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):
I took off my shoes, stuffed my jacket into my backpack, and went up at an “easy” pace, taking about nine minutes:
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
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.
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.
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:
- First, I want to defeat my sense of boredom going down, just as I’ve managed to defeat it on the way up. I will find something meditative and aesthetic about the process of descending the steps.
- Clearly my soreness showed that my calves were insufficiently conditioned. The solution to that is not to avoid running down the steps, but to keep doing it, in a smarter way. Therefore, my plan now is that on any final repetition of the Cathedral stair climb, I will take the stairs back down, rather than the elevator, regardless of elevator congestion concerns.
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.