Stan’s Obligatory Blog

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The “Green” Street

Filed under: — stan @ 1:42 pm

Last month, when Kathleen and I took the tour of “The Crappiest Place on Earth“, there was a display in the visitor center about the Los Angeles “Green Streets” program, with some photos of their demonstration project on Elmer Ave in Sun Valley. And of course, my first thought was that we were going to get a bike ride out of this. I looked it up, and it’s just a bit northwest of Burbank Airport. And we’ve ridden there before to see the World War II bombers, among other things.

On the way out there, we stopped by to see the desert tortoises in Burbank. The guy who owns the house came out to feed them and talk to us. He was feeding them some small squashes and a head of cauliflower, and they seemed pretty excited by that. Sort of like when I saw the slow-motion feeding frenzy at the Caltech turtle pond. He also said that the tortoises sometimes mate, and that’s apparently a sight to see.

Continuing on, we went by Burbank Airport and on into Sun Valley to Elmer Ave. And yes, it looks like a demonstration project. Solar-powered street lights, basins to catch runoff, permeable driveways, and barrels to catch rainwater. I made me want to join up for the Pasadena Turf Removal Program.

After that, we headed down to Priscilla’s for snacks. The route home went across Glendale. We were going to take the pedestrian bridge over the Glendale Freeway, but at the last minute, we decided to try going across the freeway on Round Top Ave. I thought it might be a bit shorter, and that it might avoid the hill that we have to ride up after crossing the freeway. It did avoid that hill, but only at the cost of us having to ride up an even bigger hill. So that route experiment was kind of a dud. But at least it was a nice day for riding.

45 miles.

Route Map


I can still see my house from up here

Filed under: — stan @ 4:42 pm

Today was time for the Los Angeles edition of the Lung Association’s Fight for Air Climb. 63 stories up the stairs at the Aon building downtown. This was the first stair climb I ever did, back in 2009. At the time, I had no idea what I was getting into, and certainly no idea I’d still be doing it five years later, or that I’d end up making an actual contribution to this insane little sport.

Since I’ve been having major back issues since November, I went into this with the idea that I wanted to have no expectations. And that was my intention. But since I’ve been doing a little bit of faster stair climbing in practice, I thought I’d maybe try for at least a little bit of speed. But when we got there, I realized that I’d forgotten to bring my watch. So even if I wanted to go for speed, there was no way to really do that without a watch. So that made it easy to go into this event with no expectations.

When we got there, Lisa was warming up in the lobby of the building, wearing an altitude-training mask. She said it’s supposed to restrict breathing just a bit to simulate the lower oxygen levels at high altitudes. Well, mostly, it made her look a bit like a Hannibal Lecter of the stairwell. Which I guess is a good thing.

When it was time to go, we all lined up, roughly in numeric order, and roughly in the order we thought we’d finish in. My only goal at that time was that wanted to not have anyone pass me. And that worked out all right. I didn’t pass anyone, and nobody passed me. So that was all right. And in the end, my time was 12:41. Not especially fast, at least by my standards, but it was all right. It was faster than my time the first time I did this, and even though I was just taking it easy and not trying to go fast, there were only four people my age or older who went faster than me. So I really can’t complain too much about that.

When I got to the top, I took the obligatory picture with the view. and then I headed back down. I knew that Morgan was on her way downtown, and I’d told her I’d walk up with her to pace her. So we met up at the bottom and got in line for the stairs.

Meanwhile, Kathleen had started up the stairs just a bit behind me the first time, and she walked most of the way up with a group of firemen in their full regalia. She also got a picture with the view on top before heading back down.

The second time up, I walked with Morgan. I tried to be an encouraging coach, and she did very well. She maintained a steady pace all the way up. We passed lots of people, and nobody passed us. A few times, we ran up against big groups of people who were hard to get through, and at least once, I had to go ahead to sort of plow a path through them so we could pass. And when we made it to the roof, Morgan realized she should have brought her sunglasses. Who thinks of bringing sunglasses along for a stair-climbing race? But that’s the difference between a Saturday morning in April and a Friday evening in September.

When they started posting the results, I saw that they’d made a typo, and they had me listed as being 14 years old. Hmm. I had to email the timing company after we got home to get that corrected.

All told, it was a pretty good time.


Last time.

Filed under: — stan @ 9:16 pm

Tonight was the last practice session at the Aon building, and I wanted to go up the stairs just a few more times. I’m about as ready as I’m going to be for the race on Saturday. Which is to say, I’m not really ready to race, but I’m going to go in more with the intention of just taking it easy and doing it for the experience and for the social aspect of getting to see all my crazy stair-climbing friends there.

The first time up, I wanted to take just an easy, but brisk pace. And I ended up with a 9:55 for 51 floors. That’s just a bit over five floors per minute, and it’s slightly faster than I went the first time I did this climb. back in 2009. But the difference now is that that pace is ‘brisk, but moderate’, while the first time I did it, it was ‘I feel like I’m gonna die!’ So that’s progress.

I took a moment to take a picture looking up the stair shaft. Just to get a sense of how the stairs feel infinite when we’re climbing them. They just go on endlessly, with every landing looking exactly the same as the one before and the one after. And the buttons in the service elevator are proof that the building is honest, and they didn’t skip the 13th floor.

In the end, I went up three times, just because I could. And because after Saturday, I’m not going to be seeing the inside of this building until next year.


Next-to-last practice

Filed under: — stan @ 9:06 pm

Tonight is the next to the last practice climb at the Aon building before the race this Saturday. Since my back has been feeling a bit better the last two weeks, I’m experimenting with trying to go a bit faster again. So tonight, on my first climb, I opened the throttle a little bit more, and made the 51 story climb in 9:29. That’s still a far cry from the 8:58 I did last year, but it’s the fastest I’ve gone up stairs in a long time. And after that, I went up three more times, just because it was there. Good times.

And since all the building security people at Aon Center have been so nice to us during our stair training sessions, I baked some of my award-winning chocolate-chip cookies for them tonight. I figure, it’s not really their job to watch over a bunch of crazy stair-climbing racers, but they’re gracious and friendly to us, so I just wanted them to know that we appreciate it.


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.

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