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student climbing the wall
April 11, 2019
4 mins read

I did Storm the Wall and here's what happened

My philosophy’s always been to cross off, as early as possible, items from my UBC bucket list. 

So, in mid-March, I found some friends, formed a team, and registered for what I considered the ultimate way to wrap up first year: Storm the Wall.

group shot of the team

It was Joanne’s Storm the Wall 2018 post that introduced me to one of UBC’s most iconic traditions—a 5-part race where teams swim, sprint, bike, run, and scale a 12-foot wall.

I have never, however, considered myself the athletic type, and have no Dorito torso to speak of. In fact, I would—had I complete sovereignty over my life—rather be cooped up with a book (say, this Flavia de Luce mystery) in a hammock by Walden Pond.

But since I returned to working out back in January, as promised in my punny list of goals, I wanted to see just how much stamina I had built up.

That was how “Wallotov Cocktail” (my idea of a name), a just-for-fun team, was born.

Lap-by-lap

On Sunday, March 24, 2019, I met up with 2 of my team members for lunch an hour before our heat race. Zakary (our biker) and Edward (our runner) found me snacking on a cinnamon bun—I’m guilty of making unhealthy food choices whenever adrenaline overloads my veins.

We signed in 15 minutes early, Zakary with his bike, Edward with his water bottle, and me with both guys’ valuables. To their credit, I was the wall person, so nothing was expected of me until the final leg of the race.

Pushing through the crowd with more aggression than I thought was in me, I trekked across to the Aquatic Centre, where Sean (our swimmer) and Rachel (our sprinter) were checking in.

I shrugged on Sean’s duffel bag, slid Rachel’s hoodie under my arm, and staggered up to the viewing area to join Sasha (our UBC Life photographer) and her friends. I leaned over the edge just as Sean, along with other swimmers, lowered himself into the pool. Rachel, action-ready, stood on the opposite end with her fellow sprinters.

In a moment, the swimmers were off in choreographed chaos. Sasha busied herself snapping pictures. Agile movements, seismic waves in their wake, thundering splashes in tandem with cheers from the spectators.

Sean was on the swim team back in high school and his experience showed—he fast, y’all. As he finished his third lap, I left my post and rushed outside to watch the next part of the relay: Rachel’s sprint—which I almost missed.

She burst out of the Aquatic Centre (I’d just turned the corner, dude), pelting past me like the Flash, blur of red (or maroon?) and all. I was about to follow her to the next leg: Zakary’s biking performance.

But suddenly, I realized I still had Sean’s duffel bag—and his change of clothes. I sped back, found him, made the delivery, and jogged off as effectively as I could with all the stuff I was lugging about.

Halfway along, I saw Sasha & Co. coming towards me. Apparently, Zakary was already done biking, and we were to wait at the finish line to cheer for Edward, who’d be running towards us.

We went the way I came, returning to the noise rumbling in the plaza. The thrill, the frenzy, the cheers and blaring music that sent jarring tremors through the ground.

Soon enough, I could see Edward speeding towards us, neck-and-neck with another runner. Channeling his Track & Field finesse, he edged in front at the last second. He’d done it.

Minutes later, Sean, Rachel, and Zakary joined us to face the untamed beast that is The Wall.

Wrist-to-wrist

As the resident “wall person,” I was at the bottom of the food chain for almost the entirety of the race’s last leg: knees bent, muscles taut, back against the wall.

One by one, my team members climbed over. My one job—be stepped on in 2 locations, be okay with being stepped on, and be able to manually shove up the person for that final oomph.

Finally, it was my turn. Me, with my fear of heights. Get a grip, man, figurative or literal, I thought. You're brave...I think?

Dusting off the fresh footprints on my hoodie (which I borrowed from Edward, really), I seized Zakary and Rachel’s shoulders. I planted a foot on Rachel’s knee, and the other on Zakary’s. Grimacing, I lifted myself up, my face almost brushing against The Wall’s fricative surface.

Now, why’s Edward’s arm so far away?

And then I realized I had to step on my pals’ shoulders. Right.

I latched onto Edward’s arm, wrist-to-wrist. Sean grabbed my other wrist. And suddenly, all 120 pounds of me found their bearings on top of the wall.

Turning, I summoned a smile of faked confidence and hoped that no one could tell that my mild fear of heights was ratcheting into a need to get down. Now.

standing at the top of the wall

Rung-by-rung

Same music, same sky, same sunny afternoon—everything was the same as moments before, but certainly, something had changed in the instant I made it over The Wall.

I’d confronted something I feared, pushed on regardless, gained a new experience.

As I descended, the staff reminded me to touch every rung. So, I did, while thinking that, in so many things that we do, we have to decelerate, make sure to savour every moment, however small. The race was under half an hour, but that was enough time to make a lasting memory.

I realized that there still remain many things we can try at UBC, even those that, despite making us uncomfortable, can be a learning experience, a time that’s just for fun.

But without my teammates, without their support and contributions, storming The Wall wouldn’t have even been a possibility. This race, this shared journey, this cheering for one another—we’re all a part of the community that made these things possible to begin with.

So, let’s run new races, lap-by-lap; lift one another up, wrist-to-wrist; and revel in every moment, rung-by-rung. Routes, however winding, don’t have to be taken alone.