Three Articles All Over My Internet

1. Challenge Roth is instituting a ‘run loop of shame’ for drafters: Look, that’s cool and funny. And certainly part of why people draft is because the cost isn’t high enough to outweigh the risk. But as with ANYTHING where that is the case, that’s only part of why people do it. The second half of why drafting is so bad at big races is because there are so many people the same speed with nowhere to go. For me, and most women my speed, the biggest problem isn’t women drafting in packs, it’s trying to get through crowds of men who are slow or trying not to get caught up in men who pass you and then slow down. The problem isn’t that we need to be shamed, it’s that we need somewhere to go where these men aren’t in the way (or the men need somewhere to go). And anyone who’s been in a crowded short-course race, like Alcatraz, knows that there literally isn’t enough space to stretch all the participants from end to end with enough space between each to meet drafting rules. It would be longer than the entire course. So when you have courses and conditions that literally can not comply with the rules, shaming people for breaking the rules only solves part of the problem…

2. Serena Williams has muscles: Yeah, duh. But it’s actually a totally legitimate point that women have to balance body image with what they need to be the best as an athlete. Ridiculing the New York Times for pointing that out doesn’t make it not true.

3. Seriously, you need to sleep more: Like, for real. Like, science suggests that even moderately not getting enough sleep has massive effects on your health. Look I’m not super observant about myself. There is a reason by the time anyone realized, when I was 8-years-old, that I needed glasses, I was almost legally blind. It had never occurred to me that wasn’t how everyone else saw the world and that I didn’t just need to deal with it. Ask Steve about how bad I am at paying attention to details in training. (“I just thought I must be going slow?” When, no, actually my bike wheel had popped out slightly and I was dragging it behind me against the inside of my frame, so hard that I was wearing a hole in the fork. Didn’t even notice!). So, I don’t really notice how I feel most of the time. But I really notice when I don’t sleep enough. Even just two or three days of six hours of sleep makes me start to feel dull and slow. How do people not notice the effects of sleeping more (or less)?

Can You Overdose on Nyquil?

Yes, obviously. You can overdose on anything.

But, the question for me is what kind of effect it has after taking a normal amount many days in a row. Turns out: I have no idea.

There’s all kinds of dire consequences online, like nausea, vomiting, seizures, renal failure, death and this gem:

If doxylamine is consistently abused, it can cause the user to form lesions on their brain which affects memory, cognitive ability and emotions.

So, that sounds, you know, NOT GOOD. However, it seems that most of the abuse people are worried about — particularly if the questions internet users choose to post on the superhighway are any indication — is more along the lines of how it would affect you if you swallowed a whole bottle of Nyquil in one night or multiple bottles with alcohol over multiple nights. There’s really not a lot of information about what happens if you’re not actually trying to Nyquil all your problems away and instead just take slightly more than the prescribed amount in order to fall asleep without coughing for way too many nights in a row. The only indication that this is not totally advised is the note on the bottle that pretty much says if you still have to take this shit for more than two weeks, then you should see a doctor.

So. There’s that.

I’m mostly better. Maybe. Probably. Who knows. But, I’m still coughing myself awake at night. If I didn’t need to sleep, I’d be fine. And, if I didn’t have to go to jury duty today I would have gone to the doctor. Then, I think jury duty made me sicker — sick about the system, man.

I also got through a 1:20 easy bike ride yesterday without wanting to run my bike over with someone else’s car, by laying down in front of it. And, I didn’t even take Dayquil to do it (largely because I don’t believe in Dayquil — you should not be going about during the day passing around symptoms that are so bad you need to cover them up that much — and also one time I took some to get through a race and, well, lesson learned).

And, that’s how I ended up deciding to run Nike Women’s tomorrow…

Somehow, I had convinced myself that if I just got through the week everything would be ok. Like, then, the kitten wouldn’t be dying anymore and I’d suddenly be untired. That’s not really how things work though. And, when you find yourself telling the cat it’ll get better, who are you really trying to convince?

I was supposed to get up at 6:30 a.m. this morning to go to high school cross-country. But, last night, when I finally got home and then went to the other house to check on the dying cat and then was eating dinner at 9:45 p.m. and trying to figure out how I would get down to Nike Women’s Marathon to do some interviews for a story and make it work with my workouts, I realized that wasn’t going to happen. Instead, I slept for over 11 hours.

Your day gets really messed up when you sleep for over 11 hours.

You end up deciding that the best way to do some research/interviews at Nike Women’s and get a run in would be to run the race. A friend of a friend was offering up her bib, so I said sure. Sure, why not. My new plan is to run the first 3-4 miles warm-up, do 9-10 miles at marathon pace, just do the half-marathon (obviously, I’m not THAT stupid) and then scope out the scene for my story, take some notes and be back at home — or one of the homes, with one of the cats — by late morning, ready to wrap up some work.

What could possibly go wrong.

PS. The story I’m working on is about races and volunteers and money and it’ll be up on Beacon on Tuesday and you should get excited.

The Different Kinds of Tired

Coach Mario, when he was my coach, used to laugh at the descriptions I gave for different kinds of tired. There was normal tired, my face hurts tired, my legs are so heavy it feels like I’m dragging weights along tired. But, this week, I’ve hit a new kind of tired. It’s a I tried to pick up a barbell and nothing happened tired. I just stared at my arms and couldn’t figure out why the bar wasn’t going up.

It’s not like I’ve never been tired before. There was that time I decided to try sleeping 45 minutes every three hours. There was the year in high school I slept four to five hours every night. There have been some intense periods of training where I just couldn’t move. But, this is the worst tired I’ve been in a while.

I’m a nine hours of sleep person. Usually, I need it. Since Saturday, or maybe Friday, I’m not sure, I’ve been getting five to six hours a night. Last night it was probably less than five.

There are a couple things here.

1. I have lots and lots of work due by Friday/Monday/Tuesday — including a very cool story for Beacon about races and money that you should get excited about.

2. I’m also working at KQED full-time the second half of this week. I’ve been working the early shift, which means getting up at 5:45-6:15 every morning. The BART strike has added a layer of stress to this, not knowing until midnight each night whether they’ll be striking. Ugh.

3. Taking care of a dying cat is not super restful. Biggie is still hanging in there and we decided as long as he seems happy we’ll let him have more days. But, it’s not going to be many more. He’s staying at Steve’s parents, since we don’t want Tupac to get sick too. But, someone needs to stay with him at least most of the time or check on him. That means we’ve been going back and forth. I’m not even sure what I’m going to do this weekend when Steve’s out of town at CAFM.

4. I’ve still been training, which maybe isn’t a great idea.

(5. Also, I haven’t eating great. I did have a steak salad today, but otherwise it’s been strictly Kit Kat Bites and Bud Light Platinum for meals. *hint: Looking for a sponsorship here*)

Tuesday afternoon I ran 800s with the high school kids. Partially, I needed to maximize my time: if I’m going to be at practice might as well run at practice. Partially, I had on the schedule 800s or mile repeats. But, 12 x 800 was hard. Really hard. We did them as a cross-country half-mile loop around the park. We also did two of them tempo — like 3:15-20 — but the rest were 2:52-3:06, with the last two at 2:59. I’m pretty sure, per the Yasso 800s, this means I can run a 2:59-3:04 marathon. Right?

Except, if I can just get a little sleep first…

Working Full-Time Really Puts a Damper on Things

So, what has been my deal this week? Where did I go and why did I keep posting things like this and this:

I really wanted to say y'all, but thought it might be weird.
I really wanted to say y’all, but thought it might be weird.

Turns out, I started a super awesome temporary/fill-in job at KQED, the public news station in San Francisco. This is exciting news (yay), but I am working the morning shift (boo) and it takes a really, really long time to commute from Marin to the Mission in San Francisco (double boo to shitty public transit). I’ve been leaving the house at 6:15 a.m. and getting home at 6 p.m. – at the earliest, often later.

It is wearing on me.

The added problem is that because I was also working full-time as a freelancer I still have stories left to finish and assignments due. I’ve been working on those while on the ferry or at night after I lay on the floor for enough time after walking through the door to let my brain stop hurting.

The extra added problem is that I’ve had a cold all week. I woke up (or rather didn’t sleep) the morning of the Dipsea with a very definitive cold: sore throat, ears popping, etc. It’s progressed all week, through the stuffed up and eyes watering to the burning up and then back to the sore throat. That’s basically meant that even when I get in bed by 11 p.m. to get about six-and-a-half hours of sleep, I don’t fall asleep because I cough and can’t breathe. Until last night, I pretty much had slept less than five hours every day since Saturday. That is way too many days.

Needless to say then, or maybe it needs to be said: I have not worked out much. I meant to, or really I didn’t mean to much since I knew I was going to be wrecked, but by the time I get home I don’t want to do anything except lay on the floor.

This is a terrible situation.

I wrote on Facebook that this is a terrible situation and a lot of people have responded to commiserate and to point out that they have it worse, because isn’t that what we do? Top each other’s pain. But, my point isn’t that it’s bad for me. It is, but rather that it’s a bad state of affairs for everyone. It’s bad that it’s normal for a commute to take over an hour ONE WAY. It’s bad that being gone for work for 12 hours or more every single day is a bragging point, something to be topped, to prove that the more desk time you put in the better you are. Of course I work hard, but the end product is the point, not simply putting in the time. (It also reminds me of Michael Scott on The Office: ‘I can spend all day on a project, and he will finish the same project in half an hour, so that should tell you something…”) It’s bad that people are so exhausted after their three hours of commuting, which is absurd in this day and age, that they have no energy to do anything else: workouts or community events or pursue hobbies.

So, now that I have a handle on things. (Sort of.) And, I think I have it down so I can leave my house at 6:40 (yay!), then I’m going to start trying to do workouts in the morning before that or easy runs in the evenings after. And, KQED seems like a good place to work. The people are cool and the stories are really interesting, so I’m pretty sure they have a good attitude about getting the work done when it needs to get done. Now, if we could just make the public transit run smoothly and quickly all the way here…

Reasons I Was Pretty Sure I Was Going to Suck at the Dipsea

There were a lot of reasons I thought the Dipsea was going to go poorly.

  • I didn’t sleep more than an hour or two overnight because I got a sore throat and came down with a cold. I got up with a sore throat in the morning.
  • I didn’t sleep much the whole week before because of work and people visiting, etc.
  • We had a big birthday party for me on Friday night that was, let’s just say, not optimal for race performance.
  • That was preceded by lots of crazy eating and cheese tasting.
  • I trained three hours last week.
  • I trained like seven or so hours each of the weeks before that with very little running.
  • Oh, and also, I didn’t run at all for a few weeks after Boston. Because I was hurt and bummed out.
  • I’ve still been sort of hurt and bummed out.

I’m not saying this to make excuses or to prove that since I still did well I’m super awesome. I’m not. Super awesome would have been actually training really hard and getting top 100. A guy I know last year told me he sprinted to just take the last “black shirt” spot (35th) and then passed out. That’s awesome.

My point here is that for all the shit we worry about, all the recovery concerns and nutrition and sleep, it’s still just about bringing it on race day.

On a related note, Runner’s World made this video of the Dipsea Trail a couple years ago. I think it doesn’t really do it justice, because you can’t see how much it just keeps going up and up and up and down, down, down. For some reason, they opted to emphasize the scenic aspects instead of the crazy aspects. I’m guessing because that’s easier to film. Also, just imagine the whole video as being filled with a solid line of people.

How Much Sleep Do We Need?

My article about sleep making you faster is up today on Competitor. Summary: Seriously, go to bed!

Working on the article made me very self-conscious. I sleep a lot compared to plenty of people these days. But, I don’t ever feel rested. It’s not like I don’t know what chronic sleep deprivation feels like. I spent a few years never sleeping more than five hours a night. There was another year in college where construction was being done on a new building right outside our window (like cranes hitting the building and workmen standing on the other side of the glass waving) starting at 7 a.m. every morning. I learned to sleep through it, but it chronically made me dream of jackhammers. And, there was one time when I decided I would just take 45-minute naps every three hours. That didn’t last long after I started hallucinating that there were mice inside my pillow.

So, I know what that all feels like. These days, I sleep a decent amount, but still just feel tired. I have always assumed that 1. on the scale of people needing 7-9 hours, I was on the 9 hour end of things (I do NOT feel good with 7 hours of sleep) and 2. I am a night person, which doesn’t mesh well with modern work schedules and 3. I possibly have permanently screwed up my auto-immune system from mono and need more rest.

About right.
About right.

Here’s how much I’ve slept in the last few days:

Last night: seven hours of very poor sleep, waking up every 45 minutes
Tuesday night: seven hours of ok sleep + 45 minutes of Floyd sleeping on my face
Monday night: six hours straight + one hour before I took Floyd out of my bed + one-and-a-half hours on and off after I woke up but didn’t feel like getting up yet
Sunday night: ten hours fucking OUT
Saturday night: five hours on a couch + another hour on and off wondering if I should get up yet
Friday night: six-and-a-half hours + another 45 minutes or so laying in bed after Steve got up + like an hour beforehand when I couldn’t fall asleep

Basically, I’m in bed a decent amount. But, unless I’m EXHAUSTED, I’m not necessarily sleeping a decent amount or well.

The thing is, though, there may not be anything wrong with me. There’s a good amount of research out suggesting that what we’ve learned to accept as modern sleep schedules, 7-9 hours from 10-11 p.m. to 6-7 a.m., may not actually mesh with natural Circadian rhythms at all. Our patterns have changed through the centuries and what is considered a standard amount of sleep has changed over the years. This is largely because we no longer have the time to follow those patterns — what with electric light, why should we?

And, athletes need more sleep than anyone. They should most be foregoing societal standards about when you have to wake up. Ten hours a night actually has increased effects on performance (read my article). Yet, we love to go on about how little sleep we need, how we can make do, how that guy is a go-getter who is up at 4 a.m. It’s silly. I’m tired of people making me feel bad for sleeping so much or so late. Left to my own devices, I sleep 12:30 to 9:30 a.m., give or take. Obviously, I’m not left to my own devices most of the time. But, that doesn’t make someone who sleeps 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. better than me. It makes them sleepier.