Stan’s Obligatory Blog

Happy Halloween

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9/26/2010

Five Wrights, but no gelato

Filed under: — stan @ 9:52 pm

Today’s bike ride was the “Five Wrights” route through Hollywood to see five different Frank Lloyd Wright houses. We did this one back in June, so it seemed like it was time to go see them again. Of course, I had no idea just how hot it was going to be today.

We started out from Victory Park at our usual 8:00 time. It was pleasant, but it was promising to be warm. By the time we got to Hollywood, it was hot. And of course, all the houses designed by Frank Lloyd Wright are on top of big hills. But we rode up each of them and saw the houses. And then we rode up and over Sunset Plaza, stopping to admire the single most imposing-looking driveway gate I’ve ever seen anywhere. We passed some concrete alligators and then stopped for water at the Fryman Canyon Overlook on Mulholland Drive. Then we rode down into Studio City to the little gelato place there. But sadly, the freezer was broken and there was no gelato. We soldiered on, heading west across the Valley and back to Pasadena. By the time we got to Eagle Rock, we were all dragging. The ride up the Colorado hill was a slog. Our water bottles all had hot water in them, and it was generally pretty miserable. We made one more stop for water at a little park and then finished the ride home. It was fun, but it would have been a lot more fun if it wasn’t hot as hell.

52 miles.
cycling

9/24/2010

Good news, and bad news

Filed under: — stan @ 11:41 pm

This evening was the long-awaited “Stair Climb to the Top” at the U.S. Bank Tower in downtown Los Angeles.

I went into this event with the goal of cutting a minute off my time from last year and finishing the climb in under 14 minutes. Ambitious, yes. But I cut more than a minute off my previous year’s time at the Aon Tower climb back in April. So I thought it was within reach. And after the practice sessions at the Wells Fargo building, I thought I was on track for 14, or even maybe 13:45.

Sadly, this was not to be.

They had nearly twice as many people doing the climb this year. And the schedule slipped somewhat, so it was nearly dark by the time they started the individual categories. When they called us to the line, I tried to get near the front of the group. As much as I like passing people for the psychological boost, I’ve found that that slows me down quite a bit. I figured I was good for third place or so in my age group, so I wanted as few guys in front of me as possible. As it turned out, I passed a bunch of people, including all the 60-69 women who had started before us. There were a couple of times where I kind of got stuck behind groups of people and had to sort of elbow through to get by. When I got to the top, I passed by the people with the finishing medals and bottles of water and crawled under a table and curled up for a few minutes to catch my breath.

After a few minutes, my friend Susan got to the top. She had her camera with her, so we took a few pictures before they hustled us down off the roof to make room. We rode back down to the ground to join the party on the street outside the building. They had a cake in the shape of the building. We went to the little beer garden and waited for them to post the results.

In the end, my time was 14:34. That was the bad news. On the other hand, this was still 30 seconds faster than last year, and only three guys older than me went faster. That was good. Then my training partner Erik beat me by a full minute. That was bad. But I finished on a high note when I found out that I’d placed second in the 50-59 age group. There’s nothing like a little podium time to brighten up one’s evening.

Results are here: https://www.runraceresults.com/Secure/RaceResults.cfm?ID=RCLC2010

9/20/2010

9 1/2 Minutes

Filed under: — stan @ 9:20 pm

Today was another practice session for the U.S. Bank Tower stair climb. It was another experiment. The last time, I dialed my pace down a little bit to see if I would be better able to keep up with it near the top. That time, I did 9:46, but that was with passing a lot of people, which slowed me down. This time, I made sure to start near the front of the group, so there were not very many people in front of me. I only had to pass a few, and so my pace didn’t get thrown off as much. And even with the same metronome setting, I came in at 9:30 this time. This is good. Based on this, I believe I have a very good shot at going under 14 minutes on Friday at the U.S. Bank Tower.

And yes, it did hurt. But that’s all right.

9/19/2010

Larchmont

Filed under: — stan @ 3:11 pm

Today’s bike ride was the old “Larchmont Village” route. I’m going out tonight to see “The Nigerian Spam Scam Scam” at a little theater at the corner of Melrose and Larchmont, so I figured this would be a good way to scout it out so I know where we’re going tonight.

It was a perfect day for riding, and not much remarkable happened along the way. But it was a pleasant ride.

38 miles.
cycling

9/18/2010

County Fair Time!

Filed under: — stan @ 10:14 pm

Today was our trip to the Los Angeles County Fair. This promised to be extra-fun, since this time I actually have winner in the baked-goods competition.

Kathleen and I went there along with Lucinda and her friend. We rode the skyride across the fairgrounds. Then the girls rode a bunch of other rides. Kathleen and I just watched. Partly because we didn’t feel like swinging 130 feet in the air, and partly because we just didn’t want to spend the extra money on more ride tickets.

We got some Dr. Bob’s ice cream. As always, it was quite good.

After that, we walked over the “Culinary Styles” exhibit hall to see my cookies on display. That was great fun. If you want to try making them, the recipe is here:

chocolate-peppermint-cookies.pdf

We got some chocolate-covered bacon for Kathleen to try. As was the case last year, we all just thought it was a bit weird.

And of course, no county fair is complete without a mechanical bull ride for the kids. We also saw the 1200-pound pumpkin. Impressive, but it didn’t seem like it was good for much else. We also saw lots of cows, pigs, and goats. No county fair is complete without them.

The girls rode some more rides and played a few carnival games. Then, at the end of the day, we had six ride tickets left over, so Kathleen used them to ride the little flying ride. It looked like she had a good time.

The rest of the pictures are in Lucinda’s photo album.

9/15/2010

More adventures in the stairwell

Filed under: — stan @ 10:42 pm

Today was the fourth practice session at the 55-story Wells Fargo building in downtown Los Angeles. This time I’d decided to try another experiment. The last time, I’d dialed my pace up a bit to see what would happen. I did a good time, but it was a real struggle to keep up with the metronome the last 15 floors. So I wanted to see if I could dial the pace down a bit and still do a good time if I set it to something I could better keep up with.

This time there was a big crowd of people there to do the stairs. I waited until near the end to go. Partly because I find it psychologically gratifying to pass people, and partly because Mark was there. Mark is very, very good at this. And I wanted to be sure to go after him, since he was the one person there who I knew would pass me if I started first. So when I went, there were a lot of people ahead of me. I passed a lot of them, but I know that that slowed me down, since I had to take the long way around them on the landings, and that added a few seconds for each group I passed.

In the end, I did 9:46, which is a bit slower than last time, but I think that if I hadn’t had to pass so many people, I would have done closer to 9:30, which was my goal for the evening. As always, I looked and sounded like I was about to die by the time I got to the top. But that’s all right. After all, if you don’t sound like you’re going to die, it means you’re not going fast enough. So overall, it was a good outing.

One more practice next Monday, and then the event is next Friday.

And I’m still in need of some sponsors to make my fundraising minimum for the YMCA, so if you can, please stop by and make a small tax-deductible donation to them. It’s a good cause.

9/14/2010

Check this out

Filed under: — stan @ 5:11 pm

My cookies won second place at the L.A. County Fair.

The recipe is here:

chocolate-peppermint-cookies.pdf

9/13/2010

More stairs…

Filed under: — stan @ 11:10 pm

This evening was another practice session at the Wells Fargo building in downtown Los Angeles. My goal for this time was to do it in 9:09, just to see if I could generate 0.40 horsepower of usable energy. As it turned out, this did not happen.

But I did shave 5 seconds off my time from last week, so that’s a Good Thing. I made it up in 9:28, and I’m quite happy about that.

I’d decided that I was going to do it twice tonight, just because the Wells Fargo building is almost exactly 1/2 the height of the Willis (formerly Sears) Tower in Chicago. I’m signed up to climb that one in November. So I thought it might be a useful exercise to try actually climbing that many steps. But it turned out to be something of a fool’s errand. Psychologically, I tend to be very goal-oriented. I go into things with a specific goal in mind, and I’ll work like hell to reach that goal. But once I’ve reached that goal, I feel like I’m done. And it’s really hard to get motivated for something new at that point. So my goal was to make it to the top faster than last week. I did that, and so I felt like I was done. But then I went and started up the stairs again. OMG. That hurt. It was hard. There’s no physical reason why it should have been so much harder the second time. But because I felt like I’d already done my thing for the night, it felt like the worst thing ever. I guess I have the mindset that I will do whatever it takes to make it to the top, but when I get there, I’m done. So my time the second time up was a full four minutes slower than the first time.

Still, it was a good outing, since I made my main goal of improving my time from last week.

9/12/2010

Another architecture tour

Filed under: — stan @ 5:48 pm

Today’s bike ride was a return to the “Art and Architecture” route we did last January. This is a route that visits three of the Arts and Architecture Case Sturdy houses in the Los Angeles area. It was cool and even a little foggy when we started out. Later, the sun came out and it was a perfect day for riding.

We rode across Eagle Rock to get to the L.A. River bike path. Along the way, we saw a house with a catfish mailbox. This is sort of a companion to the large-mouth bass mailbox we saw back in July. If I can find a couple more fish mailboxes, I could put together another theme ride.

The first house was Case Study House #1. We stopped for a look and then headed on, up through Glendale to Montrose and our snack stop at Goldstein’s Bagels.

After a quick bagel, we rode up the hill into La Cañada to Case Study House #15. Then across La Cañada and back into Pasadena. The final house was Case Study House #20B, but on the way there, we took a short detour to see the Garvey House in Altadena. Then we turned down Santa Rosa Ave to see the final Case Study house before heading home.

It was a nice ride.

43 miles.
cycling

9/9/2010

60:12

Filed under: — stan @ 11:00 pm

Since school starts a week later than usual this year, I told Lucinda we could go to Disneyland one more time this week. The last time we went, we rode California Screamin’ 15 times. So it should not be surprising that she wanted to ride it some more today.

In the end, we rode it 21 times. One of the ride operators told us that the actual ride time is 2:52, which works out to 60:12, which is just a bit over an hour actually riding the coaster*. If someone had told me two years ago that I’d be doing this sort of thing now, I’d have thought that was impossible and crazy. But it was a fun time.

We rode a couple of times in the first car, which was fun. And we rode in each other car at one time or another. Enough times to become intimately familiar with how the ride experience varies depending on where in the train one is sitting. We also now know every twist and turn of every inch of the track. The only thing we didn’t do yet is bring a chessboard along for the picture at the end. Next time.

We took a few breaks along the way. Once to ride the Silly Symphony Swings, once for lunch, and once to walk over to Disneyland. We only rode Alice in Wonderland and the Matterhorn. And then it was back to California Adventure for more.

And at the end, we finished with our usual dinner at the Jazz Kitchen before going home. In many ways, it was an utterly absurd way to spend a day. But it was great fun.

Pictures are in Lucinda’s photo album.

* Wikipedia says the ride is 2:36, which is slightly shorter than what the rider operator told us, but either way, it’s a lot of time to spend zipping around on a roller coaster.

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