Stan’s Obligatory Blog


The Coughing Game

Filed under: — stan @ 10:42 pm

This year’s Scale the Strat stair climb was a mixed bag for me. On the one hand, I took almost 40 seconds off my best time for the tower. But on the other hand, I blew out my throat and lungs breathing the extra-dry desert air, and I ended up coughing so much that I couldn’t race on in the finals on Sunday. And on the third hand, Saturday was Lucinda’s 13th birthday, so she got to have a fun weekend in Las Vegas with Trinh. So overall, it was a good weekend, even if I didn’t get to do my best performance on the stairs.

We headed out there on Friday morning. The idea was to get there before dark. We stopped at Alien Fresh Jerky in Baker, since the girls all like their jerky. I don’t really get the appeal of jerky, but the place is amusing. When we got to Las Vegas, we got checked in to the hotel, and the girls went off on their own. Kathleen and I went up the tower to scout it out. I’ve been on a mission to get a fully-detailed layout of the stairs there, and I wanted to have a peek into the stairwell at the top to count the steps on the last two flights. I figured they’re be the same for all eight levels of the pod at the top of the tower.

After the scouting mission, we all headed over to Circus Circus for dinner. I got the obligatory prime rib that I always look for in Las Vegas. And after dinner, the girls all got some faux-ice-cream thing that I tasted and thought was horrible.

Saturday morning came, and I’d made up my preliminary map of the stairs. And based on that, I figured out split times that I’d need to make for the three major landmarks on the climb. The first was the first rest area, 1/3 of the way up the tower shaft. The second was the other rest area, which is about 2/3 of the way up the shaft, and the final landmark was the first fire refuge level at the bottom of the pod, right at the top of the tower shaft. I made up split times, aiming to be at the top in 11 minutes. Then I wrote them on a little card and safety-pinned it to the back of my glove, so I could see it at the same time when I looked at my watch.

I made the first landmark about 10 seconds ahead of schedule. The second and third landmarks were right on schedule. I managed to put on a burst of speed at the end, and I stumbled out of the stairs in 10:43, which is 37 seconds faster than my previous best time for this climb.

After the climb, Kathleen was signed up to do the Sky Jump off the tower. So we got cleaned up and headed down there. They got her suited up, and I had a seat on one of the lounge chairs they have set up by the landing area next to the tower. When they announced that it was her turn, I turned my big zoom lens up and shot a bunch of pictures as she came down. It was over pretty quickly, but she said it was fun, that is, it was fun after she got over having to take that first step off the edge.

Saturday evening, we went to the Peppermill for dinner with the whole West Coast Labels/X-Gym stair climbing team. All afternoon, I’d had a bad case of the Climber’s Cough, brought on by breathing the dry desert air in the stairwell. But by dinnertime, it seemed to be getting better.

After dinner, we headed downtown so that the girls could do the zipline on Fremont St again. But when we got there, my cough came back, worse than before. I’ve coughed a lot after stair climbs, but never before so hard that I thought I was in serious danger of barfing. When I nearly lost my dinner on Fremont St, I knew I had to pack it in. So Kathleen and I gave the girls enough money for cab fare back to the Stratosphere, and we headed back to our room.

By this time, I was starting to have serious doubts about running in the finals on Sunday morning. But I figured I’d just go to sleep and see how I felt in the morning.

Sunday morning came, and I felt slightly better. But my throat was pretty raw, and all my chest muscles were sore from all the coughing. That was when I came up with a plan to salvage the situation. I knew that running all-out was out of the question. But on the other hand, I’d wanted to do a scouting trip up the stairs to get an accurate map and step count. And since I’d qualified for the finals, I had my ticket into the stairs. So I wore my shorts that have pockets, and I brought along a pen and a notepad. When it was time to start, I started out like normal, but as soon as I was up the first couple of flights, and out of sight of the starting line, I pulled out the notepad and started writing notes. I counted the steps on every flight, which was pretty easy, since the majority of the climb is just 20-step flights, with a landing and a 180-degree left turn. At the second rest area, I even took a minute to look over the side of the stairs and contemplate the 250 or so feet of empty space below my feet. That was impressive. I shan’t be looking at that again, I think. At the end, I walked up the last flight and strolled out of the stairwell, notes in hand. It was a bit of an odd way to end the race, but at least I got some useful information out of it.

After the climb was over, I went over my notes, and I quickly determined several things that we’d all been wondering about:

  • How many steps are there?
  • How high is the climb itself?
  • How many floors are there in the pod?

And the end product as a complete chart of the stairs. The observation deck level of the tower is 855 feet above street level. It turns out that the 3rd floor, where they start the climb, is 47 feet above street level. So the climb is 808 feet, and 1,372 steps. This is, as I’ve been saying, about the equivalent of a normal 60-story building. So even though they said it’s “108 stories”, they’re exaggerating. And the published step count of 1,455 is wrong. And finally, there are 8 levels in the pod. So this will be an aid to planning and computing split times for future climbs.

The last thing we did on Sunday afternoon was to go to New York New York to ride the roller coaster there. Kathleen and I rode it last year when we were here for the stair climb, but we couldn’t ride it when we were there in May, owing to the wind being too strong that day. So we finally all got to ride it. It’s a pretty good ride, even if the 200-foot lift hill at the beginning gives me the willies.

Overall, it was a nice weekend. And we didn’t even get stuck in much traffic on the way home.

4 Responses to “The Coughing Game”

  1. G.M. Grena Says:

    This is a quick test to see how tab characters will look vs. underscores:

    103 40 7.2

    103 _ 40 _ 7.2

  2. G.M. Grena Says:

    As we get closer to the 2013 climb, I’m studying your helpful PDF as usual. If I calculate the inches/step using strictly the foot-markers at each landing along with your step-count, I notice some serious anomalies:

    79 _ 40 _ 7.2
    103 _ 40 _ 7.2
    127 _ 60 _ 9.6
    175 _ 40 _ 7.2
    199 _ 80 _ 3.6

    271 _ 40 _ 7.2
    295 _ 40 _ 7.2
    319 _ 40 _ 7.2
    343 _ 40 _ 7.2
    367 _ 40 _ 7.2
    391 _ 40 _ 7.2
    415 _ 40 _ 7.2
    439 _ 40 _ 7.2
    463 _ 40 _ 7.2

    535 _ 40 _ 7.2
    559 _ 40 _ 7.2
    583 _ 40 _ 7.2
    607 _ 80 _ 8.1
    661 _ 40 _ 6.9
    684 _ 40 _ 7.2

    First obvious anomaly is that your PDF says “7-inch” steps, whereas the raw calculations suggest 7.2″.

    I can fix the first section by changing your oddball 60 & 80 flights to 80 (oddball) & 40 (normal) respectively:

    79 _ 40 _ 7.2
    103 _ 40 _ 7.2
    127 _ 80 _ 7.2
    175 _ 40 _ 7.2
    199 _ 40 _ 7.2

    In the last section, if I change the oddball 80 & normal 40 to an even more-oddball 90 & 38, I still end up with a problem:

    535 _ 40 _ 7.2
    559 _ 40 _ 7.2
    583 _ 40 _ 7.2
    607 _ 90 _ 7.2
    661 _ 38 _ 7.263
    684 _ 40 _ 7.2

    However, if I assume the “661′” marker is a typo (either in your notes or on the actual sign) for “660′”, then I can keep your original step-count, but end up with a reasonable discrepancy (steps between the 607′ & 660′ landings might have been specially made at 8″ to account for a construction anomaly):

    535 _ 40 _ 7.2
    559 _ 40 _ 7.2
    583 _ 40 _ 7.2
    607 _ 80 _ 7.95
    660 _ 40 _ 7.2
    684 _ 40 _ 7.2

    I’m actually contemplating sacrificing my race-time to go casual & take notes. Since this year they say they’re going to strictly enforce no electronic devices whatsoever (including stopwatches?) & no repeat climbs, if I’m not allowed to bring my metronome & voice-recorder, I’ll probably just bring paper & pen.

  3. G.M. Grena Says:

    In your message, you said “there are 8 levels in the pod.” I was surprised to learn that I could enter the pod staircases (north & west twins) Friday night, & there are actually 9 levels. 108 is the indoor observation deck; 109 is the outdoor one. The stairs continue above that (presumably to the roof) but a sign states that guests are prohibited from that area. As for your original PDF, I found only 3 problems:

    1) You listed three 20-step flights between the 127′ & 175′ markers. Actually there are four (as I suspected in my previous post).

    2) There’s an extended landing on the 107th floor, so you should add one or two dashes after the “10U” before “832′”.

    3) The final flight has 9 steps, not 10, leading up from 107 to 108. (This 9+9 pattern is the same in both the north & west stairwells; note that the race takes place in the west one; next year I need to confirm that the U-turns are in the same direction in both, because I think the north stairwell U-turns are to the left, not to the right).

    This means the total step count is 1372+20-1 = 1,391. Adding the initial nine 9-step flights leading up from the street to the start of the race, brings the total for the event to 1391+81 = 1,472. It’s unfortunate that the organizers didn’t arrange the race to begin at the street level & end at 109 (note that the flights from 108 to 109 are 11+10 like most of the others in the pod, which would bring the total for the climb to 1,493, or 102 more than there are now).

    I’ll send details with additional elevation markers via E-mail later today. I’m still attempting to solve the puzzle of why the markers indicate 7.2-inch steps. I discovered two series of elevation markers plus a flight series. I confirmed that your notes correctly recorded the “661′” marker, not 660′, but after analyzing all the signs, it’s safe to assume this is one of several typos made by the sign-maker.

    Note also that our souvenir medals stated “854 feet”. The SkyJump web page states that riders “plummet through the sky 855 feet“; however, the landing mark is way above the street level, on the 2nd/mall level of the building complex with other retail shops. You get to the Tower Level entrance (where the SkyJump store is located) by climbing two flights of 21 7-inch steps, which is approximately 24.5′, plus several more leading from the Tower security checkpoint to the shops that I forgot to document, but let’s say there are three or four, & use an even total of 27′.

    Using your (corrected) count of 1,391 & your estimate of 7″ per step calculates to only 811.4′. Adding the pre-race 81 steps makes 858.7′. Subtracting 27′ makes the plummet only about 832′.

    You said the “observation deck level of the tower is 855 feet above street level.” However, the published structural height to the pod is 266 meters (872.7′). I’m guessing they’re referencing the bottom of the pod, whereas you’re referencing the 2nd floor from the top of the pod.

    On the other hand, if all the core steps are 7.2″ (754.2′) & other steps are 7″ (pre-core = 47.3′; pod = 81.1′), then the total is 882.6′. Subtracting 27′ yields 856′ for the plummet. Not exact, but much closer to the advertisements.

    Too bad Kathleen wasn’t wearing an altimeter when she did it! Maybe next year…

  4. G.M. Grena Says:

    Okay, after analyzing all the information I collected, & calculating the steps six ways to Sunday (with today ironically being Sunday), here are my conclusions:

    1) The 661′ marker is not in error, but the 223′ one is; probably should’ve been 253′, & linearly gets closer to the truth as it increases to the 607′ mark, which should’ve been 617′.

    2) I agree with you that all the steps are 7″. My calculated values of 7.2″ were based on erroneous, non-linear information.

    3) I believe the SkyJump advertisement was written by someone who really meant that jumpers plummet through the sky 855′ above street level, & didn’t realize that the landing was not on the street level. The fact that the SkyJump cannot possibly span 855′ proves that the figure itself could easily be off by 4 feet. Watching some of the videos on YouTube, it looks like the deceleration stops when the jumper’s about 4 feet off the ground, so maybe someone thought, “Oh, 859 – 4 = 855.” The same genius who described this as a “controlled free fall“. Freely controlled confusion.

    4) The Structurae web page lists 266m as the “height to observation deck“, not to the pod itself. It bugs me that their wording is ambiguous since there are 2 decks: indoor & outdoor. Since we now know the indoor one is 261.7m (858.7′) above ground, then this must be referring to the outdoor one, located 265.5m (870.9′) above the entrance, which rounds up nicely when you factor in the street curb that we did not have to climb!

    The only mystery remaining is where the event organizers learned that there were 1,455 steps. There are 1,454 steps from the street level to floor #107. Maybe that’s where they originally planned to end the race, & then someone said, “No, let’s go up one more…”

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