Category Archives: Architectural Practice

Out Of The Box, Housing and Training

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What does the typical builder/developer tract house have in common with most marathoners today?  If you are a runner you might see yourself in the answer!

Nearly every runner training for a marathon follows some sort of plan. There are hundreds of well intended training plans published by very reputable sources available to the runner. Typically these plans total about 16 weeks in training, prescribe how many miles to run on each given day, may prescribe how fast or slow to run without prescribing a time, and will more than likely include at least one 20 mile training run to be completed just before a tapering period before race day. Sound familiar?

My observation is that first time marathoners try these plans and they receive a result, they at least finish their first marathon. Then at some point they think they should try another.  Then there is the next marathon, followed by another, and yet another, etc. Before you know it four or more years have passed, the runner’s marathon performance has likely plateaued by now and they also may believe they have come to know everything there is to know about training for a marathon.  I mean, how many variations of the published training routines are there?  They all pretty much boil down to the same thing, right?

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Typical suburban tract house

Back to the tract housing scene.  Tract housing typically is designed to be constructed easily, it is aimed at a spectrum of the general marketplace, focuses on a myriad of features (i.e. stainless steel appliances, stone counter tops, etc.), and can be constructed on virtually any vacant parcel of land. Tract houses pay little attention to being unique and by definition, are not designed to meet all of the unique requirements of the individual homeowner.  It only takes less than an hour or two of viewing any HGTV show to realize that every house lacks something for a particular homeowner. Obviously there are many tract homes work very well for many people, but in order to satisfy a broad market segment, they loose some level of individualization.

Thus it is with the “Out of the Box” training program.  They do work, but do they work well enough for the widely diverse groups of runners? For all the hours of running, all the hours of other training, all the sacrifices the runner makes during a training period, why do runners SETTLE for only generalized, non-specific training when it comes to the total marathon experience? How can they break away from a plateau and make a significant improvement in their performance?

M-Ext-Lake-dock 5x7-300dpiBack to housing. Architects understand that homeowners, particularly homeowners seeking to construct a new house, can more often attain a better final result that benefits the specific homeowner in many ways than compared to tract housing targeted at the general marketplace.  Pictured is a custom home I designed in Novi, MI for a husband and wife. The husband was from Santa Monica, CA. The wife was from a coastal town in North Carolina. They were seeking a house that would look like it would fit on either coast. They were very pleased with the experience of the design process and the final results. I seriously doubt plans for this house could be found in any selection of a builder’s plan book.

Similarly for runners, especially runners that feel they face a challenging training session or unique race, or result. It could be the runner’s first 5K or the runner’s umpteenth marathon. The best advice to runners is to avoid the “Out of the Box” training program and seek out a qualified running coach who will work closely with the runner to help assure the runner’s success.

With a qualified coach the runner should expect regular feedback to help address the myriad of variations the runner faces during their training period. A good coach , like a good architect will provide personalized advice on not only how to much, far, and fast to run, but also many more topics in order to help assure the runner (or homeowner) achieves their targeted goals. It is nearly impossible to expect any runner to fully abide by the template programs available to them for 117 consecutive days!  How can a predetermined impersonal fixed schedule ever help a runner when the runner feels extra tired, or know when the runner may be over training, and many more variables that come into play during training?

So as an architect with 43 years experience who has successfully designed and constructed private residences for average homeowners, I urge you to at least talk to an architect if you are considering any change to your home or constructing a new house as an essential first step. Start at http://www.aia.org and seek out a local chapter in your area for further assistance.

As a certified running coach with over 50 years of running experience and if you are either in the midst of training or look to start training soon, I urge you to seek out a certified running coach that is as anxious to work with you are with them. Of course I would especially appreciate it if you would contact me. I can be reached at Therunningarchitect@gmail.com and you can also view my coaching services website to learn more too at http://www.therunningarchitect.com

Thank you for taking time to read this post and as always,  Run Happy 🙂

Coach Lee

A New Age For a New Year

While most folks are focusing on the year ahead part of my mind remains in last year. Last year was one of my most memorable years of running. Not because of fast race times but more because I am still running at my age and competing at a solid level.

The year began in Boston where I shared the road from Hopkinton with more than a dozen friends from my training group. But imagine, the true highlight was not the Boston Marathon but a race back where my running career started in prep school, Flint Michigan and the Crim 10 Miler. I was very honored to join 19 other runners as we were inducted into the “30 Year Club”. A club that has at least a 29 year waiting list to join!  Yes, my 30th running of the Crim was very special.

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The start of the 2016 Crim 10 Miler, for a few brief miles there were only 3-4 runners ahead of me and over 10,000 runners behind me. (30 Yr. Club runners get a 15 min. head start)

Unfortunately for me, the year ended with knee injury. Adding to my grief was the fact that the injury was not running related. I had twisted my knee only slightly on a wet floor and that’s all it took to hamper but not prevent me from keeping my streak alive and running each and every Brooksie Way Half Marathon.  My knee required significant rest and rehab. In other words, I was gaining weight and running much less, not a good combination for a competitive runner. This is why part of my mind is back in last year, yearning to return to my pre-injury fitness level.

Last December I also turned over another calendar in my life, not only moving up to a new (older) age group but also hitting that special number many people focus on since the start of their careers.  The magical number of 65 years old!  Most people see that as their retirement age. Not me! Thanks to my career as a runner I do not intend to retire anytime soon. Which also works hand in hand with being an architect too.

For you see the architectural profession is one where most practitioners do not even begin to hit their professional prime until the have 30, 40, or more years of experience.  It is not unusual to see many talented architects practicing their profession well into their 80’s and beyond.  My doctor tells me I should zoom past my 80’s and would not be surprised to see me running at 110 or more!  Of course he also always follows that with a cautionary note for me to drive carefully too.

This is all quite a contrast to my father who passed away 34 years ago this week at the age of 52.  I also recall my maternal grandfather turning 65 and his retirement from a life long career at Chrysler.  I was 14 at the time and remember my grandfather complaining that it was not fun growing old. I witnessed his life in retirement and thought that was just the natural course of life.

Five years later I started my college days at University of Detroit, only a few blocks from my grandparents house. I visited each of them every Sunday for the day (and a good home cooked meal too). What I witnessed was the slow decline of my grandfather’s mind as dementia eroded the balance of his life and placed a tremendous hardship on those around him. He left us at 74.

Today, as I both look back and ahead, 74 seems so young! When I turn 74 I plan to join the Crim’s “40 Year Club”!

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Old school sketching, design, and detailing

My point to all of this is that the number associated with one’s life on this planet does not necessarily need to align with society’s expectations. In today’s world it is much more common for older adults to be very active and participate in marathons, triathlons, and generally simply being physically active. For those who have been blessed to enjoy their career path, they stay in the work force as long as they can. Both the physical and work activity help to extend the lifestyle of active people.

So as I begin 2017 I am happy to still be working full time and looking forward to another year of competitive running. The numbers would indicate that I should sit back, relax, and watch the world go by.  Sorry, that has simply never been my style for the past 65 years.

Thank you for taking a moment to glance at my blog, I resolve to be a more consistent contributor this year, and I wish you all a very Happy, Healthy, Prosperous, an Active New Year!

Coach (and still Architect) Lee

 

 

 

What A Difference!

Chic Start SmallWhat a difference a year makes!  About this time a year ago I had a job that kept me busy, was reasonably secure, but not exactly professionally fulfilling or challenging.  I was counting the days and sometimes even the hours to my retirement.  I also believed my participation in the upcoming Chicago Marathon would prove to be my last marathon. In fact I was coming out of a 4 year retirement from running marathons. I had won my Age Group at the City of Oaks Marathon in Raleigh NC in 2011 and I had decided that was a perfect time to retire from marathons.  Little did I know what the future had in mind for me!

In the spring of 2014  I entered the lottery to run Chicago only because my daughter Alexis was planning to run Chicago as her first ever marathon.  We each were selected via the lottery to run the Chicago Marathon. Alexis joined my training group and was making excellent progress towards her first marathon when a freak injury prevented her from participating. So I continued without her and ended up running  a decent race in the windy city, well at least for the first 18-20 miles. I knew I had started too fast (7:45 avg pace) for the first 13 miles. I had fantasies of running my fastest marathon in over 20 yrs! Alas, it did not happen. Let’s just say it was not a pretty sight to see. Nonetheless I did manage a 3:45 finish, good enough to qualify to run the Boston Marathon with over 8 minutes to spare. Not a major concern to me because I already ran the Boston Marathon back in 2006 and I have never had any overwhelming desire to return. I did not have a good experience in Boston in 06 and I never had a very strong motivation return. One must first be highly motivated to train and compete in any marathon, otherwise do not even begin to attempt.

"Record-Eagle/Jan-Michael Stump Bayshore Marathon and Half Marathon competitors run along East Grand Traverse Bay during Saturday's race in Traverse City."
“Record-Eagle/Jan-Michael Stump
Bayshore Marathon and Half Marathon competitors run along East Grand Traverse Bay during Saturday’s race in Traverse City.”

What I did have a strong desire to do was to attempt one more marathon and prove to myself that my Chicago experience was a fluke and I wanted to avenge my finishing performance. Thus, The Bayshore Marathon in Traverse City MI in May of 2015.  I’ll spare you the full report of that experience and let me just say that while I thoroughly enjoyed most everything Bayshore, my marathon performance was a very similar experience  to Chicago!  My Bayshore time was less than a minute different and thus I once again had another Boston Marathon qualifying time, my 8th of 10 marathons. No big deal as I still had no desire to return to Boston,

My official days of competitively running marathons were now over at last!  I did however have at least one more marathon in my aging legs and that would be to run along side of my daughters Bridgett and Alexis during their first attempts to complete a marathon. So it came that Bridgett had decided to return from North Carolina back to her hometown and make the Detroit Marathon her first experience. Meanwhile Alexis was recovering from her injury and aiming to once again compete in the Detroit Half Marathon in October 2015.  I had decided to run with Bridgett and help her achieve her goal. Her marathon time would likely be slower than I am accustomed to running thus a new experience for me to look forward to enjoying.

Bridgett did very well with her training plan for Detroit but in mid September the combination of a busy workload, graduate school, daughter Katie, a very hot and humid training environment in NC, all combined to not quite attain the level of training she needed to achieve to be able to successfully complete her first marathon. She made the wise decision to back off of any further intense training and plan instead for another race.

All of this is a very long way of saying that two weeks from this morning I will once again be running another marathon!  This will be my 5th Detroit Marathon and my 12 marathon. I will run it as a competitive runner in the 60-64 Age Group and despite not being focused over much of the summer, I do intend to race a smarter race than my previous marathons in Chicago and at Bayshore. It will also be my 3rd marathon in 53 weeks!  Now that is something I never would have imagine achieving! (Most runners run one marathon a year).

BostonmarathonlogoOh and what about that marathon in Boston?  Well, it has only been a few weeks now, but I did decide to return to compete once again in the Boston Marathon April 18 2016!  I truly never ever thought I would return for the Boston Marathon!  My motivation is to join the 16 other runners from our training group to train this winter and enjoy the sights from Hopkinton to Boston and to once again avenge my disastrous Boston experience from 2006 (that is a separate story post). The Boston Marathon will be my last competitive marathon!

ohmalogo2=2So much for the running part, back to the career part.  A year ago I was not happy at my employers firm. While I thoroughly enjoyed working with the people it was clear that the firm’s owners had a different view of not only architecture but also of how a firm should be managed.  As a result of various simultaneous events within the firm at that time I emailed the President of my previous firm OHM Advisors, several years prior to ask if there might be a position available and how I might be able to help them with the architectural efforts.  Within moments I received a very welcoming response and the rest as they say is history.  It took a short bit of time to complete the transition but by early December in 2014, I was back at OHM Advisors as a leader within the architectural group and very happy to be there.

I have gone from my unnatural thinking of counting the days and even hours to retirement to looking forward to many years of contributing to the success of OHM and I rarely ever think of my retirement.  I am proud to be associated with a strong, growing, and innovative, interdisciplinary group of design professionals who value my contributions. http://www.ohm-advisors.com

isAs a part of my return to OHM, I have also been able to rejoin another previous passion of mine over the years.  Following a ten year or more absence I have also rejoined the Novi Rotary Club. http://www.novirotary.org The club membership has changed since my previous years as a member between 1986 to 2004. There are new members, new leaders, new service projects, but the same high level of integrity and commitment to service remains.  I am very proud and thankful to be a part of this group and look forward to years of service.

I never would have guessed that any of these main events would ever likely happen, let alone in a short period of time. So the moral of this story may be to plan ahead, but always be aware of potential opportunities that may exist. You just never know what lays ahead in your future. It’s been a great year and I am excited about the year ahead too.

Thanks for taking the time to read this and continue to Run Happy.

Lee

PS:  I also have a very significant announcement I will disclose in early November too, check back often.

 

In a Perfect World

Perfection

In a perfect world every runner would run their perfect race, from short distances as a 5K up to a marathon or perhaps even an ultra-event. Every architect would also produce a perfect design that pleases everyone and the drawings would be totally complete without any ambiguity, error, and would be able to be constructed without any questions. It would also of course be on budget and within schedule.

Of course we don’t live in a perfect world, nonetheless runners and architects I know constantly attempt to continue to improve while aiming to achieve the best results possible. Every time I line up at the start of a new race I always wish I had done some additional training. A bit more speed work, a few more hill repeats, longer long runs etc. Regardless, there is nothing that can be done at that time so I quickly put those thoughts behind me and focus on the race ahead. During the race there will be opportunities to assure a successful race. Staying mentally positive, focusing on the course, enjoying the moment etc. all work to assure a successful race.

A similar range of thoughts flow through my head as I sign and seal the set of final prints from which permits will be obtained, bids sought, and a building constructed. There is nothing that can be done at this point to make the project any better. Like a race, there are opportunities following the release of design documents that can be done to assure a successful project. Most of these involve some form of communication. Like a runner whose every foot strike is a communication with the race course, the successful architect needs to maintain constant communication with a myriad of entities and individuals throughout the course of construction.

Still when the race is over, when the building is complete, the Running Architect still recalls many moments during the course of the race or design and construction that they wish they could do just a little bit different to improve the final outcome.

Perhaps this is the reason runners and architects are always chasing the next race, the next design, the next will certainly be even better.

Run Happy.

Lee