Friday, December 4, 2015

Mission Possible, Amica Seattle Marathon - Take 2

The Amica Seattle Marathon is well known for being a hilly (climbing over 1000 feet), often cold and rainy (being the last weekend of November on the west coast), with diverse scenery (runners spend a good portion of the marathon on a highway and even run through a long I-90 highway tunnel and bridge (this year with black ice to boot!!), then meandering along the ocean, and finishing in the local Seattle (hilly) hood).  

It is a cruel marathon in that the big hills are in the last 6 miles, with one epic (but short) climb that starts out very steep then just levels up but keeps going.  I have done Boston Marathon, and heartbreak hill has nothing on the timing of that doozy.  But the energy of the volunteers (with hilarious signs)...

...along with a really well run race and huge race expo, keeps people coming back, including myself. This was my second time racing this marathon (this time I trained with much more direction).

The night before I sent the following email to the 34 athletes that I currently coach at UBC.  Being accountable to more than just yourself, is a huge belief of mine (which is part in parcel of this blog)

Hi team!
Sorry I could not be there today at the team christmas party to celebrate an awesome fall season behind us with a ton of potential moving into our spring season and beyond!  I am in Seattle this weekend running another marathon tomorrow at 8:15 am.
You all inspire me on a daily basis with your teamwork, work ethic and personal goals.  As you have noticed, I always ask you about what your goals are before your erg tests so you are accountable to more than just yourself to your personal goals.
For that same reason, my goal is to run under 3:35:00 tomorrow.
If you wish here is how to track my progress live, my bib# is 1482.  
Have fun tonight and see you next week!

I also published this on "pre-race gitters", which outlines my pre-race prep, and also kept me accountable to my goals.

When I was found myself deep in a hurt locker after going too fast (~ 30 seconds per mile faster for the first 10km than my goal pace) resulting in a huge cramp in my diaphragm; with 30km+ to go, I remembered that my athletes were watching (and whomever else) and owned up to my goal.  I focused on staying loose (advice from a fellow runner Natasha E), and doing everything possible to get rid of my cramp (pressing on the spot while exhaling deeply through my stomach), while ensure I replenished with electrolyte drink.  

Eventually, after about 3 unhappy km the cramp subsided and from that point forward I eased myself into an achievable rhythm sitting on a very consistent 8:00 mile pace (the pace at which I had trained).  I also received a text stating the my boyfriend had crossed the finish line of his first half marathon!! This fuelled me with happy chills and kept me in a positive and inspired headspace.  

I recall saying to myself "just get to the 35km mark and the rest will fall in place" and that I did.  The hills hit, but they did not hit me.  I got up a and over and reset, with a big exhale, after each one and I was able to really effortlessly push the downhills without cramping.  

I beat my goal by ~ 2 minutes running a 3:33:04 which is a new personal best for me.  
My Garmin data

I am feeling better than ever after a marathon after following a good recovery regime (see my new blog post and soon to be website for details on that).

Happy trails!!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Baker Lake 50k - don't stop, do smell the roses

Our capability to adapt to challenge continually amazes me. 

The sport of ultramarathon; running 50km+ distances over challenging, mountainous terrain, scaling 1000’s to 10,000’s of feet of elevation with hundreds of other people, may just sound like a sport for the crazy folk...

Yes, there may be some degree of legitimacy with the crazy, but my personal enticement with the sport of ultramarathon is the process of searching for that human limit and then witnessing the remarkable ability of the human body and mind to cope, adapt and surpass that very limit.  This applies to so much more than just the sport, it relates to life... 

It is like meditation in movement… finding peace in the battle between the body and mind as pain and fatigue set in.  I have learned to cope by finding the rhythm of my breath and the lightness of the gait while dodging and bouncing over roots and rocks and scaling stunningly beautiful mountain terrain.  Fueling my body with gratitude for the surroundings and fueling my breath with fresh crisp mountain air, I love the feeling of my heart pumping so vigorously up to my ears that I feel so alive. 

It is not all fun and games  - it is certain that adversity will strike in this sport.  Thus far I have raced anywhere from 5 ½ to 11 hours 50km to 80km with 4000ft - 10,000 ft of elevation gain.  I have fallen, had shooting sciatic pains from a slipped disc, ran through huge bleeding blisters, bruised toenails falling off, muscle cramping so bad that even just walking feels awkward.  My gait has turned from light bambi-like prance to and elephant stomp - the effort to keep moving forward has felt like that bad dream where you try to run but you cannot. I have cried, I have stopped and sat in the middle of nowhere, even worse, due to injuries I have even stopped a race.  What I have learned is that mistakes made more than once are a decision.  The body will cope, if not today, it will adapt in time with work.  

Gratitude for the beauty of the process is by far the finest fuel for the long run.  As we all know, that goes for many things in life, not just running.  Running is just a great way to practice.

This is the only way I can explain what happened last weekend at the Baker Lake 50km ultra marathon.  After Boston Marathon in the spring, I spent May-July with little to no running with an ugly broken pinkie toe (silly klutz move and then I actually re-broke one month into healing). 

Surprisingly, I actually enjoyed the break from running, this was the first time I really took a long physical break in decades (minus my bike accident 10 years ago).  I kept pseudo-fit without a car and commuting a small distance to and from work by bike.  When I got back onto all 10 toes, after 2 months completely off running and most activity, the first few runs were pretty rough -  I felt like I started entirely from scratch - but very surprisingly, I got it back quite quick, making smart decisions (initially). 

A little over one month ago I came back to BC, and was simply so happy to run in the mountains again.  Gratitude, good company, and muscle memory fueled three long runs a 34km, 36km and 47km on consecutive weekends (that completely breaks most rules of training with a massive increase in training load but after the first, second, and even third run I felt more than fine, I felt alive)….  I couldn’t understand how I felt so good, since I really had little recent running under my belt, 

I can only equate this with a little bit of muscle memory from the past 4 years of training and a whole lot of gratitude.

Baker Lake 50km last weekend was one of those epic days.  My body and mind were at complete peace, running on a spectacular trail along Baker Lake.  The volcano glistened beside us under perfect blue skies on a crisp fall morning.  I even took the 20 seconds to stop and take this could I not??!! 

With a ridiculous smile on my face, my heart happily raced, averaging 165 beats per minute for 5 hours and 44 minutes.  Most of which time I focused on my footing with plenty of wet, mossy bridges, fallen leaves and roots and rocks over an undulating mountain terrain.  I placed 2nd in my age group and 5th women in the race, which for me was a solid achievement.

Not every run will be like that, but if I can continue to appreciate the process this much, perhaps that is possible.  My goal in the future to have the confidence in my body to actually race the entire distance....

I am now back to searching for that same meditation in motion on the pavement - next stop – Seattle Marathon November 29th with my personal goal of racing under 3 hours and 30 minutes.  

Happy trails!!

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Boston Marathon and Beyond

Just looked into my blog and realize it has been 8 months since a blog update...

Deception Pass 50km in December....Long and short, that was an absolutely amazing day - the training paid off and for the first time ever I was able to actually race the majority of a 50km trail race (even though I turned back and added 2km to get help for an injured co-runner get help).  Still mid-pack but working my way up, and enjoying the moments.

Boston Marathon in April: the next milestone...

A milestone it was!!  An absolutely unbelievable race and I was very proud to be a part of the beautiful crowd and 30,000+ athletes.

All in all, Boston Marathon - SO MUCH MORE than one can ever imagine.  Though, the weather was much to be desired with 60km head wind gusts, sideways rain with near zero celsius temperatures; this did not phase me in the slightest. 26.2 Miles straight of huge crowds cheering (even though it was absolutely horrendous weather....).  The energy of the relentless crowd and co-runners infused energy by osmosis.  When in doubt I just high-fived a few smiling kids and immediately my pace was right back on track!!   No real doubt on the day.  That in my mind is a success regardless....I even-paced for the first 40 km but unfortunately spent every penny before the last 2.2km, both legs were in full fledged cramp and only mini-jump-steps were possible (sad but true, so unlike me!!).  I was on pace for a <3:35 but ended up 3:38....  Unfortunately no sub 3:30 Boston for me this year (maybe next???!!)

The funny part: 4 days later, I stubbed my right pinky toe (and broke right in half - I will say the x-ray is quite ugly).

5 weeks later with a recent x-ray the toe is still a full break, but I can now wear shoes again, and feels fine-ish to me so (Dr. approved) running will begin soon.  I enjoyed the much needed rest (I don't think I have done that in about 17 years).

To start off with a bang I just agreed today to running in a relay in the Muskoka 70.3 half Ironman next month!!  (of course with consideration that I will be DOG SLOW).

Phew....I'm back!!  (Though I was getting used to the lazy version of Sheryl....)