Stan’s Obligatory Blog

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Well, this is nice

Filed under: — stan @ 9:14 pm

Today was yet another stair climbing practice at One California Plaza in downtown Los Angeles. 42 stories, and, well, a weird sort of ‘fun’.

There was a big group today, and by the time I got there, there were already many, many people on their way up the stairs. Of course, that meant that there were many, many people for me to pass. So I headed on up.

It’s kind of a mixed bag for me when there are a lot of people on the stairs. On the one hand, I get a psychological boost from passing people. But on the other hand, passing people tends to break my rhythm and slow me down. So it’s good and bad at the same time. Last fall, when I was doing the U.S. Bank tower stair climb, there were several times where I had to pass people, and it sometimes took me several flights to get past them. This was frustrating, since the flights are very short, and if you don’t get past someone on the first flight, you have to take the long way around on the landing, and you lose most of the ground you gained. So this time, I resolved that I was not going to lose ground. Any time I was forced to pass on the outside, I was going to just have to put on a little burst of speed. Just enough to get past them on one flight. Yes, that hurt. But it was better than the frustration of having to spend several flights passing.

I only looked at my watch at the 7th and 20th floors. At the time, I could see that I was on track to do a decent time. I was hoping to do as well as I did last Monday, or maybe a second or two better. But when I got to the top, I saw that I’d done it in 7:21. That’s a full seven seconds faster than my time last Monday, and 45 seconds faster than my time last year.

This is great!


They can’t all be gems

Filed under: — stan @ 10:27 pm

Today was another stair climbing practice session at One California Plaza in downtown Los Angeles. So far, I’ve been doing very well at the practice climbs, since I’ve taken more than 30 seconds off my time from last year. But sadly, today was not another record for me. This time, I made it up the 42 stories in 7:33. This is 5 seconds slower than last time.

After seeing my time, I wanted to try again to see if I could do better. What was I thinking? I’m very goal-oriented, and my goal in these things is to make it to the top of the stairs. After that, it’s really hard to get motivated to do it again. So the second time up was hell. Not Hell, but just hell. Just sort of a low-grade “what was I thinking, doing this again” sort of thing. I started out strong, but by the time I got to the 20th floor, I knew that this was not going to a record-setting climb. But I toughed it out and made it to the top. I was about a minute slower than the first time, but that’s all right.

They can’t all be gems. Still, that’s pretty good compared to my time from last year. And (dare I say it?) I think I’m on track to do the U.S. Bank tower climb in 14 minutes or so. That would be great.

On the way out, I had a chance to look up a the U.S. Bank tower. And I had a brief “what the HELL was I thinking when I signed up for this?” moment. But then it passed. So overall, this was a good evening.


Meet me in the stairwell

Filed under: — stan @ 9:12 pm

Today was yet another stair climbing practice session at One California Plaza in downtown Los Angeles. 42 floors. 577 feet. I have no idea how many steps, but probably about 900*. Yes, it was time for more ‘fun’.

I didn’t have to go anywhere afterward, so I rode the train in from Pasadena. For some completely unexplained reason, they lowered the price of the Metro Rail day pass from $6 to $5. Well, I can’t complain about that. The train dropped me off at Pershing Square, and I walked over to the downtown YMCA.

I tried a new experiment today. Every time I’m going to go practice, I always wish I had something to wear that had a way to carry my wallet, camera, keys, and so forth. And today I just realized that I have lots of such things. I wear them every time I go bike riding. So, armed with this knowledge, I brought one of my Caltech bike jerseys along to wear for the climb. And it worked well. I had to put the camera in a plastic bag to protect it from the sweat, but aside from that, the scheme worked well.

There was a good group there for the practice session. When I got there, there were a lot of people already on their way up, including at least one fireman in full gear. I stood at the bottom for a few minutes, wondering what the hell I was thinking when I’d decided to do this yet again. But I finally started up the stairs. I passed a lot of people on the way up, and I made it to the top in 7:28, which is a good two seconds faster than last week. Even though going a second or two faster isn’t all that significant, it still beats last Spring. When I was practicing at the Aon building, I was going six seconds slower every time. That was frustrating. So I’m not complaining at all now. This is good.

* That’s based on 577 feet divided by the typical skyscraper stair step height of 7.7 inches.


More practice

Filed under: — stan @ 9:42 pm

Today was the second day for stair practice at One California Plaza in downtown Los Angeles. This is a 42-story building, and it’s just enough to get to that Pain Point. So of course I wanted to go and climb it, since it’s ‘fun’.

The actual climb was about the same as always. Seems like no matter how fast or slow I go, it just plain hurts. But I was able to keep a good, steady pace, and I got to the top in 7:30, which is one second faster than on Monday.

There was one bit of aggravation today. The door is supposed to be open for us to get out of the stairs at the 41st floor, and the guards had forgotten to come and open it. I went in the elevator control room at the top level and found a phone. I called down to the lobby and they sent someone up to open it. While I was standing there, I noticed that there were four very large electric motors in the room that powered the highest bank of elevators, and there was a strong ozone smell in the room. Since the elevator room door was open to the stairs, it seems that the ozone was probably permeating the stairwell. Maybe that’s why I felt like what the bike racers in the ’70s used to refer to as ‘getting smogged’. Back in those days, we always wanted to be back from rides by 10:00AM. If we didn’t, our throats would feel like we’d gargled with Drano. But I suppose that nobody has ever really done a definitive study of skyscraper stairwell air quality. After all, the stairs are only supposed to be used for emergency evacuation, right?

Still, I did a decent time, so I’m not unhappy about that.


Monday evening fun

Filed under: — stan @ 10:59 pm

Monday evening was an exercise in contrasts.

First off, I went downtown for the first stair practice session at One California Plaza. This is a 42-story building, so it’s bigger than my usual practice sessions at Millikan Library at Caltech. I’d done this one once last year, so I was curious to see how I’d do on it this time.

There was a good group there for it. We all trooped over there and handed in our signed waivers to the building guards. Then the let us loose in the stairs.

Because the building is relatively short, the stairs were pretty much straight up. There was just one break in the middle for a big mechanical floor, I passed one or two people, and one or two passed me. But they were people who are very fast, so I can’t complain too much. And in the end, I got to the top in 7:31, which is a good 35 seconds faster than I did it last year. Nothing not to like there. And we got to ride the elevator back down this time, which was good. I’d said that I wasn’t going to walk down unless the building was on fire.

Afterward, just a bit of contrast, I went out to Burbank and met up with Kathleen at the Smoke House for their Monday night special. Prime rib, and 1/2 off wine. Again, nothing not to like there.

It was a fun evening.


Here we go again

Filed under: — stan @ 12:24 pm

It’s time to start practicing again. The U.S. Bank stair climb is coming up in September. This will be the first event of the fall stair climbing season. And it’s my chance to see if I can improve on my 14:34 time from last year.

Yet, I know that when I get to about the 45th floor, I’m going to be thinking, “OMG what-the-HELL-was-I-thinking-when-I-signed-up-for-this.” It happens every time. But I keep coming back. Because it’s fun.



Filed under: — stan @ 5:35 pm

I signed up for the Sears Willis Tower stair climb today. 103 stories. How hard could it be?


Viva Las Vegas

Filed under: — stan @ 10:12 pm

I’ve been to Las Vegas twice in the last two years, both times to compete in the Stratosphere Tower stair climb. Each time, after I came back, Lucinda said that she wanted to go there. So this weekend, we did just that. Lucinda and I took a trip to Las Vegas with Kathleen and her daughter Trinh. It was a pretty free-form affair. We had two rooms reserved at the Stratosphere, and the only planned activities were riding the three big roller coasters. Beyond that, it was all open.

We headed out early Friday afternoon. That put us ahead of the Friday afternoon traffic, and it got us there a bit early. That meant that we had time to stop off at the state line and ride the Desperado roller coaster at Buffalo Bill’s in Primm. As always, Lucinda was a bit apprehensive, but afterward, she said that she liked it. So that was good.

When we got to Las Vegas, we checked in and then went to dinner at The Peppermill. Kathleen and I had gone there back in March when we were there for the stair climb, and we liked it. After that, we all took a walk down the Strip, since the girls wanted to do some sightseeing. Along the way, a homeless man christened Lucinda with a new nickname: “Pebbles”. After that, we went back to the Stratosphere and took a ride up the tower. At the top, we took in the view and had a look at the rides and all the lights from the city.

On Saturday morning, Lucinda and Trinh went to the Premium Outlet downtown to shop for swimsuits. And after that, they went to the pool. So that left me and Kathleen to our own devices. I got up early and went to do some stair climbing with my friend Randy. We went to Fitzgerald’s in downtown. Apparently, this is the hotel that the fire department trains in, so they don’t have a problem with people coming in there to run the stairs. We did the 33 floors four times, which was fun in its own weird way. Stair climbing is still the most painful thing I’ve ever done, but I still like it. I really can’t explain that.

After the stair climbing, Kathleen and I went out for some sightseeing and visiting. We had found out that my old tattoo artist, Dave Zero has a shop just about two blocks from the Stratosphere. So we took a walk up there to go see him. After that, we spent the rest of the afternoon there doing more typical Las Vegas-y things.

When dinner time arrived, we walked back to the Stratosphere and got the car. Then we headed down to Circus Circus to meet the girls there. We were all going to ride the Canyon Blaster roller coaster in the Adventuredome amusement park. We rode the coaster twice, since it was a pretty fun ride. Then we all went to dinner there before heading downtown. We’d seen an article about the Neon Museum and how they had a display of old neon signs on Fremont St in downtown. Since I’d never been there since they’d built the Fremont Street Experience, it seemed like it could be a lot of fun.

When we got there, the girls saw the zipline down Fremont St, and they all wanted to do it. I wasn’t really in the mood for it, so they went without me. While they waited in line, and I scoped out where to stand to get the best pictures when they came down the wire. My new camera has a low-light mode that works pretty well. They enjoyed their ride, and all in all, it was a very fun evening.

On Sunday, we checked out of the hotel and headed over to Randy and Lynn’s house for a barbecue. The girls went in the pool with their kids. Lucinda got a little sunburned, but aside from that, it was a good time. After that, we stopped off at Luv-It for some frozen custard. Yum. Then we went to New York, New York to ride the roller coaster there. But sadly, the wind had picked up enough that they’d closed the ride, so that will have to wait for next time.

By now, the girls were tired, and it was time to head for home. It was a fun weekend.


Third time around

Filed under: — stan @ 4:48 pm

Today was the Lung Association’s “Fight for Air Climb” up the Aon building in downtown Los Angeles. 63 stories, 1377 steps, 858 feet from street level to the roof. Back in 2009, this was my first competitive stair climb. At the time, I’d entered it on a lark, just because I was curious what it would be like to climb that many stairs, and also because I thought it would be novel to stand on the roof of the building. Now, two years later, I’m doing this one for the third time. I guess that means I like it, even though it’s still the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

Lucinda and Kathleen were both doing it, too, just like the little one we did in San Diego. We all went downtown together. We were with Mark and his West Coast Labels team, which is a great thing. We got to go in the first group with the elite runners at 9:00. In my case, that meant that there were fewer people to pass on the way up, which generally makes for a faster time. Kathleen and Lucinda made a point to start at the back of our group, since they weren’t planning on going terribly fast. Still, it meant that we’d get to all meet up again at the top.

When it as time to go, I trotted into the stairs and started climbing just like always. Once again, I left my metronome off for the first half of the climb. I just went at a comfortable but reasonably fast pace until I got to about the 30th floor. Then I turned the metronome on and used it as a target pace to maintain. Along the way, I passed a few of the people who’d started in front of me. At the 60th floor, I saw Randy’s wife, Lynn. She took pictures as I went by. I guess that the fact that I even noticed that she was there maybe meant that I wasn’t going fast enough. From there, it was just a couple more floors. When I saw the light from the roof door, I managed to find a little bit extra for a final sprint up onto the roof. As soon as I passed the timing mat, I got down on the ground and panted for a few minutes. Then I spent a few minutes looking at the view before I saw Lucinda come out of the stairway. We sat down and had some water while we waited for Kathleen. It was a nice day, and it was a good day to be up there.

When Kathleen got there, she sat down and rested for a few minutes before we all headed back down the other stairs to the party on the 60th floor. While we were there, I saw two girls with some very nice and large tattoos, so I went and found Oz and Randy so we could all do a picture of the tattooed stair climbers. By then, word came up from the ground that they were posting the times.

I was pleasantly surprised to see that my time was 11:45, which was only three seconds slower than last year, which is pretty much the same speed. While I’d have liked to go faster, it apparently wasn’t in the cards this time. But that was all right. In the end, it was good for 3rd place in the 50-59 age group, and 19th overall, out of 547 runners. I can’t complain about that. Lucinda did well, also. Her time was 20:57, which was good for 3rd in her age group, and was also faster than more than 50% of the women there. That’s not bad at all. So we both got a little podium time at the end. And Mark and the West Coast Labels group got the fastest times in almost all the age groups.

Overall, it was a fun outing. Now we will take a break and come back in the fall at the U.S. Bank tower climb.

Full results are here:


Last practice

Filed under: — stan @ 9:03 pm

Today was my last practice run up the Aon building before the stair climb a week from Saturday. Randy was visiting from Las Vegas, so we met up there to do it.

As always, I rode the train downtown. I hate driving downtown, and try to avoid it whenever possible.

When we got there, we got suited up and headed up to the 4th floor, which is the staging area for the practice climbs. Randy was planning on doing the climb three times. Once slowly just to see what it looked like, once for speed, and one more time I guess for just sheer perversity. I planned on only doing it once, and going as fast as I could.

I repeated my experiment from last time where I started out without my metronome again. I climbed up to 32 before I turned it on. I had it set on 76, and it was hard to keep up with at that point. But I could see from my watch that I was on track to do a pretty good time.

The last 10 or so floors were a real slog. I could hear some people just above me, so I tried to catch them before the finish at 60. I caught a couple of them, but not all. Still, when I came out, I had 10:24, which is my third best practice time ever, so I really can’t complain. It was a fun little evening adventure.

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