I've been absorbing a lot of information over the last couple of years about the recuperative powers of sleep. It's one of those things that you already know, but get strongly reminded of sometimes - and today I did. I was reading an interview with Clint Verran, a marathoner who trains with the Hansons-Brooks Team. He talks about the importance of adding, at least, an extra 30 to 60 minutes of sleep every night in the last couple of weeks before marathon day.
Because of my job and the other patterns of my life, my sleep schedule has never been completely regular. It's not often that I'm able to go to bed and wake up at the same time everyday, even though a regular pattern like that would benefit my overall health and well-being. I'm usually good at getting in my 7.5 to 8 hours of sleep, but like practically every American, I'm prone to cheating on that and getting less.
But sleep-time - especially deep, R.E.M. sleep - is when the body goes to work healing the hurts. It's all the same reasons why you have to rest and sleep to get better when you catch a cold or the flu. The more hours of deep sleep you get, the more time your body gets to go to work on the ouchy parts.
It will be especially critical for me over the next 10 days. Last year, I had a full 3 weeks between the Rock Cut 50K and the Chicago Marathon. This year, after a mid-summer schedule change in Rockford, I'm only getting 2 weeks between the races. At this point, four days after Rock Cut, I know for sure I didn't escape that race totally unscathed. My hamstrings have been especially tight and difficult to work out. I'm even more concerned about the arches in both my feet, and the right one in particular. The bridge between the ball and heel has been constricted and creaky. (Though what's odd, is it's something I felt in the very first mile of the race on Sunday. So, it's likely more to do with my build up in training volume than with running the 50K.)
I'm still getting my miles in, but, thankfully, I'm officially into taper mode, so I can cut back my mileage. I'm doing some extra, gentle stretching twice a day. My arches are easy for me to massage on my own, so I'm doing that, too. But reading the Verran interview was a big light bulb. It's going to take a little discipline, but my daily schedule is lighter right now, and I have the time to add hours to my sleep pattern. I can budget 9 per night and I may even be able to squeeze in a 30 -45 minute nap on some afternoons.
The hardest part may simply be getting myself to stay asleep for the duration. the last couple of months, I've been popping awake consistently after 7 hours and 45 minutes. (Who knows why?) But I think I'll manage. After all, as recovery methods go, forcing myself into an extra hour of dreamland is nothing compared to a bath in a tub of ice.