Philadelphia Marathon 2018: the unexpected, as expected.



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Life is Short, Marathons Make it Feel Longer

This past weekend at The AACR Philadelphia Marathon was absolutely chock full of my norm…self-doubt

My training leading up for this event was far less than ever ideal. A back injury & related hamstring strain, the maximum mileage I posted in one week was a maximum of 70km (this is very minimal for any marathoner).  I did, however, fit the bare minimum of 1 long run each week: (5 x 25km runs, 1 x 28km and 1 x 30km) with minimal speed and hill work (which seemed to flare it the most), and substituted some cross-training and strength work.

This time around, I did most of my training myself, as my regular running buddies were on a different marathon schedule.  For most of my long runs, my hubby (thankfully!!) drove me somewhere far and I ran home (thus, no excuse to cut it short) by myself 😉

The weeks and months before, my massage therapist and Chiropractor relentlessly strummed away on my ridiculously tight hammy, like a guitar string.  I tried almost everything to release it.  I had days of relief and then it would creep right back out of nowhere…

To boot, (full disclosure): exactly one week before the marathon I spent three (glorious) days at an all-inclusive resort in Mexico for a family wedding. Hey, there was no way I was not going to resist indulging in some Margaritas and Pina Coladas on this amazing beach.  Though we had a fantastic time, this is typically not recommended during the final days of a marathon taper…but hey, why not – life is short!!

Swim-up room, Hyatt Ziva Puerto Vallarta

I flew to Philly on Friday, November 16th simply hoping for the best.

To boot, out of ABSOLUTELY nowhere, two nights before the race I woke up I the middle of the night with sharp shooting pains in my diaphragm (I somehow put a rib out in my sleep…) I sincerely could not take a single deep inhale whatsoever. I went to marathon expo again that day to find a therapist and thankfully got a chiropractic adjustment.  I also bought some $40.00 “miracle cream” at the expo and slathered that stuff on like hoping for a miracle.

The night before this marathon (for the first time ever) I had a dream that I dropped out from the race and did not even start. Still not being able to take a deep breath, I woke up Sunday fearing this could very well be my reality.  I looked at my husband and said: “well….this is going to be a long day…I will just take it slow and hope for the best…”

I sauntered out of the room with my garbage bag draped over me to keep myself warm on the chilly fall morning. I walked, with my music in my ears, and the closer I drew to the course, somehow, the more at ease I became.  My heart started to flutter with excitement as I came close to other runners. All of my doubt started to be overwhelmed with my love of racing.  I started to make conversation with many people around and felt at home.

On Sunday, when the horn finally blew – all of that anticipation, the fear, the doubt subsided. The first 3 km were quite uncomfortable as my diaphragm was still in a full-blown cramp, my hamstring was only partially nagging, but I was aware.  Somewhere around the 4 km mark, everything relaxed, I found my pace, and I just ran as hard as I could.

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My race-plan involved 4 quotes that I muttered to myself in my head, over and over..and over:

  • “light and limber”
  • “relax, own your pace”
  • “you are going to be okay, this is supposed to be hard”
  • “SHUT UP legs”

Also, as mentioned below – when the tough moments hit (for me, kilometers 30-42), I counted breaths.

The result.:A personal best:  3:22:27, not great, but for now I will take it.

After 18 marathon-(plus) distance races under my belt, and years of racing at a competitive level as a national team rower, I have learned a lot about myself and what happens “upstairs” (my brain), leading up to the race, and also during.

In a nutshell:  I…am a self-doubter.

I reflect now on my experience with this past weekends’ Philadelphia Marathon and felt the need to write about what goes on through my head before and during a marathon for my own personal reference, and hopefully for you to learn something.

My Mindset Before a Race, and During Training

I am nothing close to a superstar, I am simply a mid-pack runner.  I push myself only as hard as I feel on the day, preserving my ligaments and joints, abused from years of competitive, high-performance sport.  Very few competitive cells are left in my body, sucked dry after years of National Team sport.  But I do LOVE the feeling of a hard effort, and feel at home with my heart beating out of my eyeballs.  One thing I know for sure is that I will never stop loving to explore my limits.

With this in “mind”, the days and weeks leading up to a race for me are very predictable, and those that know me when say it is now just comical.  Though I am not proud of it, it is sincere, I CONSISTENTLY doubt my abilities.

Now, much different from my past – my approach to sport is very light-hearted and non-competitive. I train only enough to ensure that I can safely complete the given task without injury.  Though I love training, I have learned to balance my life leaving plenty of time for all other things my life has to offer: time with loved ones, travel, cocktails, yoga.  That being said, I often feel relatively unprepared.  The talented people I run with put many more miles, blood sweat, and tears into their training.  Though I do put a good effort in, much of my performance relies on muscle memory.

My Mindset During the Race

There are a few things in life I wish I could bottle.  I wish so badly that my brain worked the way it does during a race.  I believe it is one of the only times my mind is calm and relaxed.  Time and time again, something magical happens; inevitably, somehow my brain shuts off and my body finally “shows up”.  My heart takes over, and my doubting mind has learned to shut off while I embrace and LOVE the moments.  At the same time, I am proving my own self-doubt wrong.

I still have so many positive GO-TO’s etched in to direct my brain DURING a race to keep me on track:

  • I love being surrounded by like-minded folk
  • I love worrying about nothing but putting one foot in front of the other
  • I love pushing my limits on the day.
  • I love absorbing the energy of those around me. I feel like being a part of a race is somehow like osmosis – the ecology and energy of others around me gave me the energy, and I likewise help others.
  • I love proving my own self-doubt wrong

Inevitably, there are dark moments during a race of any sort, especially a marathon.  I also have some simple go-to’s to get through those.

  • I stop looking at my watch for periods of time (I count my breaths, every 4th footstep is one count and I start with 300 and count up to 1000).  While I am counting, I do not look at my pace one bit and just run as hard as I can.
  • I always have simple quotes that I pre-plan to go through my head

Now, if only I would stop wasting so much energy doubting myself.  Oh, well.  No one is perfect after all, and we all create our own reality.

Next up a winter of snowy training for the 2019 Boston Marathon in the spring and the Muskoka 70.3 Half Ironman in the summer.  I wonder what those tapers will consist of??

Life is short, marathons make it feel longer.

Safe and happy winter trails to all!

Boston Marathon 2018, a Heartfelt Effort

When we set out for The Boston Marathon, a race now 122 years old, challenging point to point route held in early spring on the Atlantic East coast, we know we are certainly signing up for something epic.  The heart and spirit of this event with the immense community of volunteers, spectators, and Boston Strong-Bostonians never subsides. Being a part of this event is something never forgotten once experienced.  The 2018 Boston Marathon 2 days ago, was my third Boston Marathon, certainly my most memorable, and definitely not my last.

Myself and 26,000 other runners set out on Monday April 16th. on to the start line of the 122nd Boston Marathon. The weather forecast consistently predicted a bad-ass, monsoonal, Bostomania of a storm on this Boston Marathon Monday.  Meteorologists had it predicted 60-80km head winds and 60+mm of rain to the hour and Mother Nature certainly delivered.  It was one of those days when the wind gusts blasted so hard and rain pelted down so relentlessly that umbrellas proved to be dysfunctional. It was one of those days that getting that getting from the grocery store to the car soaks you to the core, let alone running a 42.2 km into it.

@eliseruns captured this video well of runners trying to walk in the rain to catch the bus to the start line before the race.

With the forecasted storm, I had no race goal time expectations whatsoever, but I decided to approach the it with a smiling (actually laughing) face:

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Thankfully, my 20 years of rowing, and now coaching, early in the morning in every kind of weather and often before sunrise, along with the 17 other 42.2km (plus) marathons and ultramarathons I have run in a variety of conditions, helped me devise my very simple race plan for the day.  

Don’t think.  RUN.

Athletes Village was beyond comical. Just imagine a mud-feast with 30,000 runners all dressed in ponchos, garbage bags, and plastic bags tied over our feet to attempt to keep the mud and rain out of our shoes. I had 2 jackets, a poncho and a garbage bag on, 3 pairs of pants, and an white army navy plastic bags tied over my shoes with an attempt to keep the mud out.

With seconds to spare I got to my start position of Wave 2 coral 5. I quickly stripped my multiple layers of warm up clothes (that the race organizers then donate to charity) and set on my soaking wet way running for my life from Hopkinton to Boston along this historic route.

As the miles went on, I was utterly water-logged as the rain pelted into my every crevice, the head-wind was moving my body however it wanted, my legs were partially numb, and the water was pooled in my shoes.  When the passing monsoonal waves of rain flooded, I raised my arms out, looked up at the sky and laughed, then kept on my merry way.  I realized that my core temperature was to remain okay if I just kept running as fast as I could.

I passed many shivering runners in shorts and singlets. My ticket to some degree of comfort was my surgical gloves overtop my 5$ Army and Navy wool gloves, smartwool running socks, capris and a running jacket.  The only thing I was missing was a shower cap!

What is tear-jerkingly unbelievable is the Boston spirit that relentlessly remained.  This horrific weather did not stop the millions of spectators who were still screaming and encouraging us at the top of their lungs through the entire 42.2 km route, as they themselves soaked to the core. The 2018 Boston Marathon was a 100% heartfelt effort from every single person out there including myself, spectators, family members, volunteers, and the race organizers.

The second I started the 2018 Boston Marathon, I did not think, I just ran.  I ran marinated with rain, and cold-pressed by traditional Massachusetts Nor’easter head winds….for a heartfelt time of 3:24:59 and not a second to spare.

Within minutes of finishing I had my on post race poncho, and met my husband at a local pub near the finish line with a “recovery” drink in hand, and warm clothes to change into.

Will I do this again? Of course, without a doubt.  I have goosebumps just thinking about it.

Here is an article with photos depicting our epic day.

Here is a video of my race thank you to @adidas.

#togetherforward #heartfelt effort #Bostonstrong

Find your inspiration

What motivates you to get out there on a daily basis?

On a daily basis, I try to find all good reasons to run.  I love running, but I am human and I have weaknesses.

After a very emotional day yesterday, today I failed to run no more that 0.7 of a mile and turned back and walked home…

Why do I need to feel so accomplished every day?

On a daily basis, we are all confronted with these 4 questions, I believe, we all need to be able to answer these questions on a daily basis.

  1. How do I get myself out do to what I want to do?
  2. Why do I want to want to do what I do?
  3. Who is so much better than me, and does that help me? Who is influencing me to be the best I can be
  4. What is preventing me from me being my best every day?

After the past 2 months, 7 weeks ago I ran my second and best Boston Marathon, which is one of many accomplishments on my wall….since I  have experienced a lack of motivation.  Most who know me think am ultra-motivated; I have never been ultra-motivated, it is truly the people around me that inspire and motivate me, at all levels.

Today, I was inspired by my stepdaughter as I coached her to her first ever track workout…exactly the same reason why the bonds I have made with the people in my life mean more than any result I ever had.

I encourage you to not only embrace your process but more importantly the people involved.

Happy Trails!!

 

 

 

 

 

Boston Marathon in 2 weeks….what am I really capable of?

Got this in the mail yesterday

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This is a moment I both love and despise….the unknown.

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In just a little over two weeks I will be running my second Boston Marathon.

For those that know me well, though I am well accomplished in life and sport, I am also very human;  I have fear, most definitely, I have doubt and uncertainty.  These demons creep through my thoughts on long runs, during workouts, and (like…right now) before races.

After retiring from being a full-time athlete in the sport of rowing 6 years ago, with my competitive edge completely burnt out I started running purely for the passion and joy of being outside and meeting so many awesome people in my running clubs. Over the past 6 years, I have done 7 road marathons, 8 ultra marathons, 4 half marathons and just last week, the oldest race in North America – Around the Bay 30km.

I still run for the love and joy of the process, but this year I have actually followed direction and have set some definitive goals (I have surprisingly manage to exceed most goals).

For Boston, my training is complete – we have conquered winter here in Ontario with many hard hill and interval workouts and, thank god for my stellar running buddies managed to log the “long” runs.  My last long run was this morning, and the next two weeks are simply icing on the cake (and I LOVE icing!) as I begin to recover from the months of training.  I had a goal, originally to run under 3:30 at Boston.

I find the human body’s ability to adapt to training so intriguing and empowering.  Though it is not much to speak of, the pace that I now am able to run is far above anything I thought possible 6 years ago.  In theory, if my math is correct, I should be able to run a 3:16-3:21 marathon. However running a 7:30-7:40 mile consistently for 42.2 km is dependent on the day.  Will it be my day? NO IDEA…the human body often has a mind of it’s own.

As a coach myself, I have helped so many others set and achieve goals. Doing it yourself is obviously a different story.  I will discuss with my coaches what they think I am capable of and do as I am told 😉

If you wish to follow the outcome, just follow my blog or like my Facebook page I’ll be sure to put links there (Boston Marathon, with 40,000 runners – happens to be on the ball).

Happy trails!

 

www.sherylpreston.ca

BELIEF…the Powerful Words of a Coach

Just a little over a month ago, the day after I posted my last blog expressing a great amount of DOUBT in myself prior to the Chicago Marathon, I had a pivotal conversation with my current coaches Benny and Kevin from Runners Edge.

Benny is a very experience coach and runner himself, he not only gave me very specific guidance for the the Chicago Marathon route, he looked back on his spreadsheets to some interval workouts we had done in the months before, hand calculated some numbers on a sticky note and proceeded to tell me:

“you are capable of running under 3:25″

I responded with “WHHAAT?” No way! I listed my excuses…  I packed my bags still planning to run a 3:35-3:40 if that…still with those words above ringing in my head….

Winston and I travelled to Chicago and absolutely fell in LOVE with the city.  We did all the “wrong” things like walking ~20k around the city 2 days before, indulging in Happy Hours and eating rich, delicious food.

Then morning before race day Winston and I were eating breakfast and the infamous Bongo Room (with what seemed like the rest of the 45,000 Chicago Marathon runners)….and came across THE ABBOTT WORLD MARATHON MAJORS, achallenge of running 6 major international marathons: (Tokyo, London, Boston, Berlin, Chicago and NYC).

My eyebrows raised and I instantly placed this new item on my bucket list.  2 and 2 added up – the qualifying time for a guaranteed entry to NYC Marathon was under 3:26.

Then and there I decided to try for the pace Benny said I was capable of running.  I would set out and hold between 7:40-8:00 min/mile pace for the first 15 miles and reassess there. With no fear of failure.  On the sidelines, chasing me around the city was my very supportive fiance, Winston and what felt like the entire city of Chicago.  I never reassessed, I…Just. Kept. Running.

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My results

The race itself ended up being surreal, it was a spectacular crisp fall day with bluebird sky.  Little went through my head, but these three things, (and NYC marathon)

  1. Benny’s words: “you are capable of running under 3:25″
  2. A focus on swinging my arms parallel and not across the midline of my body
  3. And this image of feet moving circularly from the book the Chi of Running 

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After 5 years of being a coach myself, I had sincerely forgot how truly powerful words are.  Words have the ability to either positively or negatively to be the catalyst to great action.  I have had a lot of coaches in my time back in my rowing days.  The effective coaches are those with the ability help realize self belief.

“You can have all the tools in the world but if you don’t genuinely believe in yourself, it’s useless”. ~Ken Jeong

How many times can we all look back in life and say – “I wish I believed in myself more?”

 All too many I am sure.  Lesson learned, the 2016 Chicago Marathon for me was about belief.  Next time you are doubting yourself, maybe ask a mentor, friend or coach – I bet they believe in you more than you can imagine.

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Happy Trails!!

All great changes are preceded by chaos

octopus“All great changes are preceded by chaos.”

– Deepak Chopra

No hums or ho’s….after Toronto Marathon (actually during) life took a complete FLIP FLOP.  After 3 home sales in 1 month, while finishing off my full time coaching career at UBC, getting engaged, moving myself and my life across the country (literally with a cross country road trip) to be with my Fiance in Ontario…I realized how awesome and dynamic life can continue to be.

I LOVE IT!!

Now, I am settling well into Niagara, Ontario into our beautiful home and a fantastic Real Estate Brokerage and team (McGarr Realty), along with my other contract with Athletics Ontario as their Road Running Coordinator.

I am looking towards the Chicago Marathon entry this coming weekend  (which I entered back in the spring prior to this fun…no way was I going to scrap the entry!)….needless to say, I have been “tapering” now for about 5 months.

OH BOY….

Uncertainty is not always the best race plan, but this weekend this is mine. This will be my 7th road marathon, I am smart enough to know that uncertainty is realistic.

After those, I am, however, CERTAIN that I will enjoy the moments (and appreciate that muscle memory and my 2 months of “cramming” may help).

About a month ago, I joined a local running group here called “Runners Edge” and have my very first coach (Benny and Kevin) since rowing at an elite level.  I will consult with them tomorrow and whatever pace they tell me to race this weekend, I will try.

Regardless, Winston and I get a lovely weekend away in Chicago with ~3.5-4 ish hours of me running!!

Happy trails!

 

The Realistic Pace – Toronto Marathon 2016

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Tomorrow I run the Toronto Marathon and have two goals – hold an even pace, and run under 3hr30.

Pacing is an entertaining subject for myself who has completely perfected the art of “fly-and-dying” with marathons and ultra marathons.  It really is a true art to find your personal speed threshold you can hold for 26.2 miles.

MY METHOD:

#1) TRAIN AND RECOVER  I have finally spent some good quality time finding my realistic marathon “race” pace.  Using a sub 3:30 program from Runkeeper, I did some quality training runs and workouts.  My training was anything but ideal (with life that got busy and I got very burnt out) but I did have some good workouts and confidence boosting threshold workouts such as 16×1′ sprint, 6 miles at 10km pace, 3×3 miles/5×1 miles at faster than my half marathon pace, and the infamous “fast finish long run”.

#2) PROPER  TAPER: I am still trying to find what works for me…

#3) COMMIT TO THE PACE ON THE DAY Tomorrow I run the Goodlife Toronto Marathon with a goal of running under 7:50 minutes/mile (<3hr30 marathon), the true test will be can I manage my realistic pace enough to allow for a steady race and not fly and die?   Theory says to negative split (go slower in the first half than the second).

I am confident about #1 and #2 in the past, #3 for me will be the challenge.  Coming from a sport of rowing where we essentially sprinted for 6-8 minutes, the second a clock is timing me and I have a large group to run with, I have an innate fight or flight race mechanism that takes over and I want to run faster than I “should”.

Race results and splits will be posted on Results

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Going to try but we shall see…looking forward to it!! 🙂