Asleep at the wheel

I know exhaustion. I know it in many forms. Most definitively I know it from being a father who raised his son through about a year and a half of his life, which means I know the kind of exhaustion one experiences due to a lack of sleep. That’s TRUE exhaustion. It’s not this Come home from work with sore feet “oh my god I’m sooooo exhausted” kind. It’s not this end of the day at the amusement park “wow, that was exhausting” kind. It’s real and true exhaustion. When I was taking care of August (my son) and woke up numerous times during the night to put him back to sleep, then had to get up super early when he decided to wake up, it took such a physical toll on me that I remember driving the 15 minutes minutes through the city to get to work and literally falling asleep at the wheel as I was turning into the parking lot. If I so much as closed my eyes after parking I would be jolted awake by someone closing their door next to me. I would be watching TV and all of a sudden wake up without even realizing I fell asleep. That’s the kind of exhaustion I’m talking about. It was one of the most intense experiences of my life.

Now I’m training for the marathon, and although the kind of exhaustion I’m feeling now doesn’t even come close to the kind that is being a new parent, there are some relative similiarities…and of course differences.

Lately I’ve found myself quite “exhausted” at work where if I close my eyes, my body quickly follows suit and starts to shut down. I often jolt awake making sure I don’t get caught sleeping on the job. It’s not intentional, falling asleep, it’s just during my breaks my body really wants to take a longer one, and it’s really hard to fight physiology. I suspect this exhaustion is partly due to the increased mileage and intensity of my workouts. I also think it has something to do with not getting the proper amount of sleep at night – we’re bad at going to bed early – as well as the consistent 90 degree days lately. This heat is truly exhausting.

I’ve also noticed that, depending on the day, my muscles have been quite exhausted as well. This, is certainly due to the increased mileage and not adapting yet, but probably also due to the intensity of the workouts on select days. I feel it at work and I feel it right when I start my recovery runs the days after the more difficult workouts.

Then there is the coming exhaustion. I will be consistently hitting higher mileage in the following weeks as well as increasing that mileage and intensity, which although is fantastically awesome for my speed and endurance, and is the reason I’m doing all this, it will also contain a period of exhaustion that will be deceptively demoralizing. I have yet to experience this sort of fatigue, but I’ve heard plenty of others talk about how terrible they feel on their runs or during their workouts….until they start the seemingly magical taper phase.

I just did a hard paced 3 miles on Tuesday and despite the increase in mileage and intensity of the workouts that are to follow, which are designed to make one faster, the next time I do the 3 mile workout I’ll probably hit a very similar time, not because I suck and all my hard work has been worthless, but rather because my body is quite exhausted and has not had the proper time to recover. The good news is that this is just temporary. Although I will start to see the benefits of these workouts later in the training phase, when the magical taper phase starts I’ll really understand just how far I’ve come. The goal is to work intensely, bordering that exhausted edge where I have trouble staying awake at work (well, maybe not so much that), and then giving the body proper rest leading up to the rest so that I’m at my peak of fitness and bursting with energy ready to take on the full 26.2 miles. 

That’s the plan anyways. 

Until then it’s extra cups of coffee at work, plenty of sit down breaks, taking the elevator instead of the stairs, going to bed earlier than I usually do (tonight is another exception to that rule), and trying to keep a positive demeanor at home.

Exhaustion doesn’t really sound like a fun part of the process, but in the right context it’s not all that terrible. let’s just hope the process reaps the rewards that make the relative exhaustion pale in comparison. At the very least, with experiencing the raising of a newborn, I know it could always be worse.



10 miles recovery. 89 degree heat. Somewhere around 6 minute miles.


Breakfast – Oatmeal (w/ peanut butter, almonds, raisins, turbinado)…no coffee!
Lunch – Nutritional yeast pasta with veggies, soy yogurt, peanut butter and jelly sandwich
Dinner – Some sort of asian pasta w/ veggies and coconut milk sauce
Snacks – Coffee, water, smoothie, wheat puffs cereal, banana

4 responses to “Asleep at the wheel

  1. You probably need to really focus on getting as much sleep as possible. The importance of getting enough shuteye is probably just below that of your training itself. While asleep, your body secretes hormones such as HGH (Human Growth Hormone) that serve to rejuvenate and regrow your muscle fibres.

    Can I also suggest that even though you ‘can’t run slow’, you slow your recovery runs down to at least 7:00/mile. Wejo from, who runs significantly faster than you (sub 29:00 10k) does all his recovery runs at 7:00/mile. 6:00/mile is no-man’s land and I don’t think you’ll be able to keep that up when you start increasing your mileage.

    • I’ve heard of these sleep benefits, and believe me, I’m trying to get more sleep than I have in the past. I’m not doing too bad….Anywhere between 6 1/2 and 8 hours right now. I’d prefer the consistent 8.

      I’ve also been able to slow my recovery runs down lately as well. I don’t think I’ve been going out at 7:00, but I’m starting to know what that sort of rhythm is like.

      Thanks for the tips.

  2. Cool:)

    How do you measure distance/pace btw? Have you got yourself a running GPS or do you just use

    • Usually I use map my run….but during tuesday night workouts, and saturday morning runs now, everyone pretty much has a garmin of one sort or another.

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