Sleep Walking and Travel Running: Marathon Training Week 3

For those just tuning in, I’m training for the March 2012 LA Marathon and attempting to take some time each week to share progress and thoughts here. Hopefully a few people will enjoy them enough to contribute to my Pablove fundraising page in support. Thanks to everyone who has contributed thus far. I’ve raised more than $500 with just two blog posts. Hopefully I can keep it moving, and DJ Strictnine and Paranorm once said…

Week three complete! It was an easy week overall, just one speed session and a step back from 11 to 8 miles on the long run. The speed session wasn’t easy but I got it done and my time wasn’t terrible (better than Higdon recommended, not quite as good as where I wanted to be according to Daniel’s Running Formula). There are two things I’m finding challenging:

  1. Getting enough sleep.
    I used to think sleeping less was a desired characteristic of alpha dudeness, but the science nerd in me has soundly trumped my alpha dude with facts. Scientists don’t fully understand *why* we need sleep but they know conclusively we do, especially when exercising hard. Lack of sleep leaves your body unable to recover from intense workouts and headed for injury. Not to mention the fact that lack of sleep has been linked to all the symptoms of aging; as we get older we get less and less deep sleep as our body slowly enters the cool-down phase of life.
    I’ve been tracking my sleep with my Fitbit and the trend this week was bad, starting at six hours and change and steadily decreasing night after night for one reason or another (travel, work, holiday party madness, etc). On Saturday night I finally recharged for a full eight hours and Fitbit tells me that’s the first eight-hour stint I’ve had in many weeks. Not good. Aim: 8 hours of sleep on more nights.
  2. Keeping the workouts going while traveling.
    I travel a lot for work (this week it’s NYC->SF->LA->Nashville) and making time/place to run isn’t trivial. Tonight for example I’m landing in NYC after midnight, probably won’t be in my hotel room until nearly two a.m., and will need to be up at six or seven a.m. to get tomorrow’s workout in before a full day/night of meetings. Ouch. So much for #1 above (tonight at least).
    But I’m making it a priority and have the week mapped out. I’m opting out of seeing The Black Keys late tomorrow night in NYC so I can get up early on Tuesday and get my long mid-week run in. I made sure the cheapo startup-budget hotels I’m staying at in both NYC and SF have a treadmill in case of crappy weather. I’m traveling solo with my five year-old to Nashville so I need to be sure I can plan a way to get my Saturday and Sunday runs in either with a borrowed stroller or someone to be around while she sleeps in (she’ll stay on Pacific time and sleep til nine a.m. CT) while I get the race pace and long runs in early.
    It might seem like a hassle or a distraction but I actually dig it. Without the morning run I’m way more likely to eat wrong and drink too much alcohol while traveling. It’s helpful for me to have another outlet to fixate on.

If you have any tips/tricks for getting more sleep or keeping up with your exercise while traveling, please leave ’em in the comments below.

Also, I wanted to thank my friend Mike Hughes for turning me on to Ben Greenfield’s podcast in the comments of last week’s blog post. I hadn’t heard of Ben before but I’ve been listening to him as much as possible since last week. Ben is an incredible resource. He’s knowledgeable and clearly works hard to steer away from hyperbole and stick with the science of fitness. Very worth listening to if you’re interested in fitness and the science of the body.

Speaking of science, both Runner’s World (Dec) and Running Times (Nov) had some interesting stats roundups in their recent issues showing trends in running. A few things I learned:

  • If you think running is for affluent dudes, you’re half right. 96% of the responders to Runner’s World’s survey were college educated, but the male/female split was even steven, 50/50. What’s interesting is how recent a phenomenon that is. The Running Times article reports 25% of 4.7M road race finishers were female in 1990 but 53% of the 13M were in 2010. Also, note the more than 2x growth in total finishers over the same 20 years. Wow. Marathon finishers are slightly less female at 41% in 2010, but that’s up from 10% in 1980 and 19% in 1990.
  • We’re damn close to the ceiling on what elite runners can do with the human body. Despite huge gains in knowledge over the past 25 years, the 1st place finisher time at the NY Marathon has only increased 3 min 20 seconds between 1985 and 2010 from 2:11:34 to 2:08:14. Have superior body mechanics and running economy, move to altitude, run in snowshoes, pile on 140 miles/week, and you too could stand a chance of beating that by a second or two.
  • As the population of marathon runners more than tripled from 143K to 507K between 1980 and 2010, the median time got slowly worse through 2005 (from 3:32 to 4:20 for men) but improved slightly between 2005 and 2010 (to 4:16). So perhaps there are now enough people in marathoning to know the median time it takes a human to cover 26 miles?
  • I thought this stat was funny: While 96% of the Runner’s World respondents were college educated only 82% were employed. The 18% unemployment rate is 2x our current scary national average and probably 4x the average for the college educated population at-large. Running must be popular among stay-at-home parents. I know if I had my dream gig (Mr. Mom) I’d try to work my way up to elite status.

Please think of me running along the east side of NYC at 4am PT tomorrow morning. If that doesn’t make you contribute to my fundraising page at Pablove, what will? Feel free to drop a challenge in the comments. πŸ˜‰

Oh! One more thing: Since they don’t make running shirts with the Misfits skull or Slayer logo I want to put my own designs on running shirts. I’m surprised Zazzle or Cafe Press don’t offer some decent Dri Fit shirts. Anyone know how to do this on a one-off basis? I found some spots with 20 shirt minimums but I don’t see how that’s going to work unless I find a batch of folks as idiotic as I am. Maybe I should try to get Isac Walter involved…



  1. Peter wrote:

    Long-time reader and long time marathoner.
    A unconventional training tip: make sure to include at least one or two long runs with *no* assessment: no watch, FitBit, Up, GPS, smartphone, NikeFit-nothing. Don’t even look at the time when you walk out the door or return. The point is, too many of us make the training regime just that, a regime, and forget that in the end, the umph that will pull you over the wall (and yes, there is always a wall…) is the pure joy of just getting up and running, without judgement or analysis, with no measurement of distance, pace, calories, strides or the like.

    If your experience is anything like mine, O suspect you’ll be surprised of just how awesome the unmeasured runs turn out to be.

  2. J Herskowitz wrote:

    The travel runs were the hardest for me by far. I sometimes found myself having to squeeze them in the evening, or just capitalizing on the jetlag and going out at o’dark thirty. The good news I got to see some parts of the cities/countries I wouldn’t have seen otherwise – so I used it to motivate myself by thinking of the tourist benefits.

  3. Tim wrote:

    If you need a 20 shirt minimum you can count me in! Hope you had a good run in the INSANE fog here this morning.

  4. @ballpark wrote:

  5. Paul J. wrote:


    I am not sure if you have ever heard of CrossFit, but some of their basic movements /workouts can be a great substitute/supplement during your hectic travel days..They are high intensity workouts using functional movements that can be both anaerobic and aerobic. Perfect for basic hotel gyms or even your room..Sleep is very important and often overlooked when training. A solid nutrition plan will also help. Good luck with the training and fundraising.

    Check out or for more general info.

  6. Trey wrote:

    Travel runs can be tricky. If you have a decent workout room at the hotel then hit the treadmill. Make sure the incline is set to 1% or 1.5%. I’ve run at strange times on the road. Middle of the night in NYC is nice. Well lit and a good way to see the city. I would recommend running at least two half marathons to help with pacing and speed work. I run faster than marathon race pace and it really helps prepping for the marathon. Sleeping and eating are key but you seem to be managing. I normally drink about 3 liters of water a day and this seems to make a huge difference. I’m 38 and run just under a 3 hour marathon. (2:56) As for booze, I drink but try to go two or three nights a week on the wagon. Then mainly stick with red wine & beer. Good luck and I enjoyed reading your post.

  7. alysha wrote:

    Hey Ian, a few thoughts with regard to the shirts (since making stuff is what I do, at least in theory)…

    There is an awesome little Japanese silkscreening machine called the Gocco, which allows people to easily do low-run screen-prints. Two problems, though β€” one, they have stopped manufacturing the screens and bulbs to make the screens. And two, the max print size is roughly 4″x6″. That said, I have the machine, and folks on Etsy will make the screens for $10 for you. If you wanted to go this route, I’d be happy to do some printing for you if you send me the screens and shirts.

    There is an obscenely easy way to print using freezer paper, an iron, and fabric paint. I can walk you through it if you’re interested. The Slayer logo would be SUPER easy to do. The Misfits skull would be a more laborious, but possible.

    Have you considered stenciling? You could have Ponoko (or some other place) laser-cut you a stencil on wood, and then you could spray-paint to your heart’s content. I’d be happy to prep the files for this.

    If you wanted to do one of the places with a 20-item minimum, it could be fun to use them as bait for your donators… If you donate a certain amount, you get one of the shirts as a thank-you gift.

    Just a few thoughts…

    I never β€” everβ€” get enough sleep. I think I’ll get a FitBit so that I can see just how bad I actually am (I’d guess I average 5.5/night).

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