Stan’s Obligatory Blog

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Bright light city gonna save my soul, gonna set my lungs on fire

Filed under: — stan @ 10:13 pm

This past weekend was a grand adventure. Last fall, when I did the “Stair Climb to the Top” at the U.S. Bank tower in downtown Los Angeles, a woman I talked to there told me about the stair climb up the Stratosphere tower in Las Vegas. I looked it up, and it looked like fun. The climb was on Saturday, March 13. And as an added bonus, if I could make the cut and be in the top 50 climbers, I could do it a second time on Sunday in the ‘run-off’ to determine the winner. And besides, it seemed like a good excuse for a weekend in Las Vegas.

Kathleen and I drove out there on Friday afternoon. The trip was pretty uneventful, and we got there just after dark. I was pleased to see that the middle-age-mobile averaged over 30 miles per gallon for the trip. After checking in to the hotel, we took a walk to go find some cheap prime rib, since that’s one of the things Las Vegas is known for. We got a good nighttime view of the tower, and I took a moment to contemplate it a bit. And after dinner, we rode the elevator up to the observation deck to see the view. When we were up there, we asked the security guard where the stairs were, and he showed us the door and the top of the staircase. It looked simple enough. How hard could it be?

Saturday morning, I got dressed in my running gear and got ready to climb. The starting order was pretty random. They said it was just the order that we’d signed up in, so I knew I’d be able to catch and pass at least a couple people on the way up. When we lined up, they gave us a small lecture about the tower stairs. The staircase goes up the central core of the tower. it follows the side of the elevator shafts, so it’s in a roughly triangular space. There are landings on each end of the base of the triangle, and the staircases go back and forth across the space. One way, the staircase is attached to the wall. The other way, it goes directly across the space, about 6-8 feet away from the wall. So that leg is about a 20-step staircase that is just anchored at the ends, and there’s nothing on either side of the railing. This is known to give some people the willies.

When I started climbing, I saw immediately what they were talking about. And yes, it gave me a slight case of the willies. So when I was on those staircases, I just focused on the middle of the stair about three steps ahead and just blocked out the fact that on my right side there was a 300-foot drop. This went on for the majority of the climb. Probably on the order of about 600 vertical feet. I’d been practicing my pacing on the stairs at the library at Caltech, and I set my watch to beep every second to act like a metronome so I could maintain a steady pace. And I managed to do that all the way up. At the top of the tower core, the stairs entered the ‘pod’, which is the round space at the top where they have the bar, restaurant and observation deck. From there it was just a normal staircase for about eight floors up to the observation deck. The stairs let us out into a hallway where they gave us each a towel and a bottle of water. When I got there, I just flopped down on a chair and gasped like a fish out of water. Yow.

As always, I had the “Climber’s Cough” at the top. And everyone else did, too. It was easy to tell who had just finished the climb, because we were all hacking up phlegm. Apparently, this is a known phenomenon caused by high blood pressure in the lungs from the exertion of climbing.

After catching my breath, I had a look at the results that they were tallying on a large monitor. I was pleased to see my time was 11:35.96. I’d hoped to do about 12 minutes, so this was a pleasant surprise. And at the end of the day, it was good for 23rd place overall. This meant that I’d made the cut and could climb in the finals on Sunday.

We spent the rest of Saturday doing Las Vegas-y things. It was good fun.

On Sunday morning, I got dressed again and ready to climb. This time, the starting order was the same as our rank from Saturday. Between that and the fact that they sent us off at one-minute intervals pretty much guaranteed that nobody was going to be passing anyone else today. This meant that it was going to be a solitary climb. Just me against the stairs. Before starting out, I did a little warmup by walking up on the down escalator. Sort of like a stair treadmill. Again, I set my watch to maintain pace, and again I was able to maintain the pace all the way up. For some reason, it hurt a whole lot more the second time. Go figure. But I managed to shave a second and half off my time to finish at 11:34.50, which was good for 26th overall, and 3rd in the 50-59 age group.

I did the math, and my power output for the climb works out to about 0.35 horsepower for the 11.5 minutes it took to get to the top. I’m pretty happy with that for being 50 years old.

So now it’s onward and upward to the AON tower climb next month. And this one is also for charity, so if you can, please stop by and make a donation, however small, to the American Lung Association.


Time for another new adventure

Filed under: — stan @ 1:22 pm

I signed up for the ‘Scale the Strat‘ stair climb up the Stratosphere Tower in Las Vegas. When I did the U.S. Bank tower stair climb last fall, some of the other climbers told me about the Las Vegas event. They said it was fun, and I think it looks like it will be.

It’s a two-part event this time. The first round is on Saturday, with a ‘climb-off’ for the top 50 runners on Sunday. I was in the top 10% at both the U.S. Bank and the Aon Center stair climbs, so I think I have a decent chance of making the cut.

As always, it’s a fundraiser for the Lung Association. It’s a good cause, so if you can, please stop by and make a small donation to them. The page for that is here



A Man Called 1/3 Horse

Filed under: — stan @ 6:46 am

I was curious, so I did a bit of math. Climbing the U.S. Bank Tower required lifting my body weight 1,018 feet in 15 minutes and 7 seconds.

162 lb = 73.6 kg
1018 feet = 310 meters
73.6 kg x 9.8 m/s**2 x 310 m = 2.24 x 10**5 joules
15 min + 7 sec = 907 sec
2.24 x 10**5 joules / 907 sec = 247 watts
247 watts = 0.331 horsepower

That’s just the power to lift my body weight, and I’m neglecting the energy that went into running on the stairs, passing people, and panting like a dog. So my actual power output was a little bit higher.

I think that’s pretty good for being nearly 50 years old.



Filed under: — stan @ 9:55 pm

This afternoon was the YMCA Stair Climb to the Top up the U.S. Bank Tower in downtown Los Angeles. I’ve heard about this for years, and I’d always wanted to try it. So now was the time. Unlike the AON Tower stair climb last April, this one was held on Friday afternoon. This meant that riding my bike there was not really an option, since it was going to be dark by the time I went home. Friday traffic is the stuff of nightmares here, so I rode the train. The Pershing Square Metro station had some nice neon art in it. And of course, I took the stairs both in and out of the subway. Never too early to start warming up.

I walked over to the Ketchum Downtown YMCA and registered. Then I went into the locker room and changed. The YMCA is up on Bunker Hill, while the entrance to the building is down on 5th St. So I walked down the Bunker Hill Steps to get to the starting line. At the time, they were running the “Highrise Heroes” division, which is to say, firefighters in full gear. I rather doubt any of them turned in great times, but just the fact that they were able to make it to the top carrying all that stuff was impressive.

After the last firefighters had gone, they ran the individual age groups, starting with the 10-14 and 15-17 groups, and then working down from 60+. When they called the 40-49 men to the line, I got in line about 3/4 of the way back. I figured that would give me more guys to catch and pass. That’s how I get motivated in these things. I just focus on catching the guy in front of me. It’s sort of like that old joke about the bear: “I just have to outrun you.

When it was my turn, I started up the stairs, doing two steps at a time. Back in April, I managed to maintain that pace for 32 floors. This time, I did nearly the entire thing two steps at a time. A few times, I dropped back to single steps to try and catch my breath. Which turned out to be fool’s errand, as you can see from the picture. That was taken about floor 50 or so. I was very deep in oxygen debt from the start.

At the top, I ran out of the stairwell onto the roof. Once I’d passed the timing pad, they gave me a bottle of water and a little medal to say that I’d made it. Then I immediately sat down and proceeded to pant like a dog. After about five minutes, the pain subsided, and I figured out how to hold the camera steady enough for a nice souvenir photo from the roof with the sunset over Hollywood in the background. Then I headed back down the other stairs to the 69th floor elevator lobby. We had to ride down to 54 and then get the express elevator back to the lobby.

The elevator let us out in the lobby on 5th St. Which meant that we had to go back up the Bunker Hill Steps to get to the YMCA, where they had food, drinks, and race results. Bein’ a badass, I ran up the steps. Wow, did that hurt. I went into the locker room and changed back to my street clothes. Then I went to the little beer garden they had set up. They gave every finisher a ticket for a free beer. By then, I was hacking up phlegm at a furious rate. I talked to a woman who had won the 60+ division, and she said that that’s referred to as “Climber’s Cough”, and it’s a known phenomenon. In other words, it’s a Feature. She also told me about how there’s apparently a circuit of these stair climbs around the country. The one up the Stratosphere in Las Vegas sounds like a hoot. I don’t know if I’d be up for more traveling than that. Maybe San Francisco for the Bank of America building.

When they posted the results, I was pleased to see that I’d come in at 15:07, which was good for 7th place in the 40-49 division. I’d guessed that I’d be around 15 minutes. That time would have been good for 6th in the 50-59 division, and 5th place in 30-39. Apparently, us old guys are tough.

Since I wasn’t in the top three, there was not going to be a medal in my evening this year. So I headed back to the subway to go home. I still took the stairs, though.

It was a very fun adventure.

Update: The overall results are posted online now, and I was 28th out of 309 runners in the Open division. There were only five guys my age or older who went faster than I did. Results are here


The stair climb is coming up

Filed under: — stan @ 10:40 pm

The U.S. Bank Tower stair climb is coming up on Friday. And I’m still short of my fund-raising goal. So if you think this is an amusing thing, please stop by their site and make a donation to the YMCA. If not enough people donate, they’ll take a pound of flesh from me. And while that would make me lighter, I rather doubt that that will improve my time climbing the stairs. (OK, they won’t really do that. But they’ll charge my credit card for the difference.)


Onward and especially upward…

Filed under: — stan @ 6:57 am

I registered for the Los Angeles U.S. Bank Tower stair climb today. It’s on Friday, September 25th, and I’m hoping to make a decent showing there. When I did the AON tower stair climb back in April, I came in 24th out of 327 runners, and I’m hoping to improve on that this time. Given that my time for the 62-story AON tower was 12:50, I’m hoping to make the 73 stories of the U.S. Bank Tower in just a bit under 15 minutes. Based on the 2006 results I found online, this would put me at about 30th among the men and about 35th overall. Hey, I’m goal-oriented.

As with the other stair climb, it’s a fundraiser for charity, and I have to solicit donations to make my fundraising goal. In this case, the donations go the Ketchum Downtown YMCA, which I think is a good cause. I used to go training classes there back in the ’80s when I was an aerobics instructor. So this is my way of asking all my friends to consider making a small online donation.

I will be taking my camera along again, and I’m going to get some pictures from the roof of the building, and also probably an ‘action shot’ or two on the way up. Just so you can see how hard I’m running to get a good time.

And as always, there’s a LOLcat for every occasion:


Oh, yes….

Filed under: — stan @ 10:14 pm

I saw today that the Ketchum YMCA in downtown Los Angeles has the registration page up for their annual stair climb up the U.S. Bank tower. This is the tallest building in Los Angeles, tallest west of the Mississippi, and the 9th tallest in the U.S. 1,018 feet tall, 75 stories, 1,500 steps to the top. So you know that I have to try it. After all, I did the AON Tower stair climb back in April, and that was a good time. And I finished 24th out of 327 runners, which I think is pretty good for a first-timer.

I know that this will entail tremendous pain, and it should also be great fun. As they say on the event page, “Elevators are for Wimps”.

Sounds like a great time.


Hey! I can see my house from up here!

Filed under: — stan @ 5:41 pm

A few weeks ago, I signed up for the Climb California stair climb up the AON tower in downtown Los Angeles. And yes, it turned out to be an interesting adventure.

Since doing this meant missing my regular bike ride, I decided to ride my bike there. Besides, I figured that would give me a good warm-up for the stairs. The guy who organized our group lives right across the street from the tower, and he said I could leave my bike at his place while we were climbing.

When I got downtown, I heard a savage yell, and I saw what looked like a group of Vikings in front of an ATM. They were being filmed for something or other. It almost never says what they’re filming.

When I got to Dan’s place, I changed while we waited for the rest of our group to arrive. Then we took a picture before starting out. Notice how we’re all smiling and ready. Then we headed across the street and took our places in line to start. When they said “go”, I just sort of trotted in the door and starting climbing the stairs. The actual flights were very short. Only about 8-10 steps each before a turn. I took the first 32 floors two steps at a time. But after that, I had to slow down a bit and go to single steps. Running up stairs is a lot like bike riding up hills, and it brought out my competitive side in the same way. I passed lots of people on the way up. Each time, after passing someone, I just focused on catching and passing the next person in front of me. Nobody passed me.

I took my picture Myspace-style at about floor 43. At that point, I could really ‘feel the burn’, and it was pretty grim, as you can see in the picture.

When I went around the last turn and saw sunlight in the stairwell, I knew I was there. I sprinted up the last flight and up onto the roof. Then I stopped and just stood there panting in the bright sunlight. After I stopped panting, I got my picture taken with Hollywood in the background.

Looking around at the commanding view from the roof, I said, “Hey! I can see my house from up here!

After all five of us made it to the top, we took an ‘after’ picture and then headed down the stairs to the 60th floor. This was a big open unfinished space. They had water and cut-up oranges. We just wandered around and looked at the views out the windows. Then we got in the elevator and rode back down to the ground.

When we got down, they were already posting the results. I was pleasantly stunned that my time of 12:50.49 was good for 23rd overall, and 20th among men. There were only four men my age or older ahead of me. I was very pleased. Especially since I’d prepared last night by sharing two bottles of wine with a friend and staying up until 2:00 so I looked and felt my best. I guess all that bike riding really is good exercise after all.

Afterward, we headed back across the street to Dan’s place. I had some chips and salsa before mounting up my bike for the ride home. My legs felt a little tired, but it wasn’t bad at all. So overall, I give this adventure an “A”.

29 miles by bike, 62 stories by stairs.

Update 4/20/2009: I found the final results online, and it looks like one later climber beat my time. D’oh! So I was actually 24th overall out of 327 finishers. I was 21st among the men, and 7th in the men’s 40-49 group. Still, I don’t think that’s half bad.

Full results are here:


I think this will be an interesting adventure

Filed under: — stan @ 6:26 am

downtown L.A.
I signed up for the Los Angeles Climb California stair climb. This is a timed run up the stairs of the AON Center in downtown Los Angeles. This is the second-tallest building in L.A. I’d have preferred to do the Library Tower, which is taller, but this one was available. Anyway, running up the stairs in a 62-story building just sounds like fun to me. I’m funny that way.

The only real reservation I have about this is that it’s a fundraiser for the American Lung Association. While that’s appropriate in that without functioning lungs doing the climb would be extraordinarily difficult, it’s one of those things where they want everyone doing it to bug everyone they know to make a donation. And I just don’t like doing that. So this is a problem.

Sheesh. All I wanted was to do something silly and stand on the roof of a really big building for a few minutes. So if you want to make a donation in my name, the page is here.

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