Stan’s Obligatory Blog

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Visiting Seattle for the Big Climb

Filed under: — stan @ 9:00 pm

Back in November, when we were on our way to Chicago to climb the Sears Willis Tower, we got word that registration was opening for the Big Climb in Seattle. Everyone said it’s a good event and a fun time, so we signed up for it. Months came and went, and in the meantime, my back when to hell. But the trip is all arranged and paid for, so we decided to go on it anyway. I’d never been to Seattle before, and I’ve got both friends and family there, plus it’s a chance to play tourist.

On the way there, when we were flying over (I think) about Reno, I saw a little black wisp rising out of the clouds. It looked like a Dementor from Harry Potter. I got out the big lens for my camera, and close up, it looks like it was probably a military jet. It just looked strange, since it was going almost straight up out of the clouds.

A bit farther, I started to see the stratovolcanoes of the Cascades. I was trying to spot Mt Lassen, since that’s the one Cascades volcano I’ve climbed and seen up close, but I couldn’t locate it. I did see Mt Hood, with Portland right next to it. And that told me that we were near Mt St. Helens. And within a minute or two, we were flying right over it. I managed to get a pretty good picture of the crater.

When we got to Seattle, we made our way to our hotel, which turned out to be right downtown, and only two blocks from the Columbia Center tower, which we could see out the window. That night, we met up with my cousin Irene for dinner.

Saturday was our day to play tourist. In the morning, I took a little walk while Kathleen was getting ready. The “Field Trip” app on my iPhone told me about the Arctic Building, which was around the corner from our hotel. It said that the tusks on the walrus heads were originally made with real ivory. Yikes. I also poked my head into the downtown Transit Tunnel. It was odd seeing buses and trains sharing the same tunnel, but it seems to work, and we had occasion to ride the train later that day.

Our one real outing of the day was to Lake View Cemetery to visit the graves of Bruce and Brandon Lee. No trip is complete without a celebrity grave tour. We also played tourist a bit, going on an underground tour that’s not the original one, but a spinoff located nearby. It was pretty entertaining. (I’d link to them here, but their web site crashes my browser. Hey, guys! Getter a better web developer!) We also visited the Gum Wall and rode the Seattle Monorail, both of which we found through Field Trip.

Finally, we met up with my old friend K.D. for dinner. She and her partner Amy were among the first to get married after Referendum 74 passed in 2012.

On Sunday morning, it was time to climb. We walked up to the building and found our group. I took it easy going up. My plan was to do my regular easy pace of 4 1/2 floors per minute, which would get me to the 73rd floor in about 15 minutes. But it ended up taking only about 13:45. I was a little surprised by that, but when I went up a second time with PJ to do a survey of the staircase, the reason became clear quickly. The floors in Columbia Center are only about 11.4 feet each, where most office buildings are 13 – 13.5 feet. So I was doing my regular easy pace of 1 vertical foot per second, and that translated into more floors per minute than it would have in another building. And of course, I made a chart for future reference. We also found that once again, the published step count and climb height for the event were incorrect, and it was actually higher and more steps than the event had claimed.

After doing the stairs, we got cleaned up and met up with Irene for lunch before heading back to the airport. All told, it was a fun trip.


Last time before the Big Climb

Filed under: — stan @ 9:30 pm

Back in November, Kathleen and I both signed up for The Big Climb. This is an event this coming Sunday in Seattle, climbing 69 stories up Columbia Center. Since I’m not planning on trying to go particularly fast there, I figured there was no harm in going downtown for stair practice tonight.

I did my usual four climbs. I could have done five, but I just wasn’t feeling up to it. Still, it was a fun evening.


Turning it up

Filed under: — stan @ 9:29 pm

I had an MRI on my back yesterday. It’s been a bit better over the past few days, but today it’s regressing again. I suppose the overall trend is up, but it still varies a lot from day to day. Still, I went downtown to do the stairs. I’ve found that doing a few sets of stairs, like 150-250 floors or so, will relieve the pain in my back for about two hours. So what’s not to like.

I’m still experimenting with going a little bit faster. Still nowhere near going all-out, but just turning up the pace a little bit. Unlike Nigel Tufnel and Spinal Tap, I’m not turning up to eleven. More like turning it up to seven-and-a-half. Still, I was able to shave five seconds off last week’s time, and I didn’t hurt my back in the process.

I was a bit worn out from the first time up, so I only did it three more times, and I was pretty weary the last time. But I got to see and socialize with the other nutball stair climbers, so it was a fun time.


A quick Thursday evening

Filed under: — stan @ 9:59 pm

It’s Thursday, so it’s stair night, but again, I didn’t get there until about 6:00. So I knew I had time for two climbs, and possibly three. Because of this, I thought this might be a good time to do an experiment and see if I could turn up the pace a bit. My plan was to aim for 5 floors per minute on the first climb. That’s a ‘brisk, but modest’ pace for me in normal times, but with the problems I’ve been having, I really didn’t know what would happen. But I figured that if I could do it, it would get me to the top in about 10:15 or so.

I started out up the stairs, still not using the handrail for anything but guidance and balance. At the end of the first five floors, I was a few seconds ahead of schedule. And I didn’t feel too bad. So I kept going, and I managed to stay on schedule pretty much all the way up. When I got to the 50th floor, I had a quick look at the watch, and I knew that if I hit it the last five floors, I had a chance to get under 10 minutes. So I grabbed the rail and started pulling a little bit, just to pick up the pace and see if I could do it. And I heaved up onto the 55th floor landing at 9:49. That works out to 5.2 floors per minute average for the 51-floor climb.

The second time up, I turned the pace down a lot. I was aiming for four floors per minute, but that only lasted for about the first 25 floors. So I slowed down and walked up the rest of the way. I was going to quit after two climbs, but when I got to the bottom, we still had 20 minutes left in the session, and Nathan was getting ready to go up for his fifth time. So I went along. We just walked up at a relaxed pace and talked. It was a pleasant time.


My Vertical Kilometer

Filed under: — stan @ 9:43 pm

Since I’ve found that stair climbing doesn’t aggravate my back problems, I thought I’d try an experiment tonight and do a vertical kilometer. I did this last year as part of my preparations for the vertical mile climb. My friend Morgan did this a few weeks ago, so I thought I’d give it a try.

I was trying for a modest, but consistent pace, like I did last year. When I did the vertical kilometer last year, I only had a spread of 42 seconds between my fastest and slowest climbs. Looking at my times this time around, you can see that I’m just not in the condition I was in last year. And with my back problems, I’m not pulling on the railing, since I don’t want to do anything that twists my spine. Still, I was able to make the vertical kilometer pretty easily. It’s only five times up. 255 floors, 5,630 steps. Easy.


204 Floors

Filed under: — stan @ 9:25 pm

Tonight was yet another stair practice session at the Aon building in downtown Los Angeles. I still think it’s a bit odd that, even though just walking is still painful for me due to my back going to hell and all, climbing stairs doesn’t hurt. And I’ve noticed that when I’m done, walking is better for about two hours before the pain returns. I can’t explain it, but I’m not complaining. Most people might think that climbing 204 floors of stairs to get two hours of back pain relief was not a good trade-off, but as I always say, “how hard could it be?”

There was a good crowd there tonight. Everyone was back from last weekend’s race at the Stratosphere Tower in Las Vegas. I skipped that one this year, since a trip to Las Vegas always involves a good bit of walking, and I thought that would just be too painful. But I got to hear everyone’s stories about the weekend, and Lisa was wearing wings on her shoes.

I paid a little more attention to the signs on the doors in the stairwell tonight. It looks like they let out into the utility hallway on most, but not all floors. Since floor 55 is empty, and it lets out on to that floor, that’s where we climb to.

I went up four times. The first two were at my vertical mile pace from last year. The last two were social climbs. I timed them, but nobody was trying to go fast. Still, it was a fun time.


Stairs – 2/27

Filed under: — stan @ 9:14 pm

It’s Thursday, and time for another shortened stair practice. I only went up the building twice. I could have done a third time, but I didn’t feel like it. Just two times, at a moderate pace. For some reason, the building management moved us to a different stairwell for practice now. One of the guards told me it was because some people were getting out of the stairs before the finish at 55 and disturbing the office tenants. That seems plausible, since this stairway should prevent that. The doors let out into a utility hallway, so there’s no direct path from the stairs to the office space. It’s still 11/11, but with right turns, and still the same 1,126 steps from 4 to 55.



Filed under: — stan @ 9:23 pm

Yet another session on the stairs. I went up four times, but I only timed the first two. After that, I just walked up slowly in a small group, and we just talked and took it easy all the way to the 55th floor.


A quick stair-climbing session

Filed under: — stan @ 10:18 pm

On Thursdays, I have to take Lucinda to art class at 5:00, so I can’t get downtown for the beginning of stair practice. It runs from 5:00 to 7:00, and on these nights, I don’t get there until about 6:00. So I was only able to do two times up the building. At least, this time I was able to do my ‘brisk but modest’ pace, and get to the top a few seconds ahead of my 11:15 target. And the second time, I managed to put on a little bit of speed at the end, just to make it up in less than 12 minutes. So given that I’m still borderline-crippled by my ongoing back problems, I really can’t complain too much.


Still going at it…

Filed under: — stan @ 10:09 pm

So today was yet another evening on the stairs. Three times up 51 floors. Great fun, isn’t it? Today was special, since Kathleen had to go to a training class for work that was near downtown, so we met up at the building to do the stair practice.

The first time up, I was just trying for my ‘brisk, but modest’ pace. That would have gotten me to the top in 11:15, so I was pretty close. I went up again, just to do it, and then a third time that I didn’t time.

It’s kind of nice, in that climbing major stairs does something so my back doesn’t seem to hurt for an hour or two afterward. I have no idea why that would be, but I’m not complaining.

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