Maggie Lonergan

Birthdate: 16 September 1988

What is your occupation? Data scientist

What/when was your first climb? Hustle up the Hancock 2012

How many climbs have you completed? 12, I think

Why/how did you start? I started climbing while I was working in intelligence. Due to security requirements we didn't have internet access in the building and we weren't allowed to have cell phones. The weather was awful for a few months which meant going for a quick walk to break up the boredom was out of the picture so I took to hitting the stairs just to get out of the office.

Do you have a favorite climb? Why? I have a deep personal connection with Sears. When I first learned about the climb I was stuck in a rut, hating my job, and knowing that I needed to do something different with my life but unsure of how to go about doing it. I found that the Sears climb coincided with my sister's birthday (she lives in Chicago) and that there were direct flights from ORD to Hong Kong so it made my plans to visit a friend in Hong Kong more realistic. Eventually those plans turned into taking an open ended sabbatical so the climb really marked the start of my year of wandering; I spent the next few months backpacking then eventually quit my intelligence job and took a few months to teach yoga, train for a marathon, and get my personal life together. The next November I was still a little unsettled but I used the climb as a stopping off point before I headed to San Francisco where I wanted to move but had trouble justifying the move when I had no job, had blown nearly all my savings, and had a very good job offer back in DC at a job I could realistically see myself loving. After the climb, I headed to SF for a planned two week vacation, found a job right away, and have been loving the California life ever since. Just before Sears the next year (2014, my third year in a row), I finally went back to DC, my first trip back since I left for my two week CA vacation. I had to tie up some loose ends, say good bye to some folks I feel reasonably sure I'll never see again, and apologize to my friends who felt like I had abandoned them when I just never came home. While the 2014 climb was not my best, it felt like a good conclusion to my DC trip. This climb is brutal and really pushes you to dig deep; it was the first thing that I did on my year long search for self and nicely bookended it as I wrapped things up and fully transitioned into a much more settled down life in SF.

Least favorite climb? Why? I haven't encountered a climb I wouldn't do again.

Why do you climb? I like that it forces you deep into your own body. One of the things that I love about competitive freediving is that you are forced to stay calm and present, otherwise you could drown. As long as you stay calm, you remain in control; any distraction could prove fatal. Climbing is the closest land based activity I have found to this state of forced intense concentration. I can always find the same state while on my bike but it requires a lot of effort to push myself to those limits and to stay there. On the stairs, you only need to focus on the stairs directly in front of you, your breathing, and your heartbeat. If you lose focus on any of those things, you blow up.

Are there other sports you’re passionate about? My primary sport is road [bike] racing but I also love freediving (breath hold diving).

Did you have injuries or issues you needed to overcome to climb? laziness

How do you train? I train almost exclusively on the bike. Living in SF I walk up hills a lot which helps, but it's primarily cycling for my training. Sometimes I'll do breath control work in the pool which I think helps train my respiratory muscles, but is primarily a good psychological training tool to simulate that feeling of not being able to catch your breath while not being able to do so.

Do you have a special relationship with any of your step-siblings? I like to climb with my sister and I'm friends with many of my step-sibs

Who inspires you? My sister tags along on many of my physical adventures. She isn't in the greatest of shape and I know these things (long bike rides, stair climbs, even a half marathon) are really hard for her but she always says yes when I ask if she wants to join.

Do you have a good luck charm or any superstitions or pre-race rituals?  I love a sushi dinner the night before a race, or lox and toast for a pre race breakfast but I don't freak out if I can't get either.

What's on your iPod during workouts/competitions? I don't train with music

Do you have a website or blog for those interested in learning more about you?

If we had numbers on our jerseys, what would your number be? 19

What would you like to tell others about yourself and your experience with stair climbing that might inspire them in their lives? If you're stuck in a rut you don't necessarily need a full plan to get yourself out of it. Every step you take is important; do things that are challenging to you and eventually you'll have the confidence you need to make big decisions about your life. I remember thinking how dumb that sounded when I was really stuck but by taking almost a year to focus entirely on doing things that scared and challenged me, including many physical challenges like stair climbs, I know that I am so much stronger than before. I now do things that I would've passed on years ago because I was too nervous to do it or unsure of how to proceed. I credit climbing for jump starting that process and recommend it as an easy empowerment tool to anyone who asks.