Sister Act: We climbed the CN Tower

Us, before the climb. You know it's before because we look happy, not dizzy and exhausted.

Erin’s story:

I have a confession: I have never been to the top of the CN Tower.

I’ve lived in this city since 2007, but have made no effort to enjoy its most famous landmark, its overpowering tourist attraction.

I am a bad Torontonian.

I have another confession: I’ve always wanted to do the CN Tower Climb.

I can’t really explain why. It’s just one of those ridiculous athletic feats, like skydiving and mountain climbing, that I’ve always wanted to try.

I got that chance this year.

Jill works for Bullfrog Power and they put together a CN Tower Climb team every year. Jill, thanks to her pushy colleagues, got coherced into joining the team this year. From the volume and frequency of Jill’s complaining, I got the impression that she didn’t really want to do it.

Not me.

We were at the cottage on Easter weekend when Jill brought it up again. I’m not exactly sure how the conversation went, but once the opportunity for me to join their team was mentioned, it took all of four seconds for me to sign up. I was in. I didn’t even ask Jill’s team captain or boss for permission. (If that was a faux pas, I apologize).

I set my fundraising goal for $250 (hey, I only had a week and a bit!), and raised $310 — enough to get me two free movie passes and three chances at a trip to see polar bears. POLAR BEARS!!! (Thanks to everyone who supported me, by the way. I know how annoying and frequent these campaigns can be and I appreciate every dollar sent my way. So do the bunnies and lions it will save.)

I was amped and ready. Then I realized how insanely busy Thursday, April 19 would be.

A trip to Barrie.

Plans for covering a colleague’s workload during his vacation.

Climbing the CN Tower.

Going to an awards Banquet thing and presenting. In French.

I did it all, with gumption.

I got back from Barrie at 4:30, enough time to chat with Adrian about his vacation and prep for the climb. Luckily, CBC is about three feet from the CN Tower. The team headed over early early early (later, I realized how smart this was but at the time, I thought Jill’s co-workers were all crazy). I found Jill, donned the requisite Bullfrog Power paraphernalia, and got in line. We waited. And waited. And waited.

And waited.

Finally, it was time.

Su, the team captain, gave us one piece of advice: “Don’t stop.” This seemed simple enough to follow.

But then you start climbing.

At first, it’s not so bad. The stairwell is dark and stuffy and the stairs are wire mesh and a bit narrow. I found if I didn’t look at the stairs, I quickly lost my footing. Since I didn’t want to fall 142 stories down — or disturb the 1500 other people climbing that day, I kept my head down.

The calf burn set in around story 50. It wasn’t too bad, I’ve pushed through worse. But the most difficult thing of all was breathing. The air was stuffy and poorly ventilated. And with all these people working hard, it got hot and musty. Fast. The higher you climbed, the harder it was to get the air you needed. I got dizzy and nauseous and my left foot went to sleep a lot. But I powered on and, suddenly, just when you think you are going to quit, that the CN Tower is actually an endless stairway to heaven, you finish.

Or so you think. Sure, the “climb” is done, you get a time card, and people cheer for you, but it’s not over. Oh no.

There are 5 more flights to climb before you get to the observation deck.

Screw you, CN tower architects.

At least the view is worth it.

Oh, and my time was 20:49. So close to sub-20, yet so far.


Jill with the Bullfrog Power Stair Hoppers captain, Su!

Jill’s story:

I too have the same confession as Erin: I have never been to the top of the CN Tower.

As a great iconic landmark, I can’t really say I’ve ever had the desire to pay money to go to the top. As a tourist, yes I can see why this would be appealing, but now that I live here, not so much. I see this building each and everyday, that’s enough for me. But now, I can never look at it the same again!

I have another confession: Unlike Erin I have never wanted, nor ever considered taking part in the CN Tower climb. We all know now who the sane one of the two really is…

While at the cottage, as Erin so lightly puts it, the conversation led to the invitation of her joining my work stair climbing team. Totally not true. While discussing the next insane thing I was going to do for this blog, Erin jumped at the opportunity to join in. Where taking part in the public climb on Sunday wasn’t an option because of the Toronto Yonge Street 10k we were running, Erin gave the invitation to herself to join the Bullfrog Power Stair Hoppers. I suppose this was okay, I really didn’t mind, I just had to okay it with captain Su. But a decline wouldn’t have been an option because Erin had already registered herself right then and there.

So back to my story and how I got myself into this whole mess in the first place. My job at Bullfrog is events. And my biggest event of the year is the Green Living Show. Not only was I involved in organizing Bullfrog’s presence at the show, making sure the booth was set up and the car arrived on time (yes our booth had a car at it!), I had to staff the show as well. All was great when serval co-workers voluntarily signed up for multiple shifts, however, one time remained vacant on Saturday afternoon. What was I to do? I really didn’t want to have to work double duty this day.

Well I knew Su needed one more sorry soul to complete the stair climbing team. I knew this all too well because she tried constantly to recruit me during our lunch time running sessions with the Bullfrog Babes Buns of Steel. So the week before the show I gave Su an ultimatum — she works Saturday at the Green Living Show and I will join the Stair Hoppers. To both my relief and shear disappointment, she accepted.

The show came and went, but now I had a bigger mountain to climb (quite literally). But with Erin joining me, it couldn’t be that bad could it? Yes is the correct answer. It was that bad! Climbing a zillion stairs just to reach the top, and then what? I go down the elevator with a thank you after facing near death? WWF is a parter of Bullfrog’s, as such Bullfrog has entered a team every year for years. So I’ve heard all the horror stories — the people passing out, vomiting and crying, gasping for air as they are forced to climb to the top. There is no coming out once you’re in! I’ve seen the evidence of what happens to people whom make it out alive. There have been few Bullfroggers to live to tell the tale. Now you know why I was not thrilled to do this by any means!

I was sick to my stomach all day and even had nightmares the night before. The constant torment from one particular colleague didn’t help my situation — who then became the my source of motivation. I beat his time and he buys me a mango milkshake, and not just any mango milkshake, but the best in the whole city. Done! I would crush his time of 21 minutes. I did, however, receive very positive feedback from my fellow Bullfrog Babes all of which had way more faith in my climbing capabilities than I did. I need to listen to these ladies more often. Not only did I earn that milkshake I was the 14th (I like to think I was actually 10th as there has a bit of a card hand off dilemma which cost me valuable seconds) fastest girl coming in at 17:47. I then found out is was a rather fast time around the office for a rookie and a girl. I love having bragging rights!

After the feeling of nausea passed and the two-day coughing fit finally ended, I may consider doing this again. But not until I have the mango taste of victory. I know the secrets now — the railing is your friend, climbing 2 steps at a time makes you go faster, there IS a light at the end of the tunnel, and Tom (our president) and Scott (our Development Manager) are very fast.

I have set a goal time of 15 minutes for next year and being the fastest girl ever! Okay, maybe not ever, but of 2013 at least.

I better start training… now.




6 thoughts on “Sister Act: We climbed the CN Tower

    • Erin says:

      You’ll be great! Just take your time and breathe. A lot. Breathing is the most important thing. And when you are done, get fresh air ASAP.

      Have fun!!!!

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