Stair climbers take on Lexington's tallest building in Urban Mountain Challenge

340 competitors hit the stairs at financial center

gkocher1@herald-leader.comJanuary 29, 2012 

Dr. Jonathan Feddock of Lexington is a true stair master.

The 30-year-old radiation oncologist climbed 29 stories of the Lexington Financial Center, the city's tallest building — 638 steps — in 2 minutes, 46 seconds to take first in the overall male division of Saturday's inaugural Urban Mountain Challenge, organizers said.

And get this: He did it after breaking his right foot during an October run.

"This was motivation to get back in shape," Feddock said.

The Lexington tower climb was not the first for the University of Kentucky doctor, a longtime runner who has competed in the Boston Marathon. Feddock has also conquered the 94 floors of the John Hancock Center in Chicago three times.

"It's just something different, something fun to do other than running the roads all the time," Feddock said.

Feddock was among 340 people who paid $30 to $45 apiece to register for Saturday's climb, coordinated by the Downtown Lexington Corporation.

Proceeds from the event will benefit the UK College of Communications and the Downtown Lexington Corporation Foundation. The final numbers on how much was raised were not immediately available.

The competitors started their races at 15-second intervals. Each competitor wore a timing chip that measured how fast he or she scaled the skyscraper.

Organizers such as Bob Baney, a partner in 3 Way Racing, a Lexington company that provides professional race management and timing, said the climb will be an annual event.

"We hope to expand it in the future and maybe even make it more challenging," Baney said.

There were rest stops on floors 7, 12, 19 and 25. As far as organizers could tell, there were no medical emergencies, and everyone who started the climb finished it.

The overall female winner was Vanessa Seitz, 38, of Versailles, who topped the big blue building in 4 minutes, 22 seconds.

"It was my first time doing anything like this," Seitz said. "I made a resolution that I was going to do some things outside my comfort zone."

The climb had a public-service division for law-enforcement, firefighters or military personnel.

The male winner in that division was Lexington police Officer James Boyd, 36. He flew up the steps in 3 minutes, 33 seconds.

"Once you're on floor 10, it's all downhill from there — like mentally downhill. It hurts," Boyd said. "I was seeing stars when I finished.

"But it's fine once you're done," Boyd added. "It's a good event. I'd like to see it come annually."

Lexington police Officer Lisa Rakes was the top female in the public service division. Her time was 4 minutes, 53 seconds.

"It hurt a lot more than I thought it would," Rakes said. "My lungs! My legs! My arms were heavy going up those stairs."

Linda Fox, 51, who teaches a fitness class in Elizabethtown, wore a T-shirt with this declaration: "You say elevator. I say stairs."

"My legs were shaky," she said about the climb afterward. "It definitely was a challenge."

Kristi Sexton, a Kentucky State Police trooper assigned to Gov. Steve Beshear's security detail, said she had never done that many steps before.

"I knew, for my sake, that I didn't need to start out quickly," Sexton said. "I just kind of paced myself. I ran probably the first 10 flights of stairs, and then paced myself by walking the rest. I knew there was no way, if I started out at full speed, that I was going to last."

Several firefighters, such as Lexington's Joe Nugent, climbed all 29 stories wearing their full gear. In Nugent's case, the gear and air pack weighed 64 pounds. His time was 6 minutes, 33 seconds.

Nugent, 33, has done a 69-story tower climb in Seattle and plans to do it again this year, so the Lexington event was part of his training.

"I want to use this as a gauge for how much more I need to work out for a much taller climb," Nugent said.

But the Urban Mountain doubles as professional training, too.

"If there were ever a large fire on a top floor, and the elevators are shut down, the only way we could get to the fire is to go up the steps," Nugent said.

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