Summer is now in full force, which means getting up in the predawn hours, throwing on my running clothes, and heading out before it gets too hot. Some mornings I feel as if I’m more sleepwalking than running.
Anyone who knows me knows I’m not a morning person. I’ve always enjoyed staying up late, writing or reading in the quiet hours when everyone else is asleep. There’s something very peaceful to me about nighttime.
Mornings are busy. Mornings mean getting ready for work, the monotony of another schedule to follow, another shower, more time spent putting on make up and blow drying my hair. Mornings are noisy, with cars driving too fast down my street and too many voices on the radio.
Mornings are only peaceful when I’m camping, and if I’m quiet and still enough I can see a deer, or elk, or bison, depending on where I am.
This summer, though, I’ve embraced getting up at 4:30 or 5:00am and meeting someone for a run. Part of it is my stubborn commitment to the training plan. Part of it is not wanting to run alone in the evenings. Mostly, I’m enjoying the way an early morning run makes me feel, even in the city.
The mornings can be beautiful at the lake, even if they’re warm and humid. While the rest of the city rushes and swirls around me, I run along the edge of a lake and forget everything but moving.
The Sunday trail runs get me out of bed even earlier. Setting the alarm clock on Saturday night, when I’ve stayed up way too late for tomorrow’s run, I inwardly groan when I set the alarm to go off at 3:50am. No one should ever have to hear an alarm at 3:50am.
But nothing is sweeter than hitting the snooze button at 3:50am either–except maybe hitting it a second time.
Early morning trail runs come with their own set of problems. Snakes, armadillos, spider webs, tripping over roots in the dim light, and fuzzy thinking. My friend Susan and I have yet to make our way from East Dallas to the trails in Grapevine without getting lost. It doesn’t matter who’s driving or who’s navigating. We have no problem getting back home.
I blame it on a lack of sleep.
Some people love getting up early for a run just so they can nap later in the day. I wish I was one of those people. I try and try, but napping is rare for me. If I sleep, I might miss something.
This week is the first time in seven weeks of training where I’ve felt less than enthusiastic about getting up so early. An 18 miler can do that to a person.
Staying up late, not napping, and getting up early = not getting enough sleep. Even on my rest days, when I can sleep late, my internal alarm clock goes off no later than 5:00am. My internal snooze button seems to be broken.
Next week I’ll be in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, camping and then watching my daughter marry the man she met there. Even though it will probably be cool enough to run later in the day, I know I’ll still get up early to run.
And I’ll know I’m not sleepwalking because I could never dream anything as beautiful as those mountains and the cool Wyoming morning air.
Extreme circumstances call for extreme measures. I live in Texas and it’s almost summer. Time to take action.
I am not a morning person. Never have been, never will be. After twenty years of teaching and falling asleep exhausted on the couch each night by 8pm and getting to work before 7am each day, I love nothing more than staying up late and sleeping in. Anything that endangers that one small indulgence on my part is a really big deal.
But Texas summers are extreme. Now that the days are getting longer and the AC runs nonstop, running in the evening is just too much torture. I’ve run out of excuses. It’s time to put part one of my Summer Survival Action Plan into effect.
Last summer I failed miserably. I was the bitchiest, snarkiest, most irritatingly unhappy runner in Dallas. I complained louder, longer, and stronger than anyone in the entire state. If you had given me a megaphone I would’ve gladly yelled out my misery to the entire world.
But not this year. Oh, I know all my friends are reading this and rolling their eyes in disbelief, but you’ll see. I have a plan.
Last summer I was Debbie Downer. This summer I’m Pamela Positive.
My Summer Survival Action Plan began in earnest this morning. Determined to turn every negative thought about level orange ozone alert days and impending triple digit heat into a positive, I armed myself with my greatest asset: my running buddies.
Part One of the Summer Survival Action Plan is this: Run early in the morning.
Being neither a morning person nor employed make this sadly difficult (I know, I know, I have zero sympathy from 99% of the working stiffs reading this post). In order to succeed at part one I need a reason to get up out of bed and out the door. I need someone to be waiting on me, someone I know who will keep me accountable and keep me going.
Bill accepted the challenge. We made a plan to meet the next morning at 6am near the SMU track to run on the Katy Trail. I went to bed a little excited and eager to implement the first part of the Summer Survival Action Plan.
The Katy Trail is a3.5 mile long abandoned rail line that has been converted into a paved path that runs from American Airlines Center on the edge of downtown to just shy of Southern Methodist University. SMU is also known as The Hilltop, and downtown is built along the banks of the Trinity River, so that tells you something about the elevation.
The morning was a blissfully cool 69 degrees. A fair number of runners had the same idea of congregating in the parking lot of Luke’s Locker, though most ran over to the SMU track field to do speedwork. I was so glad we were not doing speedwork.
We headed over to the Katy Trail, always on the lookout for the Highland Park police who like to hassle and ticket runners for running in the street. The trail was sparsely populated with other early bird runners and walkers, and it was a beautiful morning. We saw Lauren and Kristi, two friends of ours from our running group. I still have yet to see Troy Aikman, who supposedly lives nearby and runs frequently on the trail. I’ve heard he’s on the 9:30am schedule.
Dallas is no Denver, but the first 2.5 miles are ever so slightly downhill. Bill was unrelenting and really pushed the pace. We kept a 9:05 average, with an 8:50 second mile, and I was proud we were able to hold the pace all the way back up the hill and to the parking lot.
Part one of the Summer Survival Action Plan was a resounding success. Not only did I have a great run, I got home just after 7am and did 40 minutes of yoga. I have to admit that I love the way I feel when I run first thing in the morning, and that I get so much more accomplished during the day.
It will be tougher to motivate myself to get up and run when the low temperature for the day is 92 degrees at 6am, but it’s still better than the alternatives: running in the evening when it’s 105 degrees, running in the dark when it’s 100 degrees, or not running at all.
But I’m not complaining. Pamela Positive, remember?