Stan’s Obligatory Blog

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Nowhere to go but up…

Filed under: — stan @ 6:25 pm

Time for yet another stair climb. This time, it’s a ’short’ one. 50-something stories up the Figueroa at Wilshire building in downtown Los Angeles.

I did a practice climb up this building last week. It was all right. About like the Wells Fargo building that we practiced in before the U.S. Bank Tower climb in September.

There was an article I read recently that describe competitive stair climbing as ‘masochism in perhaps its purest form’. This is somewhat appropriate here, since this climb is a fund-raiser for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. And my old friend Bob “Supermasochist” Flanagan (nota bene: His story is somewhat NSFW) lived 43 years with the pain of CF.

So if you can, please make a donation to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. It’s a good cause.


It’s 103 stories above Chicago…

Filed under: — stan @ 4:15 pm

..we’ve got a CTA subway pass, half a granola bar, it’s freezing cold and we’re wearing shorts.

Hit it

So today was the big adventure. The stair climb up the Sears Willis Tower in Chicago. All the way up to the Skydeck on the 103rd floor.

I got up very early to be able to make it there for the 7:00AM start. There wasn’t a lot of time to think about what was about to happen. But when I thought about it, I felt like this:

Wile E Coyote

I got in line at the back of the ‘Elite’ group. I knew there was no chance I’d be able to keep up with them, so I just didn’t want to be in anyone’s way. When it was my turn, I turned on my metronome and trotted into the stairwell.

The first thing I noticed was that the steps there were taller than other buildings I’ve climbed. The stairs at Millikan Library where I practice are 6.4 inches. Most skyscrapers have steps that are about 7.7 inches. These felt like they were over 8*. By the time I got to about 30, I knew that my pace was set too high, and I was burning out. I adjusted it down some, but there was no easy way to do this.

Along the way, I was passed by two other runners. This was a first. I’ve never been passed before. But by that time, I was happy just to still be moving, so I didn’t worry too much about how fast I was going.

When I got to 75, I was hit with the realization that this was as high as I’d ever climbed before. And there were still 28 floors to go. By then, it was a struggle for survival just to keep moving. Somehow I managed to keep going up. When I got to 100, I perked up a bit, since the end was in sight. I managed to do the last three floors at a decent pace and somehow stumbled across the finish line. There was a photographer taking pictures on the last flight up, and I have no memory of seeing him there. After I got across the line, they handed me my finisher’s medal and a bottle of water, and I curled up on the floor for a few minutes to work on paying down my oxygen debt.

At the top, Randy and I took a few minutes to look at the view and to go and stand in the little glass booths that stick out the side of the building. Then we went back down. They had some results available already. This time, I’d remembered to start my stopwatch at the start, so I had an idea of my time. I’d been hoping to do about 20 minutes, but that was not to be. The computer gave my time as 22:49, which was about what I was expecting from what my watch said. Still, that was good enough to be in the top 10%, which is not too bad for bein’ 51 and all. But now I have the goal of improving on that next year.

It was a fun little adventure, albeit in a kind of weird way. It’s hard to describe something so incredibly painful as being ‘fun’. But it was.

* They say it’s 1,353 feet from the lobby to the skydeck, and 2,109 steps. That works out to 7.7 inches per step, but these steps felt taller than the ones I practiced on last Tuesday.


You can’t hire someone to practice for you

Filed under: — stan @ 10:01 pm

Today was the first practice climb for the Cystic Fibrosis stair climb in December. Coincidentally, it’s also just a few days before the Sears -er- Willis Tower climb on Sunday. Since practice is generally a good thing, I made a point to go.

The building is the Wilshire-Figueroa building in downtown L.A. It’s ‘only’ 51 stories. A veritable walk in the park by comparison. But still enough to hurt. I’ve been practicing at Millikan Library at Caltech, so I was looking forward to doing 50 stories in one stretch, instead of having to stop and take the elevator back down after every 10 stories. I’d also figured out what I think is a more efficient way to do the turns, and I wanted to try it out today.

The stairs are pretty standard-issue steel stairs. The steps averaged about 7.5 inches, which is pretty normal for these buildings. There are railings on both sides most of the way. It averaged 22 steps between floors. 11 steps, a landing, and then 11 steps up to the next floor. There was one short corridor at the 21st floor. Otherwise, it was just one continuous staircase all the way up. Doing a bit of math gives a total of something like 1150 steps for the whole climb. We finished on the 51st floor. I don’t know yet if the actual race will go to the roof.

I set my metronome at 75, which is a bit slower than I’ve been doing. I thought that the more efficient turning method would make up for the slower pace, and it did. My goal was to get up in about 9 1/2 minutes, and I made it in 9:32. So I think the new method is working. It would have worked better if there had been an even number of steps between floors, but it still saved me quite a few steps along the way.

So it was a good time, and good practice for this weekend’s adventure.


Four weeks to go…

Filed under: — stan @ 7:14 am
Photo by Tom Henneman

Four weeks from today I’m going to be in Chicago to try my legs on the stairs at the Willis Tower. As I’m fond of saying, “103 stories – How hard could it be?”

Of course, since I’ve done a number of big stair climbs before, I know the answer to that. Competitive stair climbing is easily the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Harder than any bike race I ever did. There’s really nothing else that compares for the sheer intensity of effort.

That said, I’m hoping to turn in a time right around 20 minutes, just based on my times for other climbs. So we’ll just see how that works out. I’ve started practicing again on the stairs at Millikan Library at Caltech. It’s only 10 stories, but it’s the biggest thing I have easy access to. I’ve been doing it six times in each session, and I’m going to work up to ten times, since that’s approximately the same climb as the Willis Tower.

The event is a charity benefit, so if you can, please make a small donation in my name to the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago.


Good news, and bad news

Filed under: — stan @ 11:41 pm

This evening was the long-awaited “Stair Climb to the Top” at the U.S. Bank Tower in downtown Los Angeles.

I went into this event with the goal of cutting a minute off my time from last year and finishing the climb in under 14 minutes. Ambitious, yes. But I cut more than a minute off my previous year’s time at the Aon Tower climb back in April. So I thought it was within reach. And after the practice sessions at the Wells Fargo building, I thought I was on track for 14, or even maybe 13:45.

Sadly, this was not to be.

They had nearly twice as many people doing the climb this year. And the schedule slipped somewhat, so it was nearly dark by the time they started the individual categories. When they called us to the line, I tried to get near the front of the group. As much as I like passing people for the psychological boost, I’ve found that that slows me down quite a bit. I figured I was good for third place or so in my age group, so I wanted as few guys in front of me as possible. As it turned out, I passed a bunch of people, including all the 60-69 women who had started before us. There were a couple of times where I kind of got stuck behind groups of people and had to sort of elbow through to get by. When I got to the top, I passed by the people with the finishing medals and bottles of water and crawled under a table and curled up for a few minutes to catch my breath.

After a few minutes, my friend Susan got to the top. She had her camera with her, so we took a few pictures before they hustled us down off the roof to make room. We rode back down to the ground to join the party on the street outside the building. They had a cake in the shape of the building. We went to the little beer garden and waited for them to post the results.

In the end, my time was 14:34. That was the bad news. On the other hand, this was still 30 seconds faster than last year, and only three guys older than me went faster. That was good. Then my training partner Erik beat me by a full minute. That was bad. But I finished on a high note when I found out that I’d placed second in the 50-59 age group. There’s nothing like a little podium time to brighten up one’s evening.

Results are here:


9 1/2 Minutes

Filed under: — stan @ 9:20 pm

Today was another practice session for the U.S. Bank Tower stair climb. It was another experiment. The last time, I dialed my pace down a little bit to see if I would be better able to keep up with it near the top. That time, I did 9:46, but that was with passing a lot of people, which slowed me down. This time, I made sure to start near the front of the group, so there were not very many people in front of me. I only had to pass a few, and so my pace didn’t get thrown off as much. And even with the same metronome setting, I came in at 9:30 this time. This is good. Based on this, I believe I have a very good shot at going under 14 minutes on Friday at the U.S. Bank Tower.

And yes, it did hurt. But that’s all right.


More adventures in the stairwell

Filed under: — stan @ 10:42 pm

Today was the fourth practice session at the 55-story Wells Fargo building in downtown Los Angeles. This time I’d decided to try another experiment. The last time, I’d dialed my pace up a bit to see what would happen. I did a good time, but it was a real struggle to keep up with the metronome the last 15 floors. So I wanted to see if I could dial the pace down a bit and still do a good time if I set it to something I could better keep up with.

This time there was a big crowd of people there to do the stairs. I waited until near the end to go. Partly because I find it psychologically gratifying to pass people, and partly because Mark was there. Mark is very, very good at this. And I wanted to be sure to go after him, since he was the one person there who I knew would pass me if I started first. So when I went, there were a lot of people ahead of me. I passed a lot of them, but I know that that slowed me down, since I had to take the long way around them on the landings, and that added a few seconds for each group I passed.

In the end, I did 9:46, which is a bit slower than last time, but I think that if I hadn’t had to pass so many people, I would have done closer to 9:30, which was my goal for the evening. As always, I looked and sounded like I was about to die by the time I got to the top. But that’s all right. After all, if you don’t sound like you’re going to die, it means you’re not going fast enough. So overall, it was a good outing.

One more practice next Monday, and then the event is next Friday.

And I’m still in need of some sponsors to make my fundraising minimum for the YMCA, so if you can, please stop by and make a small tax-deductible donation to them. It’s a good cause.


More stairs…

Filed under: — stan @ 11:10 pm

This evening was another practice session at the Wells Fargo building in downtown Los Angeles. My goal for this time was to do it in 9:09, just to see if I could generate 0.40 horsepower of usable energy. As it turned out, this did not happen.

But I did shave 5 seconds off my time from last week, so that’s a Good Thing. I made it up in 9:28, and I’m quite happy about that.

I’d decided that I was going to do it twice tonight, just because the Wells Fargo building is almost exactly 1/2 the height of the Willis (formerly Sears) Tower in Chicago. I’m signed up to climb that one in November. So I thought it might be a useful exercise to try actually climbing that many steps. But it turned out to be something of a fool’s errand. Psychologically, I tend to be very goal-oriented. I go into things with a specific goal in mind, and I’ll work like hell to reach that goal. But once I’ve reached that goal, I feel like I’m done. And it’s really hard to get motivated for something new at that point. So my goal was to make it to the top faster than last week. I did that, and so I felt like I was done. But then I went and started up the stairs again. OMG. That hurt. It was hard. There’s no physical reason why it should have been so much harder the second time. But because I felt like I’d already done my thing for the night, it felt like the worst thing ever. I guess I have the mindset that I will do whatever it takes to make it to the top, but when I get there, I’m done. So my time the second time up was a full four minutes slower than the first time.

Still, it was a good outing, since I made my main goal of improving my time from last week.


Second attempt

Filed under: — stan @ 10:42 pm

Today was the second practice session at the Wells Fargo building. I did some math in preparation. My goal for the U.S. Bank Tower climb is to do 14 minutes or less.

170lb = 77kg

1018ft = 310m
77kg * 310m * 9.8 = 233,926J
14min = 840sec
233,926/840 = 278.5W

So that’s my target power output. The Wells Fargo building is 723ft tall, but the climb is just up to the last landing before the roof, so that’s about 10 feet below roof level.

713ft = 220m
77kg * 220m * 9.8 = 163,748J
163,748J / 278.5W = 588 sec = 9:48

So my goal for today was to go under 9:48. I’d done 9:52 last week, so this seemed within reach.

Erik and I headed downtown after work to try our legs on the stairs. There was a woman there who beat me by 3 seconds at the Aon climb last April, so I started out just a little bit behind her, hoping to keep pace. I set my metronome to the same pace as last week, hoping I’d be better able to keep up with it this time. And as usual, by the time I got to about the 30th floor, I was in Great Pain. But this is nothing to be alarmed at. It’s quite normal for these sorts of things. The pain just ramps up during the first 25-30 floors and then it just stays about the same the rest of the way. The trick is to push through it and keep going.

When I got to the top I had 9:33, which I was quite pleased with. The woman I’d talked to at the bottom was there already. She said she was disappointed in her time of 9:22. Well, at least that explained why I didn’t catch up to her. Still, my time works out to almost 291W, which is more than my goal, and I’m pleased with that.

When Erik got there, we went up on the roof and had a look at the view, including the U.S. Bank Tower down the street.

Next week I’m going to try doing it twice. The Wells Fargo building is almost exactly 1/2 the height of the Willis (formerly Sears) Tower in Chicago that I’m signed up to climb in November.

It was a fun time.


More practice…

Filed under: — stan @ 11:49 pm

Today was the first training session at the Wells Fargo building in downtown Los Angeles. It’s 55 stories, and that’s close enough to be a good simulation of the U.S. Bank Tower climb. I’ve been practicing with my metronome set just a little bit faster recently, so I wanted to see how that would go on a big climb.

As it turned out, it was as hard or harder than I’d anticipated. Near the end I was having trouble keeping up with the metronome. But it worked out all right. I’d calculated that I needed to to the 55 stories in 10:05 or less to be on track to do the U.S. Bank Tower in less than 14 minutes. And my time was 9:52. So things are good in my world. If I can maintain that pace, that would get me to the top in 13:30, which would be very good.

The next training session is next Wednesday, so I’m going to see if I can shave a few seconds off that time. Onward and upward.

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