Tag Archives: architect

My Detroit Marathon, Past to Now

FlightWasn’t it was just last week when I paid my entry to run the 2017 Detroit Marathon? (actually it was last May). I had many weeks to train, I had everything mapped out ahead, and now, I wake up today realizing the only thing left on my training regime is to break in my new Brooks Ghost running shoes!  4 Days from this moment I hope to have successfully completed my last competitive marathon. I am in the midst of what runners call “Tapering”.

Mike Johnson Barn 004 Tapering is the process of letting your body fully recover from the many long runs and to load up on energy sources so you can survive a 26.2+ mile road race.  It’s also the time when runners overuse such phrases as:  “The hay is in the barn,  Put a fork in it, The fat lady is singing”, and so on with many more such lines. Essentially, there is nothing more to be done in training except to rest and attempt to live easy.

 

With less time out running that means there is more time to do other things. It’s not to late to continue to prepare mentally.  Actually, the mental process is probably more crucial to a runner’s success than some forms of training.  This will be my 6th Detroit Marathon. Detroit was my first marathon back in 1994.  Much of the course route has been drilled into my memory since my early childhood more than 60 years ago.  Each time I run Detroit I experience certain memories of the places I am running through.  This helps to detract from the actual marathon and allows my brain to forgive me for beating up my body at that moment.

Boblo Boat
The Boblo boat.

When I run along the start of the course I remember my grandfather taking me to board the Boblo boat. (The Boblo boat was a fun ride along the southern part of the Detroit River to the Boblo Island Amusement Park). My grandfather shared his stories of shipping on the great lakes, of how the channels in the river were constructed, and much more. I still think of those many tales as I begin to cross the Ambassador Bridge into Canada.

Once in Canada, I remember my second Detroit marathon as it actually started in Windsor Canada. In those days the marathon started in Windsor’s Jackson Park and ran much of the way along the riverfront.  I was told by veteran Detroit marathoners that the view of Detroit from Windsor would be beautiful and that I would soon be over there. Right they were.

Nearly every section of the marathon route through the streets of Detroit contains a vivid memory of my past. Some like my Boblo experiences, “The Corner”, the site of the old Tiger Stadium (which I first knew as Briggs Stadium) take me back decades. Others areas such as Corktown and Lafayette Park bring back memories as an architectural student at the University of Detroit where I studied these areas of Detroit.

detroit-art-detroit-michiganThen there are some parts of the course that are more unique to my marathon experience.  I rarely had any connection to Indian Village prior to running through the scenic and historic residential neighborhood during my more recent Detroit marathons.

Then of course what would running Detroit be without Belle Isle?  The historic island park links the Detroit Marathon with the New York City Marathon!  How? Each was designed by the famous landscape architect Fredric Law Omstead!  I also remember coming to picnic on Belle Isle with my paternal grandparents and spending great summer days on the island.  There is of course the “curse of Belle Isle” too.  As a runner, the island represents one of the tougher spots along the route to run.  The runner is openly exposed to strong winds blowing up the river and against the runner, regardless of what direction the runner is pursuing.

Belle Isle Bridge

The finishing part of the Detroit course has had many variations over the years. In recent years it has found a home along Lafayette Ave. appropriately enough, in front of the old Detroit Free Press building (the Detroit Free Press has been sponsor of the marathon for 40 years).  Regardless of where the finish line is, I have managed to finish strong during the final stretch to the finish. My last Detroit in 2015 being my best.  I look forward to repeating my strong finish again in a few more days.

Finish BrightBeyond the goal of a strong finish is the goal or strategy on how to run the distance.  It’s much more easier said than done but it is a proven fact that the best (fastest) marathons are those where the runner actually runs the last half (13.1 miles) faster than the first half.  It’s known as a negative split.  My strong finish in 2015 was the cap on my negative split marathon. That marathon was strategically my best marathon. Shortly after that race I declared it to be my  last “Detroit Marathon”. So why am I writing about running Detroit again only 2 years later?

Simple really, in addition to it being the 40th running of the Detroit Marathon, I also saw an opportunity to place very well within my 65-69 Age Group.  I will have strong competition within my group but I intend to be competitive too.  The strategy? The strategy will be much the same as 2015 where I break the course down into various neighborhoods and districts and simply run my own race.  I have a goal finish time, will it be good enough to win my AG, or second, or even third or more? My time really doesn’t matter to me, what matters is that I control my race and that I give it my best effort.

So, back to what we know as taper time.  It’s the time to rest, feed your muscles, and think about the race.  Time to loose my worries about whether or not I have sufficiently trained, time not to ponder all the stretching and strength training I did or more accurately did not do, time not to worry about my competition, time to quit obsessing about the weather, etc. it’s time to run MY Detroit Marathon!

Thanks for taking a moment to read my post. Check back next week for my final chapter in the Detroit Marathon.

Run Happy.

Coach Lee

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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?

Tract house
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

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

The Loneliness Of The Long Distance Architect

The image of the prototypical architect and long distance runner is one where the architect or runner is each alone in taking on their respective challenges.  While there are plenty of times that an architect or a runner welcome seclusion the reality is that architects and runners come to depend upon a growing list of specialized experts to help them reach their respective goals.

An architect may be identified as the “Designer” for a building and in fact in some instances the architect my in fact be the only architectural person involved to produce not only the design concept but the balance of the necessary duties required to complete the building through to the end of construction. The more common scenario is one where a single architectural firm produces the design and provides on going services through the entire construction.  In this situation, there will likely be several individuals who lead various stages of the design project.

Yet even  a single architectural firm does not have sufficient capabilities to provide all the necessary services.  Most firms will sub-contract services to provide mechanical (HVAC and plumbing), electrical, and structural engineering services. Then in an attempt to provide the client with the required expertise there are also an ever increasingly list of specialty consultants.

The list of specialty consultants can be never ending list of experts. The most common include such disciplines or specialties as; acoustics, kitchen equipment, interior furnishings, signage, elevator, historic, and many more. It is the architect who determines the need for such specialists and who is also the one responsible to coordinate the efforts of the entire design team, including all of the specialty consultants.

So it is for the runner too! In my early days of running the sport was extremely simple.  A runner bought a pair of running shoes, put on some shorts and a shirt and ran.  More than thirty years ago shoes started to become more and more customized to match a runners style, the pace and diversity of options available to the runners started to increase. Then there were changes in a runner’s gear too. Specialized fabrics designed to keep runners cool in warm weather and warm in cold weather became popular.  Now there is an entire specialty industry to serve the runner. The list of toys and tools is probably best left to another post.

My point here is the observation that like architects, who have become to rely upon a team of specialists to help the architect perform better, there is a comparable list of specialists who have emerged to help the runner!  Most runners who take their training seriously must admit they seek outside experts to help them perform at their best. This list of experts are likely to be as simple as the experienced runner and sales person at a local running specialty store to, a group or personal coach, yoga instructor, massage therapist, sports trainer, nutritionist, medical doctor, and perhaps even a runners personal IT specialist to help the runner maintain their digital tools.

Sure it used to be such a simple sport. In my opinion, the sport may have become significantly less simple, it has become even more enjoyable!

Now go lace up your shoes, find your nearby satellite, and RUN HAPPY 🙂

Thanks for taking the time to read this today.

Lee