Stan’s Obligatory Blog

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Stairway to Leaden

Filed under: — stan @ 8:45 pm

I somehow managed to convince Lucinda to try doing one of the Aon building practice climbs with me today. We took the train downtown and got suited up to go.

I gave her a four-minute head start, so that I’d pass her somewhere along the way, but not too early in the climb. As it turned out, I caught her at about the 40th floor.

I was doing all right up to about 40 or 45, but then I was once again overcome with a wave of “OMG what the HELL was I thinking when I signed up for this.” I made it to the top, but I don’t know what my time was. I thought I knew how to use the split time feature on my stopwatch, but in my 60th-floor-delirium I must have pushed the wrong button. By the time I was recovered enough to look at the watch, I saw it was still running. So my time was probably a bit below 11 minutes, but I don’t know by how much. I just know it was nowhere near my best practice times.

I went back into the stairs to see Lucinda as she came up the last flights. I could see her when she was about five flights down from the top. Apparently, this was quite a bit harder than the 30-story stair climb we did in San Diego. That time, she was smiling when she came out at the top. But this time, she looked a bit like this:

see more Lolcats and funny pictures, and check out our Socially Awkward Penguin lolz!

In the end, her time was 18:42, which is not bad at all. But she did say that it was the hardest thing she’s ever done, and I can’t disagree with that.


I broke the curse!

Filed under: — stan @ 6:52 pm

Today was yet another practice climb at the Aon building in downtown L.A. So far this season, I’ve been consistently going slower every time I do it. So today was my chance to turn things around.

There was a good crowd there to do the climb today. I let a few people start out ahead, just so I’d have some people to catch and pass on the way up. My plan this time was to make the first big mechanical floor by the three-minute mark, the second one around seven minutes, aiming to be at the 60th floor in less than 10 1/2 minutes. I set my metronome on 76 for this attempt.

I got to 20 and the first mechanical floor at about 2 1/2 minutes. The second one was just under 7. By then, I’d passed everyone who started in front of me. And this was now the hardest part of the climb. I find it very hard to keep going when I reach the 45th floor or so. But this time, I just kept thinking,

“It won’t hurt less if I slow down.”

My experience is that slowing down doesn’t make it hurt less. The only thing that does is to stop and rest, and I’m too competitive to do that.

Today I noticed one other milestone that I filed away for future reference. The stairs in the Aon building are all just bare concrete, but starting at the 58th floor, the landings have linoleum on them. So that’s a good landmark to indicate that The End is Near. Landmarks like that are good to have, since I try very hard to not look at the floor numbers. They just go by entirely too slowly.

When I stumbled out on the 60th floor, I stopped my watch and saw that I’d made it up in 10:23. I was quite happy about that, since that was faster than last time, and it was also three seconds faster than my previous best practice time, and five seconds faster than my best from last year.

Back at the bottom, I spent a few minutes talking with Vanessa from the Lung Association. This is her first year organizing this event, and I think she’s doing a very good job so far.

On the train back to Pasadena, I had the usual Climber’s Cough. I wanted to tell everyone on the train, “Don’t you want <koff koff> to take up competitive stair climbing <koff> so you can be healthy <koff koff> like me?”

Good times…


Well, at least I’m consistent…

Filed under: — stan @ 5:33 pm

Today was another practice climb up the Aon building in downtown Los Angeles. This is the fourth practice this spring. This time, I dialed the pace down a bit on my metronome. I’d been running it at 80 and failing to keep up. So this time I set it for 76.

There was a pretty good turnout for the practice today. I got there late, so I was by myself at the start. Last time, I paid attention and figured out that the two big un-numbered mechanical floors are right around 22 and 44, which is right around the 1/3 and 2/3 marks of the building. These make good landmarks.

I got to the 1/3 mark all right. But just a little bit before the 2/3 mark, I was nearly overcome by a wave of “OMG what the hell was I thinking when I signed up for this,” And that sort of thing makes it hard to push through the pain barrier. Of course, the funny thing is, it still hurts just as much if you slow down.

Somehow, I managed to keep moving, and I made it to the top in 10;42. That’s two seconds slower than last time. Last time was, in turn, eight seconds slower than the time before, which was six seconds slower than the first time.

So each time, I’m going just a little bit slower than the last. At least I’m consistent.


Viva La Staircase

Filed under: — stan @ 11:39 pm

This past weekend was the “Scale the Strat” stair climb up the Stratosphere Tower in Las Vegas. I did this last year, and it was a fun little adventure. To add some extra interest this time, Kathleen decided to try doing it, too.

We headed out on Friday afternoon and got checked in at the Stratosphere. When Saturday morning came, we were ready. We got our numbers and got ready to go. There had been some concern that they weren’t going to let me use my metronome on the climb, since they said that they were not allowing cameras, mp3 players and other such things on the climb. But I found the tower operations manager and showed her my metronome. She said that as long as it was attached to me and not hand-held, and it didn’t obstruct my hearing, that it was all right. So I was good to go.

There were a lot more people doing the climb this year, and they had start times scheduled every 40 seconds from 11:00AM all the way to almost 2:00PM. I don’t know how they arrived at the order, but they had Kathleen going at 11:20, and I wasn’t scheduled to go until 1:24. So I got to see her off and then watched her progress on the monitor. They had cameras at the start and the finish, and also at about the 1/3 and 2/3 marks. I could tell that she was slowing down toward the top, but she kept going and made it up in 29:17, which is not bad for essentially no training at all.

When it was my turn to go, I turned on my metronome, which I set at 80 in a fit of optimism. And it was time to go. I’d read a paper about the fire safety design of the tower, and so I knew that there were enlarged landings at the 1/3 and 2/3 marks going up the tower core. This was useful, since they made for good landmarks. 1/3 of the tower is about the equivalent of 17-18 stories of a regular building, so the thirds made for manageable chunks of climbing.

About halfway up, I scraped my foot on the edge of one of the steps. I didn’t think anything of it, but when I was about halfway up that flight, I looked down and saw that the timing chip had fallen off my shoe. I looked back and saw it lying on the last landing. So I quickly ran back and picked it up. I carried it for a while before I figured out I could stuff it under my watch band. That set me back by at least 10 seconds, and possibly a bit more, but I managed to keep going and keep my pace. At the top I made a point to reach down and put my hand near the mat to be sure it would pick up the chip ID. Then I stumbled through the doorway and got down on the floor. I talked to the people running the computer to be sure they’d picked up my chip ID before I hauled myself out to a chair to sit down.

My time was 11:20, which turned out to be good for 28th out of 234 finishers, and it was also 15 seconds faster than my time from last year. So that was good, although I still wish I hadn’t had the chip-falling-off problem. Anyway, I made it into the top 50, so I qualified for the finals on Sunday.

On Sunday morning, I got ready to do it again. This time, I set the metronome on 76 in hopes that I’d be able to keep up with it better. My calculations said that that pace would still get me a good time if I could maintain it. I remembered this time to start my stopwatch at the beginning. My plan was do make the 1/3 mark by 3 minutes, the 2/3 mark at 6, and the top of the tower core at 9. Then the last 6 or so floors up to the observation deck would take whatever they took. But I’d figured out that the tower core climb is just about 725 feet, which is almost exactly the same height as the Wilshire-Figueroa building that I climbed in 8:42 last December. So I thought that this was a reasonable goal. Sadly, this was not to be. I made it to the 2/3 mark on schedule, but then my legs turned to lead and I kind of fell apart. I managed to keep moving, but it was a real struggle the rest of the way. In the end, I got to the top in 11:23, which is still faster than I went last year, but it wasn’t as fast as I know I’m capable of going.

So in the end, I was 3rd in my age group, just like last year. I can’t complain too much about that. All in all, it was a good adventure.


An experiment

Filed under: — stan @ 6:33 pm

Today was another practice climb at the Aon building in downtown L.A. This coming weekend is the Stratosphere Tower stair climb, and I wanted to try a small experiment. The Stratosphere people are, for some unknown reason, picky about letting people bring any sort of electronic devices with them on the climb. Now I can understand why they might not want people carrying cameras and such that they could drop, but they said I can’t bring my metronome. That’s how I keep track of my pace, so I needed to find another way to do it. So I set the timer on my watch for 11 seconds and did the practice climb with that going. The idea was that I would hear the little beep presumably at about the same point on the stairs between each floor. And this worked out all right. The only times it got thrown off were at the big floors at 22 and 44, where they have the elevator motors and other mechanical equipment. Those floors are about two or three times the height of the other floors. But still, the timer worked well, so that’s going to be my plan for this weekend. I know already that they don’t have a problem with watches, since I wore mine for the climb last year.

The bad news was that the practice climb took us 10:40, which is a bit slower than last time. This is troubling. I’ve done three practice climbs, and each has been slower than the last. Something about that just don’t seem right.

Still, it was a good time. Now I’m ready for the weekend.


A veritable walk in the park

Filed under: — stan @ 10:16 pm

As part of our weekend in San Diego, I managed to convince both Lucinda and Kathleen to try a stair climb. The Lung Association had one there at the Omni Hotel downtown. It was a short one – only 31 stories. And as I always say, “How hard could it be?”

We went down there on Sunday morning and got our numbers. Then we wandered around a bit before we found the starting line, which was a the back door outside behind the hotel’s main entrance. There was a group of firemen in full gear getting ready to go. They let me go ahead of them, although a few had already started up. I went first, and Lucinda and Kathleen started just after me.

I caught and passed the firemen about halfway up. I also passed a couple of other people. I’d set my metronome on 90. I figured I needed to crank the pace up, since the race was so short.

I thought that the finish line was on 32, so I’d planned on starting my final sprint to the finish at the landing just above 30. But then it turned out that the finish was on 31, so I only got in a short burst at the end before I came out at the top. I took in the view for a couple of minutes before Lucinda and Kathleen got there. They both said that it wasn’t as hard as they’d expected.

After that, we all went back down to the bottom to see the results. My time was 4:03, which was all right, but not spectacular. For a long time, I was in second place in the 50-59 group, but then two guys in the last group to climb beat my time and pushed me down to 4th. So no medal for me this time. But Lucinda got one. Her time was 7:13, and that was good for 3rd place in the 10-19 age group.

Overall, it was a fun time.

Results are here:


Practice makes pain

Filed under: — stan @ 10:02 pm

Today was the second practice climb at the Aon building in downtown Los Angeles. Erik and I headed down there at lunchtime with hopes of trimming some seconds off our time from last Tuesday.

I set my metronome on 80 again, in hopes of being able to maybe keep up with it better this time. But for some reason, I’m having a hard time getting into the right mental space to deal with the pain of stair climbing. When I got to about the 30th floor, I felt like I was gonna die. Erik had started about 10 seconds behind me and he caught up with me around the 40th floor. We stayed together the rest of the way to 60, but I was really struggling.

When we got to the top, I adopted my usual curled-up-panting-on-the-floor posture for a bit. Then we took in the view and talked with some other people who were climbing the stairs too. They were people who worked in the building, and they were not signed up for the race.

In the end, I had 10:32, which is 6 seconds slower than last week. But since Erik started behind me, that means at least he made our goal of doing a better time than last time.

Regardless, it was a good lunchtime adventure.

When we went back to the car, I noticed the building across from where we parked.

Argue Pearson Harbison & Myers

There’s a lawyer named Mr Argue? Talk about destiny…


Here we go again…

Filed under: — stan @ 6:08 pm

Today was the first practice climb for the American Lung Association stair climb up the Aon tower in downtown Los Angeles. I did this race last year, and also the year before. The 2009 event was my first stair climbing race ever. So, like last year, I’m making a point to do the practice climbs. There’s nothing quite like the real thing.

Erik and I went downtown at lunchtime to do this. The practice climb is from the 4th floor to the 60th. This is just about 90% of the full climb. This was my first big stair climb since last December’s race at the Wilshire-Figueroa building. At that climb, I set my metronome at 80 and that pace worked well, so I used the same setting today.

It’s amazing how the memory of how much it hurts fades. But after climbing 25-30 floors, the memory came back. Yow. This is still the single most painful athletic thing I’ve ever done. By the halfway point, I was having trouble keeping up with the metronome. But my new method for doing the turns was working well. I managed to avoid a lot of wasted steps on the landings between flights. I’ve also taken to wearing my bike riding gloves and using the handrails more. And in the end, I made it to the top in 10:26, which is two seconds faster than my best practice run from last year. So I have hope of being able to improve on that in the next two months.

There is another practice climb next week on Thursday. Then the following weekend is the ALA stair climb in San Diego. That one’s short – only 31 stories. Lucinda and Kathleen are going to try it, so it should be a fun little outing. Then in March, I’ve got a trip to Las Vegas for the Stratosphere Tower climb. Then more practice before the Los Angeles event on April 30th. So it’s going to be a busy springtime of endless stair climbing.

As always, there’s a LOLcat for every occasion:


Up we go, into the dusty stairwell

Filed under: — stan @ 3:19 pm

Today was the first Cystic Fibrosis Foundation stair climb in Los Angeles. The venue was the Figueroa at Wilshire building. The climb was from the exit door on the side facing 6th St up to the 51st floor. They said that’s 49 floors and something like 1274 steps.

I’d done the practice climb there a couple weeks ago, so I had an idea what to expect. I had been a bit disappointed in my performance at the Willis Tower climb and also at the U.S. Bank Tower. Both those times I’d felt that I really hadn’t been mentally able to really give it all, and I didn’t make my goals. So today was the time to do it right.

In the practice climb, I’d done it in 9:32. That was all right, but I really thought I should do better. At the Aon climb last April, I did 11:42. Scaling for the different heights of the buildings, if I did the same pace here as at Aon, I’d get to the top in 9 minutes. So my goal for the day was to do 9 minutes or less. I recently worked out what I think is a more efficient way of doing the turns on the landings, so I wanted to try that out.

They had us line up with the competitive stair climbers in front. That basically meant Mark and his West Coast Labels group. I got in line towards the rear of the group, since I knew that most of them would be faster than me. I set my metronome at 80 and off I went.

As always, by about the 20th floor, I was hurting. But that’s normal. And I found that the necessary concentration to remember how to do the turns was a useful distraction. I just kept time with the metronome and tried not to look at the floor numbers. I didn’t pass anyone, and I was only passed by one other guy.

When I finally looked up at the floor numbers, I was at 40. And I thought, “Crap! I don’t feel all that bad. I could have gone faster!” But I kept to my pace until 45, and then I made a sprint for the finish.

My time was 8:42, which I was quite pleased with. In retrospect, I maybe could have gone a bit faster, but the pace was good, and I’m going to use that same setting next time I do the Aon building. And my time was good for second place in the 50-59 group, which is not bad. Mark was the only guy my age who went faster, and he’s very, very good at this. I feel no shame being beaten by him.

Overall, it was a very fun time. The CFF people did a good job organizing and running the event. Now I’m looking forward to the Stratosphere and Aon climbs next spring. Onward and upward.

Addendum: I did some quick math, and my power output for this climb works out to 288W, or 0.39 horsepower. This is my highest power output to date in these climbs.

Addendum 12/9/2010 – They posted the official results, and I’m 11th overall, 7th in men, and 2nd in 50-59. Results are here.


Any questions?

Filed under: — stan @ 9:15 am

Here are the two official pictures from the Sears Willis Tower stair climb. The first is right at the start. I’ve got my metronome set for my pace, and I’m feeling strong and fresh.

The second is at the top, 102 stories later. At that point, it was a struggle just to keep moving. The funny part is that, judging by the shadows in the second picture, the photographer was using a flash. Yet I have no memory of his being there, or of seeing the flash. As I said, it was miracle enough that I was still upright and moving at that point.

Any questions?

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