Alarming morning affects my run

Rude awakening

Today’s run (street): 3.2 miles

This morning’s fun started early. It was 2:39 AM to be exact. That was when we were woken up by an incessant beeping. It turned out that our alarm system was signaling that the backup battery was low. Apparently our street had lost power some time earlier. After a bleary-eyed call to LIPA’s outrage line (that was a typo but I’m leaving it in), we went back to sleep, only to be awoken around 5:00 AM when the power came back and reactivated the alarm.

We had overnight guests down the hall and thankfully they slept through the craziness. Since I was up early, I decided to go out for my run sooner than I normally would. The skies were overcast, but there didn’t appear to be any rainclouds in sight. I went out fairly fast (at least it felt that way) and hoped I could carry that urgency through my full distance.

My effort seemed moderately high and I tried to maintain a steady cadence. A check of my heart rate around mile 2 showed that I was 8 BPM below where I wanted to be. I hoped that was due to improved conditioning, but it was probably a case of perceived effort not matching actual effort. In the end I completed the run both pleased and disappointed. Pleased, because my time was better than average, but disappointed because I was still 15 seconds per mile slower than my last weekday run.

I’m aiming to improve on that tomorrow. Perhaps the disrupted sleep affected my performance. Yes, let’s go with that.

A good run to start but then came the pressure

Cold-triggered annoyance

Today’s run (street): 3.4 miles

This day started great, with a nice early run in conditions that were close to yesterday’s. I’ve been running hard lately, so I backed off in terms of intensity. I had a deadline to meet, so I knew I couldn’t go out too slowly. Just before I hit mile three, I saw that my time was out of acceptable range. I decided to turn up the jets and ran the last half mile like I was finishing a race.

Things got a little tough after that. We did a family activity at the Cradle of Aviation museum and the building temperature must have been set to the mid-50’s. This triggered one of my pressure headaches and, in the course of about 90 minutes, I went from feeling great to needing to lie down. I got home and took a decongestant before settling into a recovery nap.

Sleep minimized my headache but it was still there in the background. That made for a very long afternoon of work. Spending so much time in front of my laptop didn’t help the situation and my headache, though better, is still there. I hope a good night’s sleep will help knock it out completely. I have a tough trail run planned for tomorrow afternoon and I want to be at my best for it.

Bethpage running with a clear head

Bi-directional out-n-back

Today’s run (Bethpage State Park): 5.5 miles

The downside to taking headache remedies is when those medicines affect the quality of my sleep. Although Excedrin is merely a combination of aspirin, acetaminophen and caffeine, it is amazingly effective in treating my migraine-like headaches. Unfortunately, caffeine taken late in the day, plus pseudoephedrine, makes it hard for me to get to sleep that night.

That was the case last night, but somehow I managed to wake up feeling rested and refreshed. Perhaps it was the absence of a pounding headache that made the difference. The weather outside was sunny and bright, although it felt unseasonably cold. I put on a long sleeved 1/4 zip shirt and a pair of lightweight running pants and headed to Bethpage for a run.

When I arrived at the park, there was a line of cars waiting to get through the entry tollbooth. That was very unusual for an early Sunday morning. As I moved closer I noticed kids being dropped off and when it was my turn to go through, my park friend told me that a big soccer tournament was being held today. I proceeded to the lot where I usually have my choice of spots and saw that the lot was as full as a Long Island train station at 9 AM. I finally found a place and quickly made my way to the trail head.

My route today went west on the old bike path for half a mile before I reversed direction to take on the big hill. My plan was to start the northern trail extension at the one mile mark and then do a four mile out and back. I felt good on the run, the high forties temperature and steady breeze counteracted the heat from the sun. The only negative was something in the air (pollen?) that aggravated my throat a little.

There were lots of cyclists out and a handful of runners. At one point I was running up a steep hill when a young woman came up on my left, said good morning and was gone from sight in less than a minute. She was probably running in the six minute mile range. I often wish I could run at that speed, but I know it requires a much different approach to training than I’m willing to follow. It also helps to be younger.

After the turnaround, I prepared for the predominantly uphill section that I’d face for the next half mile. That went by surprisingly smoothly and I finished my run feeling strong. When I got to my car, I noticed there were still cars swarming around, looking for spots. I guess the tournament must be an all day thing.  But I was done, ready to start my non-running day. It was great to run outside after yesterday’s gloomy weather. Best of all, no more pounding headache.

Overnight surprise, courtesy of the Fitbit

Early to bed, early to rise. And rise and rise…

Today’s run (treadmill): 3.2 miles

There was no question that I’d run inside today. It poured overnight and throughout the morning, so I headed upstairs to the treadmill after the kids left for school. Every time I use the stairs I think about the fact that the Fitbit is recording that metric. Yesterday I recorded over 14K steps, climbed 28 floors and traveled 7.4 miles. More interesting than that was what I learned about last night’s sleep pattern.

The Fitbit has a wristband that holds the device while you sleep, allowing you to record your sleep and wake time. It also records the number of times you woke up during the night. According to the numbers, it took me 12 minutes to fall asleep and my total sleep time was 6 hours and 36 minutes. Now for the surprise: the data said I’d woken up 13 times between the time I put the device into record sleep mode and when I got up for the day. Strangely enough, the readout said I’d had 91% sleep efficiency. Really?

Perhaps we all wake up multiple times during the night and don’t realize it. I do recall waking up a few times and looking at the clock before quickly falling back to sleep. The histogram shows that wake patterns seem to be grouped together, so that three or four “wake-ups” could happen in as many minutes. Either way, I didn’t come close to sleeping through the night.

Despite the intermittent waking periods, I seem to be getting sufficient rest. Perhaps that speaks to the efficiency rating. Compared to my “pre-retirement” schedule back in January, I’m probably getting at least one hour’s more sleep every night. In the days of 3:30 mornings, I used to have to steal naps on the train. With the 7+ hours of bed rest I’ve been getting overnight, I feel I have good energy throughout the day.

Trust your waiter at your own peril

Yeah, sure you are…

Today’s run (treadmill): 25 minutes

There are certain things we know we shouldn’t do, but we do them anyway. These things are often situational. For me, it’s the decision to order coffee after a business lunch. There’s nothing wrong with coffee, but I am extremely sensitive to the amount of caffeine I can keep in my system. A little goes a long way for me and I find it a legitimate performance supplement for running.  But having caffeine too late in the day generally disrupts my night’s sleep.

While caffeinated coffee affects me, decaf doesn’t. At home I can confidently brew a pot of decaf when entertaining friends at night and drop off to sleep without a problem. The problem happens when I order decaf in a restaurant and get regular coffee. I’ve had enough experience to know that, even after stressing the word decaf and then verifying that the cup placed in front of me contains it, there’s a percentage chance that I’ve been given the fully caffeinated brew.

Caffeine version please

That’s exactly what happened to me yesterday at lunch. I thought about the risk, but ordered it anyway. It wasn’t until I was tossing and turning in bed last night that I realized what I’d done. If I was a chemist, I’d look for a way of sampling coffee to instantly determine the presence or percentage of caffeine in the cup. It could be like the color-changing chemical that police use to determine if a suspected substance contains cocaine.

I think I could make a lot of money marketing that to caffeine-sensitive people. It would also allow me to take waiters to task for botching my order. That would be much better than cursing them at midnight as I wait to fall asleep.

Fighting the sleep fog for the good of the run

Today’s run (treadmill): 25 minutes

Am I done yet?

Every evening I follow a process to prepare for my morning workout. This involves a  few steps, beginning with check of the morning weather on the local news channel. I then select my running gear based on expected conditions at 4 AM. My favorite part of this process has nothing to do with running. It’s the discussions I have with my son and daughter who talk to me while I get my gear ready. It only takes fifteen minutes from start to finish, but I’ve had some of my best conversations with my kids during those times.

Last night my son and I were discussing sleep. I asked him if he ever looks forward going to bed and he said that he doesn’t like to sleep. He recognizes the need for sleep, but doesn’t like that it takes away from his (many) interests. I had to agree, to a point. As it happens, I typically get 5 to 6 hours sleep on weekdays and 7 to 8 hours on the weekends. Even with those brief interruptions there never seems to be enough time.

But sleep is seductive. Getting up and out of bed after a deep sleep is very hard to do. It’s especially difficult to maintain a commitment to run while your brain is still suppressing histamines, norephinephrine, and serotonin. The only way to break through the fog is to give yourself an ultimatum: “Regardless of how I feel, I’m running.”

That’s what it took today to get me on the treadmill. Once the machine began to turn, I was able to distract my focus from sleepiness to being semi-alert. I’m afraid of the treadmill so my safety instinct took over and, by the three minute point, I was running at target for the first phase of a progressive speed run. All residual effects from sleeping had passed, and I thought about pushing harder to get my heart rate up into zone 4. I ended up meeting my goals and felt energized throughout the run.

In the end, I’m always happy that I followed through on my commitment to run. It’s almost an act of faith to go through the motions of putting on running clothes while eyeing the bed that they sit on. But every time I run when I want to rest, I feel better mentally, physically and emotionally. You just have to believe that you’ll get past the fog.

When time is short, make the workout harder

Artist’s Rendering

Today’s workout (treadmill): 12 minutes – 7.5% grade (average)

I usually wake up a few minutes before my alarm goes off so I was shocked to see that it was well past 4:00 AM when I opened my eyes this morning. I’d forgotten to set my alarm and slept 30 minutes later than normal. I’m sure I needed the additional rest, but it threw off my timing for today’s workout.

I modified my plan so that I’d get the maximum benefit from the time that I still had. I chose the treadmill and quickly changed. I started with a moderate pace and cranked up the incline, beginning at 4 percent and moving up to 10 percent after a few minutes. I only had twelve minutes to get it done, so I wanted to make it worth the effort. By the time I completed this workout I felt like I’d pushed hard enough for it to count.

It was disappointing to miss my planned run but the incline workout proved challenging. I was pleased that I was still able to get some activity in this morning. On top of that I got some extra sleep. Always a bonus.

30 more minutes of sleep yields a better run

Today’s run (street): 3 miles

I’m going in a little later this morning and bringing my son with me. Both he and my daughter have been doing this since they were about two years old. They get their own workstations and they even get work assignments. It’s fun for them and they get an understanding of business life. We have some interesting things planned for the day, both in the office and at the local museums.

Since we took a later train I gave myself an extra 30 minutes of sleep and was still able to cover three miles on this morning’s run. I was determined to beat Wednesday’s pace by a minute per mile and I managed to accomplish that. It was humid at the start and lightly raining at the finish and I tried to maintain a decent speed by thinking about my cadence and stride. It felt faster than what the Garmin showed to be a mid-9:00 pace.
I’m hoping to take the new Invisible Shoes huaraches out for a run tomorrow and I’m meeting my running buddy Dave on Sunday morning, for what should be my longest run in many weeks.

When the little hand is on the 2, go back to bed

Today’s workout (elliptical): 25 minutes

This morning started an hour earlier than planned because I woke up and misread the clock. It took me a minute to realize the error but I caught myself before heading downstairs for coffee. I’d felt exhausted by the thought of going out for a run but as soon as I realized the clock said 2:50, and not 3:50, I felt wide awake. So awake, in fact, that I barely fell back to sleep. After an hour’s tossing and turning, I needed to face my workout for real.

Given my tired state, I decided to stay indoors so I wouldn’t need to deal with all my running, reflective and illumination gear. I looked back and forth between the treadmill and the elliptical and chose the latter because it’s a quieter piece of machinery and quiet was preferable. I was significantly more alert by the end of the session and I’d worked up quite a sweat in the process. I’m hoping that this energy boost will carry me through the day.