Stan’s Obligatory Blog

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A stairway interlude

Filed under: — stan @ 10:42 am

The Grand Hyatt is probably the swankiest hotel we’ve stayed at. When we were checking in, they were telling us about the amenities, including that there was a gym on the 35th floor. So on Friday morning, I went to the gym. Three times. I didn’t use any of the equipment. I just climbed the stairs to get there. The hotel stairs were just regular steel stairs, 17 steps per floor in a 9/8 configuration. Hotels have shorter floors than office buildings, so my times were pretty fast, even though I wasn’t really trying to go especially fast. But I was still pretty sweaty, and it was nice that they had towels at the gym.

For future reference, stairway 2B was the best one to take to the gym. I had to enter the stairs on 3, and they skipped 13. Stay fit at Hyatt!


First time out for the new season

Filed under: — stan @ 9:05 pm

Stair practice started this week. It’s at 400 S. Hope St in downtown Los Angeles. That’s the building formerly known as Mellon Bank. Now is has a new name, and we’re in a different stairwell, so my old chart doesn’t quite apply. It’s still the same number of steps, but things are slightly different. It appears that the new ownership also renumbered the floors, since the building didn’t have a 13th floor before, and now it does. But it’s still 22 steps per floor, and from lobby to 2 is 49 steps. So that means that climbing to the 25th floor is in fact an honest 25 floors of climbing.

I climbed the building five times tonight. The first two, I went up to 25. The door to the elevators to go back down was on 20, so those times, I had to walk back down from 25 to 20 to get out. So after that, I figured I wanted to give my knees a break, so the next three times, I only went up to 20. I was pretty much just taking it easy, aiming for 12 seconds per floor, or five floors per minute. That’s my ‘brisk, but not punishing’ pace. Good for the first time out. The last time up, I was talking with some new-to-the-sport climbers, and I took some time to try and explain techniques for not wasting steps on the landings, and ways to balance the load between the legs. All in all, it was not bad for the first time out.


Towerthon – Addendum

Filed under: — stan @ 10:10 am

After my first time doing the Towerthon in 2012, I made up the stair chart for the building, and I used that to estimate how far I’d climbed that morning. And my estimate came out to be just a bit under one mile. And this is where I got the idea of doing the two-hour Vertical Mile.

This became a bit of an obsession for me the next year. I made a couple of attempts at practice sessions at the Aon building in downtown Los Angeles, and I finally managed to do it one evening.

Of course, in the end, the joke was on me. In that at the 2013 Towerthon, George had gone in and measured the steps at the building, and it turned out that they were about 3/8 inch taller than my original estimate. And that 3/8 inch multiplied by the 8,602 steps I’d climbed actually meant that I’d done the mile that first time. But because I’d thought I’d fallen just short, it became an all-consuming obsession.

Along the way, a few other people tried doing the Vertical Mile, and the idea sort of took on a life of its own. Even to the point where the 2013 Towerthon made up special shirts to be given to all finishers who managed to climb over a mile. And this year, they did that again. In this year’s building, 22 climbs made a mile. And my friend Leland managed to do it. This was his first time doing the Vertical Mile, and I was pleasantly surprised to see that apparently my name as become associated with the idea. So once again, I’m glad to have contributed something to this insane little sport of ours.


Towerthon 2014

Filed under: — stan @ 7:21 pm

Today was my third time doing the San Diego Towerthon. This is the race that’s not up a particularly tall building, but the race is to see how many times you can climb it in two hours. With all the problems I had over the winter with my back and not being able to walk, stair climbing hasn’t been my strongest suit this year. But now that the back issues are pretty much resolved, I wanted to try and make a decent showing.

The first time I did this race, I climbed 24 stories 17 times in two hours. The second time, I did 23 stories 17 times. This time, the race was held in a 20-story building, so the climb was an honest 19 floors. My friend George paid a visit to the building a while back to do a proper survey. It is 422 steps and about 240 feet to the 20th floor. I’m not in as good shape as I was before, so I set an arbitrary goal of climbing the 19 stories 20 times in the two hours. I figured I could do this if I could make about each climb in about 4 1/2 minutes.

We were sent off the line one by one, at 10 second intervals. I started at 2:20 on the clock. I started my stopwatch then, and I figured I’d just go until the watch ticked over two hours. The first couple times up were pretty easy. In fact, the whole first hour was pretty easy. I finished my 10th climb a few minutes before the hour, so I paused in the lobby to stop and gulp down about a pint of Gatorade. I’d been drinking water during each elevator ride down, so I actually felt pretty good.

The second hour got harder. You can see it in the last picture in the lobby. I was about to head up for the 19th time. That was a real slog. I just kept thinking of Dory – “Just keep swimming!” On the 20th time up, I got a little burst of energy at about the 16th floor. I was able to go fast the last four floors because I knew that once I got to the top I could STOP. In the end, I made my goal of 20 climbs with a couple minutes to spare. So it wasn’t a bad outing at all.

So I guess that means I’m not a total loss for this insane sport this year. I didn’t get a medal, but I still did reasonably well, coming in 21st out of 188 or so people, and 5th in my age group. And more importantly, only three people my age or older went faster than me. So I really can’t complain. Too much, anyway.

So onward, to the U.S. Bank climb in September.

Results are here


I can still see my house from up here

Filed under: — stan @ 4:42 pm

Today was time for the Los Angeles edition of the Lung Association’s Fight for Air Climb. 63 stories up the stairs at the Aon building downtown. This was the first stair climb I ever did, back in 2009. At the time, I had no idea what I was getting into, and certainly no idea I’d still be doing it five years later, or that I’d end up making an actual contribution to this insane little sport.

Since I’ve been having major back issues since November, I went into this with the idea that I wanted to have no expectations. And that was my intention. But since I’ve been doing a little bit of faster stair climbing in practice, I thought I’d maybe try for at least a little bit of speed. But when we got there, I realized that I’d forgotten to bring my watch. So even if I wanted to go for speed, there was no way to really do that without a watch. So that made it easy to go into this event with no expectations.

When we got there, Lisa was warming up in the lobby of the building, wearing an altitude-training mask. She said it’s supposed to restrict breathing just a bit to simulate the lower oxygen levels at high altitudes. Well, mostly, it made her look a bit like a Hannibal Lecter of the stairwell. Which I guess is a good thing.

When it was time to go, we all lined up, roughly in numeric order, and roughly in the order we thought we’d finish in. My only goal at that time was that wanted to not have anyone pass me. And that worked out all right. I didn’t pass anyone, and nobody passed me. So that was all right. And in the end, my time was 12:41. Not especially fast, at least by my standards, but it was all right. It was faster than my time the first time I did this, and even though I was just taking it easy and not trying to go fast, there were only four people my age or older who went faster than me. So I really can’t complain too much about that.

When I got to the top, I took the obligatory picture with the view. and then I headed back down. I knew that Morgan was on her way downtown, and I’d told her I’d walk up with her to pace her. So we met up at the bottom and got in line for the stairs.

Meanwhile, Kathleen had started up the stairs just a bit behind me the first time, and she walked most of the way up with a group of firemen in their full regalia. She also got a picture with the view on top before heading back down.

The second time up, I walked with Morgan. I tried to be an encouraging coach, and she did very well. She maintained a steady pace all the way up. We passed lots of people, and nobody passed us. A few times, we ran up against big groups of people who were hard to get through, and at least once, I had to go ahead to sort of plow a path through them so we could pass. And when we made it to the roof, Morgan realized she should have brought her sunglasses. Who thinks of bringing sunglasses along for a stair-climbing race? But that’s the difference between a Saturday morning in April and a Friday evening in September.

When they started posting the results, I saw that they’d made a typo, and they had me listed as being 14 years old. Hmm. I had to email the timing company after we got home to get that corrected.

All told, it was a pretty good time.


Last time.

Filed under: — stan @ 9:16 pm

Tonight was the last practice session at the Aon building, and I wanted to go up the stairs just a few more times. I’m about as ready as I’m going to be for the race on Saturday. Which is to say, I’m not really ready to race, but I’m going to go in more with the intention of just taking it easy and doing it for the experience and for the social aspect of getting to see all my crazy stair-climbing friends there.

The first time up, I wanted to take just an easy, but brisk pace. And I ended up with a 9:55 for 51 floors. That’s just a bit over five floors per minute, and it’s slightly faster than I went the first time I did this climb. back in 2009. But the difference now is that that pace is ‘brisk, but moderate’, while the first time I did it, it was ‘I feel like I’m gonna die!’ So that’s progress.

I took a moment to take a picture looking up the stair shaft. Just to get a sense of how the stairs feel infinite when we’re climbing them. They just go on endlessly, with every landing looking exactly the same as the one before and the one after. And the buttons in the service elevator are proof that the building is honest, and they didn’t skip the 13th floor.

In the end, I went up three times, just because I could. And because after Saturday, I’m not going to be seeing the inside of this building until next year.


Next-to-last practice

Filed under: — stan @ 9:06 pm

Tonight is the next to the last practice climb at the Aon building before the race this Saturday. Since my back has been feeling a bit better the last two weeks, I’m experimenting with trying to go a bit faster again. So tonight, on my first climb, I opened the throttle a little bit more, and made the 51 story climb in 9:29. That’s still a far cry from the 8:58 I did last year, but it’s the fastest I’ve gone up stairs in a long time. And after that, I went up three more times, just because it was there. Good times.

And since all the building security people at Aon Center have been so nice to us during our stair training sessions, I baked some of my award-winning chocolate-chip cookies for them tonight. I figure, it’s not really their job to watch over a bunch of crazy stair-climbing racers, but they’re gracious and friendly to us, so I just wanted them to know that we appreciate it.


Weekend in San Diego, and a few stairs

Filed under: — stan @ 8:38 pm

This weekend, we took an overnight trip to San Diego to visit my father, and along the way we did a bunch of other stuff.

The trip started off Saturday afternoon, when we headed down to San Diego. We visited with my father for a bit before we all went to dinner at The Prado in Balboa Park. We had a nice, fancy dinner out, and Trinh got an extra dessert, since Sunday was her birthday.

On Sunday morning, we managed to convince Lucinda, Trinh, and Melissa all to do the Lung Association stair climb with us, so we had five of us signed up to do it. It was a short one, only about 30 stories. The climb was from the lobby to 32, but the building skipped 13. I wanted to go back in and do a proper survey, but the organizers were kind of being redacted about it, and they wouldn’t let me go back in. But we did make the Channel 10 news that night:

After the stair climb, we headed back to our room to get cleaned up. We didn’t stay for the awards, but I found out later that I managed to place 3rd in the 50-59 age group. Not bad for coming back from not being able to walk a couple months ago.

Finally, we all went to La Jolla Cove to see the baby seals. The pups are generally born in February, so they were still pretty small, and really, there’s nothing cuter than baby seals.


Another little push

Filed under: — stan @ 9:41 pm

Tonight was another night where I got a late start for downtown, so I only had time for two climbs. But the first one, I managed a 9:40 for the 51 floors. So that was a Good Thing. And I didn’t hurt my back in the process, so all around, it was a good evening.


Pushing the limit (a little bit)

Filed under: — stan @ 9:35 pm

Tuesday evening, I went downtown again to hit the stairs at the Aon building. Since my back is feeling slightly better these days, I’ve been experimenting with going a bit faster. So far, my best time for the 51-floor practice course has been 9:44, so I wanted to see if I could go just a little faster tonight.

AS it turned out, the answer was “no”. But that’s all right. I did a 9:47, which is pretty close. And after that, I went up another three times, just so I could have a reason to say, “what was I thinking when I signed up for this?”

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