Stan’s Obligatory Blog


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.


Stepping Up

Filed under: — stan @ 8:15 pm

A couple weeks ago, a reporter and photographer from the Los Angeles Times came out to the practice session at the Aon building. And the article came out last weekend. I managed to get quoted in two paragraphs, so that’s pretty good.

The article is here:,0,916269.story


Getting back on the horse -er- stairs

Filed under: — stan @ 10:51 pm

It’s Tuesday evening, and time for yet more eternal agony climbing the stairs at the Aon building. After the problems I had over the weekend at the Stratosphere Tower, I wanted to see if I could still go fast up the stairs this evening.

I got suited up and headed up the stairs. No use waiting around at the bottom. It doesn’t get any easier. As always, I was aiming for 10 seconds per floor, and I managed to stay close to that, except through the middle section from 24 to 44 with the wide landings. But I made it to 55 in 9:04, which is solidly in the range of normal times I’ve been doing at practice. So I’m not any slower now than I was last week.

I went up a second time just to try out a couple of different ideas for dealing with the wide landings in the middle section of the staircase. Maintaining a steady but slow pace, I made it up in 11:50.

And just for sheer perversity, I went up a third time. I didn’t bother timing it. It was slow, but steady. I managed to make it all the way up without stopping, so that’s not too bad.

On the way home, the subway train stopped for a minute on the approach to Union Station, and I saw an electrical conduit on the wall outside with a stern warning on it:


Yup. I’m not inclined to think they’re kidding on that.

Weekend in Las Vegas

Filed under: — stan @ 10:09 pm

Here’s a selection of pictures from the rest of our weekend in Las Vegas.

On the way there, we stopped at the beef jerky place in Baker. Kathleen likes their jerky a lot. And it’s a chance for a photo-op with the alien.

When we got there, we met up with the whole West Coast Label stair-climbing team for dinner at The Peppermill. And after that, we went back to the hotel to get ready for the race on Saturday morning.

On Saturday afternoon, we headed downtown to go see the The National Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement. Since that name is a mouthful, it’s just called the Mob Museum. There, we saw the entire history of the Mafia from its roots, and how Prohibition was the thing that made the Mob into a major organization. In later parts of the museum, they went into the Kefauver Hearings and RFK’s crusade against the Mob. An interesting afternoon.

On the way back from downtown, we saw the big sign at the Plaza, advertising “Hawaiin Favorites!” Being spelling and grammar geeks, we were of course appalled. That, or the sign was made by LOLcats.

Dinner on Saturday was the obligatory prime rib and martini that I always have in Las Vegas. After that, we went back to the Stratosphere and went up the tower, since I’d been up there earlier, but I was too wiped out at the time to look at the view.

On Sunday, we went to the Erotic Heritage Museum before heading home. We got to see such treasures as Larry Flynt’s gold-plated wheelchair, and a walrus penis-bone. It was an amusing time, and I highly recommend it.

After that, we headed home. Waze showed us that we were just ahead of the big wave of traffic coming back to L.A., and we made it home early enough for dinner. It was a fun weekend, aside from my disappointing performance on the stairs.

I have a tendency to over-think things…

Filed under: — stan @ 10:01 pm

This weekend was the “Scale the Strat” stair climb in Las Vegas. This is my fourth time doing this event, and the first time since I did the survey climb and made the chart of the stairway at last year’s event. I thought this would help with planning.

A few days before the event, George had emailed me and asked about some discrepancies in my chart. It seems that some of the step counts and the elevation signs posted on the landings didn’t agree. We decided that either I’d made a mistake counting the flights, or some of the elevation signs were wrong, or perhaps both. In the meantime, I worked out some planned times for the three big landmarks on the way up the tower, based on the posted elevations above street level:

  • The first rest area at 247 feet;
  • The second rest area at 522 feet;
  • The top of the tower core at 775 feet.

The climb up to the top of the tower core is just a little bit more than the practice climb from 4 to 55 that I’ve been doing at the Aon building in downtown Los Angeles, so I figured on being at the top of the tower core at about 9:15 or so. For the other two, I made up goal times based on the elevation. And this was where the trouble began.

When it was my turn to go, I started up at a reasonable, but brisk pace. Taking a quick look up, I could see the first rest area up above, and headed for that, reaching it right at 2:30, which was my goal. At that point, my lips were tingling, which doesn’t usually happen until the end of these things, but I figured that since I was on schedule, it was all right, and I kept going at the same pace.

I reached the second rest area at 6:00, which was also on schedule, but I was in trouble there. And I hit The Wall very soon after that. By the time the elevation signs got over 600 feet, I was slowing down, and when I got into the final staircase up the pod at the top of the tower, I was happy just to still be upright and moving. I made it to the top and flopped on the floor. My time was 11:47, which was a full minute slower than my time from last year.

So I spent some time lying on the floor at the top before heading back down. Kathleen was downstairs in the theater, where they had a big video monitor set up showing the feed from the four cameras in the stairwell. She’d gotten pictures of it when I went past the second rest area, and also at the finish. And when she saw my time, she knew that something was wrong. We hung around and schmoozed for a while, which was fun. And then we headed back to the room so I could get cleaned up and try to figure out what had gone wrong.

I didn’t work out what had happened until a couple days later. When George sent me his notes from surveying the staircase, I could see that the sign that said “247′” by the first rest area had to be wrong. The starting line is about 47 feet above street level. Based on the count of steps to that point, the rest area was about 226 feet above the starting line, and I’d thought it was 200 feet. So that meant I was going about 14% too fast on the first leg, and because my projected time was wrong, when I got there, I thought I was on schedule and kept on going at the too-fast pace. To put it in perspective, when I’m doing the practice climbs, I aim to do about 10 seconds per floor, and my pace here was the equivalent of about 8.5 seconds per floor. Not much of a difference, but it adds up by the time you’ve climbed the equivalent of 45 floors.

So now it all makes sense, and I’ve corrected my chart. As it turns out, I’d missed counting one 20-step flight near the beginning, and I miscounted the last fight as 10 instead of 9. So the final tally for the climb now stands at 1,391 steps. And I know now that the elevation signs in the stairwell are not to be taken as truth, although they’re still useful as markers. Guess I’ll just see how that works out next time I do it.


Last rehearsal

Filed under: — stan @ 9:56 pm

This evening, I went downtown for one last hard practice on the stairs before this weekend’s fun and frolic up the Stratosphere Tower. The plan was the same as before, which was to come as close to 10 seconds per floor for the 51 floors. I planned again on taking it in six-floor chunks, and just seeing how far I could get doing those in 1-minute increments.

On the first climb up, I made it all the way to 22 on schedule. Then I lost a few seconds going through the two fire doors on the hallway there. But that was all right. I expect to lose some time opening those doors. Then, when I got to 24, I had a look at my watch. I wanted to see if I could make it to the 30th floor in one minute.

As it turned out, on the 18 floors from 24 to 42, I lost about 5 seconds in each 6-floor chunk. I’m still trying to work out the fastest way to take the wide landings in this section, and so far I just haven’t worked out a good way to do it.

At 44, I went through the second set of fire doors, and then I was on the home stretch. I managed to get back on pace for 10 seconds per floor there, with a sprint to the finish from 51 to 55. I heaved up onto the landing at 55 in 8:59. One second off my best time, but I can’t complain too much.

After a few minutes of rest, I started up the stairs again. The second time, I just wanted to go slow and experiment with some different methods for dealing with the wide landings from 24 to 44. I’ve come up with about four different methods for handling them, and I’m still not sure which one is the best. I timed the second climb, but I wasn’t expecting to do anything particularly fast.

At the end, I decided to go up one more time, for no reason in particular. I didn’t want to go fast. I didn’t stop, but I went very slowly, and I didn’t even bother timing it.

It was a reasonably good outing.

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