Stan’s Obligatory Blog

9/10/2012

Do Not Go Up

Filed under: — stan @ 10:01 pm

Tonight was the second practice at the Wells Fargo building in downtown Los Angeles. Last week, I’d climbed it once for speed and once to make a chart, and now, armed with the chart, I had made up precise split times and I was ready to tackle it for real.

The actual climb from the lobby up to 55 is 1,126 steps and about 690 feet. That’s just 26 feet more than the climb up the 777 Tower. Being that 26 feet is about two floors, and I was averaging 10 seconds per floor there, I figured I should be able to do this in about 20 seconds more than my best time at 777. Since I did that in 8:19, I thought 8:40 seemed like a good goal. So I made up some split times to aim for that. I also figured out how to do the steps at the beginning and the end to get the most efficient pattern. The method I worked out has one triple step on the flight just coming up to 3. And there is one sacrificial non-climbing step on the big landing at 53. By doing that, I can hit every single landing on my left foot, which is perfect for doing the right turns. There are 107 landings where there is a right turn. So saving even a fraction of a second on each of them is worth it.

Chris came along this time, and we started up the stairs together. That worked out well, since I go faster when he’s tailing me. I was on schedule all the way up to my time checkpoint at 34, but that was about where Chris dropped off the pace. I kept going as best I could, but I was about five seconds off pace at the checkpoint at 45. When I got to 53, I remembered to take the one extra step to switch sides, and then I ran up the last eight short flights up to 55. I did the traditional face-plant on the landing at 55, and when I looked at my watch, it said I’d done it in 8:51. While that’s not quite as fast as I’d hoped for, it was still a full 8 seconds faster than my best time last year. So there’s nothing not to like about that.

We rode the elevator back down to the lobby and got ready to go up again. My friend Mary had told me that there was a big sign on one of the landings that said “DO NOT GO UP”. I presume that’s intended for people using the stairs to evacuate in an emergency. I’d never noticed it before, so I wanted to look for it and get a picture. I also wanted to get a picture of the old lady on the park bench mural on the landing between 43 and 44. I’d started my watch at the bottom, but when I got to the top, I forgot to stop it. And since I’d stopped for photos on the way up, I figured my time didn’t really mean much anyway.

It was a good evening. Pretty much any practice that involves a new best time is a good one.

9/9/2012

Top of the World

Filed under: — stan @ 4:35 pm

Today’s bike club ride was another sightseeing trip to Downey. We’ve gone there before to see history from The Carpenters, but this time, we were going to see a bit of the history of the space program there. Our destination was the Columbia Memorial Space Center, which was built at the site of the former North American Aviation, and later Rockwell plant where both the Apollo Command and Service Modules were built, as well as the Space Shuttle.

The trip there was very straightforward. Literally. We just rode down through San Gabriel and got on Rosemead southbound. And then we went straight for something like 10 miles. We had one brief stop to look at he oldest operating McDonald’s at the corner of Lakewood and Florence. We could also see that we were getting close to our destination. The shopping center next to it was “Apollo Center”. Building the space ship to go to the moon had to have been a source of civic pride in Downey.

The space center isn’t open on Sundays, so we didn’t get to go inside. We were mostly there to see the Command Module boilerplate test model outside. We also noticed that they had the nine concrete spheres along the front walkway painted like the nine planets. Hmm. I think Mike Brown would take issue with that.

Leaving the space museum, we rode back through Downey to 3rd St Coffee. We found tables in the shade and had some snacks. We took a short side trip to see the two apartment buildings that the Carpenters bought with the money from their first two hit singles. Then we rode over to pick up the Rio Hondo bike path for the trip home. By then it was pretty hot, but it was still a nice day and a pleasant ride.

42 miles.

9/8/2012

No asterisk this time

Filed under: — stan @ 10:33 pm

Tonight we went back to Hollywood Forever to another Cinespia movie screening. And I didn’t have to put an asterisk on it when I say it was a fun time. We’d gone to two movies there last summer, and the experience was a bit of an ordeal. But this time, we knew how to deal with it, and it was fine.

We made up a little picnic to bring along. Our Tommy Bahama chairs are good because they have pockets to pack stuff in, and straps so they can be worn like backpacks. So we were able to carry lots of stuff pretty easily. We went over there, and we just parked in the first parking lot we saw. It was the car wash at Gower and Santa Monica, and they wanted $10 to park there. That worked for us, so we parked and walked over to the entrance. We got there about 30 minutes early, and we were able to get a spot in the shade. We set up our chars, and it was really quite comfortable. Then, when they opened the gates, we got inside pretty fast, and just walked back to the area and set up camp. Last year, when we waited in the car line to get in, by the time we got there, we had a really crappy, far-away spot on the lawn. But this time, we got a good spot. So the lesson is, don’t try and park inside the cemetery.

While we were having our dinner, two women set up camp behind us. They put out a tremendous spread of stuff. All kinds of things. So we talked with them, and I gave them some of my hummus and homemade pita bread to sample. And they gave us some exotic cheeses, roasted hazelnuts, and what they called ‘lawyer bread’ that was made by someone they know. It was all quite good. And I was regretting that I hadn’t had time to make a batch of my award-winning cookies to bring along tonight.

The movie was Woody Allen’s “Manhattan“, which neither of us had seen in decades. It’s interesting how our perspective changes with age. We enjoyed it, but we both got something completely different out of it this time, as compared to when we saw it 30-something years ago.

All told, it was a fun evening.

9/5/2012

First time up Wells Fargo

Filed under: — stan @ 9:22 pm

Today was the first practice session at the Wells Fargo building in downtown Los Angeles. This is the traditional final training staircase before the U.S. Bank stair climb at the end of September. Last month, we were practicing at the 777 Tower, which was a nice building. But because we’d never climbed it before, I couldn’t compare my times from last year.

Tonight, I had tow main goals. First was to do a run for speed up the building, just to get to know the stairs again. And second, I was going to walk up slowly, taking measurements and counting steps so I could make a chart.

When I started up, I quickly found that the staircase is very consistent. It’s a 10/11 configuration with right turns all the way up. The only variation was at the beginning and the end. So I was able to adapt my stepping pattern from the Columbia Center climb. Then the only challenge was paying attention enough to remember to change which leg was leading every five floors. I’d made up a split time card, aiming to be at the top in 9 minutes, but by the time I got to 30, I was a little behind schedule. In the end, I heaved up onto the landing on 55 in 9:28. Not terrible, but not especially good. I think I was distracted.

The second time up, I brought my tape measure and notepad. I’d seen another guy taking notes on the way up the first time, so I guess the idea is taking root. The steps average 7 3/8 inches tall, and there are 1,126 of them to get to the 55th floor. The chart is here:

http://www.1134.org/stan/stairs/wells-fargo-la-stairs.pdf

Now I can work out precise split times for next week. I can also work out how to do the last two floors and not get caught on the wrong foot for the turns. And now I know exactly where the three murals are on the between-floor landings near the top.

It was a good outing.

9/2/2012

Another celebrity grave tour

Filed under: — stan @ 5:39 pm

This Sunday’s bike club ride was yet another celebrity grave tour. Back in February, we’d taken a ride to East L.A. to visit the grave of Lincoln Perry, who, as “Stepin Fetchit“, was the first black movie star. So today we were going to North Hollywood to see Willie Best and Mantan Moreland, who were the other two earliest black movie stars. And as an extra bonus, we got to visit Aneta Corsaut, who was on “The Andy Griffith Show”, but who I always remember as Steve McQueen’s girlfriend in “The Blob“.

On the way out, we found some more topiary in Burbank at Alameda and Victory. I’ll have to add them to the Topiary Tour West route for the future. We also stopped off at the house in Burbank with the giant desert tortoises in the yard. They were very active today. I was glad the camera has a ‘fast action’ mode on it.

When we got to the cemetery, we found Willie Best on the way in. His stone is new, since he was unmarked for many years until Scott Michaels and the Findadeath.com crew arranged to get a stone made for him. He is buried close by to Oliver Hardy. Mantan Moreland and Aneta Corsaut are close together in the far back of the cemetery.

After the cemetery stop, we rode down to Riverside Drive to stop at Priscilla’s Coffee. On the way we saw a sign-painter-fail. The painter had made the sign say, “ABLAMOS ESPAÑOL”, so the had to just paste on the “H” in front of it.

The route back went down the L.A. River bike path, and then home by way of South Pasadena. It was a pleasant ride.

46 miles.

Blue Ribbon!

Filed under: — stan @ 1:26 pm

Last night, I was at home when my phone chirped at me. It was a message and a picture from Morgan from work. She had gone to the L.A. County Fair and sent me pictures showing my cookies. The very ones I’d brought in last Tuesday. Apparently, all that development and all those endless test batches I baked paid off. My traditional chocolate chip cookies were 4th in their category, and my chocolate cookies took 1st place.

Woo-hoo!

So here are the recipes:

http://1134.org/recipes/chocolate-cookies-2012.pdf
http://1134.org/recipes/chocolate-chip-cookies-2012.pdf

8/29/2012

Last time at the 777

Filed under: — stan @ 9:06 pm

Today was the last practice at the 777 Tower. Sure, there’s one more on Friday, but that’s at 6AM, and that’s just a bit too early for my taste. So this was my last time for this building. I rode the train there with Chris and Nick, we got signed in, and then we were ready to climb.

We weren’t the first in the stairwell today. A fair number of people went ahead of us. But we managed to catch and pass nearly all of them on the way up. I used the same split times card from Monday, and I managed to keep up with it until about 30. That’s about where Chris and Nick fell off the pace. It’s always easier to maintain speed when there’s someone nipping at my heels. This time, I also remembered about the extra step from 35 to 36, so I didn’t get caught on the wrong foot. And in the end, I ran up the last two floors and flopped down on the 50th floor landing. When I looked at my watch, I had 8:22. A bit slower than on Monday, but still my second-best time for this building. Can’t complain about that.

We went up a second time, which is good for mental discipline, if nothing else. All the way up, I wanted to ask Chris, “what idiot thought it was a good idea to climb this thing again?”. But I didn’t, since I knew it was my idea. Still, I made it up the second time in 9:41. I guess that’s all right.

Now we get a little break until next Wednesday, when we go back to the Wells Fargo building on Bunker Hill. That will be interesting, since I have my practice times from the last two years there recorded. Then I’ll get a better idea of how I’m doing this season.

Ad astra…

8/28/2012

The Moment of Truth

Filed under: — stan @ 9:16 pm

Today was the day that I had to submit my cookies and recipes to the L.A. County Fair for the baking contest. I came home a bit early and started baking. Sadly, the heat wave we always seem to get in time for the county fair came right on schedule, and it was not much fun standing around in the kitchen with the hot oven.

I made two batches of cookies, one of each of the two recipes I’m entering this year. When they came out, I taste-tested one of each for quality control purposes. Truth be told now, I’m pretty sick of these cookies, since I’ve made so many test batches over the past few months. So I kind of had to choke them down. But they came out all right, and I picked out the six best-looking ones from each batch to enter in the contest. I put them in a little box, and headed out to the fair.

The fair is open from 3 to 7 for everyone to bring in their baked things for judging. I got there about 5, and you can see from the picture that the big tables they have set up are nowhere near full yet. But I know that they will be by the end. Los Angeles County is big, and there are a lot of entries in the fair. I put my cookies in, got my receipt, and headed home. They told me that the judging is done first thing the next day. So it’s a good thing I paid so much attention to making sure my cookies were still good more than 24 hours out of the oven.

So that’s this year’s baking contest story.

8/27/2012

I know I’ve said this before…

Filed under: — stan @ 10:09 pm

…but this is great.

Today was yet another practice climb at the 777 Tower in downtown Los Angeles. And again, I did new best time. There’s nothing not to like about that.

As always, I rode the train there after work. It’s so easy and pleasant. I got there a few minutes early, got signed in and ready to climb. This time, I went first into the stairwell. Everyone else there at the time said I would pass them, so they said I should go first. So I started up. By the time I was at 7 or 8, there was a guy catching up behind me. He came up right behind me at about 10, so I stepped to the side and asked if he wanted to pass. And he sort of croaked out, “I’m just trying to keep up with you”, so I went back to the inside and kept going. He shadowed me up to about 20 before he fell off the pace.

I’d made up a card of split times aiming to be at the top by 8:10. I was on schedule at 10 and 20, but by 30 I was a couple seconds off. I also noticed one odd thing. from 30 to 40 I altered my normal stepping pattern in order to switch which leg was doing more work. And at 36, I suddenly found myself hitting the landing on the wrong foot. So the second flight between 35 and 36 had an extra step in it. I had to do a quick adjustment to get back on track, and I made a mental note to pay attention to that the next time up.

When I got to 40, I was still a few seconds behind schedule, but I could see that I still had a chance at a good time. I started to wind it up at about 46, picking up the pace a bit, and at 48, I started a full-on sprint. I ran the last two floors, and then did the traditional face-plant on the 50th floor landing. When I looked at my watch, I saw that I’d done an 8:19, which is a good four seconds faster than my previous best time. And I realized later that this marks the first time I’ve gone under 10 seconds per floor for a large building climb.

After just a few minutes rest, I rode the elevator down and headed up again. The second time, I was planning on going slower. I paid attention, and I saw that, while most of the building is 23 steps per floor, divided into 12/11 flights, from 35 to 36 and from 45 to 46 are both 12/12. So I have to correct my chart for this building. Even going slower, the second time is a lot more painful than the first. Still, I made it to the top in 9:38, which works out to about 11.2 seconds per floor. The first couple races I did, back in 2009, I averaged about 12 seconds per floor, and I felt like I was gonna die! So doing 11.2 when I’m not particularly trying to go fast shows just how much I’ve improved in this insane little sport.

Overall, it was a fun evening.

8/26/2012

I hate it when this happens…

Filed under: — stan @ 10:02 pm

Tuesday is the day I have to submit my cookies and recipes for the L.A. County Fair. So, in honor of the occasion, I wanted to take the bike group for a ride out to and around the fairgrounds in Pomona. I made up batches of both cookie recipes to bring along to share.

In the morning, I was faced with the essential problem that a road bike is just not a good cargo vehicle. But I managed to figure out a way, using a small cardboard box, a rubber band, and some masking tape. I figured that as long as I didn’t hit any big bumps, it would be fine.

The ride out was pretty uneventful. Until we got to Covina. I noticed that my back wheel was way out of true, to the point that it was rubbing on the frame. So I stopped and got out my spoke wrench to true it back up. But when I looked at it, I saw that one of the spokes had pulled right out of the rim, and there was no fixing that with just a spoke wrench. So I fiddled with the spokes around the bad one to get the wheel straight enough to ride, and then I got ready to head home.

The plan had been to break out the cookies at our snack stop. But I wasn’t going to make it that far. So we found a Starbucks a couple blocks from where we were and we had a cookie-tasting. I’m pretty happy with how those recipes turned out.

After the impromptu stop, the group continued on the route. And John and I headed back to Pasadena, taking care not to put too much stress on the wounded wheel.

I hate it when things break like this. And this has happened before, and not that long ago.

38 miles.

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