Tag Archives: Running

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

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”!

drafting
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

 

 

 

DxAA – What a Difference 31 Years Make!

DXAAlogo One of Michigan’s most famous road races was recently held for the 43rd year in a row. Organized by the Ann Arbor Track Club, the Dexter to Ann Arbor Half Marathon continues to be one of the premier road races in Michigan and the entire Midwest. As the name implies, it is a road race from Dexter to Ann Arbor, a convenient distance of 13.1 miles. I ran my first DxAA race eleven years after the race debuted only it was not the half marathon. My first Dexter Ann Arbor race was the 10K back in 1985.  I dug out the 10K race results from that year and compared them to this year’s results. Amazing!

In 1985 I had been running various road races of all sorts but never a 10K (6.2 miles). So in the spring of 85 I figured it was time that I see what this 10K thing was all about and after all, I had no other plans for that Memorial Day weekend. (For many years the race was held on Memorial Day weekend). Back then, similar to the half marathon, runners were bused out to the starting line, then ran the point to point route to finish downtown Ann Arbor. The busing process meant that most runners, nearly 1,000 of us, sat around in Delhi Metro Park for up to an hour before the race.  As I recall, in 85, that was not a problem for the air was cool, the lawns were damp, but the sun shined beautifully. It also continued to shine resulting in a hot run!  I had heard stories about the route from my running friends. There was this long hill runners had to battle for the last mile of the route. OK, so?

I remember toeing the starting line less than several feet from the actual start. Then the gun fired and we were off!  I had no idea of how to actually run a 10K, I simply approached this race as any other, start fast, run hard, and hang in there to the finish. So that’s what I did!  I remember seeing a string of single file runners stretching long ahead of me on the sunny part of the route. I was nowhere near the lead runner. So what?  I was running as hard as I could and I was determined to do my best!

37 minutes, 51 seconds after the gun went off I crossed the finish line downtown Ann Arbor!  This was an average pace of 6:05 minutes per mile. I thought it was just OK.I was a little disappointed I did not run a sub 36 min for my first 10K.

But here is the interesting comparison. With a time of 37:51 in 1985, I finished 15th in my age group and 90th overall!  Yesterday, 31 years later, I ran nearly 10 minutes slower, finishing in 47:24, but finished 1st in my AG, and 60th overall!  My time from 1985 would have placed me 5th overall in yesterday’s race!

So what accounts for such substantial variations in finish placement given the same race time?  Well actually, time itself, or more accurately the times.  30 years ago the 10K event was the premier race distance. The half marathon was sort of an unusual gimmick type race.  Also, those who did compete were more serious or intense runners.  Thirty years ago all of one’s training runs were run hard. There was no “long run” as every runner seems to do at least once a week now.

Flash forward to today and it’s actually somewhat difficult to find a good 10K race event!  The half marathon has perhaps become the second most popular only to the 5K distance.  The 5K distance is primarily popular because it appeals to most any person who is reasonably fit whether a regular runner or not and it also appeals to serious runners who often view the 5k distance as a training or speed session for a longer race, such as the half marathon of course.

While I will never approach running a 37 minute 10K again (factoid: my first 10k remains my lifetime personal record), I hope to always continue to be competitive in my own division running against my many friends and peers. Why not look up the next 10K in your area and give this race distance your best effort?

Thanks for taking the time to read my post and Run Happy!

Coach Lee

PS:

For a neat look at a video of the 10K:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LUJYyzu7Gio Let me know if you spot me in the race hint,  it’s as I finish.

 

 

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

A Little Break In The Action

Runners will always Lee Martian Sm 10K 4-3-10talk and sometimes brag about how many miles they run each day. Non-runners may often take this to mean the runner actually runs the entire distance at a consistent, fast, and non-stop pace. In fact nothing is further from the truth. About the only training run that meets such criteria is a very short run. If a runner claims to run 5, 10, 15, or even 20 miles, the fact is, is that they are not running the same steady pace non-stop for the given distance.

Think about how you work at your job. Do you produce work at a constant effort and quality for the entire 8 hour work day?  Of course not. There are times for breaks, scheduled or unscheduled, time to move from one task to another, time to assess your next task, and of course we all have meeting time. The point to this is that to be efficient at your job, you need to vary your daily routine within the confines of that day’s duties.

When training runners need to do the same. While few runners actually stop during a race, most will stop at some point along their training runs, especially the long runs, to take a brief break and re-coup, even if for only a matter of a handful of seconds. I take breaks during my longer runs about every 3-5 miles depending upon the route and my performance for that day.

Not all runs are run the same way either. During any training run the pace will vary. All training runs should start at a slower than average pace for the runner. However, after the first mile or two the runner should be at their average goal pace for that run. Beyond pace is the intensity or style of running too. I prefer to train to meet the challenge of hills at every opportunity. Thus when I meet a hill during my long easy paced run, I will increase the pace.  Then there are stretches of flat roads or paths where I feel an extra level of energy and I decide to pick up my pace for several hundred yards and simultaneously attempt to focus on my running form. Of course, each such “intense” moment of running is often followed by a brief “relaxing” moment of running. These methods of running combine over a period of time to improve the runner’s overall running performance.

To improve one’s job performance, you should try to do similar variations of performance on the job. As an example, when working on a difficult challenge to resolve at work, there is nothing wrong with taking a break from the work scene. It may be a longer stop at the coffee counter or a long walk around the block. Put your problems aside, albeit not for too long. When you return, you will be refreshed and more than likely actually complete the overall job task in less time than you would have had you persisted through the challenge.

OK, enough of this writing stuff, time to take a break and go for a run!

Thanks for taking this moment to read this and remember to Run Happy!

Lee