Stan’s Obligatory Blog

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Weekend in San Diego, and a few stairs

Filed under: — stan @ 8:38 pm

This weekend, we took an overnight trip to San Diego to visit my father, and along the way we did a bunch of other stuff.

The trip started off Saturday afternoon, when we headed down to San Diego. We visited with my father for a bit before we all went to dinner at The Prado in Balboa Park. We had a nice, fancy dinner out, and Trinh got an extra dessert, since Sunday was her birthday.

On Sunday morning, we managed to convince Lucinda, Trinh, and Melissa all to do the Lung Association stair climb with us, so we had five of us signed up to do it. It was a short one, only about 30 stories. The climb was from the lobby to 32, but the building skipped 13. I wanted to go back in and do a proper survey, but the organizers were kind of being redacted about it, and they wouldn’t let me go back in. But we did make the Channel 10 news that night:

After the stair climb, we headed back to our room to get cleaned up. We didn’t stay for the awards, but I found out later that I managed to place 3rd in the 50-59 age group. Not bad for coming back from not being able to walk a couple months ago.

Finally, we all went to La Jolla Cove to see the baby seals. The pups are generally born in February, so they were still pretty small, and really, there’s nothing cuter than baby seals.


Another little push

Filed under: — stan @ 9:41 pm

Tonight was another night where I got a late start for downtown, so I only had time for two climbs. But the first one, I managed a 9:40 for the 51 floors. So that was a Good Thing. And I didn’t hurt my back in the process, so all around, it was a good evening.


Pushing the limit (a little bit)

Filed under: — stan @ 9:35 pm

Tuesday evening, I went downtown again to hit the stairs at the Aon building. Since my back is feeling slightly better these days, I’ve been experimenting with going a bit faster. So far, my best time for the 51-floor practice course has been 9:44, so I wanted to see if I could go just a little faster tonight.

AS it turned out, the answer was “no”. But that’s all right. I did a 9:47, which is pretty close. And after that, I went up another three times, just so I could have a reason to say, “what was I thinking when I signed up for this?”


Visiting Seattle for the Big Climb

Filed under: — stan @ 9:00 pm

Back in November, when we were on our way to Chicago to climb the Sears Willis Tower, we got word that registration was opening for the Big Climb in Seattle. Everyone said it’s a good event and a fun time, so we signed up for it. Months came and went, and in the meantime, my back when to hell. But the trip is all arranged and paid for, so we decided to go on it anyway. I’d never been to Seattle before, and I’ve got both friends and family there, plus it’s a chance to play tourist.

On the way there, when we were flying over (I think) about Reno, I saw a little black wisp rising out of the clouds. It looked like a Dementor from Harry Potter. I got out the big lens for my camera, and close up, it looks like it was probably a military jet. It just looked strange, since it was going almost straight up out of the clouds.

A bit farther, I started to see the stratovolcanoes of the Cascades. I was trying to spot Mt Lassen, since that’s the one Cascades volcano I’ve climbed and seen up close, but I couldn’t locate it. I did see Mt Hood, with Portland right next to it. And that told me that we were near Mt St. Helens. And within a minute or two, we were flying right over it. I managed to get a pretty good picture of the crater.

When we got to Seattle, we made our way to our hotel, which turned out to be right downtown, and only two blocks from the Columbia Center tower, which we could see out the window. That night, we met up with my cousin Irene for dinner.

Saturday was our day to play tourist. In the morning, I took a little walk while Kathleen was getting ready. The “Field Trip” app on my iPhone told me about the Arctic Building, which was around the corner from our hotel. It said that the tusks on the walrus heads were originally made with real ivory. Yikes. I also poked my head into the downtown Transit Tunnel. It was odd seeing buses and trains sharing the same tunnel, but it seems to work, and we had occasion to ride the train later that day.

Our one real outing of the day was to Lake View Cemetery to visit the graves of Bruce and Brandon Lee. No trip is complete without a celebrity grave tour. We also played tourist a bit, going on an underground tour that’s not the original one, but a spinoff located nearby. It was pretty entertaining. (I’d link to them here, but their web site crashes my browser. Hey, guys! Getter a better web developer!) We also visited the Gum Wall and rode the Seattle Monorail, both of which we found through Field Trip.

Finally, we met up with my old friend K.D. for dinner. She and her partner Amy were among the first to get married after Referendum 74 passed in 2012.

On Sunday morning, it was time to climb. We walked up to the building and found our group. I took it easy going up. My plan was to do my regular easy pace of 4 1/2 floors per minute, which would get me to the 73rd floor in about 15 minutes. But it ended up taking only about 13:45. I was a little surprised by that, but when I went up a second time with PJ to do a survey of the staircase, the reason became clear quickly. The floors in Columbia Center are only about 11.4 feet each, where most office buildings are 13 – 13.5 feet. So I was doing my regular easy pace of 1 vertical foot per second, and that translated into more floors per minute than it would have in another building. And of course, I made a chart for future reference. We also found that once again, the published step count and climb height for the event were incorrect, and it was actually higher and more steps than the event had claimed.

After doing the stairs, we got cleaned up and met up with Irene for lunch before heading back to the airport. All told, it was a fun trip.


Last time before the Big Climb

Filed under: — stan @ 9:30 pm

Back in November, Kathleen and I both signed up for The Big Climb. This is an event this coming Sunday in Seattle, climbing 69 stories up Columbia Center. Since I’m not planning on trying to go particularly fast there, I figured there was no harm in going downtown for stair practice tonight.

I did my usual four climbs. I could have done five, but I just wasn’t feeling up to it. Still, it was a fun evening.


Turning it up

Filed under: — stan @ 9:29 pm

I had an MRI on my back yesterday. It’s been a bit better over the past few days, but today it’s regressing again. I suppose the overall trend is up, but it still varies a lot from day to day. Still, I went downtown to do the stairs. I’ve found that doing a few sets of stairs, like 150-250 floors or so, will relieve the pain in my back for about two hours. So what’s not to like.

I’m still experimenting with going a little bit faster. Still nowhere near going all-out, but just turning up the pace a little bit. Unlike Nigel Tufnel and Spinal Tap, I’m not turning up to eleven. More like turning it up to seven-and-a-half. Still, I was able to shave five seconds off last week’s time, and I didn’t hurt my back in the process.

I was a bit worn out from the first time up, so I only did it three more times, and I was pretty weary the last time. But I got to see and socialize with the other nutball stair climbers, so it was a fun time.


The Ice-Age Beach

Filed under: — stan @ 1:34 pm

There was an article in the L.A. Times this week about a pit that Metro is digging along Wilshire Blvd to prepare for the Fairfax station on the extension of the Purple Line subway. The location is right across the street from Hancock Park and the La Brea Tar Pits, and the article talked about all the fossils they were finding there, on what had been a beach during the last Ice Age. So of course, I thought this might be interesting to go see, although I thought that there was a good chance we wouldn’t actually get to see into the pit. Still, it’s just another interesting bit of local color, even if that color is all black from the tar.

We rode out by way of downtown Los Angeles, and then out on 9th St and 4th St to get out to Park La Brea. Along the way, we saw one old brick apartment building that looks like it’s been reinforced for earthquakes. It’s not often that one sees a building with such obvious reinforcement on it. And a little farther down the road, we saw another building with some odd windows. We were wondering where they get blinds for windows that are built at odd angles like that. When we got to the Park La Brea gates, a quick turn south took us to the corner of Ogden Dr and Wilshire Blvd, and there it was. They had a high wall around the site, so we really couldn’t see in. But I was able to reach in through the gate with my camera to get some pictures. Probably about the most interesting thing to see in there was the backhoe that was completely black from digging through the tar that apparently must be everywhere in the ground around there. I wonder what it’s like for people who live in that neighborhood. What happens if you try to grow a garden in the back yard?

Since we were there, we went next door to the lawn in front of the Variety building, where they have a section of the Berlin Wall. We’d come out to see this once before. Then we went across Wilshire to LACMA to see the Big Rock. And after that, we headed back east to Larchmont Village and our snack stop at Noah’s Bagels. And then we rode home, taking York Blvd across Highland Park for a change. They put in a bike lane, and that street isn’t so bad any more.

45 miles.


Helter Skelter

Filed under: — stan @ 5:46 pm

Since I took Lucinda to the Museum of Death last year, I got us tickets to go on the Dearly Departed Helter Skelter tour. I’ve gone on their regular Tragical History Tour many times, as far back as 1990, when it was still called the Grave Line Tour.

We rode around in the van for the whole morning, and we got to see most of the locations associated with the Manson Family murders in 1969. It’s a multimedia tour, too, featuring movie and TV clips from the time with people involved in the case, as well as songs written by Charles Manson. There was even a song he wrote that was recorded by The Beach Boys. It was all very interesting, at times horrifying, and very entertaining tour. A very good father-daughter bonding activity.


A quick Thursday evening

Filed under: — stan @ 9:59 pm

It’s Thursday, so it’s stair night, but again, I didn’t get there until about 6:00. So I knew I had time for two climbs, and possibly three. Because of this, I thought this might be a good time to do an experiment and see if I could turn up the pace a bit. My plan was to aim for 5 floors per minute on the first climb. That’s a ‘brisk, but modest’ pace for me in normal times, but with the problems I’ve been having, I really didn’t know what would happen. But I figured that if I could do it, it would get me to the top in about 10:15 or so.

I started out up the stairs, still not using the handrail for anything but guidance and balance. At the end of the first five floors, I was a few seconds ahead of schedule. And I didn’t feel too bad. So I kept going, and I managed to stay on schedule pretty much all the way up. When I got to the 50th floor, I had a quick look at the watch, and I knew that if I hit it the last five floors, I had a chance to get under 10 minutes. So I grabbed the rail and started pulling a little bit, just to pick up the pace and see if I could do it. And I heaved up onto the 55th floor landing at 9:49. That works out to 5.2 floors per minute average for the 51-floor climb.

The second time up, I turned the pace down a lot. I was aiming for four floors per minute, but that only lasted for about the first 25 floors. So I slowed down and walked up the rest of the way. I was going to quit after two climbs, but when I got to the bottom, we still had 20 minutes left in the session, and Nathan was getting ready to go up for his fifth time. So I went along. We just walked up at a relaxed pace and talked. It was a pleasant time.


My Vertical Kilometer

Filed under: — stan @ 9:43 pm

Since I’ve found that stair climbing doesn’t aggravate my back problems, I thought I’d try an experiment tonight and do a vertical kilometer. I did this last year as part of my preparations for the vertical mile climb. My friend Morgan did this a few weeks ago, so I thought I’d give it a try.

I was trying for a modest, but consistent pace, like I did last year. When I did the vertical kilometer last year, I only had a spread of 42 seconds between my fastest and slowest climbs. Looking at my times this time around, you can see that I’m just not in the condition I was in last year. And with my back problems, I’m not pulling on the railing, since I don’t want to do anything that twists my spine. Still, I was able to make the vertical kilometer pretty easily. It’s only five times up. 255 floors, 5,630 steps. Easy.

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