Stan’s Obligatory Blog

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11/14/2010

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.

10/30/2010

Spiders!

Filed under: — stan @ 9:18 pm

On Saturday afternoon, we rode the train downtown to go to the Natural History Museum to see the Spider Pavilion. It’s in the same outdoor tent that they use for the butterflies in the summer, so it’s a chance to see the spiders in a more or less natural-looking habitat.

The trip down there was a bit of an ordeal. There was a USC home game, so we thought it best not to take the car. Instead, we rode the train and planned on taking the DASH bus from the train station to the museum. Of course, that didn’t take into account the fact that the DASH bus was running an hour late because of all the traffic from the game. Things will be better when they get the Expo light rail line running.

When we got to the museum, I took a picture of Lucinda with the Megamouth shark. Compare this to the picture of her there in 2003. Next, we went to see their saber-tooth cat show. We’d read about this recently, about how they’d had to find a guy who could act as a puppeteer inside the cat suit to make the cat come alive. He did a pretty good job of it. Then we went to see the spiders. There were a lot of them, and they were quite large. Made for some good pictures, and lots of spooked kids. Apparently, there are still some butterflies in the tent, and several of the spiders had caught them and made a meal of them.

It was a fun afternoon.

10/11/2010

Air Force One and a trip into the belly of the beast

Filed under: — stan @ 10:37 pm

Monday was Columbus day, and that was a holiday for all of us who work for the government. So I thought it would be fun to take a trip out to Simi Valley to see the Reagan Museum and Air Force One.

They built a whole new wing on the building to house Air Force One. It’s set up on pedestals to look like it just might fly away at any moment. It was interesting to see the inside of the airplane and how it was set up. And the other exhibits were also amusing, including portraits of President Reagan made with jelly beans. Yikes. They also had a small piece of the Berlin Wall there, as well as a collection of other items, including the suit he was wearing when he was shot by John Hinckley, and a bejeweled saber from the Boy Scouts of Saudi Arabia. Who knew there were even Boy Scouts there?

They also had an exhibit of a miniature White House. Apparently, the model builders keep the miniature White House up to date. Looking in the windows, we saw pictures of President Obama and his family. That was a little jarring, since the rest of the day was a solid Republican experience.

All in all, it was a fun day.

9/24/2010

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: https://www.runraceresults.com/Secure/RaceResults.cfm?ID=RCLC2010

9/18/2010

County Fair Time!

Filed under: — stan @ 10:14 pm

Today was our trip to the Los Angeles County Fair. This promised to be extra-fun, since this time I actually have winner in the baked-goods competition.

Kathleen and I went there along with Lucinda and her friend. We rode the skyride across the fairgrounds. Then the girls rode a bunch of other rides. Kathleen and I just watched. Partly because we didn’t feel like swinging 130 feet in the air, and partly because we just didn’t want to spend the extra money on more ride tickets.

We got some Dr. Bob’s ice cream. As always, it was quite good.

After that, we walked over the “Culinary Styles” exhibit hall to see my cookies on display. That was great fun. If you want to try making them, the recipe is here:

chocolate-peppermint-cookies.pdf

We got some chocolate-covered bacon for Kathleen to try. As was the case last year, we all just thought it was a bit weird.

And of course, no county fair is complete without a mechanical bull ride for the kids. We also saw the 1200-pound pumpkin. Impressive, but it didn’t seem like it was good for much else. We also saw lots of cows, pigs, and goats. No county fair is complete without them.

The girls rode some more rides and played a few carnival games. Then, at the end of the day, we had six ride tickets left over, so Kathleen used them to ride the little flying ride. It looked like she had a good time.

The rest of the pictures are in Lucinda’s photo album.

9/15/2010

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.

8/10/2010

A walk in the park

Filed under: — stan @ 10:59 pm

On Tuesday, Kathleen and I met up in the park to join the hiking group for an evening hike. I was a bit sore from Monday’s stair practice, but as much as I like to make fun of elementary school gym teachers, I was determined to ‘walk it off’. The hike was a relatively easy one, and it was a nice evening for a walk in the park.

About halfway up, we stopped for a nice view of downtown L.A. Including the building I’d climbed on Monday, and the one I’m practicing for for next month.

And apropos of nothing at all, when we got back and got ready to leave, I noticed that the odometer reading on my car was a palindrome.

8/9/2010

Another practice run

Filed under: — stan @ 10:40 pm

The YMCA downtown has been running a set of practice sessions for the upcoming stair climb. They started out on the Bunker Hill Steps, then moved to a 20-something story building, and today they moved to One California Plaza, which is 42 stories. I figured that this was getting into the range that would be enough of a challenge to be worth a trip downtown.

The run itself was pretty good. I passed a lot of people. We went all the way to 42 and then one more to the roof level. I’d guessed that I’d make the top in about 7:55. My time was 8:06, but that included the one extra floor I hadn’t counted on. So really, I was right on target.

The only bad part was that the freight elevator had croaked, so they made us walk down. Ow.

7/3/2010

Toy Story

Filed under: — stan @ 10:24 pm


On Saturday night, I took Lucinda and her friend to Hollywood to see “Toy Story 3” at the El Capitan theater. We’d gotten a mailer about it that said they were going to have a sort of carnival midway set up behind the theater for the kids to play in after the movie. Sort of like the “G-Force” attraction that they built last summer.

The movie was good. Sad in a lot of ways, but very well done. We all enjoyed it. And afterward, they played for a while in the little “Toy Story Fun Zone” carnival that they’d set up on the playing field behind Hollywood High School.

It was a very fun evening.

6/29/2010

The next big event

Filed under: — stan @ 9:10 pm

flyer
It’s time for the annual Stair Climb to the Top, up the U.S. Bank tower in downtown Los Angeles. I did this last year, posting a time of 15:07. This time, I’ve got some more experience from the Stratosphere and Aon stair climbs, and my goal is to go under 14 minutes.

This will hurt a lot. It will also be great fun.

As always, this is a fundraiser, this time for the YMCA in Los Angeles. So if you can, please make a small donation to them at my sponsors page.

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