Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Sleep, Rest and Tapering

Sleep cycle statistics
"Rest days are when you become a better runner"

An adage I adhere to, in paradigm more than practice. My volume increases as I march towards Squaw Valley. Rest becomes more and more important. To ensure adequate time in the rack, I decided to add rest as a metric in my training log. In a serendipitous Facebook posting, Bryon Powell of iRunFar mentioned he had been using an app called "Sleep Cycle". I have been using it since the night before Marin Ultra Challenge 50k, and so far it has provided some great information.

To use the app, you set the time you would like to wake up ("weekend mode" allows you to track your sleep without a waking time) and place your phone face down on the corner of the bed. They recommend you place it under the fitted sheet corner to keep it secure, but I have not had problems with it on top of the sheet.

The app monitors your sleep cycle, and as you approach your desired wake up time, it waits until you are in a waking period before it sounds a soothing tone. The result is that you wake feeling more alert and refreshed instead of groggy and tired. It measures your "sleep quality" against your history, and you can tag each night with your days activities, providing some correlation between lifestyle and rest. 

One of my favorite features is the resting heart rate monitor. In the past, my morning resting heart rate proved difficult to measure. I would either have to sleep with my HR strap on, or fumble around putting it on when I wake up. Neither is optimal, and the latter provides data corrupted by the simple act of putting on the strap. The Sleep Cycle app handles this with a novel solution. When you turn off the alarm, it turns on the led flash on the back of the phone. You place your finger over the flash and camera lens, and the phone determines your pulse as you lay motionless. It works pretty good, and provides data within the range I expect to see for my current fitness. A jump of 10 bpm over my average on any given morning would indicate potential over training, so I am watching that trend.

Then there are the other trends I am monitoring. My weight/body fat% and ketone levels:

Wednesday weigh in, March 25th, 2015:
  • Weight: 187.7 (- 1.3 lbs)
  • Body fat %:16.73 (-0.14)
  • Ketone level: 0.4 mm
Despite avoiding carbs all day and during my weekday workouts, I am struggling to stay in ketosis. It doesn't help that I am in the midst of Twirly's birthday week. Yet, I am feeling strong and energetic, and the weight loss continues. I am on track to toe the line in Squaw at least 15 lbs lighter than 2014. That ought to be good for an hour improvement, I figure. The other three hours will have to come from training, grit and efficient crewing and planning.

Another side effect of Twirly's birthday is this week's schedule, which includes sailing our ketch Kuani this weekend. To make room for her party on Saturday (Angel Island from noon to three, if you're in the Bay Area), I put my long run on Thursday night. I hope to get a marathon in along the Bay Trail around our marina, using my truck as an aid station. Oddly, I am looking forward to seeing what kind of time I can put up for the pancake flat course. I look forward to another sunset like this one we enjoyed last night.

Home sweet home

After that, I have a nine day taper to American River 50 Mile. I hope to improve my 50 mile PR (9:49) by a good measure. Maybe sub 9-hour. Time will tell ;)

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