Post-run insomnia

Baby Max, sleeping soundly

Baby Max, sleeping soundly

Sam loves his walk. I can't cheat him out of it because I have other stuff to do.

Sam loves his walk. I can’t cheat him out of it because I have other stuff to do.

Wow. What a long night.

Sleep clung to the ceiling last night, refusing to come down from where it had wedged itself in the top right-hand corner of the room. It sat there, a shadowy creature, hunched over, it’s claw-like hands and feet pressed against the walls, its knobbly knees pulled up to its chest. Its slitty yellow eyes glowed in the dark as it stared mockingly at me.

Sam, my black pitbull-cross was stretched out across the foot of the bed, leaving a small space for me to put my legs. I would have been fine sleeping like that, if I could sleep, but Max, the new puppy, had stretched his fat, woolly body out across most of that space, leaving space for only one of my legs. I could approximate comfort only if I stretched my left leg out into the space and dangled the right off the edge of the bed, or if I stretched my right leg out and pulled the left leg up near my ear, in some kind of yoga contortion.

But I’m kind of used to sleeping this way, so it wasn’t the dogs that kept me awake. Nor the oppressive, airless summer heat that hung over the room. It was the run. The very, very slow 6 km run that followed the 40-minute dog walk.

I seem to get slower every time I worm my feet into my tired old running shoes and shuffle out the door. I have resolved to run 5 km every day this week (okay, the first run was on Tuesday, so it’s not quite every day this week, but kind of) in an attempt at getting back to fitness after a long lay-off. I started out last week, Thursday and Friday, with a slow 5 km and an even slower 5.5 km run in the blistering heat of the charming Klein Karoo town of Montagu. It seems no one else in the town runs, so I felt rather strange and conspicuous jogging through the streets in my eye-wateringly bright spandex gear. (I invested in some crazy colours, as I figured they would cheer me up during my darkest moments on the road. And their luminous glow would make it easier for the emergency first aid guys to spot me as I lay gasping in the gutter.)

Those two runs in Montagu kind of sorted me out for Saturday, Sunday and Monday. But Monday was my birthday, so Sunday and Monday involved visitors, food, cake and wine. Seems like an okay excuse? Hmm … probably not. Certainly not if you are supposed to be training for a marathon, and the marathon is now 66 days away and you are still struggling to conquer a 5 km stretch of road.

Horrible deadlines, mad publishers, home renovations, the festive season, tick bite fever and a course of antibiotics guzzled about six weeks from my training plan, and I am back to basics, trying to regain strength and fitness.

And so I learnt a new lesson last night: don’t train too late at night. It revs up your system when it is meant to shut down for a night’s rest. Because it was so hot yesterday, I took Sam (the pitbull) for his walk at about 6:30 only, after it had more or less cooled down. The boy loves his walk and I couldn’t cheat him out of it just because I needed to run. So we walked for around 40 minutes (cheating him out of 20 minutes). Then I brought him back home and got into my running gear.

It was close to eight o’clock when I headed out onto the road, and about 9:30 before I started putting supper together. We must have eaten after ten o’clock and then, of course, there was Gotham to watch – my new TV addiction – and my latest Kindle edition running book to read. So it was about midnight before the lights went out.

And then that dull ache in my legs made itself known – you know the one … that restless, relentless post-exercise ache that has you rolling about in bed, trying futilely to find a comfortable position. And your body is awake and abuzz, and your brain won’t switch off – in your mind you are still out on the road, running, running, running, and loving every minute of it; you’re flying, you’re a star athlete, fleet of foot and smiling. It’s kind of like getting off a boat: that feeling of rocking from side to side that stays with you long after the boat has been moored and you’re tucked up in your own landlubber bed.

By two o’clock I was standing in the dark, squinting at the kitchen clock. It was becoming clear that this morning’s six o’clock hill training session wasn’t going to happen. At three o’clock a flashmob of mosquitoes performed their moves around my ears. By four o’clock I was making tea, feeding the cats and putting the puppy outside to do his business in the garden for a change, instead of on the floor. By five o’clock the birds started singing in the tree outside the window. By six o’clock sleep seemed keen to settle on my eyelids.

Hill training did not happen this morning.

But now the sky is grey and a cool breeze is blowing in from the sea. There will be hill training this evening. I will clock another 5 km, at least, no matter how slow. By the weekend I should be running a comfortable 10 km. By next weekend I will be increasing the distance of my long slow runs. Getting ready for a marathon in 60 days is madness. But when did I try to convince anyone that I am sane?



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