Stan’s Obligatory Blog

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Atomic-Age Houses

Filed under: — stan @ 4:56 pm

A few weeks ago, Zillow published an article about houses built in the post-war period with what was considered ‘modern’ design. Since two of them were in the Hollywood Hills, I figured a sightseeing bike ride was in order.

It was chilly and overcast, and the forecast said there was a chance of rain. But we headed out anyway. We rode into Hollywood by our regular route through Eagle Rock and Glassell Park. And then we turned up Gower St to see the first house. Sadly, the front of the house is nowhere near as interesting-looking as the picture in the article of the back of the house. Still, we got to see it.

Continuing on up the hill, we came out on top by Wolf’s Lair Castle. Then we rode along the ridge and passed the overlook where all the tourists get their picture taken with the Hollywood sign. Then we rode down into Cahuenga Pass and up Mulholland Drive to the second house.

The second house was slightly more visible from the road. It looked like it probably had a commanding view. We certainly had to ride uphill a pretty long way to get to it.

The sightseeing done, we headed down into Burbank and snacks at Priscilla’s. Then home by way of Glendale and Eagle Rock. The ride wasn’t any longer than one of our usual routes, but it was a lot harder, due to the hills.

43 miles.


The Vertical Mile

Filed under: — stan @ 9:46 pm

Tonight was my third attempt at the Vertical Mile, and this time the magic worked. Well, the magic, combined with a quart of Gatorade.

I rode the train downtown as usual. And this time, I stopped in at Famima!! on the way in and got a quart bottle of classic lemon-lime Gatorade. I’d also brought along a big bottle of water. The plan was to gulp down some of both of them after each ascent. I was hoping that the little shot of sugar would keep the bonk away this time, and prevent the troubles I had when I’d tried this stunt last Tuesday.

The first four times up were pretty straightforward. Each time, when I got to the top, I headed straight for the elevators to go back down. I snapped a picture of my stopwatch to record my time while I was riding the elevator back down. I managed to keep it under 12 minutes for all four times, which meant that at the halfway point, I was about five minutes ahead of schedule. That gave me a little extra time to drink the Gatorade, towel off, and change to a dry headband for the second half.

The fifth and sixth times up were slower than before. My plan for the first four ascents was to do 4 1/2 floors per minute, and I kept an eye on the clock to maintain my pace. The plan for the second set of four was to dial that back to four floors per minute, and I was pretty much able to maintain that pace for the fifth and sixth climbs.

By this time, I was lying down on the floor in the elevator during the ride down. I wanted to get everything I could out of that 40 seconds or so of rest.

When it was time for the seventh climb, I resorted to counting down the floors, starting with “51″ when I took the first step. It gave me something to think about, other than, “What the HELL was I thinking when I decided to try this!” At the top of the seventh, I checked the time, and I had 20 minutes left before they closed up the stairwell. At that point, I knew I had it in the bag. I went back down, finished the last of the Gatorade, and started up for the last time.

The last time up, I had to keep reminding myself to not think, and just put one foot in front of the other. I felt a bit like the hamster-stair-master. Once again, I counted down the floors. I switched my watch back to display the time. I didn’t really care how fast I went the last time up, as long as I got to the top before 7:00. I even passed a few people on the stairs. That was a pleasant surprise.

One thing that helped a lot was that all my friends who were there knew what I was up to, and they were very nice about it. They gave me encouragement along the way, and the last time up, George even held open the two fire doors on the 44th floor, and then he shadowed me up the last 11 floors. And at the top on the eighth time, I ran the last three floors, and then collapsed on the landing. It was good to be done.

Just to put it in perspective, George made up a picture to show what a mile-high climb would look like:
mile-high building

The final tally was: 408 floors, 5,520 feet, 1,680 meters, and 9,008 steps. Total elapsed time was 1:58. I finally landed the White Whale.


Magnum staircase

Filed under: — stan @ 9:27 pm

After last week’s unsuccessful attempt at the Vertical Mile, tonight was time for a second try. I’m feeling quite a bit better. I estimate I’m running at about 95% of full capacity now. So I went downtown to try again.

My plan was to just cruise through the first four ascents, since the other times I’ve done multiples, it didn’t start to get really hard until the fifth time. And that plan worked pretty well tonight. I started to feel a bit slow on the fourth time up, so I thought the mile was in doubt, but I continued on anyway.

The fifth time was grim. I slowed down a lot. I think I made an error in not bringing enough water, and not bringing anything with sugar in it. I had a classic case of the bonk, as we used to say in my bike racing days. Still, I figured I’d just keep going as best I could and see how far I got. As you can see by the pictures, my times kind of fell off a cliff the last three times.

After six times up, it was about 6:40. I knew I had time for one more ascent, regardless of how slow I was going. But I knew that the mile was no longer possible. So I ground my way up the stairs one more time to finish seven ascents.

When I left the building, I stopped in at the Famima!! across the street and got a quart of Gatorade. I chugged that down standing on the sidewalk. And in just a few minutes, I felt a lot better. I think next time I will stop and get that on the way in, so I’ll have something to drink to keep my energy level up.

So my total for tonight: 357 floors, 4,830 vertical feet, 1,470 meters, and 7,882 steps. Total elapsed time: 1:54

I’ll be back Thursday to try again for the mile.


Weekend and animals

Filed under: — stan @ 8:31 pm

This weekend was the San Diego edition of the American Lung Association’s stair climb. I’d originally planned on doing it, but after being sick this week, that just didn’t seem like such a good idea. But we’d already planned on going there to visit my father, and also to see the baby seals and the baby panda.

We went to La Jolla Cove on Saturday afternoon to see the baby seals. There were a lot of them out on the beach, and because it’s pupping season, they have the beach roped off to keep people away. So we got to see all the seals snoozing on the beach.

Saturday evening, we went to dinner with Dad at Costa Brava in Pacific Beach.

Sunday morning, we went to the zoo early, since we’d read that the baby panda was on display from 9:30 to 11:30. But when we got there, they told us that the baby panda was not going to be out today. Still, we got to see the other giant pandas, as well as the red pandas. And we also got to see a baby koala, which pretty much made up for the missing baby panda.

All in all, it was a fun weekend, even if it didn’t involve climbing any stairs.

Pictures are here:


First Attempt

Filed under: — stan @ 9:09 pm

Last week, I’d been talking with Alberto about trying for a Vertical Mile, and we’d planned on making the attempt tonight. Sadly, I was sick this week, and I’m only 24 hours out from lying on the couch with a fever. But since we’d decided to try, I figured I’d give it a shot. If it didn’t work, I could just stop.

So we got to the building a little early and got suited up. We were the first ones on the staircase, and the first two ascents went well. We were right on schedule. Then, on the third time up, I started to get dizzy at about the 17th floor. I knew that wasn’t a good sign, so I thought it best to just abandon the attempt. I sat down on the 20th floor landing and rested for a bit. Then I continued on, albeit slowly, up to the 55th floor.

I went up one more time after that, just for grins. Or grimaces, perhaps. I didn’t even bother timing the fourth climb. I went very slowly. But in the end, Alberto made the Vertical Mile in a total of 1:57. I’m going to try again next week, when I’ll presumably feel a bit better.


Only one time this evening

Filed under: — stan @ 8:57 pm

A few days ago, I was contacted by some of the people from the West Coast Labels stair climbing team, and they asked if I’d meet with a producer from KCRW at one of the practice sessions at the Aon building downtown. So tonight was the night.

Sadly, I was home sick today. I’d left work early yesterday with a fever. And today had been spent taking sudafed and ibuprofen, and wishing I wasn’t sick. But since I’d agreed to go, I took an extra decongestant, got dressed, and headed downtown.

I met Evan on the front steps of the building, and we went inside and up to the guard station to sign in. It took him a few minutes to convince the security people to let him climb the stairs with me, even though he wasn’t signed up for the race. But in the end, we got our clearance and headed up the stairs.

We walked up slowly. Partly so we could talk, and partly because I was in no condition to be trying to go fast. On the way up, I told about what it was like doing stair climbing races. I explained the basic technique of taking the fewest number of steps to climb the staircase, and how not to waste steps on the landings. A few times, other people passed us on the stairs, and he sometimes asked them questions as they went by. We stopped a few times to rest and talk, and we finally made it up to the 55th floor in just a bit under 18 minutes. That’s about half as fast as I’d be going normally, so it was a pretty easy pace, even with being sick.

At the top, we walked around the empty 55th floor, looking out the windows at the view. I pointed out the other buildings where there are races, and also the buildings we’ve trained in. All told, it was an interesting experience, and he said he would go back to the studio and somehow craft a piece for the radio out of our talking that he’d recorded.

With that done, I went home and went back to just being sick.


Can’t all be gems…

Filed under: — stan @ 9:24 pm

It’s yet another practice evening on the stairs. I was not feeling too energetic this time, but that’s how I felt on Tuesday, and I still did a pretty good time. So I figured I’d give it a try.

My first time up the stairs, I could tell I was in trouble from the start. I made my first time point on schedule, but then I started to fall behind. Usually, I manage to stay on time up to at least the 30th floor or so, but this time I was falling off the pace by 16. I managed to keep going, and when I flopped on the landing at 55, I had 9:08, which is a full 10 seconds slower than my time from Tuesday.

I went back down and started up again. My goal for the second time up was to do it at the pace I plan to use when I attempt the vertical mile. I may make an attempt at that next week. So I kept to a relatively modest pace, and I made it up the second time in 10:58.

I went up a third time, just for grins. I didn’t time it. I just walked up slowly. And then I went home. I wanted to get home in time to try again to see Comet PanSTARRS, And thus ended yet another evening of fun on the stairs.


The final four weeks

Filed under: — stan @ 9:38 pm

It’s Tuesday, and time for another session on the stairs.

This time, I decided to try my one-foot method for doing the middle section of stairs from 24 to 44. My goal was again to do 10 seconds per floor. I started out from 4, and I made it all the way to 22 on schedule. The two hallways and fire doors between 22 and 24 cost me about 30 seconds, but then I was looking to get back on pace.

From 24, I started up, and I managed to maintain my pace all the way to 36 before I started to slow down a bit. I found that if I lean forward a bit on crossing the wide landings, I can do them a little bit faster, and it doesn’t require taking an extra step on the landing. So I think this is going to be my method now, since it’s efficient and balanced.

When I got to 44 and the two fire doors there, I was about 15 seconds off my pace, but that was all right. I started up the final section of stairs, and when I got to 52, I sprinted for the last three floors. I heaved myself up onto the landing at 55 in 8:58. Not a new best time, but equal to my two best practice times so far this year. So I really can’t complain.

The second time, I went a lot slower. The plan was to do my moderate pace that I plan to use for when I attempt the vertical mile. Not much to say about that. I just went on up at a nice, steady pace.

I went up a third time, just for extra practice, and so I could say that I’d done a 1,000-calorie workout today. I don’t really care about that, but it sounds good. I didn’t bother timing the third time up. I was just walking, and I even tried doing single steps for a change.

Now that we’ve changed the clocks, there was still some sunlight on the way home. I took a picture of the big Metro headquarters building by Union Station, just because I liked how it looked in the sunset light. And on the train back to Pasadena, I was looking out the window to try and see the thin crescent moon, since that would mean I could take out my binoculars and see Comet PanSTARRS when I got home.

It was a good evening’s outing.


As Time Goes By

Filed under: — stan @ 3:03 pm

I recently got the schedule for this year’s edition of the L.A. Conservancy’sLast Remaining Seats” film series. And one of them is “Casablanca“, which will show at the Saban Theater in Beverly Hills in June. So I thought we should ride out to the Angelus Rosedale Cemetery to see Dooley Wilson again, since he sang the definitive version of “As Time Goes By“.

It was a nice day for riding. We took the usual route into downtown Los Angeles by way of Huntington Drive. We took Spring St through downtown, and then turned on Olympic. That’s when Jeff got a flat.

Heading south out of downtown, I had a little race with a Metro Blue Line train going down Flower St. A little farther along, we saw one of the trains on the new Expo Line, also known as ‘the slightly different shade of blue line’. Then we headed out on West Adams.

At the cemetery, we went and paid our respects to Dooley Wilson. We also spent a little time looking around the cemetery. There is a whole section of very old graves there. At least old by L.A. standards.

From there, we headed north into Koreatown, and then west to Larchmont and our snack stop at Noah’s Bagels. The route home was our usual one up Benton Way in Silver Lake, and then home up Eagle Rock Blvd.

It was a nice ride.

43 miles.


3/4 mile, straight up

Filed under: — stan @ 9:17 pm

Ever since the Towerthon in San Diego last summer, I’ve had my sights set on doing a vertical mile stair climb, so this evening was yet another test towards that goal. Like the time I did the vertical 1/2 mile, and the vertical kilometer, this evening, I planned on doing 3/4 of a mile vertical. That’s 6 times up the practice course from 4 to 55 in the Aon building, 306 floors, 6,756 steps, 1,260 meters, 4,128 feet, which is just a bit over 3/4 of a mile. And coincidentally, at about 335 calories per ascent, six times up will burn approximately 2,000 calories, or about one day’s worth of normal food intake. Not that I’ve ever been one to pay attention to such things…

I got kind of a late start, and I didn’t get into the stairwell until 5:15. I took a quick snapshot of my phone to establish what time I was starting, and then I headed up the stairs. My goal was to do 4 1/2 floors per minute on the way up, and I assumed that the hallways and fire doors between 20 and 24 would eat about the time it took to do 1/2 of a floor. So my time points were:

8 1/2
17 1/2
30 1/2
39 1/2
48 1/2

The goal was to get to each of those points at a one-minute mark on the stopwatch. That would make for about 11 1/2 minutes for each ascent. I figured that that’s about how fast I want to go to comfortably be able to climb the stairs and ride the elevator back down, all within 15 minutes.

The first time up, I had to hold back to keep from going too fast. And in the end, I still got to the top a few seconds ahead of schedule. I snapped a picture of the stopwatch while I was waiting for the elevator. Then I went back down and started up again.

The second and third times I pretty much hit the target pace, and those two climbs were pretty easy. The only bad part was that I’d forgotten my headband, and by then, the sweat was running into my eyes. And I’d also forgotten to bring a towel, which compounded the problem.

By the fourth time, I was starting to slow down a bit. But I still made it up in reasonable style. The fifth time was hard, and I was thinking about calling off the experiment after that one. I had to adjust my target pace down to 4 floors per minute that time, but then I was able to maintain a steady pace. So I decided to press on with the sixth ascent.

The sixth time up was going to be last, so I started counting down the floors from the start. When I took the first step up, I said to myself, “51″. And each floor, I counted down by one. Counting down through the forties was kind of hard, but knowing it was the last time up the staircase made it bearable. When the count went below 25, I felt like the end was in sight. And when I finally got to five to go, I managed to find some energy to run the last five floors to the top. I came out on the 55th floor and just sat down for a few minutes to rest. Then I took a second snapshot of the phone to establish the time.

So I did six ascents up the 51 floors in 1:26 elapsed time, including the elevator rides back down between ascents. Yes, I was slowing down the last time up, but I think I could probably do two more times up in 34 minutes. So that’s going to be the project one of these evenings. Yes, I know it’s insane. That’s what I like about it.

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