Sunday, June 29, 2014

Summer breezes! On break from Architecture school: 3 rules for enjoying yourself...

As Spring semester came to a close, I had begun to think about all of the adventures I was going to entertain...learning to sail, running the trails, stand-up paddleboarding, scuba diving in Lake Michigan...

Unfortunately for me, I had signed up for two online classes. Luckily, only one started right away. The thing about online courses is that they are great for getting credits out of the way during the summer break, but they have a pretty significant impact on your summer 'break'. So this post is all about 3 ideas to keep in  mind that I am striving to focus on myself.

Being an ultra runner, my base running mileage dropped significantly due to keeping up with the accelerated 4 week course and work. I was able to still do the Northern Kettle 50k (first ultra in over a year) and then also partake in one of my favorites, the Chippewa Moraine 50k.

1. TAKE THE TIME AS IT COMES : Ultra running is a pretty dedicated sport in terms of time, I mean you have to get in the miles if you want to be able to COVER the miles. Being signed up for Sawtooth 50 mile now coming up in September, this has been a period of re-learning to juggle my priorities with my responsibilities. What I have really learned to embrace is the fact that you have to grasp opportunity as it when I get a chance to hit the trail for an hour, I just GO. I don't think about it long enough for my brain to talk myself out of it, I just get out there. Like many other runners, I have never went for a run in the woods and then thought to myself, "I never should have done that...I feel so much worse now...". Believe me, those little acts of initiative will keep you living as an athlete throughout whatever life throws your way.

2. DON'T OVERPLAN YOUR TIME : Being a man of extremes, I have had a lifelong tendency to overdo pretty everything I do or attempt to do. When it comes to my weekends for instance, I willfully plan all of these things to do, and will agree to more if asked only to come to find that I have no time  left for myself. You have to keep time open for just 'whatever come along'. This helps to keep a little spontaneity in your life, otherwise things become too bland and planned...who needs their life to feel like its work? Free up some space in your schedule and you will find things to do during those spots when the time comes...I guarantee it.

3. SPEND TIME IMPROVING YOURSELF : This is important year round, but when you have extra time like during the summer months when there are nice days to provide that extra motivation, there is no better time to pursue activities/hobbies that give back. Reading good books, trying out Yoga or Standup Paddleboarding, simply going for more walks and reflecting on your life in general...these types of activities keep people grounded and sharp. Giving yourself time to reflect or time to become more flexible or stronger enables your body/mind to perform better. You will feel better, you will be more focused, and you just may find something that brings you some real joy in your life. Life should continue to be about learning and personal growth, don't get sucked into dogma and become complacent in your every day affairs. I took a yoga class last semester and loved it. Not only did my recovery times lessen after long  runs, but I felt better. I was more engaged in 'the moment' and aware of my own body-where I was weak, where I was strong. It helped me identify certain issues that I needed to pay more attention to, such as a tight hamstring or a stressed knee. Take the time to try out something that requires you to listen to yourself, to slow down and pay attention. Those activities bring us back to the moment, help us to fully live in the present. Its important to take the time to enjoy those, because like summer break, they are gone before you know it.

Monday, May 26, 2014

The Best Luck is having Great Teachers

So the semester is out at last, and I have been immensely enjoying getting back to training and racing!
This pic was taken at the Chippewa Moraine 50k ultramarathon held up in New Auburn hosted by Jeff Allen in late April. This race was my first ultra in 2010 and I was so thrilled to get back up there to run it again. The RD is a good friend of mine and it is always a pleasure to catch up with him a little as well...

The spring 2014 semester seemed never ending... the main topic covered in our studio was tectonics, and how to really explore the relationships of mass plane and frame in terms of joinery, making space, proportion and scale. I learned quite a bit once I was able to wrap my head around the whole idea, as always it takes me awhile to shake the 'builder' mind and to look at these concepts as the basics surrounding good architecture.
I have stumbled across a wonderful book that I have been reading lately that I have already recommended to a couple other Architecture students called "Letters to a Young Architect" by Christopher Benninger. Since I have already covered the first few chapters I can honestly say that this book is a must read for any architecture student who wants to fully understand what it means to become an architect. Mr. Benninger is a highly accomplished architect, and sheds light on many topics that are simply not addressed at school or stressed enough by any professors that I have had.The book has been a real delight to pore over being on break now, and the extra time allows me to really soak up the concepts. One great quote in the book was this:
"The best luck is having good teachers"... so simple and yet SO true. Mr. Benninger was told this by an eighty year old man who was referring to his ninety something year old teacher...proof that we are never to old to learn, and to lean on those wiser than us to glean the insight we need to continue on our personal journey in this life. I always seek out the most knowledgeable persons on any subject under which to learn from, I figure that way you are placing yourself in the best possible position to learn the most...

Always seek out great teachers, and your 'luck' will surely improve.. happy hunting.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

The Power of Standing There

What's with the title? Phusis is a word the Greeks used that meant "the emerging and rising in itself and in all things". This is an important concept because what this does is 'clears and illuminates a sense of earth, it confirms our presence in the moment.

Where did that come from? I am currently in an Architectural theory class that is actually a graduate level course, one that I was invited into and also one that I am not getting credit for because I am still an undergrad. The reason I stayed in the course, is because I am learning a lot. It is very interesting and I believe will really help me better understand Architecture.
Currently I am studying some of the works by Martin Heidegger who wrote a comprehensive lecture in 1954 titled "Building, Dwelling, Thinking". I am not going to go into details here because it is very deep reading and required many passes for me to really let his concepts sink in. However I will share the basis of his essay because I felt it was very profound:

Martin believes that society has slipped away from our original form of 'authentic existence'. He believes that humans have the ability to 'dwell poetically' (sense of belonging and place in the highest sense coupled with an awareness of the fourfold) and that when we become detached from that, either through distractions or loss of the understanding of such we are in a sense tossed into a state of mild confusion, anxiety and chaos. Society around us becomes chaos, because things are not aligned as they should be. He talks about the 'fourfold', a word he uses that symbolizes sky, earth, mortals, divinities. Although his essay is pretty extensive, I am going to attempt to streamline his message: A building has the ability to make the world visible. How? because it reverts our attention back to the fourfold (sky, earth, mortals, divinities). Again, how? Heidegger gives the example of a Greek temple. The stone giving off a warm glow of the sun, but really, it is revealing the sun itself. Therefore the stone is making visible the grace of the sun ( Our eyes acknowledge the sky, the warmth of the sun on our face. Or the stars, and the black of night). The open space of the interior of the Greek temple frames the sky, therefore this framework makes visible the sky. It was built to honor the Gods, and by being in its presence one cannot help but think of the reasons it was built and what it signified, and therefore our thoughts are turned to the divinities of this world, and so the building reveals the divinities to us simply by standing there. It makes us ponder its past, of the hundreds of years it has stood there and in its permanence and steadfastness it reveals to us our mortality. We notice it's base, firmly rooted in the rock cleft upon which it stands, and it brings all those other things back down to earth. By standing there it reveals the sense of the earth upon which it stands. And so, the fourfold is shown (sky, earth, mortal, divinities) separately and yet all at once. This is Phusis, the emerging and rising in itself and in all things. For although the building simply stands there, it is bringing something into presence: The mortal standing there, the sky above him, the earth at his feet, and the concept of something divine. This is the fourfold, this is the power of architecture. It makes the world visible and spatial, "bringing something into presence". It is not representational. It is much more than that. It is the union of World and Thing. World in this sense means 'the time spent between' so man's stay between earth & sky, between birth & death, between joy & pain, between work & word. Thing means the manifestation of the fourfold.  So Things make a place come into presence, at the same time as its elements emerge as what they are (sky, earth, mortal, divinity).
Heidegger's work is worth studying because it raises consciousness of something greater. This was fascinating to me because it shows the reach of something 'just standing there'. How powerful that can be. We are always part of something bigger than we ever could imagine.

 Food for thought for the day... hopefully I made a little sense of  Heidegger's work. I by no means claim to fully understand it, but am trying to turn the words around in my mind and gain some insight from that. Enjoy the day!

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Spring semester returns...back to the studio!

January 21st, 2014...
THAT didn't take long! Just as I was beginning to settle in to a 'normal' routine again (working and running and sleeping) the Spring semester crept up and cracked my reality like a well placed towel snap!
Fortunately I made the wise choice of dropping the online class that had me at 18 credits for the semester to bring that number to a more respectable 15. I have become aware of the fact that yes, I need to have a life outside of school... even if that life is running upteen miles in the woods through the snow, it is what keeps me grounded. Ultra running has been such a big part of my life over the past 4 years that I found myself REALLY getting bummed out last semester when I got to the point where I was barely running at all. I just was not myself, and was practically miserable. I had less energy, weaker focus, and my ambition was running low. By the end of the semester I was feeling a little burned out. I am sure  many students hit this point, and since this is my fifth year in school now it is not all that surprising if I experience moments of blah...thats where the refreshing trail runs come in! The training, the racing, the energy that comes from spending time training in the outdoors (specifically the natural world, not just running around town). It is a healthier way of life, and I truly needed to bring things back to balance in order to stay successful and  happy while still making my way through Architecture school. I am sure there are many people out there that find that life gets in the way. Reminds me of a quote, "If you are too busy to run, then you are too busy." Amen to that.

Having more of a balance in my life has really helped me to appreciate setting goals and then reaching them, and then setting more. I think this is important, to feel that feeling of accomplishment, of attaining new heights in our lives. TRY something NEW! You just might surprise yourself! At the wonderful age of 35 I feel more compelled than ever to try new things, although with the time commitment to school and my job at Stephen Perry Smith Architects it is really small things, almost more like 'refinements'. If what you are doing is working, but you are stuck or need a little jumpstart, then refine some things in your life. Take inventory! What can be improved? Look at your diet, HONESTLY look at it. Do some research! Omega 3's and Omega 6's...BIG difference there. Find out what you are eating and what it is doing to you. Can't drop weight but are eating healthy? Could be the foods  you are eating are loaded in Omega 6' me, I recently had  someone fill me in on all of this, and I found that a lot of what I was eating was considered very healthy, non gmo, organic, etc, but was LOADED with Omega 6's which slows your metabolism, and you will gain weight. Quinoa was high on this list, as was many grains. If you don't balance the 6's and the 3's, this will lead to imbalances and significant weight gain, sluggish behavior. You cannot just eat more omega 3's, you have to reduce the volume of food that you are consuming that is rich in the omega 6's in order to restore balance to your body. The suggested ratio is 3:1 ( 3's : 6's) while the average American diet is 1:10...I could go on and on but hey do some research yourself! Educate yourself, and then tell your friends and family. This is how we as a community stay informed and help each other stay healthy and happy...okay, that quite the tangent but it was very relevant to my day today so I had to throw that in here for anyone who maybe can benefit from such information, which is EVERYONE. So please take the time. This was super interesting and directly effects our quality of life, so it is worth the time looking into. Invest in yourself!

That is what going back to school was for me, and what ultra running is, and what drinking green smoothies and going to the gym and quitting alcohol etc. all is...investing in myself. I honestly feel the best I have EVER felt, in my entire life and I am 35 years old. I feel blessed to be able to say that, to be waking up each day excited and full of energy. To be generally happy all the time, to be grateful for clean air, to try and pay attention to life's little wonders that are amazing and all around us every day. And still, I try to refine. I continue to learn, and to pay attention to those that know things that I do not, or have another side to the story. I question what I hear or read by pitting it against my conscience and against what I know to be right in my heart. Stand on that feeling, always. Never be afraid to better yourself, or be a better person to others who just may really need it. In this current age of YouTube and flashforward thinking with all the info at our fingertips people forget to refine what they have, or who they are. The tools are there, take a chance on yourself. Don't dwell on mistakes, you will make less of them the farther you go. If you don't, then you need to refine. Go for a walk in the woods, spend some time in your natural habitat, away from the distractions and the noise and the cars and all the stuff. Find a quiet place where you can hear the wind in the trees and spend some time there. Hell, spend a lot of time there!
You will be pleasantly surprised.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Thank god for snow shoers!

So this past Saturday Jodie and I went running in the Southern Kettle on the IA starting at Emma Carlin and turning around on top of Bald Bluff. Aside from the occasional crow or chickadee the woods were quiet, peaceful. The only other tracks I came across were the snowshoe tracks and my tracks from last weekend...(thanks, at least the trail was blazed) which brings me to an interesting point- where the hell is everyone? I am simply amazed that these trails are not packed down more with the comings and goings of trail runners! Such awesome trails, close to hot coffee at Backyard Bikes, with a changing station right at the parking lot, and I feel like only a select few of us are taking advantage! I guess thats a good thing, since it is nice to be able to go out there and just lose yourself in the solitude of the pines and allow your mind to settle with the rhythmic crunching of your footprints...
This will be 3rd winter running year round on those trails, and I feel so incredibly lucky to be able to there in an hour from where I live. I find the deeper snow, and unstable footing is wonderful training for ultra runners, or any athlete I guess as it strengthens the stabilizers and core and helps to improve balance. I love flying down the hills and breaking through the drifts and sliding around corners...its play, really. Like one of my favorite quotes: "I am at  play in the fields of the Lord"...

Since I am still on winter break I have been taking full advantage of the extra time available to me on the weekends. The Southern Kettle Moraine has been my go to spot for training, and just to reconnect with my natural environment. I plan on doing a few ultras this year, with Chippewa coming up in April. What better place to train then out there? I have to get out in the Northern Kettle yet this winter, I will post a report on that soon. For now, the trails are great in the Southern Kettle, and any of you trail runners putting miles on the dreadmills, shame on you! You don't know what your missing :)
Guess I am one of the lucky ones...