Shifting my sleep in preparation for a midnight marathon

I was named to Team Canada for the IAAF World Championships on August 27th – no, not the age group world championships as Rol, my partner, likes to joke about, the big show. The event will take place starting September 27th in Doha, Qatar.

Doha is on the Persian Gulf just east of Saudia Arabia. As part of the Asian continent, it is not known for its ideal marathon race temperatures; the city of Doha often reaches temperatures of 54C/114F with the humidex in the summer months.

As such, the local organizing committee has the marathon start time for 11:59pm September 27th. While the humidity will still be high at least we will not be racing under direct sunlight, which would only raise our core temperatures making things more challenging while racing.

Along with the challenge of the heat, will be the challenge of shifting my schedule to a night owl schedule. I love my sleep, and I often get into bed at 8:30 pm, falling asleep between 9:00 and 10:00 pm depending on how tired I am and how good my book is (okay, I have also been known to fall asleep at 7:30pm when I’m really tired!). Needless to say, this night owl shift made me anxious.

Who better to help me than Dr. Amy Bender (@Sleep4Sport)? Before leaving we caught up (I was hauling my butt to the subway and she was running home). After I sent her all my details for travel Dr. Bender sent me a sleep schedule to help me adjust to this night owl routine.

In my favour was a training camp in Spain. Spain is not a country that rises early, from their afternoon ‘siestas’ to their late dinners, their lifestyle helped me transition a later bedtime. Sleeping in the first day until 11am (after going to bed at 9:15 pm) also helped reset my clock to a later schedule.

It’s T-minus 5 nights until I race. My goal is to stay up until midnight this evening, 1 am tomorrow, 2am the following night. Thanks to Dr. Bender and the Spanish lifestyle I’m well on my way to night-owling. Post-race I’ll post my sleep diary, including how I felt I adjusted and any tricks and tips I have learned along the way.