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So tonight was about fitness. The up and the down, the getting some elevation, and then stairs. Always the stairs.

I’m still building up to running fitness and while my pace is improving, my VO2 Max is sitting around the average (47 or 48) instead of above 50 where I hope it might be. I get the heart rate going, but it can sometimes run a little high. In short, I need to keep testing myself, recovering, and then pushing myself again. The fitness will come back and the body will be better for it, it’s just going to take a little time.

Anyway, tonight I needed stairs and so I headed to the Old City of Lyon where the long, nasty staircase of the Montée Nicolas de Lange can be found. It is 568 stairs that take you from Saint Paul to Fourviere. It’s steep, it’s long, and it’s a part of the Ultra Boucle de la Sarra course, so I know it well. I have been up and down these stairs many times in the past and they are always a struggle, at least after the first time up.

This evening’s workout came after a morning of calls, some childcare, and then some more work in the afternoon. In truth, most of the day was dedicated to looking after the baby and doing the sort of work that is necessary to run a business but that doesn’t bring in a lot of money: admin, catch-up calls, planning, and forecasting. After bailing on a ‘real’ run yesterday, I was ready to throw myself into the stairs and even if I knew I wouldn’t be moving super fast, I would be getting some elevation in.

The climb, at least according to Garmin and Strava, is about 55 or 56 meters of elevation gain for each time up the staircase. That’s 180 feet or so for each time up the stairs, and so if I wanted to get in, say, 500 meters of climbing I’d need to head up and down the stairs about 9 times total. I figured 500 meters was a good goal and so nine times was going to be my goal. I am usually a fan of round numbers – why not do ten times if you’re going to do nine, right? – but with the small climb from Saint Paul to the base of the staircase, I should be able to get up to the 500 meters with nine circuits.

What would take time, of course, is getting up and down those stairs. I figured 8 minute circuits, by 9 circuits, for 72 minutes – ugh, that’s long at the end of the day. Plus the getting there and getting back (not that long, but it’ll add another 15 minutes total) so this would be a full 90 minute session. That’s good mid-week and, after the ‘day off’ yesterday, it should be possible.

And so: I had a goal, I had a staircase, I had 90 minutes, I had a baby in bed, and I didn’t have to start work the next morning until 5am so…let’s do this.

I jogged slowly to Saint Paul to get myself in the right headspace for the stairs and then made the climb to the base of the staircase. I had my watch set to the elevation screen instead of the standard, data-rich screen I usually use, and I started clicking off the circuits.

No need to jump into the details – stair climbing is stair climbing, after all – but suffice it to say that the first three circuits were easier than the middle three circuits, which were easier than the final three. Well, the final one was fine because, after that, I was done. As soon as I saw the 500 meter elevation gain number roll over on my wrist, I knew I was done and felt the relief that one feels when one is, in fact, done, and so I prepared to head for home, shower, blog, and bed.

One final decision: do I head down the stairs and run the Old City back home, or so I stop at the top, run past the basilica on the top of the hill, and then back to home on the downhill? I went with the second option because I preferred the stairs + flat + downhill combo to get home rather than the stairs + downstairs + flat combo of completing a final circuit at the bottom of the staircase.

In any case, I was heading for home with heavy legs but feeling good because I’d set a goal and nailed it. More than 500 meters of climbing, more than 5000 stairs, and feeling fitter than the day before.

That’s a good workout.

  • Distance: 6.5km
  • Elevation: 528m
  • Time: 1:27:06
  • Garmin Connect: Link