The dilemma of how to descend the Cathedral of Learning once at the top

Yesterday, right after I left one of the sessions of the annual Pittsburgh Jazz Seminar at the William Pitt Union, I immediately crossed the street to the Cathedral of Learning, in order to climb up to the 36th floor (I last climbed the Cathedral three days ago):

View of Cathedral of Learning

I took off my shoes, stuffed my jacket into my backpack, and went up at an “easy” pace, taking about nine minutes:

View from 36th floor window of Cathedral of Learning

Then I faced the usual dilemma of how to get back down, except this time, the dilemma was magnified because of my time constraints: I really needed to get down and out quickly, in order to make it to an important appointment.

Choices and tradeoffs

Elevator down

One option is to take one of the elevators down. This is what I’ve almost always done ever since doing the Cathedral of Learning stair climb.

Unfortunately, whether this is time-effective depends a lot on various factors, such as whether Pitt classes are being held, Pitt students are roaming around, or tourists are roaming around.

It turned out that Saturday afternoon is a bad time to be taking the elevator. There were hordes of students as well as tourists throughout the building, and especially the tourists at the top floor.

Furthermore, I had noticed on the ground floor earlier that some of the elevators were out of service.

Finally, three days ago I had a bad experience with the elevator.

Taking the stairs down

The other option is to take the stairs back down, all the way. This option is one I take so rarely that I don’t even remember when I last did it. I probably did it once earlier this year, but have no specific memory of it.

The drawback of taking the stairs down is the extra impact on the body.

But since I needed to descend as quickly as possible, I felt I had no choice but to take the stairs. In fact, I not only used the stairs, but ran down all the way.

It wasn’t hard (thank you, gravity!), although it got boring and weird after a while, because it feels like forever going down 36 floors.

The day after

I thought everything was OK, but this morning, the day after, I woke up with a serious case of DOMS.

My calves were totally tight and trashed. Oops. Maybe I could have prevented this by stretching after running down yesterday, but I had no time, and had to make my appointment. Or maybe I just plain overdid things, not being conditioned at all to running down so many steps.

Anyway, I’m suffering, but no permanent damage done, of course: I will be OK after a day or two.

What next?

So does this mean that the next time I climb the Cathedral, I will stick to the elevator?

Actually, no. I take the experience as a challenge:


An accidental case of trashed calves during a workout has led me to treat it as a learning experience and a challenge to overcome in the future.

(Update of 2014-10-22)

The “elevator modernization project” started in September 2014 and makes it even more attractive to just walk.

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