Tag Archives: marathon

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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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

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

Was Einstein A Runner?

Einsteinrunning

I have a theory about the person who has presented our world with many of his own famous theories. I believe that Albert Einstein was a runner! When you hear or read his name you probably have a vision of him in his later years, looking old with his head of frizzled grey hair. It would be tough to imagine him as a runner but that’s my theory.

So what is my basis for this theory and how do I go about attempting to prove it? Well, like most of Einstein’s theories only a limited segment of the population would ever understand my theory. In this case one would need to be a runner and more specifically a marathon runner to totally understand my hypothesis. Let me explain.

It all centers on time. Einstein believed time was relative to motion and space. Without getting too technical the best example is comparing two extremes. On one end of the spectrum there are times we all experience when time seems to simply fly by and then there are other times when time just seems to move so slow.

For me the time that seems to fly by the fastest is the one hour before I need to leave the house each morning and experience the thrill of the pre-dawn traffic along the expressways of metro Detroit. I have always been a morning person and I enjoy taking my time to wake slowly, sip my coffee, check the overnight email, do some morning yoga stretches, lift a few weights, and if I got out of bed early enough perhaps even a morning run. All of this before I need to do anything remotely associated with getting ready for work. There is never enough time to eat my breakfast, iron a shirt or pants, shower, get cleaned up, and out the door. I manage to get most of these items completed but I am continuously amazed by the speed of the hands on our grandfather clock each morning.

Then there are those times when time seems to come to a near halt. Perhaps the best example is when you are at work, with little to do except to remain on duty. You ultimately begin to watch the clock. Time appears to drag on forever! Fortunately for me this situation does not occur too often but when it does I begin to have an understanding of what eternity might feel like.

Still, what does this have to do with Einstein being a runner? Plenty, for runners experience many instances where time seems to fly by and other instances where time seems to take forever. Perhaps the best example occurs during the experience of running a marathon.

Early in a runner’s marathon experience they are likely feeling exuberant and why not. The runner’s body and mind is rested, filled with emotions, and eager to perform well. Typically runners run the first mile or two faster than they should so in addition to being alarmed by the speed of their mile split time, they also feel like time has flown by, perhaps as fast as my typical workday morning.

Contrast the experience of the early marathon miles to the later miles. It could be anywhere after mile 15-16 or even as late as mile 24 or so (I need to interject to the uniformed here, that a marathon is 26.2 miles). Regardless, in nearly every marathon, the runner will begin to struggle and this struggle extends to the runner’s brain. The runner’s brain is tempting the runner with a myriad of reasons to stop running, at least slow down! Coincidentally, the runner’s pace per mile has likely slowed considerably too. The runner may only be running a minute per mile slower in the later miles than the earlier miles but it is a huge difference. As an example, if the runner started the marathon at an 8 min per mile pace and runs a 9 min per mile pace towards the end, the runners pace has slowed by over 12%. Yet in the runners mind, the runner feels like they may be running half as fast. For the runner in this condition, time seems to drag on and on and is further exacerbated by the physical difficulty of continuing to run these final miles.

Again, back to Albert Einstein, he had to have been out for at least a long run during his break time. He experienced the anguish of the later part of a long run and had the brilliant idea to relate the sense of time to one’s experience as they travelled.

That’s my theory and I am sticking to it !

Thanks for taking the time to read this and continue to 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