Tag Archives: coach Lee

It’s Official!

It’s official, after being referred to as “Coach” by many of my running friends for years I can now officially call myself “Coach”.   Following several years of comfortable procrastination a series of circumstances over the past several months combined to enable me to become a nationally certified running coach via the Road Runners Club of America (RRCA) coaching certification program.

rrca-cert-coach-logoThe RRCA is the national running organization that has been promoting the sport of road running and racing since the late 1950’s, about the time that I began to take a curious interest in long distance running. It’s coaching certification process is focused on training coaches to train runners of all types for all types of road races. Coaches that achieve certification can be counted on as having a high level of integrity, knowledge of the sport, and passion to help their runners succeed.

The process to become a RRCA certified coach in a challenging one. It involves committing at least two full days of classroom training, successfully passing a lengthy exam, and becoming certified in CPR and first aid.  You might think so what’s so tough about that?  Well, it begins in finding an available class. That alone is more difficult than it appears as classes are held at various locations across the country and the enrollment is very limited.  I was fortunate in that the RRCA National Convention was scheduled to be held downtown Detroit in Mid-March and the coaching certification class was being offered as a part of the convention. This duel opportunity meant that the fee for the class was higher and the classes would be spread over three days. I justified the higher cost by reasoning that I could avoid any travel cost. The higher cost also meant that this opportunity remained “open” a bit longer than normal and I was able to schedule this class within weeks of the actual class date.

The Class Experience

Approximately 30 candidates enrolled in the class. What surprised me was how far away many came just to attend the class!  Out of the 30 maybe seven were from the Detroit area. The rest came from places like Tuscon, San Francisco, Minneapolis, Houston, Florida, and even one person from Bombay!  About a third of the class traveled from nearby states such as Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and one person from neighboring Windsor Ontario.  It was quite a cross section. There were also a few more ladies in the class than men which reflects the national demographics of the sport too.

Coach ClassThanks to the National Convention, we were treated with four very experienced instructors.  Each presented their specialty in various topic areas.  Topic areas covered physiology, psychology,  training theory, running form, nutrition, injuries, business aspects, and even the history of coaching.  There was quite a lot of information to cover and I was glad it was spread out over three days.  Unlike similar classroom scenarios involving the architectural profession, I did not find my mind drifting even once off track from the presentations. We were in a small room, no windows, basic table and chairs, yet I found myself being comfortable and even invigorated with the discussion and presentations.  Before I knew it each long day was over and I was anxiously awaiting to take on the next day.

The Test

The dreaded test. It was made very clear when signing up for this venture that each candidate would be required to take an exam. The exam consist of 100 questions, taken online, and an open book format that must be successfully completed within 30 days,  Also, in order to pass, one needed a score of 85% or better. If not, then it was back to the starting line and repeat the process (and cost) all over again!  So the pressure was on.

Immediately following the course, I spent a week organizing my study book (about 1″ thick of full pages). Yellow sticky tabs were everywhere by the time I was done.  Then came the day I had planned to take the exam. My Saturday afternoon was planned to start, I had made it this far, I needed to continue.  Much like approaching the half way point of any race, time to concentrate and “kick it in”.

The first few questions appeared simple, then I started to ask myself doubting questions. Even though I knew what the answer should be I made it a point to look up and verify the location of each answer in the book.  This became very time consuming. Each block of the exam consisted of 10 questions. After you answered 10 you could save that section and continue. There was the opportunity to re-visit each section and change any answer.

About two hours later I had completed 50 questions!  Half way! Yikes, this was taking much longer than I had planned.  I saved my work and took a nap with the thought that I could finish the last 50 questions on Sunday.  But I could not rest. After about 30 minutes of this anguish, I returned to my desk thinking that if I complete one more section then it would be that much less I would need to complete on Sunday.  Well, one section merged to two, two to three, and before I knew it I only had one more section to go. Done!

Done, but not so sure of certain questions. I was tempted to the the FINAL SUBMIT button but decided to think about it over night. It was late Saturday evening, I was drained from my long run earlier in the day and nearly four hours of questions.  When the final submit button is hit, you receive your results instantly!  I was not mentally prepared for this.  So instead, I printed out the questions and my answers and placed the papers aside until Sunday.

I was able to get a long run in late Sunday morning but it was not a quality run as certain questions from the exam lingered in my mind. Upon looking at my printed answers I discovered two or three that I had obviously incorrectly answered. Then there were another four or five that I was reading too much into the question and did not have confidence in my answers.

I spent the better part of Sunday afternoon dilly-dallying around. I returned to my desk with every intention to hit that dang SUBMIT button.  Well…  I also thought that before I do, I probably should have a glass of wine . . . or two.

Finally, after dinner, I returned to my desk, and like stripping a band-aid off your hairy arm, I hit that SUBMIT button and I swear, my finger no sooner came off the keyboard when a message flashed 95% !  I passed!  In time I will be able to learn the answers to all of the questions.

You’re Almost There!

The worse was over and I truly was almost there, unlike certain points in a race course where well intended supporters think they are helping when in fact they may be hindering your race effort, all I needed to do now was take a 6 hour class to become CPR and First Aid certified.  Fortunately for me I had taken such a class three years ago and knew exactly what to expect.  Regardless, it’s always good to brush up on one’s readiness.

I was able to locate a class very nearby and attend this past Saturday.  Good thing too because it was a cold and rainy day, who wanted to run in this mess.  I simply moved my long run to Sunday.  I had an excellent instructor, learned and re-learned my important items, and glad this part is now complete.

The first thing Monday morning, I sent my CPR/FA credentials to the RRCA and received prompt congratulatory notice and within a short time I will receive my official certificate documenting my achievement of becoming a certified running coach from the Road Runners Club of America!

The Next Steps

I plan to offer my services to the members of the newly formed 501 Running Club (formerly Running Fit 501) and continue being a helpful resource to the members of the club as each of them may see fit to seek my advice.

I also plan to establish my own business as a running coach in the very near future.  I am already well into the process of laying the ground work for my new venture. Stay tune in the coming weeks for more news regarding this venture.  In the meantime, I have NO plans to quit my day job as an architect at OHM Advisors.  I do not foresee my coaching effort as a career change, rather I see it as another opportunity to further explore and share my passion for running with long time runners as well as those who only think they might like to try running someday.

Thanks for taking the time to read my post, please check back for updates, or better yet sign-up to follow by blog and you will receive updates as I post.

Run Happy!

Coach Lee

The Story Behind The Picture

davison-relays-4
The Distance Medley Team

I like to think that when I make a promise, I keep a promise so this post represents a promise I made to the entire world via Face Book recently. Add to this is the fact that 67% of my devoted followers (yes, 2 people) actually asked for the story behind this picture so here it is.

I posted a picture of a relay team that included me the other day. I last remember seeing this news clipping over 20 years ago and had thought it was long lost. Until a few weeks ago when I discovered it while clearing out old files in our basement!  This is not just any picture, a picture that was published in the Grand Blanc News mid-May, 1970. The relay team consisted of four senior class runners who combined their talents on that day to break three records for the Distance Medley Relay event. In a medley relay event each member of the team runs a different distance. On that day Scott Mitchell ran the 1/4 mile, Dick Hahn ran the 3/4 mile, Mike Pierce the mile, and I ran the 880 or half mile leg.

As the photo’s caption notes, we set three records on that sunny and very windy day in Davison Michigan. First was the record for the Davison Relays event, followed by a new Grand Blanc High School record, and most importantly new record for the State of Michigan High School runners!  However, it was an “unofficial” State record because the event did not occur during a State finals event and the medley relay was not a regular competitive event recognized by the Michigan High School Athletic Association. Nonetheless we were as proud as punch and happy to have set each of the records!

Behind The Scene

But that’s not what the story behind this photo is really about. I suppose I can take it all the way back to the mid to late 1950’s when as a very young kid I remember watching a long distance race held on an indoor track on TV. I am guessing it may have been the Millrose Games? Regardless, I vividly remember my dad explaining to me how important that is was for the runners to start their race slow so they can finish faster at the end. That point still remains as perhaps the very best coaching advice I have ever received!  Too bad I forgot about it on race day in Davison. More about that later.

My leg of the race also started a week prior, at the first ever Genesee County HS Track Championships. I had been a 880 (half mile) runner my entire high school career. As a pudgy freshman I had struggled to break 2:20 for the half mile. Early in my senior year I was only a few seconds away from breaking the magic 2 minute mark. Then it happened! My final 880 race of my high school career, I ran a 1:59 and placed second in the county championships!  What I remember most is that it seemed so easy!  What took me so long to achieve this elusive goal?

At the Davison Relays meet a week later I was pegged to run the 880 leg of the medley team.  Our team was stacked with super fast runners for each leg of the race. Mike Pierce who in the coming week would become State Champ in the Mile was capable of running about a 4:15 mile. Scott Mitchell was a very strong and speedy 50 second 440 (quarter mile) runner, and Dick Hahn was a proven 880 runner who was capable of running the half mile near the 1:52 mark. Dick would move up to the 3/4 mile for this relay.  Then there was me, who ran a sub 2 minute half mile the previous week and it felt so easy!

The Race

I don’t recall if I ran the first or second leg of the relay, I do recall it was a warm, sunny, and very windy day that afternoon in Davison. Since my 1:59 performance seemed so easy to me the week prior, I was convinced I could run a much faster time if I simply took off at a very fast clip.  The 880 is a two lap race that is subdivided into 4 x 220 segments or half laps. I remember my first lap as being very fast, somewhere around 52 seconds. I remember feeling strong and confident as I zoomed past the Start/Finish line completing my first lap!

Lap Two

Still feeling my strength and striding long around the curve, this was still “sort of” easy!  It was not uncommon for me to run a 440 in 54-55 seconds as I did this as a part of my regular workouts each week, running as many as 8-12 repeats each session at that pace. So what if I had just ran my PR (personal record) for a 440?

Then came the long straight away, I was still kicking the pace, no slacking, I knew I could do it!.  I crossed the 660 mark (3/4 of my total race distance) somewhere at about 74-75 seconds!  I did not realize it for many years later but I was on pace at 3/4 my way through the 880 to run a 1:40!  Surely that would have been a new National Record!

But it wasn’t to be that day.

The Wall

It only took a few more strides past the 660 (3/4) mark when it happened!  That same dreaded feeling a marathon runner runner experiences somewhere around mile 20 of the marathon, the moment when all life is sucked out of a runners body, the dreaded WALL!

Almost instantly my arms, legs, chest, and entire body felt paralyzed! Some how I managed to keep moving although it felt as it I was the subject of a slow motion film.  Then to make matters worse, as I rounded my last turn the winds hit me and hit me hard!  No less than a 40 mph gust!  If I was still somehow managing to move, it surely had to be much slower now. It seemed to be taking forever to round the curve.

I did manage to run that last turn and hit the final short straight away (the start was in the middle of the straight away). I was simultaneously experience extreme agony and embarrassment. I had felt like I let my team down. That next exchange point in the relay could not come soon enough.

The Pass

With only a few more slow motion strides to go, I could hear my coaches screaming at Dick Hahn to get up to the exchange line and take that baton away from me ASAP!  And so he did, my toe could not have been more than an inch past the line which is actually before the official 880 distance, when Dick grabbed the baton and took off!

I was relieved my agony was over and nothing, absolutely nothing I could do to change the race. Where I had been running about 25 seconds for each 220, my last 220 split was closer to 50 seconds!  I still managed to contribute a decent 880 split but nowhere near what I had hoped to do.

The Photo

Each of my teammates ran outstanding legs of the relay and we did end up with several records that day.  We stood on top of the podium, received the team trophy. Following the award presentation the photographer from the Grand Blanc News asked us to pose. Take a close look at the photo.  Granted, it’s old and a bit faded, but look very closely.  You will see I am smiling. If you have looked closely enough you will see the reason why!  Hint: my good friend Dick Hahn was always a bit of a prankster.

Following the picture taking each member of the relay team insisted that I keep the trophy and take it home with me, forever.  I instead insisted that it be placed in the trophy case of the school along with many others and envisioned the day long into the future when I could come back and revisit my memories.

Many years later, perhaps 20-25 years, I traveled to Flint to once again compete in The Crim 10 Mile Road Race. The night prior to the Crim I took my young daughters Bridgett and Alexis with me to see the Expo, enjoy a pasta meal. Later we visited the halls of GBHS to search out the trophy and tell my story behind the trophy to my girls.  Well, the trophy was long gone, who knows for how long and who knows where.  The story was never fully told until now. Now the entire planet has access to this story.

The Moral

It really does not matter what the race distance is, the smartest advice any coach can provide is to start slow and save yourself do you can finish faster at the end.  That same advice my Dad had provided to me nearly 60 years ago now.

I hope you enjoyed this story, learned a lesson, and I thank you for your time and interest.

Run Happy 🙂

Coach Lee

PS:  I met up with my coach many years later at a class reunion.  We relived that race and Coach Stallcup confirmed that I had hit the 660 mark at 75 seconds. He had always issued meticulous split times of every runner the day following every meet.  I wish I had kept the mimeographed copy of his report from the 1970 Davison Relays.  Who knows, I  did find the photo after 20+ years of being lost, someday that mimeographed report may surface too.

PS, PS: I still relive that race nearly every time I train on the track, always wondering…