Sunday, June 21, 2009

Sleep, Perchance to Dream

As reported this week in the New York Times, new sleep research out of Stanford University suggests that simply getting more sleep can improve athletic performance. In the article, a fitness writer was explained how she felt great and went the fastest she had in weeks on her long run after coming back from a vacation. One possible explanation came to her mind: she had erased her chronic sleep debt on vacation, which made her extremely well rested when she took the run. I can relate.

I have a tendency to being a night owl. I blame this partly on our culture and the network heads in New York. Most of the fun/good stuff happens at night and very often the later, the better. Watch Letterman, Conan, or the Daily Show and you don't get to sleep until around midnight. Go out with friends to a concert or a bar on a Friday or Saturday night and you're getting to bed after midnight or later. The NBA playoffs are finally over. Thank God! There was some truly great basketball this year. Well, maybe not the finals so much, but leading up to them there were some great games: a full 7 game series between my Miami Heat and Atlanta; a Celtics/Bulls overtime fest; Orlando taking Boston at home in game 7; LeBron's game 2 one second three from the top of the key in the series against Orlando. Great basketball, but not good for getting proper sack time. You could watch a game about every night that kept you up to midnight or close to it.

Thus, I'm coming off a bit of a sleep deficit myself. I don't think that sleep deficit helped on my 20 miler last Monday in which I broke from the heat and had to death march the last 3 miles. The next couple of days, I've come down with one of those over-training sniffles/fatigue things. I don't know if its a full blown cold, or just my body protesting running too long in the South Florida heat on too little sleep. OK, let's just call it a cold.

Did I mention, I love a good cup of coffee? I love the smell and taste of a cup of Joe; but have a cup of coffee after the noon hour and I'm up late into the night. It's not a problem when you've got a good book you want to get through; not so good when you've got a early morning training run or ride scheduled. Not to mention the sleepless night we all have before a big endurance event. Not only does the mind keep the body awake thinking of the event, but we get up a 4AM to get ready. Thus, while we make sure to get in all of our scheduled training, we tend to cheat ourselves on sleep.

It reminds me of my experience at the Berlin Marathon last September. I was so excited to be in Berlin, that I didn't get enough sleep before marathon day. I toured around, met and hung out with other marathoners, and basically didn't get enough sack time. My race turned out to be a bit of a struggle to get through. I just made it over the finish line just under 4 hours with literally a few seconds to spare. I had a great time in Berlin, but probably at the cost of a better run time.

Thus, for the next several days, I am going to try to grab some extra sleep. Hopefully, that will help me get over the sniffles and reduce my sleep deficit. Fortunately, I've been to Seattle a couple of times before, so the touring siren song will not be as loud. Buddy John is also very good about chilling the day before a race, so I'll try to follow his good example. I'll also avoid the Starbucks until after the marathon. That's the plan anyway.

On the training front, this quasi-cold put a dampener on my training. I ran 6 miles Wednesday and took the next 3 days off trying to recuperate from the cold. I was supposed to do 10 miles with buddy John Sunday morning, but drank a glass of wine with some visiting friends Saturday night and ended up with a terrible headache. This told me that I was not over this cold, so I bailed on John late Saturday night. I ended up doing a 10K on the treadmill on Sunday. Who knows, maybe this is the proper taper given my situation. It does not make me feel better about abandoning my buddy though. Sorry John. Remember, I now own you a Starbucks at the original store in Seattle.


Missy said...

I'm a sleep whore! I love it and when I don't get it, it shows - in everything I do. I get up early but I'm usually asleep by that bad?

Bill said...

No, Missy, you've got it right. The old Ben Franklin saying: "Early to bed, early to rise." My problem is the early to bed part.

mmjcpa said...

I will stop complaining about running in the cold & snow during Ohio winters. The heat of Florida is definitely harder for training. The conditions in Seattle should be marathon perfect! All the best to you and John from your "Ironman" Ohio friends, Bob & Melissa