Friday, January 15, 2010

Better Late (Than Early)

Someday—Note: if I start a post with the word "someday" you are safe to assume I am talking about something that will never happen—I'm going to organize a late-spring marathon that starts around 5 p.m. Here in Portland on, say, June 1, sunset is around 9 and there's plenty of light lingering for 30-60 minutes after, so nobody would be left out in the dark.

I hatched this fantasy while running early this morning. Actually, it wasn't that early—I hit the trail around 7:30 a.m.—but I'd rolled out of bed a scant 45 earlier. Typically, I run midday or later. This provides a nice break or decompression from work (OK, "work") and gives my muscles and joints a chance to loosen up. But while working on my first cup of coffee this morning I could see on the National Weather Service radar that a big gob of rain was headed toward Portland. It was going to rain all afternoon. I'd already run twice in the rain this week and just wasn't up for the another squishy experience, especially since the forecast for Sunday's Cascade Half calls for rain. So I jumped into my running shoes and out the door, wiping the sleep from my eyes.

The prescribed workout called for 2 miles easy, 2 miles of tempo run @ 6:14 and 2 miles easy. I did the two miles of easy and thought I was warmed up, but I couldn’t hit those 6:14s, instead doing 6:35 and 6:39. (I followed this up with six miles of easy running, giving me 10 total miles for the day.)

Part of the problem might have been that I was running on a wood-chip trail with some ups and downs. Mostly, though, I just didn't feel like my engine was capable of revving up the way it usually does. And that, apparently, makes physiological sense. From the New York Times:
[A] small group of researchers has studied the question of exercise performance and time of day, even doing studies of heart rates. And not only are performances better in the late afternoon and early evening, but, contrary to what exercise physiologists would predict, heart rates are also higher for the same effort.
I knew it! And yet the latest any marathon I've ever run has started was 10:30 a.m., at Boston. Berlin, in September, started at 10, and because I was staying right in the city I was able to sleep until 6. That wasn't too bad. CIM, last month, started at the ridiculous hour of 7 a.m. I woke up at 4:10 that morning, giving me shy of three hours before the race began. That was brutal, especially since it was around 30 degrees out.

Wouldn't it make sense to start a race later in the afternoon? From that same Times article:
[I]t might make sense for endurance events, like marathons, to start in the afternoon instead of the morning, when they almost always are held. Maybe they could be held later in the year, to avoid afternoon heat. [Chronobiology expert] Dr. Michael A. Smolensky agreed. "Most marathons start early under the guise that it's cooler then," he said. "That needs to be looked at."
I'll say.

No comments:

Post a Comment