Sunday, February 28, 2016

Cortisol High

I am actually surprised I'm still standing, never mind being able to run tough long workouts. As of now I have been without proper sleep for two nights. I am feeling sick with stress and worry and whenever I try closing my eyes, no matter how exhausted, the thoughts keep spinning in my head and I am unable to sleep. On both recent nights I have been wide awake but exhausted until about 4 o'clock, and then I manage to drift off for a few minutes at a time but never for long and never into a proper sleep. The story around all this may well be worth telling, but not here and not now.

The world was still standing on Friday morning and I did 5 easy miles for recovery after Thursday's workout. The legs were a little bit heavy but reasonably fine and I did a few fast strides over the last mile or two, which probably explains much of the yet-again-elevated heart rate. Things started to unravel over Friday afternoon and when I got up on Saturday morning, no longer being able to cope with the bed any longer, I got dressed and ready to go. Except then I just could not get myself to open the door and go running. It wasn't the physical exhaustion from lack of sleep, it was the fact that I was emotionally drained and just could not face the freezing cold rain outside. I knew the weather was going to improve later and I would have time for a run around lunchtime, otherwise I guess I would have managed to go out regardless.

When I did go out on my second attempt several hours later the weather had turned really nice, cold but crispy clear. I decided to do 6 easy miles. By the 3 mile point I did not want to turn around and ran for another mile before finally executing that u-turn. At some point I caught a glimpse of the watch and saw a HR in the 150s when I would have expected it to be in the 130s at the time. I guessed the stress levels were playing havoc because the effort was completely easy, or so I thought. It wasn't until I came back home that I realised that what had felt like a slow recovery jog was in fact 7:21 pace. I had messed up my Sunday run last week by running too hard on Saturday, so I was definitely worried about tomorrow's long run. At least that long run was a plain old long run with no faster segment, which made it feel much more do-able, even with the pace too high on Saturday.

Another sleepless night later I got up early again but actually had a bowl of cereal and a banana before going out. I have not eaten before a training run in years but last week's horror show was too much on my mind and I preferred taking some extra calories onboard instead of running for miles on empty again, fat adaptation be damned. The weather was beautiful again, which undoubtedly helped my clouded mind, and I opted for the very hilly loop around Caragh lake, followed by a loop to Ard-na-Sidhe to add up to 22 miles. It all went very well. I started feeling tired after 17 miles and fought side stitches for a mile at 18 but even then preferred to be out running rather than sitting at home with my demons. The fatigue and the stitch faded away again and I was still running well at the end. A marathon wouldn't have taken much out of me today either. At least my endurance is still good.

26 Feb
5 miles, 40:50, 8:10 pace, HR 144, with strides
27 Feb
8 miles, 58:49, 7:21 pace, HR 150
28 Feb
22 miles, 2:50:57, 7:46 pace, HR 149
Weekly Mileage: 70


  1. Hope whatever is causing the lack of sleep gets sorted out Thomas,

  2. Hey man!! Hope everything gets better!!

    1. At least tell us that your family is ok!

  3. Unfortunately, I'm in the same boat, so your entry speaks volumes to me. The stressful world we live in is not helpful for running. No wonder Kenyans and Ethiopians are the best, where housing and food is cheap and where one is allowed to relax and rest between sessions without being called lazy. Their community is encouraging as opposed to critical and judgmental... Try to keep your calm and keep on running. As everything, this will pass too:)

  4. Sorry to hear that you're struggling. I am a bit of an insomniac too, it doesn't take too much stress to cause sleep problems. Often with very little stress I wake after three or four hours sleep from a dream and then struggle to get back to sleep.

    Over the last couple of years I've tried various things to improve things. Black out blinds have helped a bit, getting to bed before 11pm, relaxing in the evening, especially avoiding the computer/phone, using low power lights in the evening, eating kiwi fruit/small low GI snack like fruit with yoghurt. Lots of other things besides.

    I find that if I don't get a descent nights sleep my training will invariably be off in some way, HR high for a given pace is classic sign, not feeling fresh and recovered from previous runs is another. Training plans are probably best shelved when in this state.

    Easy runs in nature and in strong sunlight has to be one of the best tonics for stress relief. I certainly have found upping the mileage in the last couple of weeks so much easier because there has been some stunning days.

  5. We all send white light that the nightmare is on to resolution soon. I'm not religious, but research seems to show that prayers can help, if you tell us what to pray for. You have a slew of people potentially cheering for you, Thomas, whenever you decide to share the situation, we're here for you.

  6. Whatever's going on, I hope it's resolved before long. You can't go on like that, really. Anyway, I hope you can log some stress resolving miles amongst that PB marathon training schedule.

  7. I don't really know Tomas but I can certainly relate. Things like this happen and this is why you don't see many people our age go over 10 years. I mean if someone starts to run semi seriously from 40, the chances of him still running well into his early 50s are slim. Not because it's not possible but because it is hard ad it all gets a bit much at times. Just know that the rewards still wait but patience is still required. Just watch over training and do some mindful meditation. That should help. I can't bear to go out into the cold wind anymore especially at the end of a long winter. You've got to be a kind of masochist to enjoy this game all the time.

  8. Hope all is well with your family