Stan’s Obligatory Blog


Sea monsters and a giant tamale

Filed under: — stan @ 5:03 pm

Today’s bike ride was a sightseeing trip to see some odd landmarks. First was the Laguna de San Gabriel in Vincent Lugo Park, with its sea-monster playground, and second was the giant tamale on Whittier Blvd in East Los Angeles. The tamale is a prime example of programmatic architecture, right up there with Donut Hole and other odd buildings around Los Angeles.

It was a cool and overcast this morning, and the forecast said it might rain a bit later on. We headed south toward San Gabriel. We turned down Wells St to get to Vincent Lugo Park and the Laguna de San Gabriel playground. The last time we went to see this, it was closed for renovation, but it’s open again now. And it comes complete with a sign warning us that the historic playground “predates modern playground standards”. Good to know, I guess. Carla and I got some pictures with the sea creatures on the playground.

Leaving the playground, we continued south, crossing the 60 freeway and coming out on Whittier Blvd in East Los Angeles. There, just down the block was the giant tamale. It was built back in the 1920s, and it was originally a tamale shop. Now it’s half a hair salon and half a dental lab. But it’s still a prime example of odd architecture.

From the tamale, we headed east through Montebello to the Rio Hondo bike path. We went north, over Whittier Narrows Dam. I’d never noticed the sign at the top before. So now we know what the dam is made of, and the slopes of the sides of it. Again, good to know, I guess.

On the San Gabriel River bike path, we came across a bike accident. Another bike club group had had some sort of mishap, and the L.A. County Fire paramedics were on the scene. I’d never thought about it before, but apparently they can get the ambulance on to the bike path. One more thing to put in the “good to know, I guess” file.

Since we’d not done this particular route before, my estimate was that it was going to be about 42 miles when we were done. But by the time we were on top of Santa Fe Dam in Irwindale, I could tell it was going to be close to 50 by the time we got back. We rode up the bike path to Encanto Park, and then into Monrovia. We stopped for snacks at Merengue, and then headed home. When I got home, I had 49.4 miles. So I rode around the block a couple times, just to make it:

50 miles.


A ride to nowhere in particular

Filed under: — stan @ 12:53 pm

Today’s bike ride is a route we haven’t done in several years. I call the the Ride to Nowhere in Particular. The route just sort of meanders around, but there are no sightseeing stops or points of interest along the way. About the only unusual thing we saw was the dog skull on Lincoln Ave in Montebello. Still, it was nice day, and a pleasant ride.

46 miles.


CicLAvia to the Beach

Filed under: — stan @ 6:01 pm

Today was the latest edition of CicLAvia, and it was the most ambitious yet. They closed down streets all the way from City Hall downtown, out to Venice Beach. It’s not often, or even ever, that we get to ride to the beach from Pasadena, so today was our chance.

We rode downtown by our usual route down Huntington Drive. And once we were there, we picked up the CicLAvia route going south on Main St. The route went west on 7th out to MacArthur Park, and then south a bit to Venice Blvd, and then all the way out to the beach. We got there a bit early, so the route wasn’t officially open yet, but that was good, since it wasn’t crowded. By the time we got out to Culver City, I could feel the cool ocean breeze. That’s nice, since we just don’t get that in Pasadena. We made very good time, and we were at the beach by a little after 10:00.

We rode out as far as we could to get as close to the water as we could on our bikes. Then we stopped for a bit to watch the skateboarders. That reminded me of the documentary “Dogtown and Z Boys“, and how the 1977 drought led to great innovation in skateboarding, since the water shortage meant that there were a lot of empty swimming pools around. It was pretty entertaining watching them.

Heading back, the crowd had grown considerably, and most of the ride back was like Friday evening on the 405. Still, it was a nice day, and we made it back to downtown, and then we headed for home. I’d estimated that the total ride would be about 60 miles, and when I got home, I had 59.4. So I went and rode around the block just to get to 60 miles. It was a fun day.


I’m oddly excited about this

Filed under: — stan @ 9:48 pm

I just heard word that the San Diego Towerthon is on again for this June. I did this last year, and I did pretty well, climbing the 25-story building 17 times in 2 hours.

That evening, I was adding it up, and 17 times up the building totals 5,015 feet climbed. And this planted the seed of an idea. I figured out that 18 times up that building would make a vertical mile. I made this a personal goal, and I finally made my vertical mile stair climb at one of the practice sessions at the Aon building last month. And along the way, I managed to convince several other people to do it, too. It’s a deliberately crazy idea, and I’m a bit surprised that it caught on.

So my goal for the Towerthon this year is to do 18 or more times up the building. That totals 432 floors, 5,310 feet, and 9,108 steps.

How hard could it be?

Vertical Mile stair climb


Roger Ebert, 1942-2013

Filed under: — stan @ 5:13 pm

The big news of the past week was the passing of Roger Ebert, who, among other things, was the first critic to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. So, in memory of Mr. Ebert, this week’s bike club ride was a trip to Hollywood to visit his star.

We started out from the park, and we rode down through South Pasadena to Highland Park. Going down Figueroa St, we passed Chicken Boy, and then turned off to head for the L.A. River crossing into Silver Lake. We picked up Hollywood Blvd, and rode all the way down the length of it. We passed through the Thai New Year festival in Thai Town, and then into the center of Hollywood.

Mr. Ebert’s star is in a prime location, in front of the El Capitan theater, and across from the famous Chinese Theater. There was some wax on it, since I’d heard that they had had a little candle memorial placed on it for a few days.

From there, we headed south, to Larchmont Village and Noah’s Bagels. The clouds were starting to clear, and it was a nice day to sit outside. For the trip home, we did our usual route across on 2nd St and then into Silver Lake and up Benton Way. It was a pleasant ride.

42 miles.


Well, I really can’t complain…

Filed under: — stan @ 3:48 pm

Today was the “Fight for Air” stair climb put on by the Lung Association. This is my fifth time doing this event. Oddly enough, it never gets any easier. But after all the practice sessions at the building for the last three months, I think I’m about as ready as I’m going to be.

We rode the train downtown, since that’s just so much easier than driving. We got there just a few minutes before it was time to line up. I was in the lead group, given the lucky number 13. We were roughly lined up in order of our finishing times from last year. I’d made up a little card to rubber-band to my arm with floor targets of where I planned on being at each one-minute mark on the way up. I was hoping to do roughly the same time as last year, which was 11:31.

When it was my turn, I trotted into the stairwell and headed up. I managed to stay on schedule up to about the 24th floor or so. Then I started to fall behind a bit. It wasn’t too bad, but I didn’t feel as good as I had at my last practice run on Tuesday. And by 45 or so, I was fully into the “OMG! What the HELL was I thinking when I signed up for this?!?!” mode. And that’s not conducive to doing a good time. Still, I managed to keep going, and I stumbled out onto the roof with a time of 11:45.

At the top, we got the whole West Coast Labels group together for a picture on the roof. I also got a picture with George. He had found a couple of errors in my chart of the staircase, and one evening we walked up together, counting and taking measurements. He has a real eye for detail, and I’m glad that he was able to check out and fix my chart. He was also excited that his time of 11:49 was only four seconds behind mine.

After coming back down, we hung around and visited with everyone I’ve gotten to know in this crazy sport, and I finally walked up the stairs a second time with Jane and Lisa. We did it at a moderate pace, so it was fun. And we still passed lots of people on the way up.

In the end, the day was a bit of a mixed bag. On the one hand, I didn’t go as fast as I’d wanted to, or as fast as I think I can. But on the other hand, I came in 20th out of 617 climbers, so I really can’t complain. At least not without looking kind of stupid. So overall, it was an all-right experience.

Full results are here:


My five minutes of fame!

Filed under: — stan @ 9:10 pm

A couple weeks ago, I went downtown to meet with Evan from KCRW so we could climb the stairs at the Aon building and talk about the sport of competitive stair climbing. The final piece that he made was broadcast yesterday. And here’s the link to the blog posting at KCRW about it, including a Soundcloud link so you can listen to it:


Last practice run

Filed under: — stan @ 9:39 pm

This evening was the my last practice session on the Aon building staircase before the race this Saturday. I wanted to try an experiment, and I made up a little card with targets of where I wanted to be at each one-minute mark in the race. In order to test this out, I had to start from ground level, so tonight I walked down the staircase to the door to start.

Pretty much right away, I was behind schedule. The first section of the staircase is 80 steps, and it has a lot of short flights and turns, so it took longer than a ‘normal’ 80 steps should take. So I was behind schedule by the time I got to my first time point at 6. But I managed to stay about the same amount of time behind schedule the rest of the way up.

My original plan was to try and make it to 55 in about 10 minutes. But when I got close, I was still behind schedule, so thought that wasn’t going to happen. But when I got to 55 and stopped my watch, I’d made it up in just exactly 10 minutes. So that was a pleasant surprise.

After doing the one climb for speed, I walked up three more times just for fun. My friend Briana was there, and she wanted to try for a vertical half-mile, which is four times up the staircase. So I walked up with her the last two times. Climbing stairs really isn’t bad, as long as it’s at a moderate pace and with company.

So I guess I’m ready to race.


Atomic-Age Houses

Filed under: — stan @ 4:56 pm

A few weeks ago, Zillow published an article about houses built in the post-war period with what was considered ‘modern’ design. Since two of them were in the Hollywood Hills, I figured a sightseeing bike ride was in order.

It was chilly and overcast, and the forecast said there was a chance of rain. But we headed out anyway. We rode into Hollywood by our regular route through Eagle Rock and Glassell Park. And then we turned up Gower St to see the first house. Sadly, the front of the house is nowhere near as interesting-looking as the picture in the article of the back of the house. Still, we got to see it.

Continuing on up the hill, we came out on top by Wolf’s Lair Castle. Then we rode along the ridge and passed the overlook where all the tourists get their picture taken with the Hollywood sign. Then we rode down into Cahuenga Pass and up Mulholland Drive to the second house.

The second house was slightly more visible from the road. It looked like it probably had a commanding view. We certainly had to ride uphill a pretty long way to get to it.

The sightseeing done, we headed down into Burbank and snacks at Priscilla’s. Then home by way of Glendale and Eagle Rock. The ride wasn’t any longer than one of our usual routes, but it was a lot harder, due to the hills.

43 miles.


The Vertical Mile

Filed under: — stan @ 9:46 pm

Tonight was my third attempt at the Vertical Mile, and this time the magic worked. Well, the magic, combined with a quart of Gatorade.

I rode the train downtown as usual. And this time, I stopped in at Famima!! on the way in and got a quart bottle of classic lemon-lime Gatorade. I’d also brought along a big bottle of water. The plan was to gulp down some of both of them after each ascent. I was hoping that the little shot of sugar would keep the bonk away this time, and prevent the troubles I had when I’d tried this stunt last Tuesday.

The first four times up were pretty straightforward. Each time, when I got to the top, I headed straight for the elevators to go back down. I snapped a picture of my stopwatch to record my time while I was riding the elevator back down. I managed to keep it under 12 minutes for all four times, which meant that at the halfway point, I was about five minutes ahead of schedule. That gave me a little extra time to drink the Gatorade, towel off, and change to a dry headband for the second half.

The fifth and sixth times up were slower than before. My plan for the first four ascents was to do 4 1/2 floors per minute, and I kept an eye on the clock to maintain my pace. The plan for the second set of four was to dial that back to four floors per minute, and I was pretty much able to maintain that pace for the fifth and sixth climbs.

By this time, I was lying down on the floor in the elevator during the ride down. I wanted to get everything I could out of that 40 seconds or so of rest.

When it was time for the seventh climb, I resorted to counting down the floors, starting with “51″ when I took the first step. It gave me something to think about, other than, “What the HELL was I thinking when I decided to try this!” At the top of the seventh, I checked the time, and I had 20 minutes left before they closed up the stairwell. At that point, I knew I had it in the bag. I went back down, finished the last of the Gatorade, and started up for the last time.

The last time up, I had to keep reminding myself to not think, and just put one foot in front of the other. I felt a bit like the hamster-stair-master. Once again, I counted down the floors. I switched my watch back to display the time. I didn’t really care how fast I went the last time up, as long as I got to the top before 7:00. I even passed a few people on the stairs. That was a pleasant surprise.

One thing that helped a lot was that all my friends who were there knew what I was up to, and they were very nice about it. They gave me encouragement along the way, and the last time up, George even held open the two fire doors on the 44th floor, and then he shadowed me up the last 11 floors. And at the top on the eighth time, I ran the last three floors, and then collapsed on the landing. It was good to be done.

Just to put it in perspective, George made up a picture to show what a mile-high climb would look like:
mile-high building

The final tally was: 408 floors, 5,520 feet, 1,680 meters, and 9,008 steps. Total elapsed time was 1:58. I finally landed the White Whale.

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