832 steps on the stairmaster in about 25 minutes of time, I thought I was ready for the big day.

On Oct. 1, I entered the queue at the Space Needle’s base to wait for my turn to begin my climb. I was accompanied by 2,600 energetic friends I hadn’t met yet.

An enthusiastic announcer on the loudspeaker remarked that the fastest climb so far had taken place in just under 5 minutes. I wondered which elevator was used to achieve that gazelle-like pace.

Joel 832 steps later: Made it.

The same announcer offered a bit of advice which I discounted: “Pace yourself.”

There was no visible digital counter giving me a clue as to my pace, though the sponsors were timing each of us. After 2 minutes or so, I was winded and remembered the advice to pace myself, and rested frequently.

That turned out to be good advice because I saw a climber being carried down the adjacent stairwell by paramedics in a stretcher.

When I returned home the next day I looked at the event website and learned that I had completed the climb in about 15 minutes, much faster than the stairmaster simulations during my training. I guess adrenaline kicked in.

This was a very gratifying experience. I was overwhelmed by the generous response to my fundraising — which hit $1,000 — in total more than $2 million was raised by all the participants in this memorable climb.

You can still make a donation for the stair climb at: https://www.classy.org/fundraise?fcid=1087041.

Joel’s dad worked at Pacific Car and Foundry, the company that fabricated the steel used in building the Space Needle. Museum of History & Industry Photograph Collection/image 2005.6.83

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