Category Archives: Motivation

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!!

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!! 🙂

 

Be accountable to yourself and others.

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I just came back from my first road “long run” after my most recent race ~2 months ago.  I…became accountable…and told Winston that I was “…off to try a 24k run, first long once since marathon”.

Yes, of course I hit that 18km point, content as can be with the workout as it was, hit a red light at a crosswalk, and looked over my shoulder, the sun glistened on the beautifully shiny, parked EVO (one of our car shares here in vancouver)

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I pondered the thought of revving that puppy up and packin’ it in through the city and up my hill to my apartment.

But no….I was not only accountable to myself, I was accountable to Winston.  So off I trotted…

Accountability is one of my top coaching philosophies.  We talk about this daily with our athletes – accountability to their teammates is how they push to the limits that they do.

Though I have no running team per-se, I reach to others (like telling someone my goal).  The limits I can push with my trail running group or in races, is beyond what I ever push by myself.

In the time being, today (by my fun lonesome), because I was accountable, not only did it end up being an awesome run, it was my fastest pace long training run to date!  Even when I got home I did an extra 1km loop, just cuz 🙂

So here is my tip of the day – next time you challenge yourself, tell someone you are doing it, it may just help you through that wall.

Happy Trails!

“You’ll never accomplish the results you want until you are willing to do what you don’t necessarily want to do”.  ~Trish Blackwell

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

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I have always said sport is synonymous with life, “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”.  This is what one of my very first coaches ~ Olympian, Brenda Taylor, said all the time.

The human body has an amazing capacity to cope and adapt to stressors.  Whether you are getting yourself to and through a tough job interview, dealing with a personal illness, sorting out finances, a new child in the house, a 10×800 track workout (or even all of the above), our body is equipped to cope with these stressors, and we will amaze ourselves in hindsight.  Then, stronger from dealing with the last one, the next challenge will be waiting for you ahead, guaranteed.

I sit here writing having dealt with many challenges in my life, through each challenge that very mantra “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”, echoed in my head.

Over 10 years ago, in the peak of my National rowing career, one month before the 2006 World Championships, I was nearly killed by a car being driven ~70km/hr by a driver, blinded by the sunrise.

Abruptly, that day life changed. My sole focus of being one of the best lightweight rowers in the world that year, I woke up on the side of the road in a pool of blood with shattered bones and a shattered helmet, and very confused with a significant brain injury.  But, I was LUCKY.  Through the impact of the accident my limp and unconscious body hit the bumper windshield and then flew over top the vehicle and onto the ground below.  Police said, I was lucky that the windshield was the second impact – not the frame. Without my helmet, which was split in 2, Doctors said I would have been a vegetable or dead.  3 weeks later after having crazy nerve pain from a one of my broken bones poking into my Brachial Plexus, I went through an emergency surgery after they found that same bone sitting dangerously close to my Jugular Artery.  Again, lucky!!

Stubborn as usual, and ignoring doctors prognoses (after much patience, persistence, and therapy) I went onto continue to compete for Canada for the next 5-6 years .  In those years, I also woke up to the rest of the world.  Prior to the accident I had been a very serious athlete, with tunnel vision.  After the accident I realized that life is much too short to sweat the small stuff and that family and loved ones are much more important than sport.

Two years following my accident my father was much too young to be diagnosed with cancer.  His journey for the next 7 years was a rollercoaster but I believe it was triumphant and beautiful as he embraced his last days more than ever, playing music for people and surrounding himself with the most positive people he could, when he could.  Myself, my mother, and my sister were fortunate enough to be able to be with him, hold him and say goodbye to his very last breaths.

Recently, I have witnessed my sister suffer with a severe form of (Chrone’s/Colitis) in and out of the hospital, with multiple surgeries, medical mishaps, long hospital stays, and ICU incidents over the past 4 years.  After a courageous 4 years of patience, pain and persistence (and a life no one can even imagine), she is thankfully on the up!

As we all know, sometimes life gives you the test before you have had the time to understand the lesson.  My sister just had this beautiful epiphany a few weeks back, and is now mentoring other patients who are, new to and, trying to learn to cope with the horrible disease and other GI diseases.

My philosophy with sport is that it helps to strengthen our bodies ability to cope with many stressors.  When I was climbing the second of two 5000ft mountains in my 50 mile ultramarathon, not only did I try to smile as much as possible to appreciate the journey, I reminded myself that “what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger”.  Be it mentally or physically – hopefully I can continue to be stronger in life with every challenge.

It is not always as easy as just making lemonade out of lemons.  Life can be unfairly rough, we all know.

People ask me why I run ultra marathons.

I say, “because I can.”

When I cannot anymore, I will say, I did.

Happy New Year, and Happy Trails!!

 

 

 

Pre-Race Gitters…

It is the night before the 2015 Amica Seattle Marathon .  This is my 5th marathon (with many other ultra marathons behind me), and I am here with my boyfriend who is walk/running is first half marathon (and FIRST running race ever).

What is going through my head and what is going on through his head?

My head: actually very little as I feel very prepared and on task.  I have done my specific workouts and I have quite a realistic goal.  I am not nervous but anxious to get it started and looking forward to the process and curious about the outcome as, regardless, race day is always a new day.

My boyfriend’s head: “stay calm, try to survive, finish”.  (Again, this is his first ever running race!! He really just started running again after 25 years)

I spent the day ensuring all the “I’s” are dotted and “T’s” are crossed.  What did that entail?

  1. I have a race plan with very specific targets of my pace at which I did many workouts to prepare and I am “comfortable” with.
  2. I have my morning all set out, oatmeal breakfast waiting in front of the microwave, running gear, “body glide” and my running shoes I have been training in ready to put on.  I will wake 2 hours before my start time (at least) to ensure I properly digest my breakfast.  All day I have been pre-hydrating making sure I am “peeing clear” – true story.
  3. I hope to sleep tonight, but often before a race my nervous system takes over and I don’t sleep all that well (I did an entire 50 MILE ultra marathon on 1 hour sleep, NOT recommended but this is very common).
  4. Race day nutrition: we are all very different; myself in a road marathon I cannot ingest very much, but I need to make sure I keep on top – I have 800 calories of energy ready to fuel me for the run (all in the form of diluted EFS and sport Jelly Bellies (yep jelly beans!), I am going to run with a small hydration pack.
  5. All day today I made sure to eat food I am very used to, we had pasta with meat sauce for dinner (this is a regular for us), and yes I still had wine with dinner, I just make sure to drink twice that in water.

No, for me, it is not complicated at all.

If you wish to track me live here is the process https://register.chronotrack.com/event/tracking/eventID/18056:

  • My marathon goal is to go under 3:35 (which for me would be a personal best by 2+ minutes on a tough course).  I did this race very unprepared a couple of years ago and ran 3:37ish. My bib is #1482.
  • My boyfriend who is walk/running the half marathon has bib #5864, his goal time 2:00-2:38.

Happy trails!!

What motivates you?

So, it’s not race day – no one is out there cheering me on, why am I motivated?

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Are your running shoes sitting in your closet but the motivation to put them on feels more difficult than it should?   You are not alone.

Not every day am I motivated.  I have good days and bad days.  I have, however, found a few things to keep my daily motivation relatively constant…

Here is what is motivating me today: 

  • my short term race goal (Seattle Marathon this coming Sunday, p.s. there are an awesome amount of cheering people with exceptionally funny posters!)
  • the light feeling my legs have right now in “taper” mode
  • the satisfying feeling of finishing a run and coming back inside on a cold and rainy fall day
  • my new running shoes (6th pair of the same model this year!) Brooks Ghost 7.
  • Checking off my daily goal on my fridge (I seriously love doing this…so simple I am!)
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  • A couple of weeks ago I started using the App. “Runkeeper”, though it has it’s quirky like every app, there is a computerized woman on my iPhone who tells me what to do, and love the sound of the lady saying “workout complete” https://runkeeper.com/home
  • Walking by this medal rack hanging on my wall that my sister (who knows me so well) just made me for my 40th Birthday
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  • My newly downloaded playlist especially my new favourite running song Catch and Release (Deepend remix) by Matt Simons.

It’s the little things!!  It’s only a short 5 mile easy pace run but I’m still looking forward to it.

“Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going”    ~ Jim Rohn

Enjoy your next run 😉