The first climb is the steepest!

Help Me Hustle!Yesterday I did my first practice climb for the 2008 Hustle up the Hancock.  It went really well, considering I hadn’t climbed stairs like that since last year’s event. 

When I did my first practice climb last year, I could barely finish 20 floors.  My face was hot, my head was spinning and my legs were on fire.  This year I finished 37 floors easily.  I felt pretty good the whole time and even feel fine today.  I don’t know if that means I’m in better shape this year, but needless to say I’m encouraged!

The Hustle up the Hancock event is exactly a month away today.  I can scarcely believe it’s coming up so quickly, but I think I’ll be ready.  I have another practice climb scheduled for tomorrow and I plan on doing all 50 floors of this building.  By next week I’ll be doing this building twice — 100 floors.

I don’t know what took me so long to start my training.  It’s a huge challenge, and I guess I just wanted to be completely ready — physically and mentally. 

I’m excited about this year’s event because we have a lot of people from my department climbing.  At last count there are 8 members of our staff making the climb.  We train together, encourage each other and kick each other in the butt when we slack off.  It’s working really well and we’re all going to be very successful.

Money-wise, I’m doing well but I still need help!  So far I’ve raised $630 and my goal is $1,500.  So if you saw my initial post about the Hustle, but couldn’t make a donation yet, hopefully you can help out now.  It’s easy to do, and every penny goes to the Respiratory Health Association of Metropolitan Chicago to help fight, prevent, and support those with lung disease; so every penny is well-spent.

Finally, a BIG thank you to those of you who have already contributed… I owe you all big hugs!

Gregg Vanicek
Scott Goldner
Jason Ott
Fine Point Face Painting
Jamie Guajardo
Quenten Schumacher
David Long
Jeff Kosin
Brian Kowalski
Stephen Murphy
Cliff Dix
Tom Myles
Barbara Drumm
Maia Wright
Ricardo Torres
Eric Boberg

Help me Hustle — AGAIN!

As you may recall, last year I participated in the Hustle up the Hancock, a fundraising event for what was then called the American Lung Association of Greater Chicago, but is now named the Respiratory Health Association of Metropolitan Chicago (RHAMC). The premise of the event is to climb to the top of the John Hancock Center— all 1,632 stairs; all 95 floors.This was the first time I had ever done anything like this, and truth be told, I barely made it– but I did make it. It was an incredible feeling to accomplish that goal.

Help Me Hustle!So I am happy to tell you that on February 24, 2008, I will be participating in the 11th Annual Hustle Up the Hancock event to help raise money for lung disease research and education.

I will join thousands of others throughout the Chicago land area to raise funds for Respiratory Health Association of Metropolitan Chicago (RHAMC) as we aim to promote healthy lungs and fight lung disease. You may think that it’s crazy to climb the John Hancock Center but I am doing so because I am able. I can breathe freely, and there are many people who are not as lucky as I.

People like my mom.

My mom was diagnosed with Emphysema in 1995, and has had Asthma for most of her life. For the last 12 years, I have seen the toll that this disease has taken on her life and her well-being. While she is still able to get around and live her life, the disease is slowly robbing her of her ability to do the very things that she has enjoyed all of her life. As each year passes, it gets harder and harder for her to perform simple tasks– from walking from her car to a store, to even taking a shower.

I also suffer from Asthma symptoms, and am a prime candidate for the disease, since it runs in my family. (My grandma also had Emphysema and Asthma.)

With your support, people like my mom can be helped. Your assistance will allow RHAMC fund research and support lung disease research and programs for people with lung disease.

Please click the link below to go to my personal donation website, and make a contribution. Any amount is accepted– and every amount is appreciated.

Last year, with your support, I raised $1,165.00. I am hoping to top this by raising $1,500 this year – maybe even $2,000!  Every penny goes to the RHAMC, and every penny is well-spent.

Rick Aiello’s Personal Fundraising Site

I will be updating my progress, again, right here on the Launching Pad.  Click here to see how I did last year.

Thank you for your help… and wish me luck!

Hustle Done!

Hustle up the HancockI did it!

And that’s probably fairly obvious, seeing as how I’m writing this entry– but for a while there, I wasn’t so sure I would actually do it.

My start time was 8:30, which meant I had to be down there by 7:30 for photos and other preparations, and which meant I had to be up and out of bed by 5:30 to get ready at home.

Well on Saturday night there was a massive ice storm.  And by massive I mean ENORMOUS.  Everything was caked in ice about 2-3 mm thick.  I know this because I was at a friend’s place the evening before and had to drive home afterward, and scraping that ice off my car was no fun at all.

So, thanks to the ice storm, at some point in the night the power had gone out, and all of my clocks were blinking.  I woke up to discover this and quickly grabbed my cell phone.

7:20.   Lovely.

I sprang out of bed, wolfed down a banana and some yogurt, ran through a shower, and grabbed my things.

I checked to make sure everything was there– shoes, CHECK. T-Shirt, CHECK.  Shorts, CHECK.  Bib and timing tag…

Shit!  They were still at my desk at work.

So I flew out the door.  Thankfully the storm had somehow turned to rain during the night and melted all the ice away, so I didn’t have to scrape my car.  Thank goodness for small miracles.  I raced down Lake Shore Drive to work, ran in, grabbed the things I needed off my desk, and bolted back out to get to the John Hancock Center.  By the time I parked the car, got inside, dropped my things off and got myself ready to climb, it was 8:45.  My team had already left.    So I turned on the iPod and started on my own.

As it turned out, that was probably the best way to go.  I didn’t have any distractions (save for a few hotties passing me by in the stairwell), and I could go completely at my own pace.  I kept my music selection mellow, so I could remain at a fairly slow pace, and it worked really well.

At every fifth floor there were ‘cheerleaders’ encouraging the climbers onward and upward, and at every tenth floor they had water stations set up.  At most of those floors they also had medical personnel to help in case people needed it.  So I knew I would be okay.

The first 20 floors were hard, as they always are.  I just kept taking breaks as much as I needed and continued when I felt ready.  The next 20 were easier.  The third 20 I started to feel the burning in my legs, so I took them a little slower.

But the next 20 were pretty brutal.  I felt something else brewing, and it wasn’t my head or my legs.  It was my stomach.  I probably did myself more of a disservice by wolfing down that banana and yogurt so fast in the morning, because by the 85th floor, I knew I wasn’t going to keep it for much longer.  That floor happened to be a water/medical station, so I stopped and drank some water and rested, thinking maybe it would pass.  It didn’t.  After about 5 minutes, I finally went to the medical guy and said “I think I’m going to be sick.”

He brought me into the hallway area and had me sit down, and handed me a large, gallon-sized Ziploc bag.

I never realized how strong those Ziploc bags were.  But yeah, they’re pretty strong.

So after a few rounds of getting rid of my breakfast (and probably last night’s dinner as well), I felt 100 times better.  I drank some more water, wiped my face down, and said I think I could finish.  I only had 9 floors left by this time.  There was no way I was not finishing.

Those last 9 floors were a breeze.  And when I reached the top, I felt this amazing sense of accomplishment.

I dedicated that moment to my Mom, who was probably my biggest cheerleader through all of this.

I dedicated that moment to my Grandma, whose life was cut way too short by lung disease.

I dedicated that moment to my friends and family, who supported me through this entire endeavor.

And I dedicated that moment to me, for making the choice to challenge myself to do something I had never done before– and doing it.

Unfortunately you couldn’t see anything from the Hancock Observatory, thanks to the storm in the area.  But I didn’t care.  It was a beautiful moment, and I took it all in.

My time was about 45 minutes, which shocked me.  It felt like forever in there.  But I’m not complaining.  I wasn’t doing this to be the fastest anyway.  I just wanted to finish.

So… thank you to everyone that supported me through all of this.  Remember, I am still taking donations until March 23, so if you would like to donate, click here and make a donation.  Every little bit counts.

Hustle and Flow

John Hancock Center and the surrounding areaYesterday morning as I drove to work, driving south on Lake Shore Drive and approaching downtown Chicago, I glanced ahead of me at the John Hancock Center as it grew closer… and taller… in front of me.

Man that sucker is big.

It’s frickin’ huge.

And as it grew closer, I stared it down.

94 floors. From the ground to the top. That’s my goal.

A slight shiver of fear ran through my body as I traced the graceful incline from the bottom to the top. The slope upward makes the building seem taller, and more ominous, than it probably really is. And the fact that it is, by far, the tallest building in its surrounding area makes it appear even more intimidating.

But I am ready to conquer it. And conquer it, I will.

I sent an Email to my family last week to let them know about my participation in this event. They have been overwhelmingly supportive– especially my Mom. I think she checks my personal donation website more often than I do. Each day she calls me to get an update on my progress, and tells me about groups she found on the Hustle website, where they are from and how much money they have raised. So far, Team Jenner (my team) has raised close to $20,000, and is ranked #3 of all teams climbing. Those are some pretty impressive numbers. I guess lung disease has touched a lot of people in many different ways.

Hustle up the HancockToday I reached– and surpassed– my $1,000 fundraising goal for Hustle Up The Hancock for the American Lung Association. I couldn’t have done it without the incredible support of my friends, my family, and the readers of this very blog. Thank you a million times over. I just don’t know how else to say it. I’m deeply touched by your generosity.

Of course, if you still want to contribute, you may– I will be taking donations until March 23. The link to my “Hustle” hompage will remain active until then. Click here or on the button at the beginning of this post if you would like to donate.

My next post will be post-climb. I will make it. I will survive. And I will live to tell about it!

Hustle and Bustle

Hustle up the HancockOh my freakin’ God…

What have I done to myself?

My bones ache.  My muscles ache.  My head is spinning.

I must finish this.  I must do it.

I will do it.  I hope.

Today I climbed 50 floors at work.  Our building is 50 floors tall.  It’s actually a misnomer, because there are a few extra floors that have heating/AC equipment and other electrical stuff.  So it’s probably closer to 54 floors tall.  But still.  I climbed it.  I’ve done it twice now.

But it’s still not enough.  I need to climb 95 floors at the Hancock Center.

Good God, I must be mad.

But doggone it, I’m gonna do it.

I’ve raised $720 so far.  I still need to raise $280 to meet my $1,000 goal. 

The event is this Sunday.  I have to be there at 7 in the morning.  And I am SO not a morning person.


When I think of my mom, and all of the people who suffer from lung disease, and all of those who have died of lung diseases…

It makes it all worth it.

So if you have thought of helping me out, now is the time.  Click here ( to make a donation. 

Meanwhile, my training hits fever pitch this week.  I fully intend on climbing my building TWICE in a row by Friday.  Even if it kills me.  And it just might.

Until then, me and my aching body are going to bed.