Stan’s Obligatory Blog

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A startling revelation

Filed under: — stan @ 9:59 pm

Tonight was yet another practice session on the staircase at the Wilshire-Figueroa building in downtown Los Angeles. I went there this evening with the goal of trying to climb it in 9 minutes or less. And after that, I planned on climbing it again at a moderate pace as many times as time would allow.

When I got there, I got signed in and started up. My planned pace was 5 2/3 floors per minute. At each time point, I checked my watch to see it ticking over the one-minute boundary. And at each time point, having to mentally add 5 2/3 to it to calculate the next time point was a useful distraction from wondering why the hell I’m doing this insane sport in the first place.

I was able to maintain my pace up to about the 38th floor, when I was suddenly overcome by a wave of ‘What-the-f#ck-are-you-trying-to-prove-here’, which briefly slowed me down. I managed to somehow keep going, and when I hit 49, I did my best to sprint up the last two floors, coming out on 51 with a time of 9:07. It’s not quite as fast as I’d wanted, but it’s still my fastest time in this round of practice, so I can’t complain.

After the elevator ride down, I climbed the stairs two more times. In both, I was trying to do my ‘moderate’ pace, which gets me to the top in about 11:20 – 11:25. It worked once, but on the third time up the stairs this evening, I was starting to fade, and it ended up taking 12:34.

By this time, I was pretty tired. But there was still time to do it again. George was there, and he’d brought his 25-foot tape measure, so we walked up together and took some measurements on the staircase. It turns out that from the door where we start up to 2 is 9 feet. Then from floors 2 to 3, it’s 14 feet exactly. The two floors from 3 to 5 the floors are 14 feet. And then from 5 all the way up to 49, each floor is 13 feet. The last two floors from 49 to 51 are 25 feet and 19 feet each. And doing the math, it works out that the steps on that staircase are 6.8 inches high, and the climb up to 51 is 669 feet, 204 meters. I can now correct my staircase chart for this building. And even though it’s slightly shorter than I’d thought, four climbs is still a half-mile, and five is still a kilometer. This is good for those of us who are irrationally goal oriented.

Fun times.


Just Another Dam Ride

Filed under: — stan @ 4:10 pm

A few weeks ago, Kathleen and I went to a talk at the downtown library about the St Francis Dam disaster. Back in 1978, I rode in a bike race that went up Francisquito Canyon, and I remember seeing the ruins of the dam during the race. At the time, I didn’t know the history of it, but I could see that they were ruins of something big in the canyon.

To this day, it appears that there is still some disagreement about the fundamental cause of the dam collapse. But one thing that they talked about that I’d never heard before was that the St Francis Dam was one of two dams that William Mulholland and the DWP built to store water from the Los Angeles Aqueduct. The St Francis Dam collapsed not long after being filled to capacity, while the other dam still exists, holding back the Hollywood Reservoir. Apparently, soon after the St Francis disaster, people looked up at the dam above Hollywood and realized that it was essentially the same dam as the one that had failed catastrophically in Santa Clarita. So the DWP embarked on a program to basically fill in the canyon in front of the dam with dirt, and then to plant trees on the slope. Ostensibly, this was to reinforce the dam, but it also had the effect of making the dam much less obvious. From below, it just looks like a little bit of concrete wall on top of the hillside.

“Dam? What dam? There’s no dam here!”

Of course, I decided that we needed to go see this close-up. I’d heard recently that the path around the reservoir is open now for hiking and bicycling, so I dusted off the “Chris Brown’s House” route and, with a few modifications, we were ready to go.

I told everyone that I thought that this might be a slightly easier ride than the others we do that go by Lake Hollywood, since we would not be riding up the hill all the way to the Hollywood sign. But it still turned out to be pretty hard. The climb up the canyon to the dam was quite steep. But when we came around the last bend, I could see the dam. Sort of. It just looked like a hillside. The trees that the DWP planted are all quite large now, and it’s not obvious at all that there’s a dam there.

At the gate to enter the path around the reservoir there was a sign saying that photo and video equipment is not allowed. In the modern age, I don’t see how they could possibly expect that anyone would follow a rule like that.

We went in the gate and rode across the dam. I stopped to look over the side at the slope and trees, and over the other side to look at the lake. It really took a stupendous amount of dirt to construct that slope. I found a picture of it from Popular Science from 1933 or so. Look how small the dump truck is, and then imagine how many loads of dirt it took:
look how small the dump truck is

On the far side of the dam, I found a little display case with a faded certificate in it. It was dated 1966 and signed by the chief engineer for the DWP.

Continuing on around the lake, we got back to the main road and groaned up the Lake Hollywood hill. Then down the other side into Burbank for snacks at Priscilla’s.

On the way back, Martha showed us how to get to the Glendale Narrows Riverwalk. This is a short walking and bike path they built along a stretch of the L.A. River. It was a nice little shortcut.

All told, it was a nice day for riding, and an interesting bit of history, too.

38 miles.


I did a 1-k this evening

Filed under: — stan @ 9:28 pm

I made a 1-k this evening. That’s harder than it sounds, given that it was 1-k straight up. This is the second time I’ve done this at this building. Each time up the staircase is 210 meters of climbing, so doing it five times adds up to 1,050 meters. The last time I was here, I did my first climb for time, aiming to be at the top in 9:30. But this time, since I was able to get in the stairs right at 6:00, I wanted to take it a bit slower so I could try for five climbs before they close the door at 7:10.

The first time up, I did 9:49. That was a relatively easy pace, and even though the elevator ride back down took 7 minutes, I was on my way up again at 6:17, arriving at the top at about 6:28. This time the elevator ride down took about 5 minutes, and when I started up the third time at about 6:32, I thought I had a chance to make it. The first two climbs, including the rides back down had taken just over 30 minutes, so I figured that if I could come close to that for the second set of two, that would put me back at the bottom and ready for the fifth at just a bit after 7:00.

I slowed down a bit on the third and fourth climbs, coming in at 11:19 and 12:26. And when I got back to the bottom after the fourth, it was 7:05. So I stopped long enough to drink some water, and then I headed up for the fifth time. At that point, I wasn’t thinking about speed. I had two goals at that point. The first was to make it to the top before 7:30, and the second was to not be the last person out of the stairwell. But the last climb was pretty grim. I was tired, and I’d neglected to bring some Gatorade along, so I had no sugar in me any more. So it was a slog. Lots of people passed me, but fortunately, I passed one other person, and I could hear a few below me who weren’t catching up. So I made it up in 17:41, coming out on the 51st floor at about 7:23.

So I made my vertical kilometer. It was pretty hard. I can’t quite feature how I was able to climb the Aon building eight times last March. But still, this was a good evening on the stairs.


Another day, another half-mile

Filed under: — stan @ 9:22 pm

It’s Monday, and time to hit the stairs again. We had a good group today, with four of us from the office heading downtown on the train. My plan for this evening was to ramp up the pace just a little bit over what I did last Wednesday. I’m slowly getting back into doing my first climb of the evening for speed. We’re still climbing the Figueroa-Wilshire building. The climb is 50 stories, from 1 to 51, 1,181 steps. The typical floor in that building is 23 steps, so the climb works out to the equivalent of 51.3 ‘normal’ floors. The last two floors from 49 to 51 are taller than normal.

Two weeks ago, I did the first climb in 9:56, which seemed like a pretty relaxed pace. A week ago I made up split times aiming to be at the top in 9:30, which was a bit faster, but not too much of a strain. So tonight I was aiming to do 9:15. Now, this is starting to feel like a pretty brisk pace up the stairs, without being too punishing. That’s 5 1/2 floors per minute. I found that keeping track of the splits was a useful diversion. I checked my watch at each one-minute goal, and after passing each one, I had to mentally add 5 1/2 to it to figure out the next one-minute goal. And all that arithmetic is a good distraction from thinking, “What the f#ck was I thinking doing this again!?!” And I was pleasantly surprised to make the 45th floor in under 8 minutes, which meant I was a bit ahead of schedule. And I made it to the finish at 51 in 9:12, three seconds ahead of the target.

My plan was to continue on and do three more climbs at my ‘modest pace’, which is 4 1/2 floors per minute, getting to the top in about 11:20. The second climb, I came in a bit under that by accident. The third was a little bit over target, but pretty close. And then the fourth time up, my time sort of fell off the cliff. The last time up, I didn’t even look at my watch. And I kept thinking, “whose idea was this anyway?” It didn’t help when Chris kept reminding me that it was all my idea. Anyway, we slogged up the staircase that last time in 13:07. Not terrible for a fourth time up, but not the steady pacing I did last week when I did four climbs, all in exactly the same time.

Still, all told, it was a good outing. Four times up adds up to 2,756 feet, which is a bit over a half-mile. Not too bad for one hour.

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