May 25, 2012

I had to buy a new iPod. I last wrote about my iPod in March, when I dropped it on cement and cracked the glass. My iPod rebounded from that trauma, and the cracked screen proved not to be a fatal wound, just an unsightly cosmetic one. What did my iPod in was some sort of faulty, damaged battery. I didn’t get the specifics, nor did I care – what was important was that I got a new iPod, and, once again, all is well in my mobile music world.

The iPod wasn’t the only thing that came home with me from the mall. That’s because the Apple store I frequent, at the Glendale Galleria, is right next door to one of my favorite stores in the entire world: a store that whisks me immediately back to my childhood and fires up every creative and design-related synapse in my brain…

…The Lego Store!

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Today’s the Big Day!

May 5, 2012

Happy Cinco de Mayo!

I don’t have plans to celebrate the Mexican army’s defeat of the French in the 1862 Battle of Puebla. Instead, I’ll be spending my morning finally completing my 163-story stair climb fundraiser challenge! I feel like it’s taken forever for this day to get here, but, in actuality, it was only two months ago when I announced that I’d be climbing the equivalent of the Burj Khaifa (the world’s tallest building) on the StairMaster without stopping. I’ve done a lot of training since then, including an actual skyscraper climb in downtown Los Angeles, then had a setback and postponement when I fucked up my foot.

But now I’m ready. And if you’re reading this after 11am PST on Saturday, then chances are I’ll have completed my stair climb.And I’ll have rocked it!

If you’re looking for a recap, than you’ll have to come back Monday, because I’m actually writing this Friday evening, and I can’t predict the future!

What I can do is share my final two training sessions. I used the StairMaster on both Monday and Wednesday, and both were great workouts. On Monday I climbed 116 stories in 30 minutes, and on Wednesday, I climbed 140 stories in 37 minutes – a new personal best!

That’s two skyscrapers I can add to my Skyscraper Collection! The problem is that I’ve already exhausted most of the buildings on the planet that are over 100 stories, so this time I’m going to do something a little different. I’m adding more than one tower for each climb!

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“Before” and “Current” Photo OVERLAY!

April 30, 2012

I met my friend Steve in 6th grade at West Maple Middle School, and now here in California, not that far from me. I’ve always known Steve to be smart and talented, but last week, after I shared my glowing-yellow-wall “Before” and “Current” pictures and the cool silhouette photo, Steve shot me the following email:

“Your new photos inspired me to Photoshop your new silhouette onto your ‘before’ picture. I tried to line up your ears and elbows to keep the two pictures proportional, and I think it turned out pretty well!”

And this was attached:

I absolutely LOVE it – it’s so unbelievably cool! No need for “Before” AND “Current” pictures… Steve combined them into one! This is going immediately into the Photo Gallery. Thanks, Steve!

Movin’ on…

Did you have a good weekend? Mine was quite nice, except for the jarring realization on Saturday that my 163-story stair climb fundraiser challenge is only one week away. If you’re struck with a sense of deja vu, it’s because I already wrote a post about the stair climb being one week away, but that was before I injured my foot and postponed the climb for two weeks.

Now my foot feels a whole lot better – I’ve been gradually putting more pressure and weight on it during my workouts over the past few days, and there’s been no flare-ups or pain whatsoever. On Saturday, when the one-week-away realization hit me like a truck, I decided to ramp my StairMaster training back into high gear. After all, thanks to the injury, I’ve only been on the StairMaster once in the past two weeks.

I ended up spending 21 minutes on the StairMaster, and climbed 84 stories, burning 318 calories. Not bad at all. It’s only half of the 163 stories I’ll be climbing this Saturday, but I hope to get one or two more training sessions in before the big day. I’ll be ready.

And I get to add a new tower to my Skyscraper Collection!  I plan on taking a little (or big) break from the StairMaster after my challenge, so I thought I’d add another landmark to my collection while I still could.

You know it, you love it… the latest addition to my collection is…


It’s 77 stories tall, and I’ve wanted to add this guy to my collection for a while now.

My favorite thing about the Chrysler Building was how Walter Chrysler and architect Willam Van Alen, during the building’s construction in 1929, kept the now-famous 7-story, 185-foot spire a complete secret. No one in the press knew it existed, and it was constructed within the lower part of the building, so no one could see it taking shape. Then one day, to everyone’s surprise, it was hoisted and bolted into place in just 90 minutes. Just like that, the Chrysler Building became the tallest building in the world, edging out 40 Wall Street, another building under construction at the same time. The Chrysler Building only had the world-tallest-building title for 11 short months, though… then the Empire State Building came along.

And here’s something I just learned while researching this post: The Chrysler Building has never been owned by the Chrysler Corporation, nor did the Chrysler Corporation pay for its construction, even though their headquarters were there from 1930 through the ’50s. Walter Chrysler paid for it himself, so that it could be passed down to his children.

FUNDRAISING UPDATE: I’m almost there! I’ve raised $1,555 dollars, which means I’m 95% of the way towards my $1,630 goal. Only $75 short! Can you help me with those final few bucks? Click here to read about the stair climb, and CLICK HERE TO MAKE A DONATION. Thanks!

Finally… I went to the pool yesterday for my second swim in a week (read about the other swim here). My friend Emily came along, and the pool was very crowded and it was hot. I got in 2,100 yards before calling it a day, and then Emily and I walked across the park to a… carnival!

I love a good rickety carny-operated ride, but unfortunately, I didn’t have any cash money on me, and the ticket booth didn’t accept credit cards. I did take this picture with the Ferris Wheel:

I took the exact same picture at Disney California Adventure with Mickey’s Fun Wheel (see it here). I guess it’s my thing with Ferris Wheels. Yep, me and Ferris Wheels have a thing. Jealous?

Even though Emily and I didn’t ride any rides, we did buy a snack (er… Emily bought us a snack, to be specific). There were a lot of options: Funnel Cakes. Cotton Candy. Nachos. Corn Dogs. So what did we decide on?

Roasted Corn on a Stick!

There was a row of Food Trucks, and this came from the Corn Heaven truck.

I got mine with lemon juice, and added some Cajun seasoning. Might have been the best corn I’ve ever had! I definitely wanted to go back and buy 4 more ears, although that’s where the lack of funds became an issue.

Eating veggies at a carnival?

Keep it up, David!

A Game-Changing Workout

April 10, 2012

Yesterday, I blathered on and on about how much I love my new new gym. It’s completely awesome. Remember how I mentioned that it’s above a Barnes & Noble and a movie theater and across the street from Ikea? I forgot to mention another business that’s on the same block. I don’t quite know what to say about this particular establishment, except that it combines my two favorite things: mediocre chain restaurant food and girls with big fake tits:

I can’t wait to sweat my ass off and then head over for an order of “Lots-a-Tots.” (A pile of tater tots covered in bacon, cheese, sour cream, and chives. Yep, an actual menu item.)

Today, the general theme of “I love my new new gym” continues, because I used the StairMaster there for the first time, and it was a game-changing experience. It was my first time climbing stairs since my downtown skyscraper climb two weekends ago (see pictures from the roof of the 63-story Aon Center here). I’ve enjoyed my week-long break from stairs, but it was time to start climbing again – I gotta prepare for my next stair challenge, and it’s only 12 days away! I’ll be climbing, on the StairMaster, the equivalent of the world’s tallest building. It’s a fundraiser, so check out my donation page (CLICK HERE!) and throw a few dollars towards an amazing children’s charity in Michigan.A friendly reminder that there’s a bunch of you (I won’t name names) that have told me, either in person or in writing, that you’ll donate, but you haven’t yet! What are you waiting for?

I digress. My new new gym has brand-new, top-of-the-line StairMasters, and within seconds of getting on one, I knew I was on the perfect piece of exercise equipment for me. I was so excited I went and got my camera from my locker to take pictures! Here’s the welcome screen you see when you first step on… can you figure out why I got so excited?

Check out the middle option – Landmarks! I’ve spent the past year and a half conquering landmarks on the StairMaster, and now I’m on a machine that is programmed to help me conquer more! Awesome.

When you click on Landmarks, you get this screen:

Landmarks from around the world: Statue of Liberty, Great Pyramid of Giza, Eiffel Tower, and so on. Guess what the building is on the far right?It’s the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world!This is the building I’ll be hypothetically climbing in 12 days!

But, to quote Hamlet, “something is rotten in the state of Denmark.” The StairMaster’s floor counts are all wrong. It says the Burj Khalifa is 255 stories, instead of 153; it says the Petronas Towers are 138 stories, instead of 88; it says the Empire State Building is 117 stories, instead of 102.

I pulled out my calculator, put on my Nancy Drew hat, and got to the bottom of this mystery. Turns out the StairMaster is listing the hypothetical number of floors needed to reach the very tips of the spires of these buildings. I figured out the StairMaster’s formula: It takes the total height of each building (2717 feet/828 meters in the case of Burj Khalifa) and divides it by what it considers to be the height of one floor (10.66 feet/3.25 meters). For the Burj Khalifa, the means the point of the spire is 255 “floors” up, even though the building only has 163 habitable floors (that’s a tall spire!). I tested my math across five of the featured building on the Landmarks page, and it’s true for all of them. And I finally learned what constitutes a floor on a StairMaster!

Of course, when I saw that the Burj Khalifa had 255 stories, according to the StairMaster, my mind started racing. I’ve been planning to climb 163 stories for my upcoming stair challenge… does this mean I need to raise my goal to 255? I decided I would think about it during the course of my workout. In the meantime, I selected Taipei 101 from the Landmarks screen – as it was a building I had yet to add to my Skyscraper Collection, and I started climbing.

I love the display during the climb. There’s a little silhouette of Taipei 101, and as you climb, it shows, on the silhouette, what floor you’re on. It’s easy to track time, speed, and calories. Plus, you can plug in your iPod and control it through the display (and the iPod charges during the process, which my iPod desperately needed yesterday).

OH! A little while ago, I was lamenting that some StairMasters used a steps-per-minute (SPM) calculation to determine speed, and others assigned arbitrary levels. This duality frustrated me, because I didn’t know how the two systems related to each other. Well, this kick-ass StairMaster has both systems! I’ve finally learned what I’ve been dying to know: that, for example, Level 7 is 68 SPM, Level 8 is 75 SPM, and Level 9 is 82 SPM. Finally!

My StairMaster workout was solid. I kinda made it to the top of Taipei 101, and I kinda didn’t. I climbed 114 stories in 25 minutes (burning 405 calories) – and that 114 stories is more than the actual building has in real life (it tops off at 101 stories), but less than the StairMaster’s top-of-the-spire count of 157.

I decided then and there that I won’t be adjusting my upcoming Burj Khalifa challenge to reflect this StairMaster’s math. My reasons are two-fold:

  • 163 stories to 255 stories is a big leap. Climbing 163 stories is going to be hard enough as it is – I simply won’t have time to properly train if I add 92 stories to my goal. It’s like switching from running a 10k to a half-marathon, even though you’ve been prepping this whole time for the 10k. Maybe 255 stories will be a goal for another time.
  • No machine is going to tell me what to do. Screw you, machine – I’ll do what I want! You’re not the boss of me!

Because of that second bullet point, I’m adding Taipei 101 to my Skyscraper Collection. It’s 101 stories in real life, and I climbed 114 on the StairMaster, so I consider it conquered. Here is it, towering over its much shorter neighbors:

Taipei 101 is in Taipei, Taiwan, and it held the record of the world’s tallest building from its opening in 2004 until the Burj Khalifa took the title in 2010. There’s a 720-ton pendulum (!) that hangs in the center of the building from the 87th-92nd floor that sways to offset any movements that strong winds may cause. There are two observatories near the top of the building – one indoors and one outdoors. It’s rumored that the 101st floor is home to a top-secret VIP club called Summit 101, but no information about the club has ever been leaked to the press.

Yep… I climbed that! And after I was finished, I lifted weights for 40 minutes.

Keep it up, David!

The View From 63 Stories

April 2, 2012

Pour yourself a beverage and relax, ladies and gentlemen, because this is a long one. It’s also a good one (with lots of pictures!), because right now I’m feeling a kind of pride that I’ve only felt a couple of times before in my life.

The pride stems from Saturday morning, when I participated in the American Lung Association’s Fight For Air Climb 2012, and believe me, before I felt that pride, I felt a lot of other things, starting with ‘What the fuck have I gotten myself into?’

That’s what went through my head when I turned the corner in downtown Los Angeles and saw the 63-story Aon Center looming, just a block away. The Aon Center used to hold the record for being the tallest building west of the Mississippi, and it’s still the second-tallest building in Los Angeles (and California). Less than a month ago, I committed myself to racing up the stairwell, for charity, all the way from the street to the roof. I was familiar with the Aon Center, but had never looked at it with the knowledge that, in a matter of minutes, I would be inside it, climbing, climbing, climbing, until the stairs ended and there was nothing above but open sky. The Aon Center is tall – it tops out at 858 feet above the pavement – but when I turned that corner, it seemed ridiculously tall. Monstrously tall. Ominously tall.

It was so tall that when I stood at the base of it, I could barely make out the top – it seemed as far away as the horizon.

The Fight For Air event was a big deal. Hundreds of people were signed up to climb. They had closed down an entire block of Hope Street to create a plaza for climbers to congregate. The check-in tables were in the middle of the intersection of Hope and Wilshire.

Check it out – my bib number just happened to be my birth year! That’s a good sign, right?

Climbers were assigned line-up times. It’s not a free-for-all – they send climbers in, one at a time, on 10 second intervals, for safety’s sake. My line-up time was 9:45am. I got there about an hour ahead of time, and after checking-in and attaching the timer chip to my shoe, I did a lot of stretching and chatted with Heidi and Tom, two friends that came along to cheer me on. I looked up at the building every once in a while, and it seemed like the damn thing was growing taller with every passing glance.

At 9:30, I told Heidi the truth: I was getting really nervous. “Don’t be,” she said. “You’ve been training for this. You’ve got this.” She’s right: I’ve been on the StairMaster more times than I can count over the past couple months, and 63 stories on the StairMaster is practically nothing for me – I’ve climbed over 63 stories no less than 20 times.

But I knew climbing an actual stairwell would be a completely different animal. StairMasters don’t have landings that mess with your rhythm and pace, and while they’re strenuous exercise, you’re not lifting your full body weight with each step on the StairMaster, because the stair gives way under you. So I talked with my friend Laura on Friday to get some last-minute tips and advice. Laura’s done the Fight For Air Climb twice before, in the 73-story Renaissance Center in Detroit, and she gave me all sorts of new things to worry about:

“Here’s the thing, David – the stairwell is going to be hot and muggy. There’s no air flow in a stairwell – no breeze, not much ventilation. Wear the lightest clothes you have. Plus, stairwells aren’t cleaned as regularly as the rest of the building, so the people who climb before you are going to kick up all kinds of dust. There were water stations and oxygen tanks every 10 floors, and when I climbed, there were people who couldn’t breath and were using every oxygen tank that I passed. I made it to the top, but breathing wasn’t easy – which is ironic, because the event is, you know, organized by the American Lung Association.”

Yikes. I decided I would mentally prepare for a completely miserable experience, so I could be pleasantly surprised if it actually wasn’t that bad.

When it was my group’s turn to line up, all my thoughts of dust and sticky stagnant air were quickly replaced with ‘Whoa – this is actually happening! It’s time!’ - and I got really excited. Tom snapped this photo of me in line:

I’m next!

And I’m off!

The first part of the stairwell (which directly accessed the sidewalk) was very confined, but once it cleared the two story lobby, it opened up and became much less claustrophobic. Organizers put up posters on nearly every landing, and there were tons of encouraging signs on the risers of the stairs themselves, reminding me to ‘keep going!’ and ‘stay focused!’ (My favorite was ‘you’re almost there!’, which, when posted on the 15th floor, really stretches the definition of ‘almost’.)

In addition to the various warnings, Laura and I had also discussed strategy on the phone, and she stressed how important it was to find a maintainable, consistent pace and not blow your wad on the first 20 floors. Guess who did exactly the opposite? ME! I’m exaggerating somewhat – I tried to preserve energy, and thought that’s what I was doing, but the excitement of the whole event must’ve gotten the better of me, because by floor 16 I was huffing and puffing and my legs were starting to buckle. Up until that point, I was taking the stairs two at a time, but I couldn’t maintain that, so I slowed up and switched to one step at a time.

My personal goal was not to stop. I had my iPod, so I listened to some of my favorite songs and focused on reaching the milestone floors: 21 (1/3 of the way), 32 (halfway) and 42 (2/3 of the way). I tried not to look at the floor number signs on every landing, but they were hard to miss. I took water at every water station (there were 4 or 5 total), and there were also volunteers with noisemakers cheering us on at other floors as well.

I’m not going to lie: It was tough. Brutally, excruciatingly tough. Thankfully, none of the Laura’s climate-related predictions had come true: it wasn’t stuffy or warm, nor did I feel accosted by dust. But my entire lower body was throbbing and aching by the 45th floor, and I found myself relying on the handrails a little more frequently, but I kept going. And going. And going.

At the 48th floor, I started counting backwards: only 15 floors to go… 12 floors… 8 floors… 3 floors… I got energized when I saw natural light flooding the stairwell, and I picked up the pace for the last flight of stairs, and before I knew it, I was on the roof. WHOA – I was ON THE ROOF! Volunteers were right there, handing me a towel and water and removing the timer chip from my shoe. Meanwhile, I was looking around, because that rooftop instantly became one of my favorite places on the planet.

It was an overcast, gray, foggy day, and at that height, you’re in the middle of the fog. On a clear day, I would’ve been able to see the ocean, and mountains in every other direction, but not on Saturday. I loved how the only thing the punctured the fog was the top of the nearby US Bank Tower, the only building in town that’s taller:

You couldn’t get right to the edge of the roof, but I love this next picture. Wanna know how high up I was? The teeny-tiny-looking circular building over my shoulder is actually the Staples Center, the giant arena where the LA Lakers play:

When it was time to get off the roof, I headed down the only other staircase with roof access – a narrow, very steep little number that looked like something you’d see on an aircraft carrier. This was actually the scariest part of my morning – my legs were still wobbly and aching, and the staircase was slick from moisture in the air. Plus, I had to duck to avoid hitting my head on a beam (I’m thankful for the big ‘watch your head!’ banner, because I’m exactly the tall klutz that would smack my forehead).

Once safely on the 62nd floor, I followed the signs to another stairwell, which I took to the 60th floor, where there were elevators to take us to the lobby. Before I got on an elevator, I wandered a little bit – the 60th floor is completely empty, unoccupied office space (I wonder what the rent would be!), so I headed to the windows for a couple more pics that showed how high I was.

It’s freakin’ HIGH!

The elevator took us to the second floor, and there was an escalator to get down to sidewalk level. Heidi and Tom were waiting at the base of the escalator, clapping and cheering. I grabbed a banana, and we hung around for a few minutes, and I got a massage in a massage tent.

As Heidi, Tom, and I were leaving, I looked up at the Aon Center one final time. And you know what? It didn’t seem so tall anymore. That building has 1,377 steps from the street to the roof, and I climbed each and every one of them. A smile is creeping across my face as I type this, and I suspect it will always return when I think about this day. One of the things I remind myself, especially when I’m having a bad day or feel tempted to give up on my health-related goals, is that I’m capable of extraordinary things. I can do whatever I put my mind to. And climbing the Aon Center is the perfect example.

On Saturday night, I got my official race results. In total, 632 participants climbed the stairs. I finished 110th.

**UPDATE!** Because of a cheater (read about it here), I actually finished 108th out of 632. That’s 83rd percentile, bitches! I finished 79th among men, and 23rd in my age group (Men 30-39).

My favorite statistic is my time: I climbed those 63 stories in 15 minutes, 24 seconds! My pace was 14 seconds per floor. I was hoping, based on my StairMaster training sessions, of averaging 20 seconds per floor (21 minutes total) – so I CRUSHED my expectations! Woohoo!

That’s not the only thing I crushed. Thanks to contributions from 22 tremendous supporters, I exceeded my $630 fundraising goal and brought in $697.38 for the American Lung Association. Amazing – you guys are the best! I appreciate each and every cent and feel so honored to be the cause of such generosity. Thank you!

Don’t put your wallets and purses away yet! My second stair climb challenge is just three weeks away, and it’s also a fundraiser. I’ll be climbing the tallest building on Earth (in my own special way), and you KNOW you wanna be a part of that! Get the skinny (and make a contribution) here.

As for the American Lung Association’s Fight For Air Climb 2012, I’m thrilled and unbelievably proud of my performance this weekend. I’ll leave you with one more picture – Heidi made this sign and was waving it when I descended the final escalator into the lobby after the race:

I’m Feeling Ready.

March 29, 2012

Yesterday was wonderfully productive in a lot of ways. In regards to my health, I checked two big things off my to-do list: 1) a fantastic workout, and 2) a much-needed visit to the supermarket. Which do you wanna hear about first? I hope you said supermarket!

Check out all this produce that’s now in my refrigerator!

From left-to-right, top-to-bottom: One head of radicchio, 4 red bartlett pears, strawberries, 1 bag pre-washed and cubed butternut squash, 1 head garlic, 1 pineapple, radishes, mango, 3 red bell peppers, 1 container pre-washed broccoli florets, bananas, escarole, rainier apples, mushrooms, baby carrots, tomatoes, and 2 bags pre-trimmed green beans.

I could say that I don’t know what I’ll eat first, but that’d be a lie because all the broccoli is already gone, as is a banana.

There were no new-to-me produce items, like sumo tangerines, mini kiwis, or cara cara oranges that caught my eye this time around, but I did find a healthy, pre-made squid salad (!) in the seafood section that I’m excited to try. Something tells me that the idea of squid salad either excites you or grosses you out – there doesn’t seem to be much of a middle ground when it comes to eating squid! I’m firmly on the “yes, please!” side of that fence.

Now, my workout! I had a great day at the gym. I started with the StairMaster, for the last time before my big 63-story charity stair climb on Saturday morning. I went for consistency – I set the machine at a good pace that would challenge but not kill me (70 steps per minute) and saw how long I could last. I lasted a pretty long time! All told, I spent 24 minutes on the StairMaster, burning 370 calories and climbing 100 stories – what a nice, round number!

Which means, of course, that I get to add another building to my Skyscraper Collection! There’s a 100-story building that I’ve had my eye on for a few months now, and I’m glad I can finally add it to my list, because it’s the tallest building in the world that I’ve been to the top of (in an elevator, not the stairs). It’s also a major landmark that you’ll probably recognize…

The John Hancock Center in Chicago! (It’s the tallest building in the photo.)

Of all the buildings in my Skyscraper Collection, this is the one I’m probably most familiar with. I already mentioned that I’ve been to the observation deck at the top (about 5 or 6 years ago – amazing views!), and I’ve also admired it from the street more times than I can count, because my brother, sister-in-law, and nephews used to live two blocks away. Quite literally in John Hancock’s shadow. It’s quite an impressive building – as it should be, given that the roof is over 1,100 feet off the ground – but the giant X-braces that criss-cross up the exterior, spanning dozens of floors, really add heft and make the building that much more imposing and dramatic.

There’s always something to learn, though – and here’s some John Hancock trivia that I just learned while researching this post:

  • Jerry Springer owns a condo on the 91st floor, and his neighbor used to be Chris Farley.
  • It was built on land that, prior to the 1870s, was part of Lake Michigan. After Chicago’s Great Fire in 1871, cleaning crews and builders began using Lake Michigan as a dump for all the rubble and debris the disaster created, eventually extending the edge of the city hundreds of feet into the lake.
  • John Hancock hosts an annual charity stair climb event, much like the one I’m doing in two days, at the end of every February, called “Hustle Up The Hancock.” This year’s fastest climber, a 24-year-old named Justin Stewart, made it to the top in 9 minutes, 44 seconds. HOLY CRAP, that’s fast!
  • The elevators that take people to the observation deck are the fastest in North America, making the 1,000 foot ascent in 40 seconds.

With this final preparatory StairMaster workout under my belt, I feel ready for Saturday’s stair climb up the 63-story Aon Center in downtown Los Angeles. And I won’t be resting before then – I may be done with my prep work on the StairMaster, but doesn’t mean that I’ll be sitting around twiddling my thumbs: I’ll have a full workout today, and a lighter workout on Friday that’s upper-body focused (I don’t want to wake up Saturday morning with sore, heavy legs).

I’m ecstatic about the fundraising I’ve done for the event’s organizer, the American Lung Association. After upping it numerous times based on the incredible response I received, I settled on a final goal of $630 – that’s $10 for every floor in the Aon Center. So far, you guys have driven me way past my goal - my current fundraising total is at $697.38. That’s so freakin’ awesome!

OH – I NEARLY FORGOT! You guys helped me win a prize! There was a fundraising contest – whoever raised the most money during the week of March 12-16 won a free $100 pair of shoes from a local running store. I heard about the contest but didn’t really do anything above and beyond what I was already doing. But you guys stepped up, and now I’m getting a free pair of shoes! I’ll be sure to share which pair I pick out – and thanks so much!

You still have until Saturday to donate – and please don’t let the fact that I’ve already reached my goal deter you! Click here to make a donation on my personal fundraising page. Or, if you’d prefer, I have a second stair climb event coming up in a few weeks, and I’m still a couple hundred dollars shy of that goal (which benefits the awesome Whaley Children’s Center in Flint, Michigan) – Click here and donate to help me reach that goal.

Between the two events (read about both of them here), I’ve already raised over $1,350 for charity. Wow! You guys are the best. Keep it up, readers! And…

Keep it up, David!


March 24, 2012

The title of this post sounds like it might be a slogan for a kid’s bookstore or reading program, but actually, it represents a major milestone in my Skyscraper Collection.

My Skyscraper Collection began as a tool to motivate me to use the StairMaster, which I dreaded. The idea was simple – I’m an architecture lover, so I decided to find a skyscraper somewhere on the planet equivalent to the number of stories I climbed during a StairMaster workout. The idea has worked like a charm – today I’m adding my 29th skyscraper to my collection (see the entire collection here), and this whole idea has led to two major StairMaster-related fundraising events – the first of which is happening a week from today – YIKES! Click here to read about the challenges and learn how to donate.

Today I hopped on the StairMaster without any big goals. My last StairMaster workout, at the beginning of the week, was a major triumph – I shattered all my previous personal bests – and I’ve had great non-StairMaster workouts all week, so this time, I took it easier than normal.

“Easier than normal” still equaled some impressive stats. I climbed for 18 minutes, burned 290 calories, and reached 76 stories. As I drove home, I realized how my training for the aforementioned fundraisers has really amped up my StairMaster standards. Three months ago, climbing 76 stories would have been a major accomplishment – a 76-story building would be the third-highest skyscraper in my collection. But, in the past 3 months, I’ve climbednine towers with more than 76 stories. In fact, 76 stories is just a few stories above myaverage number of stories per workout, which currently stands at 71 stories.

If you had told me a year ago that an “easier than normal” StairMaster workout would result in 76 stories climbed, I would’ve laughed. That’s the difference that three months makes. And that’s something to be proud of.

Anyhoo, time t0 add another skyscraper to the collection! Today’s skyscraper is a record-holder. It’s the tallest building in Russia and the tallest building in all of Europe – although it will lose that title in a few months, when The Shard at London Bridge opens – it’s 9 meters taller, but has 4 fewer floors. The Shard, in turn, will only hold the title until the end of the year, when the Mercury City Tower in Moscow opens – it’s 22 meters taller than The Shard, but has 2 fewer floors. The lesson is that the buildings are getting taller in Europe, but the floor count isn’t!

Say hello to the 76-story Moscow Tower!

Moscow Tower is on the right – it’s part of a huge complex called Capital City, which includes the St. Petersburg tower to the left, as well as a number of shorter buildings. I love that both the Moscow and St. Petersburg towers have a precarious design – they look like blocks that could topple at any moment!

What’s MOST EXCITING about the addition of the Moscow Tower to my Skyscraper Collection is that those 76 stories, when added to the stories of the other 28 buildings in my collection, push my CUMULATIVE FLOOR COUNT TO OVER 2,000! The total count is now 2,058 – and that’s a helluva lot of stories! (I list other fun cumulative stats at the bottom of my Skyscraper Collection page.)


Stair Climb Training Update

March 21, 2012

I’m back on schedule! I didn’t publish yesterday’s post until about noon, so all of you that checked for a new post earlier in the morning and didn’t find one, my bad. Click here to read it – it has a great watermelon gazpacho recipe! 

Over the weekend, I realized that a week had passed without me doing any StairMaster workouts. I had done other workouts, and plenty of them, but I’m in training right now for two separate stair climbing challenges, and the StairMaster was my primary training method.

On Sunday, I headed off to the gym, but hit an unexpected snag: the Los Angeles Marathon. The marathon closed roads across the city, and I didn’t learn until I was a few blocks away from my gym that the road closures were gonna prevent me from getting to the gym altogether. I’m sure, had I looked it up, I would’ve found where I could’ve crossed the route, but I didn’t take time the time, because I was on a schedule. I had other errands to run and things to do, and when I was forced to detour, I decided that I would screw the gym, knock some other things off my to-do list, and hope I would have time later in the day to exercise in the little gym in my building.

Can you guess what happened? Yep, I never worked out. One thing led to another, and Sunday ended up being an unplanned rest day. I was a little annoyed, because I had taken a well-earned, planned rest day on Thursday, just three days prior, but two rest days in one week isn’t the end of the world.

On Monday, when I did make it to the gym, I was ready for a great workout. And that’s exactly what I had. I started on the StairMaster, and I ended up shattering all my StairMaster personal bests that I set just two weeks ago! Check this out:

  • DURATION: 28 minutes (previous best = 25.5 minutes)
  • CALORIES: 485 burned (previous best = 400)
  • FLOORS: 131 (previous best = 109)

Didja see that last record? ONE HUNDRED AND THIRTY ONE FLOORS! That’s 22 stories more than my previous best! It made me feel more confident about my upcoming 163-story StairMaster challenge/fundraiser (donate here), and it also wiped me out. It was completely exhausting. But I wasn’t finished quite yet – after wiping down the machine, catching my breath, and moseying around for a few minutes, I headed up to the weight room and lifted weights for 30 minutes. Whew!

Now it’s time for my favorite StairMaster-related activity: adding a new building to my Skyscraper Collection! I usually find a building equivalent (or as close as possible) to the number of stories that I climbed, and I’m super excited because 131 stories is taller than every building on Earth except for the world’s tallest, the Burj Khalifa. So I’m going to add the world’s second-tallest building, which stands a staggering 120 stories tall. Anyone know what it is, or where it’s located? I had no idea this building existed until I started adding super-tall buildings to my Skyscraper Collection a few months ago. It’s located in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, and it’s called the Abraj Al Bait Towers. Take a look:

Although it’s not the world’s tallest building, the Abraj Al Bait (which opens this year) still holds a number of impressive records. It’s the world’s tallest hotel, and has the largest floor space of any building in the world.

When I look at the above photo, I see a building that looks a lot shorter than 120 stories, and I think it’s because the clock tower throws off my sense of scale. Then I read about how ginormous that clock tower is, and it started to make sense. There’s a clock on all four sides of the tower, and they’re the biggest clocks in the world. Each clock’s diameter is 141 feet (almost half a football field, or about 14 stories stories high!). By comparison, Big Ben’s clock faces are a puny 23 feet across.

I got a much better sense of scale from this picture, which shows the Abraj Al Bait in comparison to the rest of Mecca’s skyline.

Yep! That’s one tall building! And I climbed it!

Keep it up, David!

When’s My Next Rest Day?

March 15, 2012

I’m usually pretty good at listening to my body. I like working out and pushing myself, but I understand the importance of giving my body the occasional day to recuperate. Right now, my goal is to exercise six times a week (five is acceptable, but six is ideal), and even though I switch up my workouts, it still takes a toll on my body.

Sometimes, I plan rest days into my schedule. My last rest day was on March 5th, which was my birthday – the perfect day to relax and focus on more important things (like the major fitness challenges I gave myself). Other times, I just listen to my body, which is pretty good about letting me know when it needs a break. My body’s main modes of communication are fatigue and soreness (above and beyond standard post-workout soreness), but it’s sending mixed messages right now. It’s probably because my workouts have been a little bit different this week.

First off, I haven’t lifted weights since Saturday, when I spent about a half hour in the weight room, after using the StairMaster for 20 minutes (more on this later). It wasn’t an intentional plan to go most of the week without strength training – it that happened that way. And now, five days later, I’m itching to lift weights.

Secondly, I tried something new on Sunday, and it was completely successful, and by ‘successful,’ I mean ‘brutally difficult.’ I’ve been doing a lot of StairMaster lately, in preparation for my two big upcoming stair climb fundraisers (donate here or here, won’t you?), but I wanted to climb actual stairs in an actual building as part of my training as well. There are no super-tall buildings in my immediate neighborhood, but I concocted a challenging plan anyway.

On Sunday night, I ran about 3/4 of a mile to a 5-story, completely empty parking garage. Without ever stopping, I ran up one stairwell to the roof, ran across the roof to the stairwell at the other end, and ran down it, doing that loop over and over and over. Sometimes when I reached the bottom, I immediately turned around and ran back up to the roof and continued in the opposite direction. My goal was to do this running/stairs combo as long as possible, without stopping. About 10 minutes in, my side started cramping, but I pushed through it, and I soon settled into a cramp-free rhythm.

After 35 minutes, I knew I was close to calling it quits, so I started running home. Three minutes later, I finally stopped. Add in 5-6 minutes of both warm-up and cool-down, and I was on the streets for about 50 minutes. I lost count of the total number of flights I ran, but it was a lot. It felt great. And the next morning, I was sore in every part of both legs.

My legs didn’t get much of a break, though – I spent all of Monday at Disney California Adventure, which, while not a dedicated workout, still involved a ton of walking – miles and miles of it, I’m sure. On Tuesday, I took one of Richard Simmons’ classes at Slimmons (which always involve a ton of leg lifts), and yesterday, I went on an hour-long early-morning hike (with a substantial elevation change) with a friend.

I feel like it’s time to give my legs a day off. On the other hand, I feel like my upper body has been sorely neglected the past few days, and I wanna do something about it. Help – I don’t know what to do!

I’m writing this post late Wednesday night, and my current plan is to see how I feel on Thursday morning. I have  a hunch I won’t wake up terribly sore (the hike, while rigorous, was still less intense than most of my standard workouts), so maybe I should push myself for one more weight-intensive session at the gym, and then rest on Friday. On the other hand, I have exercised the past nine days in a row. Do I postpone an upper body weight training session another day and rest, just because I feel I’m due for a rest day? I’m not quite sure what to do when half of my body could benefit from a break and the other half is jonesin’ for more!  I’d love your thoughts on the matter – and that’s why I have a comments section, so speak up!

Before wraping this up, I wanna rewind back to Saturday. I’ve already mentioned above that I spent 20 minutes on the StairMaster, and it was a good 20 minutes. I didn’t get nearly as frustrated with the machine as I did last time – I just found a pace that was comfortable, covered the display with my towel, and didn’t overly concern myself with my Steps Per Minute. The end result was 300 calories burned and 84 stories climbed!

EIGHTY-FOUR STORIES! You know what that means, boys and girls – time to add a skyscraper to my collection! The newest addition to my collection is all the way on the other side of the planet – in a country (and a continent) not yet represented. That’s right – it’s off to Australia!

Check out the Q1, the tallest building in Australia:

At 80 stories, the Q1 is the fifth tallest all-residential building in the world, and the tallest building in the southern hemisphere. Located in Surfers Paradise, on the Gold Coast, it has apartments that vacationers and tourists can rent – check availability/pricing here. The Q1 has an observation deck called Skypoint, on the 77th floor, overlooking the beach. Once you’re up at Skypoint, you can then opt to do the Skypoint Climb – where you go outside onto a platform, and climb 298 stairs to the pinnacle of the building – where you’re 885 feet above the sidewalk. YES, PLEASE! I wanna go to Australia just to do that!

I just added the Q1 to my Skyscraper Collection – so click here to see how it compares to the 26 other skyscrapers that I’ve theoretically climbed!

Damn – I love how the Q1 dominates the skyline in that first picture… and I climbed that building, all the way to the top!


Record-Smashing Workout

March 9, 2012

I’m in training, so the additions to my Skyscraper Collection are gonna come fast and furious. I have two big stairs-related challenges on the horizon – at the end of the month, I’m doing a charity climb in an actual skyscraper in downtown LA (click to donate; it benefits the American Lung Association), and I also challenged myself to climb 163 stories on a StairMaster, which is the height of the tallest building on the planet (this has evolved into a fundraiser, too – click to donate; it benefits Whaley Children’s Center).

For preparation’s sake, I’m going to push myself to do two StairMaster workouts a week for the next few weeks. I’ve already completed both of them for this week, although I only blogged about the first (read about it here; I added a skyscraper in Dubai to my collection). Before I get into the specifics of the second (and, based on this post’s headline, you might have guessed it’s somethin’ special), I wanna talk through my current StairMaster frustration.

Crunch, my new gym, has a different brand of StairMaster than my old gym. I was quite familiar and comfortable with the old brand, and the new brand is completely identical in every way, except for one key difference: how speed is measured. The old brand had levels, from 1-20, just like ellipticals and exercise bikes have levels of resistance. I knew what the levels felt like, and had a good routine down: I’d use level 7 or 8 to warm up, slowly ramp up to level 12 or so during my workout (occasionally up to 14 if I really wanted a challenge), and then I’d cool down on 5 or 6.

The new brand measures speed by Steps Per Minute (SPM), which means the numbers are completely different. If you want to climb 30 stairs in one minute, than you set it to 30. If you want to climb 50, than you set it to 50. You get the idea. The problem is that I have no idea what my SPMs are. The old brand offered that statistic on their display, but I never once paid attention, because I got used to setting the machine based on levels (which was the only way to do it).

Now I’m struggling to find my pace. I’ve done the StairMaster three times at my new gym, and it’s completely frustrating. I’ve been playing around with different SPMs, and then trying them out for a few minutes to see how they feel, but after doing that a couple times, it’s hard for me to evaluate them anyway, since I start to get tired and sweaty, as I’m in the middle of my workout. I feel like I have to relearn how to use the StairMaster, and it pisses me off.

I’m slowly (very slowly) settling into what I think might work for me: a warm-up pace of around 60 SPM, and then slowly amping up to 70-90 SPM during my workout, and then down to 40-50 during my cool down. But I feel slow and out of the groove, and that’s irritating. The other day, I caught myself being really negative about the whole thing, so, midway through my workout, I closed my eyes and paused my music, and told myself that I can’t compare these workouts to the ones at my old gym. Just focus on the machine I was on, and get the most out of my time on it.

That seemed to help, so it’s something I’ll repeat to myself at the beginning of my future StairMaster workouts, at least until I feel more familiar with the settings.

I take that back – my internal pep talk didn’t seem to work, it flat-out worked. I ended up breaking all my StairMaster personal bests during that workout:

  • DURATION: 25.5 minutes (previous best = 22 minutes)
  • CALORIES: 400 burned (previous best = 350)
  • FLOORS: 109 (previous best = 104)

That’s right, bitches, one hundred and nine floors. Holy Shit. ONE HUNDRED AND NINE FLOORS! Time for another iconic addition to my Skyscraper Collection! Can anyone think of a building that has 109 floors?

That’s a trick question. There aren’t any 109-story buildings, not anywhere in the world. But there is an 108-story building that, unless you live in a cave, you’ll definitely recognize. Here’s a hint – it’s the tallest building in this picture:

WILLIS TOWER! Or perhaps you know it by its former name. SEARS TOWER!

Willis Tower has been the tallest building in the United States since it opened in 1973, and it’s currently the ninth-tallest building in the world (a record that it held until 1998). There’s an observation deck called the Skydeck on the 103rd floor (the restrooms on that floor are the highest restrooms in the western hemisphere), and, in 2009, glass balconies were added so people could step out and have only glass between their feet and the ground, 1,353 feet below:

Very cool. I wish I had taken that picture, but alas, I did not. Even though I’ve been to Chicago more times than I can count, I’ve never been to the Skydeck. I really really wanna go!

Some other fun facts about the Willis Tower:

  • It leans 4 inches to the west.
  • The tower was half vacant for the first ten years it was open – Sears overestimated their own growth as a company, and the building was less of a draw for outside renters than anticipated.
  • There are 104 elevators, including 16 double deckers.

Yep, I climbed that! And I just added it to the top of my Skyscraper Collection.



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