The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

January 14, 2013

NEW HEIGHTS | Vinco native sets standard in stair climbing

Mike Kovak

JOHNSTOWN — Mark Trahanovsky went on a training run, just as he did thousands of times previously, when a sharp pain shot through his left knee.

Now, little aches and pains are nothing new for dedicated runners, but Trahanovsky – a 1977 graduate of Central Cambria High School – knew something was different. Trahanovsky, then 48, went to his doctor and the fitness enthusiast was informed that he owned the left knee of an 80-year-old. The knee’s deterioration can be traced back to a skiing accident as a 21-year-old.

Because running was causing a hole to form in Trahanovsky’s femur, his days pounding the pavement were finished. He tried swimming, but turns proved to be a problem.

In 2007, Trahanovsky, who calls Yorba Linda, Calif. home, discovered the world of competitive stair climbing. Haven’t heard of it? Not to worry, most people haven’t.

“It’s the hardest sport you’ve never heard of. It really is,” Trahanovsky ensured.

He instantly became hooked and stair climbing became such a passion, and Trahanovsky developed such a talent for climbing incredible heights at eye-popping paces that he and three others recently established a stair climbing world record.

At 6 p.m. on Jan. 3, the 53-year-old Trahanovsky, 46-year-old PJ Glassey of Seattle, Kacie Fischer Cleveland (27) of Ponta Vedra, Fla., and  Kristin Frey (28) of Schaumburg, Ill., spent 24 hours taking turns repeatedly ascending 42 floors of stairs at the Bank of America Tower in Jacksonville, Fla. The quartet not only wanted to accomplish the feat, they helped raise awareness for the American Lung Association and to encourage others to get out and exercise.

“We wanted to do something nobody has ever done in stair climbing. Usually, it’s over in about five minutes,” said Trahanovsky, who works for West Coast Labels, which sponsored the four-person team. “Stair climbing fits into a busy person’s lifestyle. I have two kids, a full-time job that’s pretty intense and deadline-driven.”

Trahanovsky, trains five days per week usually, and his workouts rarely last longer than 15 minutes. His most intense workout lasts five minutes.

“It’s all out on a stair master,” he said. “After one minute, I’m telling myself, ‘I can’t go another four minutes.’ After five minutes, I’m dying. It’s painful.”

Those five-minute workouts helped make Trahanovsky's unprecedented test of stair-climbing endurance possible.

The quartet used a relay system for the climb with a goal of 5,000 floors and 100,000 steps. Each climber started on the ninth floor and ascended to the 42nd floor. With no 13th floor, that’s a grand total of 32 floors every climb. They usually did two or three circuits before the switching.

“You have about 40 to 50 minutes of rest between each climber,” Trahanovsky said.

And they accomplished their goals, and then some.

A total of 5,880 floors and 123,480 steps were climbed, or approximately 79,000 feet. That’s roughly two-and-a-half times the size of Mount Everest.

Trahanovsky, who owns a litany of stair-climbing wins and is ranked among the top 50 stair climbers in the world, grew stronger as the event progressed.

“I paced myself, but still took two steps the while time,” he said. “I probably had more energy at the end because I paced myself better.”

The native of Vinco will continue training and competing. There’s talk of challenging a late-night talk show host like Jimmy Kimmel or Conan O’Brien to ride of the elevator of the Bonaventure Hotel in Los Angeles while the team races up the stairs.  

He even has his eyes on another potential record.

Every time he sees Willis Tower in Chicago, Trahanovsky says to himself, “I look at that. It’s 103 floors. That’s nothing. I did 1,400 floors. That’s 13 Willis Towers, one every two hours. I think what we just did is a confidence builder.”