Monday, November 25, 2013

Upstairs and Downstairs and in my Lady's chamber

Strange Angles in the Peterson Bldg.
Not quite the Mendel
Okay, the bit about the "lady's chamber" was an outright fabrication, but you're here... so that's good.

Before I get into the pictures, a quick update on my stair running. This week I've bested my records at both the 5T and 10T times (where T=11 floors up and down). 5T stands at 15m08s and 10T is 32m30s. 10T took me about 55 minutes the first time.

On with the photos...

Picked a freakishly cold day to do some more stair explorations. Neither my trusty, if aging, Pentax K-x, nor my trusty, if aging, body had an easy time with the -30C wind chill. After getting politely kicked out of the Agri-Food Canada Research building (I had been inside looking at maps for several minutes without "checking in" at the security desk),  Found +Kent Pollard,s Peterson Bldg. I must say, the staff was a whole lot nicer there.

A bit off the beaten path but, the stairs were unusual as promised! Got quite a few comments while laying on my back in the small entryway. Also, doors were In a pretty bad place for tripod work. Fortunately, it was plenty bright. Never would have gone in there without the tip off. I was told by a wonderful maintenance woman that there had once been talk of the stairs being completely refinished, but it had been decided against due to the prohibitive cost. Too bad. The brass inlay on the landings would've been fantastic completely re-burnished.

I've now talked to no less than four maintenance people while working on this project. Each one of them has expressed an apology over the dirty state of the stairs and assured me that they normally look much nicer. I've always been careful to express that I think the stairs look absolutely beautiful in their natural state. That usually elicits a furrowed set of eyebrows followed by them awkwardly blushing and glancing away.

Agriculture's stairs and elevators co-habitating. So wrong!
I love the commons area in The Agriculture Building. It is an open and inviting place for people to meet. The architecture is interesting and there is art and light everywhere. My only complaint is that the central stairwell only goes from the 1st to 2nd floor. If you want to go higher, it's the elevators or a closed off side stairwell.
Engineering - C Wing
Favorite stairwell of the day goes to Engineering (C-wing, I think). Nice hardwood rails and a good quality of light. 

Friday, November 15, 2013

Going Staircrazy

Health Sciences Entrance. With all the reflections and directionality, it feels Escher-esque to me.
Winter is settling in slowly this year. No rush. As one of the millions on the Canadian prairie who wondered last year where all the sun was, it was quite a thrill to be walking around mid November with just a t-shirt, a tripod and my camera.

New Wing of Dentistry
Old Dentistry/ Health Sciences
You would think that I would be sick to death of stairs right now, but the truth is that my fascination is growing ever deeper. When I did up my last post I spent some time looking through old photos that I had of campus stairs to include. It reminded me two things: firstly, despite the simple going up and down thing they have going, there is great variety in stair design and secondly, my photographic eye has come a long way in a few years.

So, I decided to revisit some of my favourites and see how many ways I could skin the same cat, so to speak. Stairs are stairs after all, but with all the architectural variety surrounding and suffusing them, perhaps I could elevate (smirk) their basic utility into something more artistic.

The contrasts are quite startling. These first three staircases are all in the same building complex. Indeed, the floating glass and granite stairs and the ancient peeling paint staircase are only about a 10 second walk apart.

Some staircases are pretty boring when taken at face value. The stairs exiting the Arts Tunnel are quite humdrum, but the photo below is helped out by a cool split rail that dominates the scene and gives it a sense of action. I chose to make this photo black and white because of all the competing colours in student apparel were pulling focus from the important subject ;)
Stairs which replace the old Arts Escalators (which were broken half the time anyway)
Main Library with art on the walls
Utilitarian, Dark with a wicked Echo...o...o...

Just down the tunnel from the above picture is The Murray Building which functions as the main library for the U of S. There, too, were 3 distinct types of stairs. A broad, high traffic, central stairwell, a spartan "fire exit" stairwell, and an oddly shaped spiral that ascends the North Wing.

Triangular Spiral
Bright light is CRITICAL to my success
The fabled (yet quite unattractive) 11th floor
I suppose it would be an oversight not to include at least a couple of photos from the stairwell that I am forever Sisyphus-ing my way up. You've read this far, so here you go.

This stair business is far from over. I have plans to traverse the campus finding great variety in staircases wherever I go. You can count on me. The best news about it is that wherever I go, you go. Aren't you just lucky ;)

Here is my Stair Photo Album. I'll keep you updated as I add to it.

Monday, November 04, 2013

Climbing a Stairway to...

Arts Tower from basement level
I had some great reaction to my last post about stairs. Alas, I don't have any mysterious wilds into which I can trek nor vast unexplored ranges of mountains. However, obsessively climbing stairs seem to be sufficiently strange for people to engage me with questions (and concerns) on the topic. This is not going to be an FAQ, but I am going to share a bit of my process with you in hopes that it will answer some common queries.

Most of this post was inspired by my friend, Dave. He wasn't the first one to ask me what I thought about when I spend an hour and a half climbing the same set of stairs, but he did cause me to think most deeply about it. He is no stranger to feats of endurance. I was in the process of formulating a short one paragraph answer, when I realized that I couldn't honestly do that. Answering in one paragraph I could've come up with some inspiring snippet of honesty about why I do it and the effect it has on my life. I guess I think you guys are interested in more than that. I think we're capable of actually getting into the details here... (hint: this is your last chance to escape).

A typical climb...

I try and always listen to music. The level of monotony is very high so I choose driving, inspirational songs. I have a dedicated mix for running in general, but not stairs in specific.

1st ascent: I always run this one full out. my thoughts are all about optimizing my turns, breathing at the right time and pushing myself to accelerate. I visualize my quads and calf muscles bunching and extending. Because I am working at an anaerobic level here, I am hyperventilating by the top as my lung struggle to rid themselves of excess CO2. I stop for 30 seconds at the top to enter my time in the web form with shaky fingers. If my time is sub 55 seconds I am elated. Slower and I will be briefly disappointed.

I run down 2 steps at a time, being mindful to catch my very ragged breath. I try to imagine I'm rappelling down a long wall and my feet are just tapping the steps keeping me from colliding with it. At each turn I push off the opposite wall and grab the handrail, letting momentum propel me around the corner. I strive to land with light steps. I know that a lot of jarring wastes energy and will weaken my climbing later. I pick up my camel pack or water bottle at the bottom where it was hidden under the steps and carry it for the remainder of the effort.

Stairs in Thorvaldson. Nice to visit, but I'd never climb there
2nd ascent: One of the toughest mentally. I'm more tired in the legs than I will be for the next 10-12 ascents as my muscles try to shed the lactic acid they built up during my all out sprint. My breathing is still in gulps. I force my breath to become slow and steady. I will alternate running several flights and then two-step walking. I always make sure to run the last flight. I call it the "zombie level," imagining that if I don't run, I will be caught and eaten :)

3rd ascent: I've recovered from my sprint and become rhythmical. I listen to my music and let the lyrics push me -- Citius, Altius, Fortius. I can't think terribly deep thoughts here or allow my mind to wander. I stay focused on the physical motions or I find that I'm walking too much. As soon as my breath normalizes, I run 2-5 more flights. I think about +david aschim and hope my diligence on the stairs will keep me fit for the next time we can climb a mountain together.

10+: My thoughts drift. I start to imagine that I'm Lawrence of Arabia, going back to the desert one more time or Frodo, borne down by the weight of the ring as I climb Mt. Doom. I've been dripping sweat since tower 5. Every time I turn a corner, droplets shake loose from my hair and nose. I wonder if I could climb enough times to cause a slipping hazard.

I talk to myself--a lot; keeping count of my tally and how many floors are left until I can go down again. Losing count is demoralizing and significant effort goes into keeping track. Recently I've started using my stopwatch's lap counter and that helps immensely, but I still make mistakes once I stop thinking clearly.

I walk more than run. 4 out of 11 by this point is Herculean. I try and look determined and stable when I pass people who work or study in the building. I don't want them to call security because of the sweaty mad man careening down the stairwell. Still run the zombie level, though. They will never get me ;)

I nurse each descent (now in single steps because I'm too shaky to risk the speed) and try to gather myself mentally to want to climb one more time and then one more time and...

...eventually, I stop.

This is what I will say...

If I'm ever asked for a quote by a media outlet. You will have to decide for yourself which description is most accurate.

Climbing inspires me. I rush upwards towards the clouds thinking about staying physically and mentally healthy for my wife and two teenage daughters. I come back down to earth because, for now, they still need me here.
Coming back to Earth

Friday, November 01, 2013

Stairs of the World II -- The Revenge

This post is mostly for me. As, I suppose, all of them are. I like to have a specific record of my exercise when I am trying improve on something difficult. I find that it really helps me to focus on the little things necessary to improve. When I share that with you, it gives makes the goal seem more real and somehow more important to achieve.

Anyway, yes, I took a break from stair climbing during my healing process. But, I've been back at it pretty hard in the last little while. I thought an update was in order. In case you missed the first post on stairs.

What's new? Below is my tower activity since injuring my ribs. I fill in a web form each time I run the tower and it updates a spreadsheet for me. As you may care to notice, I took some heart rate measurements at several points today (last row, right hand column). Times (usually) follow the format of hh:mm:ss.tenthsec

15/09/2013 10:04:30Arts Tower run17:31.55x u/d. 1st time on the stairs since my rib injury. Speed was lousy, but endurance was pretty good.
22/09/2013 15:10:10Arts Tower run00:57.17
22/09/2013 15:28:38Arts Tower run17:38.85xu/d
26/09/2013 08:23:49Arts Tower run16:57.85xu/d
27/09/2013 19:39:17Arts Tower run00:55.66
03/10/2013 10:36:57Arts Tower run1:01.79
03/10/2013 11:16:34Arts Tower run39:47.2610xu/d
03/10/2013 12:08:35Arts Tower run01h26m29s20xu/d (15x=1:03:10.79)
06/10/2013 14:29:44Arts Tower run00:54.0
13/10/2013 13:40:51Arts Tower run00:49.63
16/10/2013 19:37:39Arts Tower run16:56.115x U/D
18/10/2013 14:52:06Arts Tower run00:52.51
18/10/2013 15:37:54Arts Tower run19:17.25x U/D
20/10/2013 16:31:39Arts Tower run00:54.66
24/10/2013 13:40:53Arts Tower run00:54.79
24/10/2013 14:26:30Arts Tower run43:06.0610x U/D
28/10/2013 10:25:55Arts Tower run01:00.81
28/10/2013 10:44:44Arts Tower run17:14.215xu/d
31/10/2013 09:35:08Arts Tower run00:53.75
31/10/2013 09:52:09Arts Tower run16:50.775xu/d
31/10/2013 10:14:10Arts Tower run36:56.2810xu/d
01/11/2013 12:30:17Arts Tower run53:00.0010xu/d -- doing random things such as: running, walking, hopping, walking backwards, spin moves…

last night's heart rate just before bed -- 60bpm
"cruising" heart rate 150bpm -- 8th time up
180bpm -- after 5 floors at a dead run on 9th time up
10 min after finish -- 102bpm
60 min after finish -- 78bpm

Worth getting excited about for me are a couple of dates. On October 3rd, I managed 20x up and down the tower for a total of 220 flights in 86 minutes. While doing it, I could have watched My Neighbor Totoro :) Maybe next time. That multiplies out to 800m. I wish I had done the math before beginning my assault. That leaves me 29m short of the peak of the Burj! Sigh. There is some hope. A careful measuring of the inside of the tower could reveal that it's taller than I think. Don't hold your breath.

Also notable is Oct 13th. It marks the 1st time since 2009 that I've achieved a time under 50 seconds. It's a feat I've managed 11 times out of the nearly 70 speed attempts I've recorded.