A guest blog by Paul Day. AKA Mapper, AKA Vampire Runner.
It’s pitch black – and I’m going to be done before sun-rise. The car thermometer said it was 4 degrees but
my fingers swear it’s colder than that down in the gullies – just before they stopped responding to my commands entirely. And is that rain I can feel on my face? Yep…
What the hell am I doing?!
Those of you that know me are probably aware I’m a “fan” of the early morning start. I use quotations there because no, I don’t have an unhealthy obsession with running in the dark, but because I do find it a useful tool in the training kit – almost a necessity. I now get up at times that a decade ago I’d often just be going to sleep. Even only three years ago when I first started running I’d feel like responding to someone’s suggestion of a 6:30am run to catch the sun-rise with “Guards! Seize him!”.
Training for the GOW100 over this last winter I ended up spending around 2/3 of my trail running hours in the dark: a mid-week session finishing before sun-rise, a Friday night after sunset or Saturday morning before sunrise and then a long run Sunday morning that’d finally see me basking in the first rays of sun at about 7:30am. I’m the freak Shaun refers to in a previous blog entry as having developed a new bald patch due to my running: a 1-inch wide strip right down the centre of my head as a result of too many hours running with a headlamp rubbing at those precarious hair follicles!
With summer here it’s now easier than any other time of the year to be up and running at Ridiculous O’clock – in fact there’s even more reasons to do so (snakes anyone?). So here’s a few tips to get you going before winter comes around again and you decide the snooze button is a far more desirable option at 4am.
Why run at Ridiculous O’clock?
Why on earth would you want to?
If you’re training for a 100km or miler, you want to get those hours in your legs. Something’s going to have to give in the schedule – why not sleep every now and again?
Your family won’t hate you
Well, not quite so much. You are still trying to turn Razorback and Buffalo Stampede into “family holidays”, aren’t you? But by starting at 5am, you can get a 4 or 5 hour long run in on Sunday and still be home mid-morning to spend the rest of the day with the family.
The pre-work run
Want to get a two hour trail session in before heading into work? Start at 5am, done by 7am, in at work by 8:30am. Heck, there’s a couple of local Melbourne trail runners who did a few marathons as their commute into work this last winter. Get a good run in before work and you’re bound to have a better day as those running endorphins see you through.
There’s no snakes
They’re too sensible to be up at this time. And with the large number of snake sightings this spring, that’s a good thing!
You get used to it
It’s not as hard as it sounds once you get into the routine. The more I’ve done it, the more my body just seems to accept it – but see my note below about avoiding two days in a row.
How to actually run at Ridiculous O’clock?
Here’s a number of the things I’ve found get me up and on the trail in the dark.
Perhaps a little excessive to have kids just to get you running early in the morning, but there’s nothing quite like a wailing new born at 5am to get used to early starts! It’s not like you’re going to roll over in bed and leave them crying… are you?
Get a coach
I wouldn’t be writing this for BR without also drinking the cool-aid. This is possibly more a reflection of my personality type, but having someone tell me “do this”, and knowing they’re going to be looking over my shoulder, has been a massive driver for me. It’s improved my running, hugely improved my enjoyment of running and driven me to make time to fit the sessions in an otherwise already full schedule. If I hit snooze at 4am, I’m still going to have to deliver that 2hr session. So I’ll either be doing it 8-10pm tonight after the kids are in bed or up at 4am to do 5-7am tomorrow morning. May as well get up and get the show on the road!
Get a like-minded crazy running partner
Knowing you have someone relying on you – waiting impatiently for you at the car-park – is another good kick in the pants at 4am.
Get a good headlamp
Especially if you’re only just starting to run at night, hitting the trails in the dark can be a little daunting. Don’t do it with a $15 headlamp from Kathmandu – invest in something that’s going to light the trail up nicely and give you some confidence.
Unless you have poor night vision, I find anything over about 200-250Lm with an adjustable beam is more than adequate. Yes, you can get brighter, but it’s still a single source of light coming from just above your eyes, so you’ve still lost a lot of your depth perception. Making it brighter doesn’t magically bring that back and I’m yet to find a use for the 800Lm boost mode in my current headlamp beyond looking for Lenny the resident Lysterfield goat.
If you want a little extra, carry a compact bright hand-torch and turn it on for the technical downhills to add some shadows back in to help with your depth perception.
Stick to your normal morning routine
Have a bite to eat if you’d normally start with breakfast, have your normal morning coffee – get as much of your normal morning routine in as practical at 4am to make your body a little more likely to think “Oh, ok. Maybe it is time to get moving.”
Get to bed early
Yep, this one’s a little obvious. Don’t stay up doing your tax return until midnight if you plan to be up at 4am! Head to bed as early as is practical – even if you’re not that tired. Go through your normal bed-time routine, find a good book and at least relax. I personally find mindful meditation useful as part of the early night routine.
Don’t do two mornings in a row
Don’t let my blasé attitude fool you – I’m the first to admit sleep is vitally important to maintaining a fit and healthy body (and mind).
I find losing a couple of hours one night isn’t going to kill me though – although I may feel a little drowsy later that afternoon. But I do make a point of avoiding tw
o super early morning starts in a row by scheduling a full night’s sleep the night after. You definitely won’t enjoy a second super early morning start.
Thanks Paul, great advice for anyone wanting to find a way to “get it done” when time is scarce.
Paul has been a coaching client of mine for almost 2 years and in that time I’ve rarely seen anyone more dedicated to getting the best out of himself.
Run long, Run… early?