Saturday, August 15, 2009

Sleep deprived and still getting it done

I met Tera moody at the San Francisco half marathon after the race a few weeks back. She is a super nice person. I got to play the 'I know someone who knows you' card to gain access to the inner circle, and luckily she genuinely liked the person we knew in common. So, I was excited to see the article in this month's Runner's World about her. She suffers from insomnia and is still able to train and race at a very high level.

What surprised me most was that she still gets 5-7 hours of sleep a night. It's probably not uninterrupted sleep, but I realized that I probably don't get enough sleep either. It was interesting to read the various quotes from coaches and experts about the importance of sleep for recovery and performance. Most nights I get 5-6 hours sleep. It is mostly uninterrupted unless a dog has the sweet potato runs or a kitty is channeling Punxsutawney Phil under the covers.

Does Deena Kastor really get 12 hours of sleep a day? Does Kara Goucher really start her daily workout at 9, go home to sleep after the workout and then get up in time to start her second workout at 5 p.m.? That's a lot of sleep and certainly one of the benefits of being a professional athlete.

Those of us working stiffs often don't have the luxury of fitting in naps or waking up at 8 to start our workouts. That's why, when I get the chance to sleep in without an alarm, I take it!

This morning was one of those mornings. I didn't set my alarm and slept a blissful 8 hours rising at 7:00. It felt great after a week of early rising, hard work all day long, hot evening runs and late nights. I ate a bowl of oatmeal, had some coffee, walked the dogs, delivered some fresh tomatoes to my neighbor and got ready for my long run.

The problem with these leisurely mornings in the summer is of course you end up running in the heat. When I finally started my run at about 9:00, it was already 72 degrees. I decided it was good training for my marathon in case it's a hot October in the Twin Cities this year. My legs were less than fresh this morning after running a double yesterday and doing some light strength training. Again, this is also good training for a marathon--running goal pace on tired legs. At least it gave me some ready excuses in case the run didn't shape up the way I wanted.

Today's first run of the day was going to be another one of those goal marathon pace (GMP) test runs. This is the time in a marathon training program where you're doing lots of miles at GMP to get your body used to how it feels, especially when you're tired. These runs can be discouraging as you're pushing yourself to higher levels of performance. I remember early on in my running career (about 3 years ago) my then team's coach told me that goal marathon pace should feel super easy, and that I would likely always be slowing myself down. He was not a marathon runner and actually hated the distance. This misguided observation plagued me for a while as I kept expecting GMP to feel easy and most of the time it felt like I could barely hold it at the end of a long run. This often delivered a serious psychological blow late in my training program.

The bottom line here is this: GMP may or may not feel easy or even doable during your training. It rarely feels easy to me even during the last few workouts before my marathon race. I don't let it get to me because I know that I am fit and the taper will work its magic on race day.

So, today's morning run was all business:
  • short warm up
  • 4 x 3 miles; with the first 2.75 miles at GMP and the last 0.25 miles at 10k effort
  • 5 minute jog rest in between reps
  • very short cool down
In summary, the workout would end up being 17 miles including 12 miles at a little faster than GMP. I immediately felt the heat when I started into the GMP work after 2 miles of warm up and made a mental note to stop at every water fountain I could find. I'm not sure if I've mentioned before that I live a stone's throw from the American River Bike Trail and can just start my runs (and bird watching) from my house. I saw the narrow endemic yellow-billed magpie, mockingbirds, and a Nutall's woodpecker within the first 1/2 mile. I love Sacramento.

I usually struggle in my first repetition of any workout. As much as I try to mentally prepare myself for this, I am always frustrated by how I feel right off the bat. Today was no different, but I just concentrated on developing a rhythm. I locked right into 6:13 pace immediately. This was faster than I wanted to go, but I think the new horsey shoes on my feet had a mind of their own. I was very pleased to see that this time, I would hit my 1/4 mile at 10k effort on the lee side of the Pond Park hill. Yes! That 1/4 mile was a scorching 5:38. The 5 minute jog in between was a dream.

I ran 6:14.5 on average for the GMP portion of this workout and 5:45 for the 10k effort. It felt hard, especially that last 3 miles. My legs were very tired, and I struggled to keep the GMP under 6:20 for the last rep. Somehow, I still managed to find 5:50 pace on the last 1/4 mile. But, when my legs stopped moving, I was done. I always like to look at my overall pace for these runs too and this one was 6:42 pace for the 17 miles. That's something. I gave everything I had in that workout. I hope to have a lazy afternoon today before getting back out there and grinding out another 5 miles with strides.

I got all kinds of motivational comments from fellow runners and cyclists today on my run and I really appreciate this. I deliberately ran without my iPod because I wanted to try to concentrate and the side benefit was getting to hear these uplifting cheers from the other trail users. I also really appreciate the compliments people pass along about this blog I write. It means a lot to me especially to hear that discussing the hard work I put in helps motivate people to get out and be active.

The other morning on the trail while I was stopped at the water fountain with my girlies, a friend of mine was running by when she noticed me. She was in the middle of a workout, but said she had to stop to tell me how much she enjoys the blog. She said she appreciates the details I throw in that might be lost on some like the Spinal Tap references. I thanked her and, as she ran away I turned to my girlies and I proclaimed, "She gets me. I think I love her." Thanks J-Pants.

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