Stan’s Obligatory Blog

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Last call…

Filed under: — stan @ 9:12 pm

Tonight was the last practice session before the U.S. Bank Tower stair race on Friday. And I went with a plan in mind. When I did the 51-story practice staircase in about 9:15, it was a pace I described as “brisk, but not punishing”. So I’m thinking that that will be my pace for the 75-story bank tower race, since it’s a pace I can do for 50 floors and still be able to go on some more. That works out to about 5 1/2 floors per minute.

I rode the train downtown and got ready to climb. I didn’t stand around at the bottom much. As I always say, the stairs don’t get any easier if we wait around. And my first climb up was right on schedule, getting to the top in 9:21. And for the second climb, my plan was to maintain the same pace for at least the first half of the climb. That was kind of difficult, but I made it that far before slowing down. And I still did a reasonable time the second time.

The third time, I was slowing down some. But that was all right. And the fourth time I didn’t bother to time. So I guess I’m as ready as I’m going to be for the race this Friday.


When I’m sixty-four…

Filed under: — stan @ 9:22 pm

It’s stair practice again tonight, and I climbed the building four times tonight. Which means that since practice started last July, I’ve now climbed this building 64 times. That’s a bit over 8 miles vertical.

Tonight was a pretty good outing. I managed to get under 9 minutes on my first climb, so that was good. It’s still not the 8:32 I did in practice last year, but it’s still reasonable. And after that, I climbed the building three more times. The last time was a bit of a Death March, so I didn’t bother timing it.

One more practice, and then it’s going to be time for the race up the U.S. Bank Tower.


Getting close to the end

Filed under: — stan @ 9:19 pm

It’s Monday, and there are only three more practice climbs before the big race next Friday. So here we go again.

I headed downtown as usual, got changed, and I was ready to go. The plan was to push the pace on the first time up, and then just walk up a few more times just because.

I was aiming for 6 floors per minute the first time, but I was falling behind by a couple of steps each minute. And psychologically, that’s a bad place to be. It’s hard to hold off the ‘What the HELL am I trying to prove here?!?’ blues at times like that. Still, I managed to sort of hold it together long enough to make it to the top, coming out at 9:06.

The second time, I wanted to see if I could manage 4 3/4 floors per minute, which would get me to the top in about 10:50 or so. It was hard, but I managed to make it up in 10:56. Getting the second time in under 11 after trying for speed the first time is still pretty hard for me.

I went up a third time, just for sheer perversity. It was kind of a Death March, and I didn’t bother timing it. But I made it up.

I could probably have gone up one more time, but I just didn’t feel up to it, since the third time was so hard. So I went home.


And I was suddenly overcome…

Filed under: — stan @ 9:12 pm

We’re coming down to the last set of practice climbs before the race at the end of the month. So tonight’s plan was the same as Monday’s. To see how fast I could climb the first time up, and then to do three more, just because.

It was a bit of an ordeal getting downtown this evening. I went to the Allen Metro station in time to get the 4:57 train to downtown. When I got to the platform, there was an outbound train sitting there. After a minute or so, I realized that the outbound train wasn’t moving. And in fact, it had both of its pantographs down, I went and asked the motorman, and he said that the power had failed from Allen to the end of the line at Sierra Madre Villa, and that trains were only running from downtown to Lake Avenue in Pasadena. Now, it seems that Metro could have put up a notice about that on the video monitor above the fare machines at the entrance to the station. But then again, they don’t seem to be known for doing things that seem blindingly obvious to the rest of us. So I went back down, got my bike, and rode over to the Lake station, and got on to go downtown. I made a leap of faith and assumed that they would fix the power by the time I came home, so I brought my bike along, since I didn’t want to have to get off at Lake to get it on the way back.

When I got to the building, I locked my bike up to the railing along the street above where we enter the stairs. Then the building guards came out and said I couldn’t put it there.

Oh. All. Right.

Well, at least they were nice about it. They let me in to the parking level of the building, and I locked my bike up on the rack they had down there.

After all that, it was almost 6:15 by the time I got into the stairwell. I started up, aiming to do 6 floors per minute, but that only lasted a short time. There was a lot of traffic on the stairs, and it was hard to pass people, so I lost some time there. But the worst was about the 35th floor, when I was suddenly overcome by a crushing wave of “Oh MY GOD! What the HELL am I trying to prove here?!?!?” That just took all the wind out of my proverbial sails, and I had to really push to not just stop right there. But I managed to keep going, and came out on 51 at 9:08. So I guess my crushing wave of self-doubt cost me about 20 seconds. Useful to know, I guess.

Oddly enough, just going 20 seconds slower on the first climb translated into being a whole lot perkier on the second. I managed to get up in 11:28, which is quite a bit faster than my second climb on Monday. And the third and fourth times up I was able to maintain a modest pace, which isn’t too bad for being tired.

After all that, I went and collected my bike from under the building, and I headed home. I asked, and the Metro people said that the power was fixed, so I was able to ride the train back to Allen and ride home from there, just like on a normal day. So I guess it wasn’t that bad.


Three weeks out

Filed under: — stan @ 9:14 pm

It’s a stair-practice evening again, and I took the Metro downtown to join in the ‘fun’. As usual, George was there, so we took a few minutes to talk about our goals for the evening. He was aiming to do a first climb for speed, and to try to get under 9 minutes. So that was my goal, as well. My best time for this building was 8:32 in practice two years ago. That works out to just about 10 seconds per floor, so that was my target pace for the evening.

George started out ahead of me by about 30 or 40 seconds. That was just as well, since he was using a metronome, and didn’t want to have the distraction of the sound. My plan was just to do 6 floors each minute for as long as I could. But as it turned out, I was losing about two steps each minute, so by the 37th floor I was about 1/2 floor off my pace. But that still meant I was headed for a sub-9 time. And when I got to about 40, I could hear George’s metronome just a little bit above me. So that gave me the push to keep going and even to speed up after I passed the ‘petting zoo’ on 49. I stumbled up onto the 51st floor landing at 8:51. That’s my fastest time so far in this set of practices, but it’s still a lot slower than my race times in this building, as well as my past practice times.

After doing the first climb for speed, I did it four more times, just to see if I could maintain a pace after the first climb. The second and third times up I was only able to maintain about 4 floors per minute, but at least I was still upright and moving. The fourth time up, I just walked up slowly. Didn’t bother timing it. At that point, it was remarkable enough that I was still able to go up at all.

This evening brings my total up to 53 climbs up the Wilshire-Figueroa building since this round of practice started in July. That’s at bit over 10km, or about 6 1/2 miles vertical. Fun times.


“Wanting to exceed your grasp is the nature of the human condition”

Filed under: — stan @ 9:09 pm

That’s a quote from Peter Athans, who is one of only a few climbers who have been to the summit of Mt. Everest seven times. He was quoted in an article in National Geographic about the importance of failure in any endeavor. I’d been reading that on the train to downtown, largely as a means of staving off the dread that comes from being on my way to an evening of climbing stairs.

So my goal for this evening was to do another five climbs for a vertical kilometer, and I wanted to try and flatten out my pace. That is, I wanted to try and have a smaller spread from the fastest to the slowest of the five. Also, I was hoping that if I could do that, my total might add up to less than the 53:57 I posted last Wednesday. And as usual, George was there, and had basically the same goal. So I had a goal, and some motivation.

The first time up, I held back a bit. I was aiming for a pace of 4 3/4 floors per minute, and I had to slow down a bit to not get too far ahead on the first time up. I was hoping that if I held back on the first climb, I’d have more energy for the later ones. And for the most part, the strategy worked. My first four climbs were very close in time, at 10:36. 10:39, 10:40, and 10:55. I was hoping to get the last climb in under 11, or at least not much over it.

I rested at the bottom for several minutes before starting the last climb. I’d remembered to bring some Gatorade, so I finished that before starting up. I managed to keep to the pace up to about the 20th floor, and then I faltered a bit. I had to dial the pace back to 4 1/2 floors per minute the rest of the way up. That’s the pace that works out to 11:22, but I was hoping that I’d go a bit faster, since I’d started out faster. And when I got to 49, I managed to eke out a bit of a sprint, just because I knew that I could stop as soon as I got to the top. And I managed to come out at the top at 11:18. That’s slightly faster than 11:22, but not by much. Still, I did manage to flatten out my times, with only 42 seconds difference from the slowest to the fastest. That’s better than the 61-second spread last week. But when I added up my times, they totaled to 54:08. So my average was about 2 seconds slower for each of the five climbs. Oh well, they can’t all be gems. As National Geographic had told me on the way downtown, there can be no success without failure. And no matter what, this one was still nothing to complain about.

Apropos of nothing at all, I just added it up, and so far in this round of practice, I’ve climbed the Wilshire-Figueroa building 49 times. One more time, and my total climbing will be 10,200 meters, which is just a hair over the height of Mauna Kea from the sea floor to peak.


Another half-mile death march

Filed under: — stan @ 9:39 pm

Tonight at stair practice, I wanted to try an experiment. After last Wednesday, when I was able to do four consecutive climbs all under 11 minutes, I wanted to see if I could do four close to 10 minutes each. I knew I could go under 10 easily on the first climb, so I wanted to see how close to 10 I could get on the subsequent climbs.

Of course, it was probably a Bad Thing that I forgot to bring my water bottle along tonight.

The first time up, I was aiming for a pace of 5 floors per minute. That’s reasonable brisk, without being punishing. And I got to the top in 9:48. So the trick was going to see how close I could come to that pace on the second time up.

As it turned out, the answer was, “well, sort of close.” The first climb, I averaged about 11.5 seconds per floor. On the second, I did about 12.5. The third was about 13.9. I think the lack of water was taking a toll. After the third, I was pretty tired. But I still wanted to go up again, just for the sake of obstinacy and to have a vertical half-mile for the evening. But I was pretty well wiped-out by that time. So I didn’t even bother timing the last time up. I don’t really want to know how slow I was going. But I made it to the top.

After I came back down, I made a point of stopping at Famima!! across from the Aon building on the way back to the subway station. I got a quart of Gatorade and chugged it down on the sidewalk. And then I felt slightly better.

Oh well, they can’ all be gems.


Pushing the pace

Filed under: — stan @ 9:16 pm

Last week, I went to stair practice and did a vertical kilometer. That was the evening that George said he wanted to try and beat my previous time of 59:12 for the five climbs. And with that, I found I had the strength of Ten Grinches, and I managed to push the pace and do the kilometer in 55:43. So this evening, George said he was going to attempt to beat my 55:43 for the kilometer. And thus, I had a goal for the evening. My goal became to also beat the 55:43, and to do it in a convincing manner.

I started off planning a pace of 4 3/4 floors per minute from the start. That works out to about 10:45 for this building. Of course, the first couple of climbs went a bit faster, since I was fresh, but overall, I was able to maintain the pace for the first four climbs. This is the first time I’ve done four consecutive climbs under 11 minutes each.

In the elevator down the fourth time, I heard George talking. I was sitting down, trying to get the maximum rest. I looked through the forest of legs in the elevator, and I saw George sitting on the floor on the other side. We compared times, and his first four times were comparable to mine from last week. That meant he had a good shot at beating my 55:43 from last Wednesday. My first four were considerably faster than last week’s, so I knew that if I could just keep pace with him on the last climb, I’d have a better time for today. And I knew that if I did any reasonably fast time, I’d get my total under 55, which was my goal. So we decided to go up together and I was going to try and keep pace with him. Just before we started, he asked me if I thought I might get under 54 minutes. I didn’t think so, but I hadn’t taken the time to do the math and see.

The fifth time up, I was pretty tired. I was aiming for my 4 1/2 floors per minute pace, which gets me to the top in about 11:22. I knew this would be fast enough to still have the total under 55. I managed to keep pace with George up to about the 35th floor, but then he seemed overcome by something, and started pulling away from me. I tried to keep pace, but by the time we got to the 49th floor, he was about 1 1/2 floors ahead of me. I could hear his footsteps and breathing, and he was obviously working hard. Just knowing this was the end, I managed to eke out a little burst of speed at the end, and I stumbled onto the 51st floor landing in 11:22. Right on schedule.

On the way home on the train, I added up my times. They came out to a total of 53:57, which was quite a bit faster than I’d expected to be able to do. I really can’t complain about that. And George did his vertical kilometer in 55:39, so we both achieved our goals for the evening. So all told, it was a good outing.

Many thanks again to George for lighting a fire underneath me.


“the least pleasant form of recreation ever conceived”

Filed under: — stan @ 9:39 pm

Tonight was yet another stair practice in downtown Los Angeles. I went with essentially one goal, and that was to do my first climb for speed. I worked out a pace, aiming to be at the top in about 9 minutes. Not the fastest I can do, but a reasonably brisk pace. This worked out to about 5 2/3 floors per minute.

I got changed and got in line for the stairs. I started my watch and headed up. At each time point, I checked the watch, and I managed to stay on target almost all the way up to the big landing on the 49th floor. The last two floors are bigger than the others, and I heaved up onto the 51st floor in 9:06. Close enough.

After a too-slow freight elevator ride back down, I headed up again. This time, my target pace was 4 3/4 floors per minute. This was aiming to get to the top in about 10:45, and the magic worked. I got to 51 at 10:44.

I headed back down again. Checking the time, I knew I wasn’t going to have enough time to make five climbs tonight. But I wanted to try my ‘easy’ 11:22 pace the third time up. I’ve done this pace for four consecutive climbs before, and it’s usually pretty easy. I started up, and almost immediately, I hit the proverbial Wall. What is usually an easy climb up the stairs quickly turned into a Death March. It was so bad that I just turned off my watch about halfway up.

Of course, after that horrible experience, I had to do it again. You know. Get back on the horse and all that. I didn’t even start my watch the last time. It was just a struggle for survival to get to the top. But I made it. Four climbs. A half-mile vertical.

Fun times.


Fire under my feet

Filed under: — stan @ 9:19 pm

I went downtown today with a distinct lack of planning or ambition. I didn’t want to try going for speed again tonight, but I didn’t have any other ideas of what to do. But when I got there, George said he was going to do a vertical kilometer. He had added up my times from when I did it a couple weeks ago, and they totaled 59:10 of climbing time. So he was going to try and beat that total. And with that, he lit a fire under me, and I had a goal for the evening. My goal was to do the five climbs again, and to improve on my time, and to beat George.

The first time up, I was fresh and ready, and I turned in a 10:30. Not blazing fast, but a good brisk pace. The second time, I went a little slower, but still was under 11. Each time up, I was aiming for my usual 4 1/2 floors per minute pace, and I hit that on the third and fourth climbs, coming out at the top in 11:18 and 11:25. At that point, I checked my watch, and it was 6:58PM, So I knew that I’d be able to make it back down to the start before they closed the door at 7:10.

At the bottom, I had a couple of minutes extra to spare before the door closed. So I stopped and had some water before heading up the stairs for the fifth time.

In the past, when I’ve done five climbs in one session, the fifth time up is a real slog. It’s hard to keep moving, and I just keep thinking, “Who the HELL thought this was a good idea???” But this time, all the way up the 51 floors, I just kept chanting to myself, “Beat George! Beat Geoge! Beat George!” It was a good mantra, and I was almost able to maintain my pace, even on the fifth time up. And when I got to 49, I could see that I had a chance of making the top in under 12 minutes. Somehow, I managed to run up the last two floors, coming out on top at 11:47.

So my total for the five climbs was 55:43, which I found pretty remarkable. This is the first time I’ve done five climbs and had them all under 12 minutes. And the average was about 11:09, which is not bad for doing five consecutive climbs up a 51-story building. Nothing like a little friendly competition to gin up some motivation.

Of course, that means that the next frontier is to push the average below 11. Maybe that’s my goal for next week. In any event, it was a good evening.

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