Stan’s Obligatory Blog

Happy Halloween

9/23/2011

Are there stairs on Nantucket?

Filed under: — stan @ 10:20 pm

Today was the day for the YMCA “Stair Climb for Los Angeles“, formerly known as “Stair Climb to the Top”. This is the climb up the U.S. Bank Tower in downtown Los Angeles. About 75 floors, 1,018 feet, and 1,500 steps to the top. This was my third time doing this event.

This morning, while I was getting ready for work, I stepped on the scale. It said 170, which is about normal for me these days. But when I was riding my bike to the office, I was thinking, “one hundred and seventy pounds”, and thinking that that phrase just might be the first line of a limerick. So by the the time I got to the office, I had this:

One hundred and seventy pounds
That shouldn’t be cause for a frown
Though the stairs are so long
My legs are still strong
And I’ll make lots of loud panting sounds

I left work a little bit early to go home and pick up my stair climbing gear. Then I went to the Gold Line and got on the train to go downtown. Along the way, Morgan, Jason, Chris, and Irving from my office at Caltech all got on. This was quite novel. We had a whole crew to go climb the stairs tonight.

After doing a fair number of these events, I’ve gotten to know a lot of people who are regulars at this. So this made for a fun time visiting before it was time to climb. But as our start time approached, the usual feeling of dread began to creep in. The first time I did one of these things, I went into it with an attitude of “How hard could it be?” And by the time I got to the 25th floor, I had realized that this is the hardest athletic thing I’ve ever done. So now I know what I’m getting into. And I know that I’ll hit the wall at about the 45th floor, and I’ll be thinking, “What the HELL was I thinking signing up for this again”. Or in limerick form, that looks like this:

Passing the forty-fifth floor
I don’t think I can climb any more
Cross-eyed in pain
This sport is insane!
“Yet I must go on,” I swore

Morgan’s friend Chris had started right behind me, and he shadowed me all the way up. He’s very strong, but this was his first race, so he’s still learning how to pace for the long run. I had a look at my watch at about the 25th floor, and it said something like 4:15, so I knew I was on target. At 55, it was just a little bit over 9 minutes, so I was still on track. But the last 20 floors were pure hell. They always are. It’s just the nature of the beast. By the time we got to 60, my lips were tingling, and I had tunnel vision. At least that helped me to not look at the floor numbers. The highest numbered floor is 73, and there there are about two more before the finish line on the roof. When we came out on the roof, I flopped down on the big steel window-washer crane track. It was a big steel girder, and it was nice and cool. I just laid on it panting for several minutes.

To the finish line we sustained
Endeavoring not to wane
Collapsed on the floor
Panting and sore
I can’t wait ’til I do this again

In the end, my time was 14:11. Once again, I fell short of my goal of going under 14 minutes. But on the other hand, I did improve my time by 23 seconds over what I did last year. But last year, I got a medal for 2nd place, and this time I was 8th. There were a lot more people doing it this year. So I finished 8th out of 111 in the men’s 50-59 category. Still, I did some math, and my time was in the 94th percentile among men, 97th overall, and 93rd percentile in my age group. Nothing not to like there. And working out my power production:

77kg * 310m * 9.8 = 233926J
233926J / 851sec = 275W
275W * 0.001341 = 0.37hp

While it’s not the 0.4hp I managed in practice, it’s still good, since this climb was longer than the practice climbs.

Overall, there’s nothing not to like about this. And I looked through the results, and even though there were over 2,000 people participating, there were only 6 guys my age or older who went faster. And at my age, that’s a Good Thing.

It was a fun time.

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