I vaguely remember agreeing to climb the CN Tower with my dad.
It was a little before Christmas, and I had recently got interested in starting to exercise and get myself somewhat in shape. I had no idea what I was doing, but I went out to my dad and step mom’s place to work out in the little home gym my dad had set up in the basement. After running on a treadmill for a bit, doing some body weight exercises, and going to town on their rowing machine for a bit, I chatted with my dad for a little while. In recent years, he’s taken far better care of himself than I have at any point in my life. He said when he was my age, it wasn’t something he was too worried about – it took him a long time to make the necessary lifestyle adjustments to live healthily. And I still remember the first time I went to the gym with him, a few years before that. I asked him to take it easy on me, and I’m sure he did, but I was sore for a week after.
So when he reminded me in the new year that I’d agreed to climb the CN Tower with him, I may have panicked a little bit. I was definitely worried I might have a heart attack halfway up the tower. One thing was for sure – I was going to have to do some training to prepare.
So I got myself a gym membership. For the first little while, I went and had my dad guide me through some of his workouts. Once I got the hang of those, I took it and ran with it. I never pictured myself as the type of person who would hang out at the gym with any regularity – but I guess paying for a membership helps with the motivation to actually get there and do it. It only took a couple attempts at doing 150 flights on the stairmaster for me to realize that I might not have so much to worry about. It wouldn’t be pretty – but I could do it.
So why the CN Tower Climb, specifically? My dad had done it a couple years prior, and made pretty good time too (sub-18 minutes). He wanted to do it again, and it seemed like an attainable goal to me – so we planned to do it together as a father-son bonding experience. I was worried I wouldn’t be able to keep up with him (and that would be fine – he’s been preparing far longer than I have), but he assured me he was not interested in doing a time trial, he was interested in spending some time with his son. He figured he would be in worse shape than he was the last time he did it.
Yesterday was the day, and given that it’s an early morning event, it was an early start for us. I crashed at their place Friday night, and my wake-up call came from my dad right around 4 AM. Up we got, and coffee in hand, we piled into the van and headed to Toronto. Traffic was great, and we made it there by about 5:30. Into the Metro Toronto Convention Centre we went to line up with the other earlybirds… And that’s where I snapped a quick BEFORE selfie of us.
We tried to sneak in our phones so that we would be able to take a selfie at the top, but the security guards at the entrance searched my dad’s fanny pack and made us return them to the van before we could climb.
I gotta say, WWF (the charity that benefited from today’s climb) really knows how to get you motivated in the morning. As we entered the base of the CN Tower, there was a team of cheerleaders cheering us on. As we got closer to the stairs, there were more cheerleaders. We had planned to stop for a bathroom break before starting the climb, but before we knew it we were there, swiping our timing chips and starting the climb.
I probably could have dressed better – I received a few comments on the fact that I was wearing jeans while everyone else was wearing shorts or some sort of athletic pants. Didn’t matter to me – I can still climb stairs just fine. The first few floors went by no problem, and as we got closer to the 50th “floor,” Dad mentioned we could take a break whenever I needed to. We got up to “floor” 70 before I needed a breather. Roughly a minute off, then back at it for another 45 floors before I needed another breather. I would have been fine with my dad continuing on without me, but he waited patiently for me to catch my breath. And frankly, I’m glad he stuck with me… Because I almost stopped for another breather before the finish. “I can see the finish from here, we’re basically there!” he encouraged, and so I kept climbing and climbing.
Once you get to the top, they play a fun little trick on you. They say “The finish is right through this door!” And it is, kinda. You go through and swipe your timing chip so you know what kind of time you made… But you’re not done climbing yet. There’s another 4 or 5 flights of stairs you have to continue up before you get to the observation deck. But by that point, we were so close to the top, nothing was going to stop me. And we had pretty darn good timing, too. Right as we reached the top and were able to get a view of all of Toronto, the sun just so happened to be rising over Lake Ontario. I haven’t seen a ton of sunrises in my lifetime (I always sleep too late for that), but this one was easily the most beautiful I’ve ever seen. Maybe that was enhanced by the fact that I’d just achieved a goal I set for myself, but from that vantage point, 1,776 stairs above the rest of the city, it was objectively stunning.
While my dad and I couldn’t get a photo, we did a loop around the outside observation deck to check out the city and the sun over the lake. My friend (and Peterborough community superstar) Eileen Kimmett also did the climb, and you can see from this photo taken just a few minutes later what the view was like.
After taking a few minutes to catch my breath and wondering aloud if my heart was about to explode, we hopped into an elevator and went back down to ground level where we got our event t-shirts and found out our times. While going in, I figured I’d be somewhere between 30 and 40 minutes, I knew I’d actually done it in less time.
23:08 was my time. My dad did it one second faster (though he’d have been considerably further ahead had he not stopped with me). Now I have a benchmark to try and improve on next year.
We stopped for a post-climb selfie before we left – though by that point we’d been done for probably half an hour, so it doesn’t have quite the same effect as seeing my sweaty, drained face immediately at the finish would have:
And of course, we had to get a shot of our shirts together to commemorate what was an amazing father-son bonding experience.
If you’ve ever thought about taking part in one of these CN Tower Climb fundraisers, but aren’t sure if you can do it… Well I’m here to tell you that YOU CAN! I saw people from all walks of life taking part. Old, young, fit, out of shape. As long as you go at your own pace and don’t push yourself too hard, you can totally nail it! Plus, the feeling of accomplishment you’ll get from it is worth all the pain and exhaustion you might end up dealing with.
Thanks to everyone who donated to my campaign! WWF appreciates your support of their wildlife conservation efforts, and I really appreciate that you helped me realize a personal goal. You guys rock!
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