Catching Up With Sheri Piers
Falmouth’s Sheri Piers was one of 149 women who lined up for the the Olympic Marathon Trials in Los Angeles on February 13. It was Piers’ third time at the trials, and her ability to maintain elite-level fitness and speed over such a long time gives is impressive. But it’s even more awe-inspiring when you consider that she has three kids, and juggles her training with a full-time career.
“It means so much to me to be able to compete with the best runners in the country,” says Piers, 44, a who qualified for the trials with a 2:38:33 finish at the 2013 Twin Cities Marathon. “When you put as much work into something it's nice to get a small reward out of it. The reward is being in the company of the best runners!”
Piers, a three-time Beach to Beacon winner and one-time course record holder, took time out of her busy schedule to talk about the event, what’s next, and how she has manages 80- to 130-mile weeks with motherhood and her position as medical director at University of New England.
Tell me about how the race went. It was the hottest Olympic Marathon Trials in history, and temperatures hit 73 degrees during the race. How did that affect you?
Nobody was expecting that kind of heat. The folks who ran from Maine had a disadvantage obviously because we hadn't trained in that kind of heat so our bodies had a difficult time adjusting. I felt there was also a lack of water out on the course to drink and keep yourself wet. I usually do well in the heat, but last week was very difficult. When you get temperatures like that, all goals go out the window and it's basically who is going to hang on the longest and survive! [Piers finished in 2:58:30].
How do you keep your training on track, even while managing such intense work and family commitments?
For the last decade I have run 80 to 130 miles a week quite consistently. It has been a very strict kind of approach: you get up at whatever time you have to in order to get the miles in. That means getting up at 4 a.m. if I have to. Kristin Barry and I used to meet seven days week. If we had to meet at 3 a.m. or 4 a.m. in a snow storm than that's what we did! We have never cancelled on one another. But over the last year and a half we have met less and have slept in for recovery— we have aged! We would always make sure we were back to get the kids off to school. Now I am lucky that my fiancée works from home and he is so so helpful. He will wake the kids up for me and get them going while I am able to run. I will run either on the treadmill or around the neighborhood in order to say goodbye to them before school. If I don't get the bulk of my mileage in before work that is trouble. I am able to do a second run at lunch, but the big mileage is done ahead of time!
How do you keep your training on track during the winter, when the roads are treacherous?
During the winter I have been on the treadmill and at University of Southern Maine for workouts. We use to always go out in [below zero] temperatures. But I cannot do that anymore. I have a great setup at my house where I have two treadmills so Kristin and I can do our workouts side by side during the winter.
Do you do any type of cross training or yoga?
No. I used to strength train, but time was just limited and I had to stop that. I do sit-ups and push-ups daily along with the running.
What nutrition strategy has worked for you in terms of everyday eating?
I eat pretty much what I want. My diet is not the best; I love candy and snack foods. I tried different diet techniques when I was getting ready for my first Olympic Trials in 2008, but it didn't make much difference. So I went back to eating Skittles for breakfast and my yogurt of course.
What advice would you give to other working parents who want to improve, but constantly contend with nagging injuries and time constraints?
My advice would be to listen to your body and give yourself adequate time for recovery. It takes a long time to figure out what works for you, and it will take a ton of tweaking, but eventually you will figure it out. In terms of time constraints, I truly believe that if an individual wants to become a better runner it will take some sacrifice. If you want to get it all done then you may have to get up at an ungodly hour— but it can be done. I have lived it for the past 10 years. It has been a ton of sacrifice for me as well as my family. It's has definitely been a team effort in my family. I have been very lucky with the support I have had from them.
What’s next on your race calendar?
In last year’s Boston Marathon, I had to drop out around mile 15 with calf and hamstring issues. It was the first time I had to drop out of a race. Because it was so disastrous, I am doing Boston for one last time in April. It's a quick turn around from the trials, but I couldn't end my competitive running career with a DNF in Boston. That race has been a very special part of my racing career! PR’s are out the window at this point for me. I just want to run for exercise, run with my children, and stay fit! I have just become part of the Beach to Beacon board so that is something that will keep me involved in the future!