Stan’s Obligatory Blog

10/28/2013

Filling the quota

Filed under: — stan @ 9:45 pm

It’s Monday, and the start of another week of stair practice. I’m still trying for 100 climbs up the Wilshire-Figueroa building for the season. I’ve got 82 so far, and I was aiming for five tonight.

I was the second one on the stairs. We got a little bit of a late start, but not too bad. I was on the stairs by 5:36. I aimed for a slightly faster pace tonight than last week, just to increase my chances of getting through four climbs before the cutoff at 6:45.

The first time up, I got 10:27, which was all right. And the elevator ride down was pretty fast. We didn’t have to stop, so it only took about four minutes. I started up the second time, still aiming for my 4 3/4 floors per minute pace. I was able to maintain that all the way up, and came in at 10:44. The second elevator ride down had one stop, but it wasn’t too bad. I got in the stairs for my third climb at 6:06.

I was starting to slow down a bit on the third climb. I did the 4 3/4 floor pace for about the first 20 floors, and then I slowed down to 4 1/2 per minute. Still, I got to the top the third time at about 6:17. At that point, I knew I had a good shot at five for the night.

I went up the fourth time, arriving at the top at 6:32 with a time of 11:18. And the elevator ride down was reasonably fast. I got back to the door at 6:39, so I headed up for a fifth time.

The last time up, my only goals were to not stop, and to make it to the top before 7:00. I didn’t see anyone else on the stairs, but I could hear someone coming up below me. I got to the top in 12:32, which is not blazing fast by any means, but not bad for the fifth consecutive climb of the night.

So now I have 87 climbs up the building so far this season. I can make it to two more practices, and if I can make five on both of them, then all I have to do is three climbs on race day, and I’ll have my 100.

10/27/2013

Another Halloween ride

Filed under: — stan @ 6:41 pm

Today’s bike club ride was supposed to be out to Glendora for a tour of Rubel’s Castle, but that fell through at the last minute and will have to be rescheduled. So in the meantime, we did yet another Halloween-themed ride. Today’s destination was Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Hollywood to visit Vampira.

It was foggy in the morning. Riding into downtown, my glasses were fogging up, and it was pretty hard to see for a time. Fortunately, it started to lift by the time we got downtown. We saw the Rock-n-Roll Half Marathon in progress, and we also saw the Wilshire-Figueroa building sticking up into the fog. I’m on track to climb that building 100 times by the time we’re done with the last race of the year there.

We rode out to Larchmont for bagels at Noah’s. There was some sort of street fair being set up there. The camels were an odd touch.

After the stop, we headed up into Hollywood and Hollywood Forever. We found Vampira over on the east end, just across the street from the pond and from DeeDee Ramone. We also stopped to see Johnny Ramone, and I noticed lipstick on his guitar this time.

The ride back was our usual route through Eagle Rock and Highland Park. By the time we got back to Pasadena, it was a pretty nice day. So overall, it was a fun ride.

42 miles.

10/23/2013

Rats

Filed under: — stan @ 9:41 pm

So tonight, I went downtown with the intention of getting in five climbs up the building. This was planned to stay on track to be able to complete my 100th climb of the year up that building on race day, November 16th. I took the train there, and I was ready to go at 5:30. Sadly, the organizers were late, and we didn’t get into the stairs until 5:38. Still, I thought I had a fighting chance of being able to make four climbs by the cutoff of 6:45.

I did my usual ‘moderate’ pace, getting to the top in just a bit over 11 minutes. I got lucky, and the elevator ride down was only 4 minutes. We didn’t have to stop for any janitors or construction people this time. So I was back in the stairs and heading up the second time at 5:53. Again, I made it to the top in just a bit over 11 minutes. But the second time down on the elevator was a nightmare. We must have stopped about 8 times on the trip down, and it ended up taking a full 12 minutes to get down. So I didn’t get back into the stairs again until 6:16.

Once more, I did a reasonable time up, and the third elevator ride down took 7 minutes. I got back in the stairs for the fourth time up at 6:34. At that point, I pretty much knew there was no way I could get up and back down in 13 minutes. Still, I went a bit faster, getting to the top in 10:52. And the fourth elevator ride down was as fast as that elevator can go. I got back to the door at 6:48, three minutes after the cutoff. And even though they say we’re just supposed to be out of the stairwell by 7:00, and I could make it up in 11 minutes, they still wouldn’t let me go again.

Thus ended my grand plan for tonight. The only saving grace is Rebecca said I could go up extra times on race day to make up the difference. So all is not lost. I may still make my 100 after all. Stay tuned.

10/21/2013

Formulating a goal

Filed under: — stan @ 9:55 pm

It’s Monday, and time to go downtown and hit the stairs again. I was a bit late to the train today, and I got a little bit of a late start. But I was still able to get in four climbs up the building. I did the first three at a modest, but somewhat brisk pace. And the last time, I didn’t bother to time. But on the way home on the train, I came up with a goal for the remaining practice sessions.

As of today, I have climbed the stairs at the Wilshire-Figueroa building 78 times. There are five practice sessions left before race day on November 16th. I will miss one of those, since we’ll be traveling back from Chicago that day. So that leaves four practice sessions and then the day of the race to get in a total of 22 climbs, for a total of 100 times up that building this year.

So the next time, I’m going to go for five climbs. If I can do five on each of the next four practices, then I can do the race, and then do one extra time up on race day, and I’ll have my 100.

10/20/2013

Down for the Count 2013

Filed under: — stan @ 3:39 pm

It’s almost Halloween. And that means it’s time for the 2013 edition of Down for the Count, where we ride our bikes to Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City to pay respects to Bela Lugosi. This is the seventh annual Halloween ride to see The Count.

It was a perfect day for riding. There was a slight fog in the air downtown, so we got to see the shafts of sunlight reflecting off the big Ritz-Carlton hotel by L.A. Live. We also got to see the newly-repainted ’slightly different shade of green bike lane’ down Spring Street. I guess that was the compromise for the movie people, since they’d all complained about the old shade of green. Something about it looking funny when they filmed the street and tried to make it look like New York or something.

When we got to the cemetery, we took a few minutes with The Count. His grave is always decorated a bit for Halloween. We also saw that someone had stopped by to leave flowers for Rita Hayworth.

On the way back, we saw what has to be the smallest Culver City Bus I’ve ever seen. And we got to see the progress on the bridge they’re building for the extension of the Expo Line to Santa Monica. Then we rode home across the city and through Silver Lake. It was a pleasant ride.

52 miles.

10/16/2013

This is crazy, so of course I wanted to try it…

Filed under: — stan @ 9:42 pm

After I got home from this morning’s hike up Mt. Wilson, I took a shower and rested a bit. And I started thinking that I really didn’t feel all that wiped out, and I was curious what it would feel like if I went downtown and did stair practice in the Wilshire-Figueroa building. On the way down the mountain, I’d worked out that the climb up the mountain was equivalent to climbing the building seven times. So if I went and did it even one more time, I’d have a vertical mile of climbing for the day. And just the idea of going and climbing stairs after doing a 14-mile hike is so completely absurd that I just had to try it.

I took the train downtown, and I headed over to the building. Climbing the 100 steps out of the 7th St. Metro station wasn’t terribly hard, so I figured climbing the 51-story building wouldn’t be all that bad,

On the first climb, I was aiming for a pace of 5 floors per minute. That would get me to the top in about 10:15. It’s a modest pace, but still way faster than I’d done on my eighth climb up the Aon building when I did the vertical mile there last spring. And I was pretty close to being on target with a 10:37.

Since I wasn’t just completely wiped out and dragging the first time up the stairs, I did it again. This time, I started out trying for 5 floors per minute, but quickly scaled that back to 4 1/2. And even then, I couldn’t quite maintain that pace. I was starting to find my limits. But I still got to the 51st floor in 11:41, which I didn’t think was too bad, considering what I’d done today.

After the second climb, I pretty much felt like I was done. But then I realized that if I did it one more time, then I’d have a full 2km of climbing for the day. And I’ve never climbed that much in one day before. So of course I had to do it. I planned on not paying attention to time, and just making it to the top by any means possible. And yes, I was pretty much dragging by that time. But I made it to the top. And I still passed a couple of people along the way.

All in all, it was a good silly adventure. And word just came through that Congress managed to get it together and pass a budget. So my job is no longer a pumpkin, and I have to get ready for work tomorrow.

Mount Wilson

Filed under: — stan @ 3:43 pm

Last week, when Karina, Gary, and I were on the hike to the Bridge to Nowhere, we talked about doing Mount Wilson this week. Our original plan was to go up the trail that starts at Chantry Flat. Karina said that one is more scenic and not as difficult as the trail from Sierra Madre. But on the way home from Sunday’s bike ride, I’d gone by the bottom of the Chantry Flat road and found that it, too, was closed due to the government shutdown. So Sierra Madre it was.

I met Karina at the trailhead at 7AM. It was barely past sunrise when we started up the trail. The sign at the bottom said that the trail had been built in 1864 by Don Benito Wilson, and that it was originally intended for mule trains and horses. Which explains why the trail builders didn’t seem to care all that much about taking the most efficient path up the mountain. There were several places on the way up where the trail dropped into narrow canyons, only to climb back up and out of them on the other side. I hate it when that happens.

A good bit of the lower part of the trail is through actual forest. That’s nice, since forests are kind of rare in southern California. We came across a couple of deer on the trail at one point. They ran away when they saw us coming.

Karina woke up with a cold this morning, so she was sort of dragging. She said that if she could make it to the trail junction at the top of Manzanita Ridge, she thought she’d make it to the summit. When we got to the top of the ridge, we stopped for a few minutes, and then continued on to the junction with the old Mt. Wilson Toll Road. At that point, Karina said ‘uncle’ and decided to turn back. I kept going, since we were almost at the top, and I’d never done that trail before.

The rest of the walk to the top took about 1/2 hour. I stopped briefly at the top to refill my water bottles. Then I headed down. I wanted to see if I could catch up with Karina before she made it back to the bottom. I stopped to take some pictures on the way down, including the steps on the foundation of Orchard Camp. I figured that was the closest I’d be coming to stairs today. I managed to average almost 3 miles per hour on the way down. I reset my GPS at the top, and when I got to the bottom, it said it was just a bit over 7 miles, and it took me 2 1/2 hours to do. Karina’s car was gone, but I later heard from her that she’d only gotten to the bottom about 40 minutes before I did.

In the end, it was a fun hike. It was pretty hard. Probably harder than Mt. Baldy was, even though that’s a much higher mountain. Still, I didn’t feel too wiped out. And I started thinking about maybe doing downtown for stair practice in the evening. I thought that doing that might be a good capstone of insanity for the day.

14 miles, 4,700 feet of climbing

10/14/2013

Monday furlough-cation

Filed under: — stan @ 9:54 pm

It’s Monday, and the government shutdown continues. But today would have been a holiday if we weren’t shut down. And Kathleen had the day off, too. So we made plans to ride the train to the science museum to go see the space shuttle on display there. I’d taken the Sunday morning bike club to see it being moved last year, so now we could see it in its new, albeit temporary, display hall. And then, since we were going to be near downtown, we planned on stopping off at the Wilshire-Figueroa building for some stair-climbing on the way home.

The train ride down was easy. It’s just so convenient. I can hardly remember what it was like when we had to drive everywhere. And since it’s a minor holiday, the museum wasn’t terribly crowded, and we didn’t have to reserve tickets to see the shuttle.

The exhibit is in two parts. The first has some background information about space flight and the shuttle, including the tires it landed on on its last flight, and the control center from Rocketdyne where they monitored the performance of the main engines during every launch. Then there was a short film about how the moved the shuttle from LAX to the museum. And then we went out to the building where it’s housed. There was a display around the outside of the room with a summary of each of the 135 shuttle flights. The two flights that ended badly had plaques with a black background. It’s interesting to note that in his addendum to the report on the Challenger disaster, Feynman estimates the overall probability of failure of the space shuttle:

“If a reasonable launch schedule is to be maintained, engineering often cannot be done fast enough to keep up with the expectations of originally conservative certification criteria designed to guarantee a very safe vehicle. In these situations, subtly, and often with apparently logical arguments, the criteria are altered so that flights may still be certified in time. They therefore fly in a relatively unsafe condition, with a chance of failure of the order of a percent (it is difficult to be more accurate).”

And he concludes as any good physicist would:

“For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for nature cannot be fooled.”

In any event, looking back now at two failures in 135 launches, it seems Feynman was pretty much right on target.

Still, we don’t want to dwell on failure. The shuttle is still an amazing machine, and that it worked as well as it did is still pretty remarkable.

After leaving the museum, we took the train back to the 7th St Metro station and headed over to the building. We got changed and ready to climb. My plan was to go up several times, and I was going to try and do the first two in close to 10 minutes each time. Kathleen headed into the stairs just behind me. I caught up with her near the top on my second ascent. My times were all right, but not great. After that, I went up one more time, just because it was there. And then we went home.

It was a fun little adventure.

More government shutdown fun

Filed under: — stan @ 12:04 pm

I’ve been out of a job for the last two weeks due to the shutdown of the federal government, but today I got to enjoy a rare treat because of it. Turns out that the road up to Chantry Flat is closed to cars because of the shutdown, and so it’s become a 4-mile hike and bike trail for the last two weeks. So this morning, I went out to ride it.

I’ve ridden up this road many times before, but it’s rare to get to do it with no cars. And it was a perfect day for riding, so it was a winner all around.

16 miles.

10/13/2013

The Right Stuff

Filed under: — stan @ 5:38 pm

I’d read this week that Scott Carpenter had died. He was one of the original seven Mercury astronauts, and the second American to orbit the Earth. So in honor of this, this Sunday’s ride was out to the mobile home park in West Covina where the streets are named for the original astronauts. We’d gone there once before, back in 2009.

The route was the old ‘Bagelry’ route, just reversed. We rode out on Gladstone St, which is a long, straight, slightly uphill street. All the way to San Dimas. Then we stopped for bagels. Then, on the way back, we stopped in at Mobile Land.

The rest of the way home was down Cypress St, which is just like Gladstone, but going west, it’s slightly downhill. So that was nice. Then we came home by way of Santa Fe Dam and through Arcadia. It was a pleasant ride.

45 miles.

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