Stan’s Obligatory Blog


A quick jaunt up the stairs

Filed under: — stan @ 10:25 pm

This weekend was the San Diego edition of the Lung Association’s “Fight for Air” stair climb. It’s only 30 stories, hardly worth showing up for. But it’s an excuse to go visit my father and go see the baby seals at La Jolla. So we all went down there for the weekend. Because this is a short one, Lucinda even agreed to do it.

We spent Saturday going to see the seals and visiting with Grandpa. And on Sunday morning, we headed downtown to the Omni Hotel. Our assigned start time was with the 12:00 group. There was some kvetching about this from the other West Coast Labels people, and most of them agitated for and got an earlier start. So they were all done by the time we got there. But I figured that as long as I started at the front of our wave, it would be all right. They allowed several minutes between waves to clear the stairs, and as it turned out, I didn’t have to pass anyone on my trip up.

Last year, I did this one in 4:03. I knew I could go faster, so I was aiming for 3:30 or better. So I figured I’d look at my watch at 11, after 10 floors. My goal was to do that first 10 in as close to a minute as I could. So when I got to 11, I looked at my watch, and it said 1:15. My immediate thought was,

“Crap! I need to go faster!”

So I turned up the heat, and I didn’t look at my watch again. When I came out at the top on 31, my watch said 3:27. So I knew I’d managed to increase my pace significantly for the last 20 floors. And when we went back down, I saw that my time was 3:23, which I was pretty happy with. It was good for 7th overall, and 3rd in my age group. The only guy older than me who went faster was Mark, and that’s normal. And both Kathleen and Lucinda improved their times from last year. Sadly, Lucinda missed getting third place by 4 seconds. Still, it was a good outing.

While we were waiting for the awards, I talked to a group of cute tattooed girls who were doing the climb for the first time. I’m always a fan of cute tattooed girls, and if they’re wearing bunny ears, so much the better. And I thought that the “Breath Takers” team name and logo were very good. The girl I talked to said that she was a lung transplant recipient, which I thought was very remarkable on many levels. She had done the climb, and she was very chipper for someone who had undergone such a major procedure.

At the end, I got a medal for 3rd place in the 50s age group. And the West Coast Labels team pretty much swept the awards. And in general, any day that includes time up on the podium for an award is a good day. So it was a good day.

Results are here:


Good fortune

Filed under: — stan @ 11:53 pm

It’s Thursday, and that means yet another trip downtown to run up the stairs at the Aon building. Fortunately, I’ve done a study of the stairs there, and I’ve worked out what I believe is the most efficient way to climb them. And the stepping pattern I have to do in order to do this is a useful distraction to keep me from dwelling on “OMG What the HELL was I thinking coming here to do this again?”

Since Lucinda has art class tonight, I had to go downtown at lunchtime to do this. I rode my bike over to the Fillmore St Gold Line station, and I rode the train downtown. The Metro Rail trains really are quite good here. They’re comfortable, quiet, and pretty fast. When they were building them, I didn’t think I’d have much use for them, but it’s turned out that I use them quite a lot now.

When I got to the 7th St/Metro Center stop, I climbed the 79 steps from the subway platform to Hope St. Then I walked over to the Aon building and signed in. The guards there pretty much all know me by now. I got changed and headed up to the stairs. There were a few people who’d started ahead of me, but I caught and passed them pretty quickly. When I got to 48, I knew there hadn’t been anyone by there much before me, since I triggered the motion detector to turn on the light on the landing. At 54, I looked at my watch, and it said something like 9 minutes. So I turned up the heat for the last few floors to make it to the top in less than 10 minutes. I stumbled out of the stairs on the 60th floor and did my now-traditional face-plant on the floor. When I opened my eyes, I saw a fortune cookie fortune right in front of my nose. And when I read it, it was completely appropriate to what we do here in the stairwell. So I took the little plastic badge-holder that I’d used to hold my split times note on my glove, and I used that to clip the fortune to the fire hose pipe on the 60th floor landing so that the other stair climbers could see it, too.

In the end, I did another 9:51. Not my best time, but only 3 seconds off my best. And I’m consistently doing times under 10 minutes, when I was struggling to get under 10 1/2 this time last year. So there’s nothing not to like about this. It was a good day.


I think I’m back

Filed under: — stan @ 8:07 pm

Tonight was yet another practice run up the Aon building in downtown Los Angeles, and I think I’m finally over my respiratory troubles from the Stratosphere Tower climb in Las Vegas the weekend before last. Last Thursday when I did this, I was still coughing uncontrollably for several hours afterward. But tonight, I did it, I did it fast, and I didn’t have a coughing fit afterward. So all this is a Good Thing.

I rode the train downtown again. Riding the train is good because I can bring a book to read, which is a useful distraction, so I don’t have to think about climbing the stairs until I get there. Right now, I’m reading The All American Boys, which is Walter Cunningham’s memoir about his years as an Apollo astronaut back in the 1960s. It’s pretty entertaining, and keeps me from dreading what I’m about to do.

When I got to the building, I signed in and got ready to go. There was a small group of people who were about to start when I got to the stairs, and one of them decided to pace me at the start to see how fast I was going to go. He made it about 10 floors before he dropped off. This was a good reminder that, while I look at Mark and Jeff and those guys and think I’m not very fast, compared to the Average Bear, I’m not bad at this at all. And that’s good to know.

I saw a couple of other people in the stairs near the top. I had my split times clipped to the back of my hand, and I managed to stay pretty close to them all the way. And I stumbled out of the stairs with a time of 9:51, which is three seconds off my best time, but not bad at all.

It was a good outing.


Art Night

Filed under: — stan @ 11:17 pm

After stair-climbing practice on Thursday, I got changed and walked over to the Pershing Square Metro station to meet up with Kathleen. She had texted me that she was riding the Red Line in from North Hollywood. On the way over there, I looked back and saw a nice view of Venus and Jupiter, close together, and both right over the Aon building that I’d just climbed.

When Kathleen got there, we walked up the 102 steps (I counted them) to get from the subway platform to street level. And then we headed over on 4th St to go see some art. We met up with Zana there, and we set off in search of the food trucks that are usually at Art Walk night.

It turned out that the food trucks were parked in a lot by Main and 2nd. I decided to try the Rebel Bite this time. I got the Sundried Tomater Melt, and it was quite good. After that, we went to see some actual art. There was a lot of nice art to be had, and the crowds were not too bad this time.

All in all, it made for a fun evening.

Once more, with feeling

Filed under: — stan @ 10:46 pm

Thursday night is Art Walk night in downtown Los Angeles. Kathleen and I were planning on meeting up there to go see the art, so I planned to go practice on the stairs beforehand. This time, I remembered my watch. I also brought along my big fancy-ass camera, since we were going to be going Art Walking. That turned out to be a bit of bother to carry up the stairs, but that’s all right.

This time, I clipped my split times note card to the back of my glove. I made it to 20 a few seconds ahead of schedule. I was right on schedule at 32, but I fell a few seconds behind by the time I got to 44. I was just getting going on my final dash to the finish when I came around the corner at 59 and one of the building guards was sitting in the middle of the staircase. He said they’d just painted the stairs above, so we had to stop at 59. I was a bit startled by this, and it was several seconds before I realized that that meant I should stop my watch. At that time, it said 10:04. So I think my actual time if I’d been able to go on to 60 would have been right around 10 minutes. Which is not bad for being in recovery mode still.


You know what they say about getting back the horse

Filed under: — stan @ 8:41 pm

It’s Tuesday, and that means practice at the Aon building. I’m still coughing from the weekend’s ordeal, so I decided I’d just go and do it at a slower pace than usual.

I rode the train downtown again. When I got to the station, I had my first “oh crap” moment when I realized I’d forgotten my camera. And when the train was about halfway to downtown, I had the second when I realized I’d forgotten my stopwatch. So that meant that my cue card with the split times written on it was going to be useless. I looked to see if my phone had a stopwatch function on it, but it doesn’t. The closest thing I could find was a timer in the alarm clock function. So I figured I’d just set a 10-minute timer and see how far I got before it went off.

When I got to the building, I got changed and headed up. There’s no point in sitting around at the bottom, dreading what I’m about to do. I started the timer, put on my gloves, and headed up.

It wasn’t as bad as I was expecting. I managed to maintain a steady pace, and the 10-minute timer went off when I was passing the 57th floor. That’s about 30 seconds from the top. Since I took about 15 seconds at the bottom putting on my gloves, I figure my time was about 10:15 or so. That’s slow by this year’s standards, but still faster than anything I did last year. So I can’t complain.


The Coughing Game

Filed under: — stan @ 10:42 pm

This year’s Scale the Strat stair climb was a mixed bag for me. On the one hand, I took almost 40 seconds off my best time for the tower. But on the other hand, I blew out my throat and lungs breathing the extra-dry desert air, and I ended up coughing so much that I couldn’t race on in the finals on Sunday. And on the third hand, Saturday was Lucinda’s 13th birthday, so she got to have a fun weekend in Las Vegas with Trinh. So overall, it was a good weekend, even if I didn’t get to do my best performance on the stairs.

We headed out there on Friday morning. The idea was to get there before dark. We stopped at Alien Fresh Jerky in Baker, since the girls all like their jerky. I don’t really get the appeal of jerky, but the place is amusing. When we got to Las Vegas, we got checked in to the hotel, and the girls went off on their own. Kathleen and I went up the tower to scout it out. I’ve been on a mission to get a fully-detailed layout of the stairs there, and I wanted to have a peek into the stairwell at the top to count the steps on the last two flights. I figured they’re be the same for all eight levels of the pod at the top of the tower.

After the scouting mission, we all headed over to Circus Circus for dinner. I got the obligatory prime rib that I always look for in Las Vegas. And after dinner, the girls all got some faux-ice-cream thing that I tasted and thought was horrible.

Saturday morning came, and I’d made up my preliminary map of the stairs. And based on that, I figured out split times that I’d need to make for the three major landmarks on the climb. The first was the first rest area, 1/3 of the way up the tower shaft. The second was the other rest area, which is about 2/3 of the way up the shaft, and the final landmark was the first fire refuge level at the bottom of the pod, right at the top of the tower shaft. I made up split times, aiming to be at the top in 11 minutes. Then I wrote them on a little card and safety-pinned it to the back of my glove, so I could see it at the same time when I looked at my watch.

I made the first landmark about 10 seconds ahead of schedule. The second and third landmarks were right on schedule. I managed to put on a burst of speed at the end, and I stumbled out of the stairs in 10:43, which is 37 seconds faster than my previous best time for this climb.

After the climb, Kathleen was signed up to do the Sky Jump off the tower. So we got cleaned up and headed down there. They got her suited up, and I had a seat on one of the lounge chairs they have set up by the landing area next to the tower. When they announced that it was her turn, I turned my big zoom lens up and shot a bunch of pictures as she came down. It was over pretty quickly, but she said it was fun, that is, it was fun after she got over having to take that first step off the edge.

Saturday evening, we went to the Peppermill for dinner with the whole West Coast Labels/X-Gym stair climbing team. All afternoon, I’d had a bad case of the Climber’s Cough, brought on by breathing the dry desert air in the stairwell. But by dinnertime, it seemed to be getting better.

After dinner, we headed downtown so that the girls could do the zipline on Fremont St again. But when we got there, my cough came back, worse than before. I’ve coughed a lot after stair climbs, but never before so hard that I thought I was in serious danger of barfing. When I nearly lost my dinner on Fremont St, I knew I had to pack it in. So Kathleen and I gave the girls enough money for cab fare back to the Stratosphere, and we headed back to our room.

By this time, I was starting to have serious doubts about running in the finals on Sunday morning. But I figured I’d just go to sleep and see how I felt in the morning.

Sunday morning came, and I felt slightly better. But my throat was pretty raw, and all my chest muscles were sore from all the coughing. That was when I came up with a plan to salvage the situation. I knew that running all-out was out of the question. But on the other hand, I’d wanted to do a scouting trip up the stairs to get an accurate map and step count. And since I’d qualified for the finals, I had my ticket into the stairs. So I wore my shorts that have pockets, and I brought along a pen and a notepad. When it was time to start, I started out like normal, but as soon as I was up the first couple of flights, and out of sight of the starting line, I pulled out the notepad and started writing notes. I counted the steps on every flight, which was pretty easy, since the majority of the climb is just 20-step flights, with a landing and a 180-degree left turn. At the second rest area, I even took a minute to look over the side of the stairs and contemplate the 250 or so feet of empty space below my feet. That was impressive. I shan’t be looking at that again, I think. At the end, I walked up the last flight and strolled out of the stairwell, notes in hand. It was a bit of an odd way to end the race, but at least I got some useful information out of it.

After the climb was over, I went over my notes, and I quickly determined several things that we’d all been wondering about:

  • How many steps are there?
  • How high is the climb itself?
  • How many floors are there in the pod?

And the end product as a complete chart of the stairs. The observation deck level of the tower is 855 feet above street level. It turns out that the 3rd floor, where they start the climb, is 47 feet above street level. So the climb is 808 feet, and 1,372 steps. This is, as I’ve been saying, about the equivalent of a normal 60-story building. So even though they said it’s “108 stories”, they’re exaggerating. And the published step count of 1,455 is wrong. And finally, there are 8 levels in the pod. So this will be an aid to planning and computing split times for future climbs.

The last thing we did on Sunday afternoon was to go to New York New York to ride the roller coaster there. Kathleen and I rode it last year when we were here for the stair climb, but we couldn’t ride it when we were there in May, owing to the wind being too strong that day. So we finally all got to ride it. It’s a pretty good ride, even if the 200-foot lift hill at the beginning gives me the willies.

Overall, it was a nice weekend. And we didn’t even get stuck in much traffic on the way home.


Last practice before Las Vegas and the Stratosphere

Filed under: — stan @ 10:36 pm

Tonight was my last big practice session before going to Las Vegas this weekend to climb the Stratosphere Tower stairs. I had read Kristen’s account of climbing the Hancock building in Chicago, and I liked her idea of setting milestones and time goals along the way as a method of knowing whether or not one is ‘on pace’. So I thought I’d try that this evening.

I took a guess, and figured that the few short hallways along the way up the Aon building probably add up to about 30 seconds or so of non-climbing time. Using my best time of 9:48 as a guideline, I figured on about 9:15 of actual climbing time for the 56 floors. That gave me 9.9 seconds per floor on average. So I made up a little chart with milestones and time goals. The floor milestones represent the places where the stairway changes, except for 32, which is just the halfway point of the practice climb. And this is what I got:

Floor Time goal
20 2:38
24 3:33
32 4:52
42 6:31
44 7:05
60 9:45

I wrote this up on a little piece of paper, and I put some packing tape on it to protect it from sweat. Then I rubber-banded it to my arm.

As it turned out, I was pretty close. At 20, I was at 2:35. At 24, I had 3:32, and at 32, the watch said 4:55. All this was good. In retrospect, I think I could have cut the time points down to just 20, 32, and 44. There really wasn’t much point in having two time points separated by just a few floors. And I’m pretty sure that looking at the watch that many times cost me a couple seconds. I also found out after the fact that I’d whacked my arm against something, possibly the fire hose pipe that runs up the landings from 24 to 42. It’s really sore and bruised now, but I have no memory of hitting it on anything. But in the end, I came out at 60, and after doing the traditional face-plant on the floor, I saw that I had 9:51. That’s only three seconds off my best time, and very close to my goal time. So that was a Good Thing all around.

I spent a few minutes on 60 looking at the sunset. It wasn’t quite as nice as the one from last week, but it was still nice to look at. Then I took the elevator back down and got dressed to go home.

It was a good outing, and I feel pretty much ready to attack the Stratosphere stairs.

End of an era

Filed under: — stan @ 6:45 am

I canceled our DirecTV service today. Kathleen and I used it to watch the Oscars on Sunday. And I got to thinking that before that, the last thing I can remember watching on it was Punkin Chunkin back at Thanksgiving. We used to use it to watch “The Daily Show” and “Colbert Report”, but since we got Hulu Plus on the Roku last July, we watch those over there. And Lucinda pretty much only watches streaming things from Netflix on the Roku. For as much as we’ve used the DirecTV since last summer, it works out to something like $60 an hour for the few things we’ve watched on it. It’s just not worth it.

So that’s that.


Everything is more interesting with the word ‘naked’ in front of it

Filed under: — stan @ 5:41 pm

Today’s adventure was a trip downtown to see “Naked Hollywood: Weegee in Los Angeles” at MOCA. Having seen some of his work before, and reading the reviews of this exhibit, we knew we had to see it.

We rode the train downtown from Pasadena, and it felt odd to me to be on the train, going downtown, and not dreading having to run up the stairs at a 60-story building. I guess I’ve been doing that a lot lately. Still, the Civic Center subway station is pretty far underground, so we took the stairs up.

The exhibit was a lot of fun. Weegee sounds like he was a real character. They said that his accent was the inspiration for Peter Sellers in his portrayal of Dr. Strangelove. He also developed methods of distorting photos in strange ways. It was a lot like he invented a physical version of Photoshop. And he said that people think anything is more interesting if you put the word “naked” in front of it.

After Weegee, we wandered around the rest of the museum. It’s kind of a grab bag of all different things, but then we came around the corner and saw a painting by Cy Twombly. We know about him from having read John Waters’ book, Role Models.

“Isn’t Cy Twombly beyond a doubt still the most cutting-edge artist working today, even if he is over eighty years old? According to my close friend and former museum curator Brenda Richardson, he can make even the most seasoned art collectors and accessions committees seethe in skepticism and rage over his work.”

And we could see why.

Also, there was a painting by Roy Lichtenstein that included a note for him to call. I don’t recall if he ever did.

After the museum, we walked around Bunker Hill a bit. It’s very quiet on weekends there, but I got some nice photos of buildings reflecting each other in the late-afternoon sun. Then we rode Angel’s Flight down the hill and got on the subway to come home.

It was a fun afternoon.

Powered by WordPress