Sleeping On It

Boy, it’s been an unpredictable September for me. At least in my athletic training world. Kind of like things happening in reverse order.

My month kicked off, as I detailed in a previous post, at the Miakonda Trail Ultra, where, despite the head and an upset stomach, I ground out 52 miles, meeting my stretch goal for the event. It was yet another reminder that a) running ultras is not exactly a comfortable pastime, and b) there’s far more in us than we realize.

Got it done!

Normally, it takes at least three weeks for me to feel fully normal after a 50-miler, so I was quite surprised when I was back running three days later, and with no fatigue or trouble whatever. Even felt good power in the legs. “I feel so good, it’s scary,” I told Ryan, my coach.

My trainer Skip at Body Specs went on vacation for a couple weeks, so I told Ryan to load me up with some strength training videos to fill the gap. And I decided I’d get back to my regular schedule for running, with bike rides for some extra legwork. Yep, training for October’s Indian Creek 55K was right on track.

And then everything went to hell.

It began with a three-day working weekend at Run Woodstock, including an all-nighter Friday to Saturday, and nonstop sorting and hauling through Sunday morning. Now I love this event and got through it okay. Still, I took Monday as a rest day instead of the planned run, and Tuesday as well. I ran my usual six-miler on Wednesday and a nice ride on Thursday. And then my body said no mas. Like it just shut down. No energy, feeling heavy and listless, and decidedly unmotivated to do anything physical.

Sunday I had another long day working Women Run the D, which I did after a very restless Saturday night with almost no sleep. Got through it fine, but spent Monday catching up on final waste processing from the two events, followed a marathon session at the office on Tuesday working on a huge proposal. After that, once again, no energy or motivation for running or biking. With the gorgeous late summer weather I felt guilty but there was nothing for it.

Thursday I returned to Body Specs and talked about my situation with Skip. The ensuing discussion resulted in what we agreed was most likely my problem. Because he’d had the same issue some time ago.

I needed more quality sleep.

“Sleep is where the repair happens,” Skip said. “When I was full time,” (he’s semi-retired now) “I’d work a twelve-hour day and then stay up late reading or doing paperwork. And I realized my own workouts were lacking. I’d get through them, but not feel good.” So one day he called up a client who was a sleep specialist, who told him, essentially, that his sleep plan was awful. By changing his sleep habits, he got his energy back, and his workouts improved.

My own sleep quality this month has varied. Some nights are okay, but many are restless, where my racing mind takes a while to settle down, or I wake up several times. I admitted to Skip that I had been slipping back into late nights, and/or drinking coffee in the evening, both of which can make for a rough night.

Sigh. My mantra sometimes.

Then add the active work schedule and that I really am still recovering from the ultra, and there you go. Swings of energy that can get me through an obligation, but leave no energy for optional things like training.

Now THIS is proper training. Yeah.

None of this is news to me, or shouldn’t be, anyway. Good grief, I understand the necessity and benefits of proper and sufficient recovery. And yet there is still the driver, or “the samurai” as my wife calls it, telling me I’m a wimp for not busting my butt out there, and I can rest after I’ve earned it. Oh, and if I eat that chocolate chip cookie without running ten miles first, I’ll gain fifty pounds.

The solution, I know, is to put the samurai to bed on time. In fact, I’m going to do that now. I have an early start tomorrow. Another race day. Got to be ready for it.

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