Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Failure lessons meet success

My new Mantra:

I know, what a concept!?? I know, its very simple, but something I have overlooked over the past 3 years.

For some time I have treated my new-found sport of running as simply a fun, social past-time, never really setting any goals or expectations...I would sign up for any and every race I could and I ran as many miles as I could because I absolutely love trail running.  However, with the lack of structure and adequate rest and recovery from these long distance races failure began to happen. With 2 DNF's in 8 months due to a lingering back injury that got out of control I began to experience the defeat of failure.  All because,
I simply did not want to take sport seriously again after years and years of being a full time athlete who took her sport perhaps too seriously for her own good. 

I say this to my athletes all the time now: failure is not a bad thing as long as you can learn lessons from your failures, and apply those lessons so as not repeat the failure.  

So I sat down, scratched my forehead and came to the brilliant realization (duh) that I absolutely DO need to treat my body, my races, and my training with respect and I CAN indeed set myself some realistic goals and strategies to achieve those, even with little desire to compete in sport seriously anymore.  

My first step...goal-setting

I set myself some goals and researched key workouts to achieve them.  Now I share them with you for two reasons:
1) because I know myself well, if I actually state them, then I am accountable to you..and I will do what I can to achieve them.  
2) I hope you learn from my failures and the process inspires you to set yourself some goals and path to success as well

My goals!
1) To run <40 minute at a 10km within the year I turn 40, I am now 39 and 4 days young!
2) To run <1:35 at a 1/2 marathon
3)  To run <3:30 at the Boston Marathon April 20, 2015, for which I qualified last year.
4) To run < 5:30 at a 50km ultra.

These are most of my past results so I think my goals are hopefully doable...

2nd step...addressing my weaknesses

My Christmas present to myself, 4 sessions with a local running coach (Dave Cressman of Distance Runwear) to assess my goals and my gait which I will start in a few weeks after I recover from this past weekend. 

3rd step...execution!

This past weekend I ran the Victoria Marathon. I was physically very unprepared for a personal best, but I approached it with a race-plan I new would work for me, and I even tapered!

I knew I had not trained beyond the 30km distance since May (I signed up for this race before my back injury) I simply "raced" the first half at a pace I knew from my training I could hold and beyond then I just kept moving forward while enjoying the beautiful moments of an awesome race.  I felt absolutely fantastic, was so happy I had very little back issues, and actually had to hold myself back in the first half, went through the half way point at 1:42 which is still a decently fast clip for me.  

I had so much fun embracing my fitness for about 28kms the rest involved a fast-ish marathon wobble on two cramped quads.  But thanks to my awesome boyfriend who supported me for the entire last 1/2 of the race, and 42.2 kms of awesome volunteers and roads covered in people cheering, I kept smiling through my self-induced suffering.  I still pulled off a 3:38:30 with a fly-and-die race plan.  This was a success in my mind, and a 2016 Boston Qualifying time to boot, just in case I want to do it again next year.
Cheers to taking steps towards success!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Respect and preparedness

noun: respect 


a feeling of deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements.

a particular aspect, point, or detail.


Respect is quite likely the first and foremost trait I have carried on from my upbringing.  Whether it presents in the form of respecting my authority, neighbors, friends, family, athletes, teammates, or the cashier at the name it, "respect" and I are tightly knit unit. 

What I learned this past weekend was my ignorance to respect myself and to respect a the sport of Ultramarathon.

Knowing that I was coming off a relatively serious and personally scary back injury, and thus ill-prepared and filled with trepidation, I stilled followed my ego toward the race I signed up for, ignoring all medical advice.  Me-being-me, was eager to complete yet another adventure fueled by a love for my new sport. 

Ultramarathons are never, ever, to be taken lightly.  In order to run for hours and hours on end on unknown terrain, climbing countless feet, one must be very mentally and physically prepared in so many ways.

This weekend I was mentally prepared but physically not.  I am past the point of competing in these events simply to complete them, I want to embrace my fitness and push my limits as far as I can in beautiful places, but not harm myself in the process

I sat at that start line asking myself, "how long will my back hold out?".  That is absolutely no way to start an adventure, especially when you are in it for fun, like I am.   Sure enough, 8.5km and about 2500ft in nerves from my injury started firing up down my right leg and my head took a downward spin. 

I stopped at 5500 ft and only 14km/52 km in.  Pathetic in my mind.

As most of you do, I absolutely hate not completing things, and this is still gnawing away at me that I even tried, knowing that I likely couldn't.

I bow down to those runners who prepared, listened to their body when they should have and completed their goal.  Myself on the other hand, I have learned a good lesson with regard to respect.  Starting a task that you are not prepared for does no one any good.  Respect for yourself and your sport (or job, or family, what-have-you) goes a long, long, long way.

I look forward to my next adventure whatever it may be, but will spend the next while making sure I ingrain my capacity to respect myself and my own body. 

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Challenge faces trepediation

noun: trepidation
a feeling of fear or agitation about something that may happen

Trepidation fuels my every step as I run towards my next challenge.  This Ultramarathon's beauty absolutely captured me

This is how I have lived my life as long as I can remember, chasing the next challenge ahead.  I prefer the self-inflicted crazy challenges I place before myself....but each and every challenge life has given me has made me even more prepared for the next challenge,  self inflicted or not.

This self-inflicted challenge over these next few days could be a doozy.  Its the inaugural Trailstoke 60k (never ran before) and said to be "one of the toughest Ultramarathons in the world".  I look forward to spending the day challenging myself with like-minded (crazy) folk.  As a "skyrunning" event high in the alpine I have my mandatory bear spray in hand and have reviewed my bear awareness....still shaking with the thoughts. My "plan" is to embrace myself with the beauty in order to forget the pain.

Trepidation comes from the fact that I have been out of commission with a bulging disc in my back (damn that was painful!)...which has cleared up over the last week (fingers crossed it stays this way over 60k).   I little tentative,  I will at least try.

I have set in my head that I have no expectations on finishing.... if my sciatic nerve starts firing I'll just piggy back one of those grizzlies down to the finish line :)

Okay, off with my adventure! 

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Sheryl's running tips and tricks

As a rowing coach who runs for fun I think it is time to share some of my tips and tricks that keep my one foot in front of the other on the road and trail.  Though I am not a great runner per-se, I DEFINITELY enjoy the process of running....and my little tricks I have devised over the years have help me a ton, so I hope they help you!


Well....I am biased on this one because I worked a specialty running shop in Victoria for 10 years (Frontrunners), but if you have not already, go to a local running shop - NOT the mainstream running room/Sport Check ones - and have someone look at your running (not walking) gait...take their opinion only as an opinion but chances are they will help you to select a good shoe for your foot (in Vancouver I recommend Forerunners or the Run Inn, and Victoria, undoubtedly, Frontrunners


For those new to running, your breathing pattern is the first and foremost thing that can make or break a run.
  • Breathe in two steps and out two steps, simple - obviously unless you are in an all out sprint.  I am no running coach but I know this is the basis of all of my runs.  I also was recently told, if you have a stitch, breath out on the opposite side of the stitch....didn't work for me but maybe someone else.

Now, we know that this is a larger subject than simply a paragraph but for the purpose of this post, Let us simplify this into one paragraph.

I recommend to think about your body and how to minimize impact and maximize speed forward.  Minimize the amount of time spent on your feet (I think of running on hot coals and minimizing over-striding/healstriking by taking more and quicker steps than you think you should), with good posture (I think about keeping my chin tucked in and tall spine with a relaxed upper body, I check into my posture often whenever running by reflective windows).

Running Buddies

For those long runs there is absolutely no better way to spend countless weekend hours chatting on the trail or road with like-minded people, not.  If you do not know any runners, try joiniong a local club - TRUST ME, do not be intimidated these clubs are always filled with a vast array of running folk at all running paces and there is almost always someone your pace - fast or slow.


If you are out for a long run, either bring a your visa and plan the route by a convenience store, or bring it with you.  I underestimated this for so long, but now realize it is so key to keeping on, going on.  As for hydration packs, I recommend the Salomon Advanced Skin S-Lab 5.  This pack is awesome, it is easy to clean, carries 1.5 litres of water (I take the bladder out and throw it in the washing machine); to clean the the bladder I leaev ~ 4 Tablespoons of bleach in 1.5 Litres of water for 10-20 minutes then thoroughly rinse awesome for water bottles as well.


Though I love listening to the sound of my feet hitting the ground, especially on the trail and gravel.  However, music can make a long run not only endurable, but even more pleasurable.  There are some key aspects to listening to music that I have found really help me:

The earphone(s):
  • I personally recommend the JVC Ha-FR36 Marshmallow-type earbuds (or similar ones) find them on amazon or at London Drugs for us west-coasters.  Not only do they stay in place but you can switch songs with the touch of a remote control on the earbud wire.  
  • I also recommend to CUT ONE WIRE SO AS TO ONLY LISTEN TO ONE EAR.  This is very important especially on trails or while running with road traffic.  You can experience the joy of listening to music while staying safe and respectable to others in the process
  • In order to secure the earphones without them falling out, I tuck and loop the earphone under my hat or through my headband.

Lets be honest this can be a huge pain for every runner long distance or not.  Before long runs I literally douse my feet and in-between my toes in "Body Glide" or a similar non-petroleum based product out there this and in and around the seams of my sports bra.  I know a lot of other people have issues with inner thigh chafing, but I usually wear capris to minimize this, so I would do the same on the thighs when wearing shorts. 

The music:
  • Obviously you need to like the music you are listening to but I find, especially on the road, the TEMPO of the music is even more important.  I personally have a "long run" playlist with a bit of a slower tempo and a "shorter" or "speed-work" playlist with higher tempo.  Here is a mix of my personal favorites (but I have a ton more so if you want, message me and I am more than happy to share).  
Artist / Song 

Coldplay/Hurst like Heaven
Coldplay/Strawberry Swing
Coldplay & Rihanna/Princess of China
Matchbox Twenty/I Will
Lorde/Love Club

Bustrexx & CoMa/The Business of Sadness
Rameses B/Drift Away
Rameses B/Letting Go (feat. Amelia Rose)
Andreya Triana/Lost Where I Belong
Rollz/The Music (Be Strong)
NCT/Frozen In Time (feat. Andreas Ort & Charline)
TwoThirds & BadApple/Sense of Being (feat. Veela)
Jakwob/Blinding (Hybrid Minds Remix)

Rosie Thomas/Since you've been around
Howie Day/Collide (Acoustic)

Hunter Hayes/Wanted
Keith Urban/Thank you

If you actually listen to these songs in iTunes, you will notice there is a large variety, but one regular thing is the tempo/beats per minute are all similar.  These are just a few, I have tons from over the years that have helped to keep my one foot in front of the other.  

On the trail, I personally prefer to listen (in one ear) to a variety of music and tempo not so important since there is rarely continuity in my running tempo due to the terrain.

I hope this helps you in some way to get out there and enjoy your run :)

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

“We are all faced with a series of great opportunities brilliantly disguised as impossible situations.” – Charles R. Swindoll

Athlete or not, we all question ourselves.

Questioning makes you strong, completion of the task makes you stronger, figuring out the art of how to actually complete your goal makes you strongest.

So after one (+) years of playing with a new sport I have yet again re-realized the beauty of a good of challenge, adventure, and a great way to spend time with like-minded people while pushing myself to my absolute utmost - then figuring out how to complete the crazy goals I set myself...all to satisfy myself only.
After my untrained Seattle marathon in December,  I humbly attempted to run the Deception Pass 50km race 2 weeks later....I stopped half way through the 50k as a mature response from the injuries that were festering in my hamstring step by step.  This decision absolutely killed my ego in the moment.  This decision has also proved to keep my body in check in the long run.

A few months later after seeing some amazing therapists Chiro/RMT respectively (Paul Wiggins and Clifford Yip in North Vancouver) in March, I ran the Chuckanut 50k - and bettered my time from last year by an 18 odd minutes.  Satisfied.

My most recent attempt at an Ultra-marathon was 2 days ago is what sparked my Blog entry:

At Sun Mountain 50k this year I unfortunately explored that very deep dark place that so many people have been (whatever realm of life)....4 hours prior to the 50km trail running race, for some reason my body decided to completely evacuate itself as I involuntarily cleansed myself of all my insides.  This is absolutely no ideal way to start an ultra leaving my dehydrated and lacking in energy.

With trepidation, I started the race.  For first 2.5 hours (~25km) all I wanted to do was take my visor off because I thought it would make me less dizzy...but didn't have the energy to do anything but keep one foot in front of the other - and tried very hard to smile at any point in the process...

In that time knowing the human physiology very well, I pounded back 3 electrolyte tablets per hour over 3 hours, about 2 litres of fluid (EFS) and anything my stomach could handle (this was about 200 Kcal of sugar stuff and a honey waffer).  All of a sudden at about 3 hours in I started feeling human again and embraced that for the rest of the run for the beauty of it.

I crossed that finish line with a smile on my face, I was 13 minutes slower than last year but am more proud of myself for working through my own battle and the sheer completion....I was so, so, so very close to throwing in the towel.  Thankfully, I absorbed the energy of the other runners and embraced the bright faces (all of which had their own challenges going on) along the way.

Body is back in check, and am raring and ready for the next challenge (TRAILSTOKE 60k in July!)

This entry is for those who find that deep, dark place, wherever it is in life, there is always a way foreward; just keep your focus on the beauty of life, questioning the moments - completing your tasks and finding your own unique way toward your goals.