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The Chicago Chronicles: Making Sleep a Priority

Fall marathon season is upon us! Join FLPT patient Erica Silbiger for the next few months as she logs “The Chicago Chronicles” about her training for the Chicago Marathon on Sunday, October 12. Erica is the Assistant Director of Admissions for the Columbia School of Social Work, and part of her job involves traveling around the country speaking to prospective applicants in the fall.

I was discussing this next blog post with a friend of mine and mentioned how strange it is that I haven’t yet posted about a travel race or training during a work trip. Usually I’m gone almost every weekend for a race and/or work, and I get to blog about my experiences when I get back (see: Eat, Sleep, Travel, Run, Repeat).

Although this has been an unusually busy summer, travel has been light during the month of July. My friend brilliantly suggested I post about the fact that I have NOT been traveling. This makes perfect sense, especially since I have noticed its effect on my training.

When I’m traveling, I try the best I can to work in my training schedule around the events. Whether it’s booking a really early flight to get my run in after I land and before the event or booking a later flight to do my run in Brooklyn before heading to the airport, I get the run in somehow. But it’s not always easy. Long runs after a red eye or before an early-morning event are not fun.

Then of course there are the logistics behind it. Does the hotel have a good gym? A lap pool? Access to safe running routes? Does it have more than one bike just in case I need to cross train and someone else might need a bike? Can I do core exercises or do I have to bring my own equipment? And speaking of bringing my own equipment, what can I leave out of my suitcase so that I can pack the above mentioned equipment? There are a lot more factors to consider besides location when booking a hotel for these events. Good thing I’m very Type A (is it obvious yet?), and I actually love the logistics part of it. My friends can vouch for my obsession with spread sheets. It’s bad.

Although this all sounds stressful — and granted it is — it is also incredibly rewarding. The long runs after red-eye flights hurt, and getting in some cross training after a 4-hour event (while standing the whole time and making sure I don’t miss my flight) feels rushed and is pretty taxing.

However, tempo runs at dusk along the Willamette River or a 17-mile trail run across the Grand Canyon or a recovery run at sunset along the boardwalk in Santa Monica were some of my most memorable runs. They might not be good for the body after little sleep and active work events, but they are vital for the soul.

This past week I made it a point to focus on my sleeping patterns. Because I’m not on and off planes every few days or in strange hotel rooms, I can (and should!) practice having a good routine. My training regimen is great but my sleeping habits are horrendous. I usually average about 5 hours of sleep a night, 6 if I’m REALLY lucky. Even though everyone is always telling me to get more sleep (including all of the research on improving performance), I don’t have time to.

But this same friend that gave me the idea about the post also made a pretty convincing argument about getting more sleep and how to do it. So maybe my social life might suffer a little, but this race is too important to me to have to worry about that right now … and isn’t that the cliche for endurance athletes? Not having social lives? Might as well start living up to it!

I’m getting home earlier but doing more runs with teammates for that extra bit of social interaction. So far I’ve been able to get about 7 hours (and pretty close to 8 hours on some nights), and it has made such a huge difference. I knew it would, but I just didn’t think it was possible to do.

Lo and behold, on a week of decent sleep, my long run on Saturday went very well for the first time in a few weeks. I felt strong the whole time and was even able to do the second half at MP (Marathon Pace) without blinking twice. Hopefully I can keep this up!

Next stop: Grand Cayman!

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