Stan’s Obligatory Blog

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Slightly Chilly Today…

Filed under: — stan @ 4:07 pm

Today was cold. Certainly cold by California standards. And chilly by most standards outside of maybe Minnesota. When I got up it was 29F, or about -2C, which is the second-coldest temperature I’ve ever seen since I moved here to California in 1982. And it’s the second-coldest day I’ve gone bike riding on. The coldest was just a few years ago, and it was pretty cold. But it’s Sunday, and the bike club ride is only cancelled if it’s raining. So I got bundled up and headed out.

Kathleen had put a little pan of water outside last night just to see if it would freeze. I checked it, and it wasn’t frozen solid, but it had a crust of ice over it.

Today’s ride was a combination of two cultural landmark tours we’ve done before. One was Rubel’s Castle in Glendora. The second was visiting Sally Rand’s grave. I recently found out that there was a connection between the two, so that’s why we’re heading out there today.

First off, have a look at this. It’s a segment of “Videolog” from 1990 where Huell Howser visits the castle and talks to Michael Rubel:

A bit about the genesis of the castle is in the Wikipedia article:

Though Michael slept in one of the giant citrus refrigerators, the walls of thick cork were not sufficient sound insulation to allow him peace from his mother’s parties. In 1968 Michael fired up his cement mixer and, with a pile of discarded champagne bottles, began building himself a small get-away house in the center of his empty old 1,408,111 gallon concrete reservoir.[4] The high walls of the reservoir provided privacy and a noise barrier while he built his bottle house. Thus began a building spree that lasted twenty years, culminating in what is now called the Rubel Castle.

And the connection with Sally Rand:

Sally Rand, the silent screen actress and fan dancer, famous since the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair, never missed Dorothy Rubel’s parties, which were so extravagant that the packing house became known as ‘The Tin Palace.’

So we rode out there and had a look at the castle. It’s really quite imposing from the outside. We looked at it a bit, heard the clock bell ring. Then we headed back down the hill into Glendora, where we stopped for hot drinks at Classic Coffee.

After that, we suited up again and started back. We stopped off at Oakdale Memorial Park. Even though it had been over a year since we were last there, I remembered the area and we found Sally pretty easily. And while we’re at it, here’s a short video of her doing her fan dance:

With that, our day was complete. We rode back by way of Santa Fe Dam and through Monrovia. It was a pleasant ride, aside from the chill.

44 miles.


Eternal Agony, or at least nine minutes of it

Filed under: — stan @ 8:52 pm

This evening was the second practice session at the Aon building in downtown Los Angeles. The practice climbs run from 4 up to 55. That’s 1,126 steps and about 705 feet, or 214.5 meters straight up.

I went there today with a goal in mind. I wanted to generate 300 watts of power on this climb. With that in mind, I figured that I’d have to get to the top in about 8:53. The Aon building stairwell is an odd beast. It has several fairly long hallways that divide the three main sections of the staircase. The hallways and fire doors eat up maybe 15-20 seconds of the total climb, so with that in mind, I worked out some split times. I figured that, starting at floor 4, at the 2, 4, 6, and 8 minute marks, I should be at floors 16, 27, 39, and 50. That’s about 12 floors for every two minutes, except for the two increments that included hallways and fire doors. This works out to about 10.2 seconds per floor, and I calculated that a setting of 71 on my metronome should do it.

At the bottom, I took a minute to get all my gear set up, and then I turned on the metronome and started up the stairs. I was able to stay on schedule almost up to the six-minute mark. I was having trouble keeping up with the metronome on the turns in the middle section of the staircase. The landings are wide there, and it makes for a difficult turn if you’re trying to just put one foot and the landing and pivot from one flight to the next.

When I got to 55, I had 9:01, which is a bit off my goal, but it’s not bad. Doing some math:

1,126 steps x 7.5 inches per step = 8,445 inches = 214.5 meters
214.5m x 76.5kg x 9.8 = 160,811 joules expended energy
160,811J / 541 seconds = 297 watts

It’s not quite my goal of 300, but it’s pretty close.

After a few minutes lying on the floor panting, I went back down. At 4, I met up with George and Jeff. George had found an error in my staircase chart for the building, so the three of us walked down from 4 to the ground-level doors and we counted off both staircases that lead up to 4. And yes, it turned out I’d miscounted two six-step flights as fives. So my whole count was off by two, and the total step count to the roof is really 1,393. Good to know. Also, knowing that the staircase we use for the race begins with a sequence of 9 six-step flights, that means I know a nice efficient stepping pattern for that.

The corrected stair chart is on my ‘Stairs’ page:

I went up the stairs a second time, but I was pretty wiped out from the first climb. So I went very slowly, and I played tourist along the way, taking some pictures of some of the odd features of the Aon building staircase. I took one picture looking straight up the stairway shaft in the middle section of the building. I’m standing on the 24th floor, and the ceiling off in the distance is at the top of the 43rd floor. That’s a lot of stairs. I didn’t bother to time the second climb, but I did make it to the top. I even perked up a bit when I got to 45, since I knew I was almost at the end.

Once more, it was a good outing.


Back to the stairwell

Filed under: — stan @ 9:02 pm

It’s January, and that means it’s time to start practice climbs at the Aon building in downtown Los Angeles. The race is on April 6th, and the building is gracious enough to let us practice twice a week on the race staircase from now until the event on April 6th. And tonight was the first practice session.

The entry point to the stairs is the 4th floor, since the only doors below that level are on the outside of the building. In the past, we climbed from 4 up to the vacant 60th floor. But since last year, they finally managed to rent out the 59th and 60th floors, so now we get to climb up to the vacant 55th floor. That’s five floors an about 70 feet less vertical distance, but it’s still enough to hurt.

Since tonight was the first practice, there was a bit of confusion, and the guards at the bottom told us we were only going to go to 54. So I planned my run accordingly, and when I heaved myself up onto the landing at 54 and stopped my watch, the door was closed, and there was nobody there. So I went up one more floor, and the door was open there, and one of the building guys was sitting on the stairs waiting for us. So my time was a little off. I had 9:14 for the climb to 54. That’s an average of about 11 seconds per floor, so if I’d gone to 55, it would have been about 9:25. That’s not terrible, but it’s not great, either.

We went back down and then came up again. The second time, I went a lot slower. I maintained a steady pace, but I wasn’t trying to push it, and my time of 12:44 shows it.

I was thinking about going home after two, but Mary said she was going to go up again, so I decided to go along just for the walk. I went a little ahead of her, and held the fire doors open for her. Some might have thought I was being chivalrous, but I really just wanted an excuse to stop and catch my breath. The third time I didn’t even time, so I have no idea how long it took. I was just glad to see 55 so I could stop and go home.

As an aside, I’ve been taking the train downtown for practice climbs for three years now. And every time I’m walking through Union Station to get to the subway, I have to walk past Wetzel’s Pretzels. The place seems popular. There’s often a line there. But for some reason, the smell of it just makes me want to retch. So I try and hold my breath walking by there, and I hope that the wind doesn’t blow the smell down into the subway. So imagine my horror on the way home when I saw a big sign announcing that they’re opening a new location in the Hope St entrance to the 7th St Metro station. Yick. Now I get to be assaulted by that smell at both ends of the subway.

Anyway, it was a good outing. I even brought along some of my award-winning cookies to share with the other climbers, the building guards, and also the people from the Lung Association who were there to promote the event. I figure I haven’t seen most of them since last year’s race, so it was an excuse to tell the story of winning the blue ribbon again.

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