Are you feeling sleepy?

It is pretty much received wisdom that improvement in running performance requires three basic elements – training to overload the system, rest and then recovery during which the body adapts to the training load.

I am probably doing OK with the first element – training, but the importance of the other two was brought home to me this week.

Most of my Sundays are taken up with races, which annoyingly is the day of the week when it is most convenient for me to do a long run. Without a proper long run, it is proving hard to hit my 60 mile weekly target.

Last Sunday, I ran the Dewsbury 10K as a genuine all out race effort. I should have either had a day off on Monday or at least a very easy recovery run.

Did I? No, I ran 22 miles that day- with a 6.5 mile morning commute and a 15.5 hilly mile run home in the freezing cold. Unsurprisingly, I was very, very slow and extremely tired. I should have rested on Tuesday, or had an easy recovery day. Did I? No – I ran the Valley Striders 3 x 10 minute session, which with warm up and cool down totalled 9 miles. I was tired, slow and a little bit rubbish.

When I got home from the club session, I felt terrible – cold and shivery and despite all the running I couldn’t face eating anything. I cranked up the heating and crawled into bed, hoping that a good night’s sleep would sort me out. For about an hour I was shaking uncontrollably and despite wearing socks and a T-shirt in bed, I just couldn’t warm up.

Despite my extreme fatigue, sleep never came… I lay awake all night with that awful faint sick feeling, thinking that if I lay still I would be OK, but if I got up I would definitely be sick.

Simply, I think my body had just had enough and was going on strike for a bit. I need to plan my training better than this and I definitely must not run consecutive hard days if I can avoid it and certainly never run three hard days in row – that was just stupid.

Sleep has always been a problem for me. I’m sure those readers who are parents will curse silently under their breath and say that I don’t know the meaning of the phrase ‘lack of sleep’, and I am sure they are 100% correct.

However, throughout my life, I have never slept particularly well. I am definitely a night owl, my brain comes alive in the evenings and there is no way I can ever fall asleep much before midnight even when dog tired, so there is no point in going to bed early, I just lay awake with thoughts running around my head.

About once a month I suffer a completely sleepless night, often for no apparent reason. I will not sleep a single second, despite trying everything – reading boring books, counting sheep, herbal Nytol. On Wednesday morning, I heard Nicky Campbell on Radio5Live say that he had suffered a terrible night’s sleep and he said that it was caused by the full moon. I wonder if that could be true.

On Thursday, after a day’s rest from running and a better night’s sleep, I felt OK and I went to the University to run the second Beetroot trial. I drank my sample of beetroot juice (or placebo?) an hour before the run as before.

For whatever reason, I wasn’t as motivated this time, I still ran really hard, and I managed to beat my previous time by 6 seconds, but I should have gone at least 15 seconds faster. I don’t know why, I just didn’t have the heart to completely batter myself like last time.

Hopefully I will find out that the second sample was the real beetroot juice and therefore it meant that I ran quicker. The student promised to send me the results of the trial when it’s all done.

There was no running on Friday as I was working in London and in the evening I attended a charity event for StreetChild for the Ebola orpans (there are over 30,000 children orphaned by Ebola in West Africa). A special one-off edition of Jack Whitehall’s Backchat show at the stunning Cadogan Hall in Chelsea. It featured a multifarious panel of guests – his dad, impressionist Alistair MacGowan, the BBC political Editor Nick Robinson, actress Patricia Hodge and a young Brummie comedian whose name I forget. I really enjoyed the show, but it finished quite early, so my mate Tim took me drinking in some of the swankier joints around Sloane Square.

As I walked into the first bar, I felt like I was in the bar scene in Star Wars – it was so totally alien to me – full of beautiful uber-rich vacuous poseurs. And that was just the blokes.

I could probably run a 10K race in less time than most of those fellas took to wax their eyebrows each day. I didn’t like it much so we soon left.

Eventually, we found some slightly more human places on Pimlico Road and we enjoyed a beautiful fish dinner washed down with a couple of bottles of lovely crisp white wine. We got a midnight train back to Tim’s house in Woking.

On Saturday morning, I had a crack at Woking parkrun. After another largely sleepless night and with the edge of a hangover, I wasn’t exactly in A1 shape. Although the course looked flat and potentially quite fast on the parkrun website, it was in reality extremely tight and twisty with a 400 metre woodland section which was ankle deep in mud. Unfortunately, I was wearing my gleaming white Brooks road shoes and by the end they were absolutely acky black.

I managed to run round in 19:16, finishing fourth, all things considered that wasn’t too bad. Tim is going to run the Berlin marathon with me in September and clearly he has some training to do – he managed just two miles of the parkrun before pulling up…

I was back in Leeds on Sunday for the 4th race in the Peco cross country league. In the first three races I have finished 88th, 88th and 65th. I quite fancied the race on Sunday and decided to employ a more aggressive approach. Rather than starting steadily and picking my way through the field, I went off hard, running the first mile in well under 6 minutes. Although I was gasping hard all the way around, and was running with the choke out, I got competitive and raced hard most of the way, eventually finishing in 40th position. If my teammate Ross hadn’t overtaken me near the end, I would have actually scored for my team for the first time ever (the first 8 score). Overall I was pleased with my run on a beautiful sunny winter’s day.

Hopefully, I will pick up the mileage next week – next Sunday is a rare race free weekend, so I plan to do a proper long run of 20+ miles with some pals from the club.

CM -16 weeks
Weight 11st 2.6lb
51 Miles
parkrun – Woking 19:16(4th)

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