Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The head-bob battle

Every day at around 3 or 4 o'clock, it happens. A wave of fatigue rushes over me, my eyelids start to droop, and my head begins to drop. As much as I try and resist it, I can't fight it. I strain to keep my eyes open and my head upright. I blink and shake my head, adjust my posture, hell sometimes even refresh the browser on my computer thinking that I too will be in renewed in the process. This head-bob battle may continue for ten minutes before my head takes an even deeper dive, almost hitting my desk. A few hovering, shallow bobs later, my head is buried face-down in my arms - or on a bad day, lies exposed on the naked, hard, wood. In the past, I have conquered the head-bob battle more than it has conquered me: lately, however, I have succumbed to a pitiful defeat, ending in a deep, peaceful desktop slumber.

The head-bob battle is not new to me, nor I am sure is it new to anyone out there reading this. I wouldn't be surprised if my blog has even induced many a head-bob. If you've been in school as long as I have, however, it may be a little more familiar. I would rarely get through a class without feeling the need for a few minutes of 'blind learning'. In grad school, however, I spend most of my time at the lab bench - that is, on my feet and walking around. It's not often that I find myself closing my eyes and head-bobbing walking to the centrifuge, or pipetting into tubes. But lately, it has been happening pretty much anywhere. All rules thrown out the window. I think I could fall asleep using the ear-shattering sonicator for all I know. This could prove a serious hazard considering where I work, though thankfully mostly to myself, so I won't be sued for negligent induction of cancer on another human being. So it's really OK.

Once, I was beaten by the head-bob and was passed out on a pile of papers on my desk. I guess I had been there for a while, since I was eventually discovered by my supervisor, who came up from behind yelling "Are you DROOLING on that Chris Marshall paper?!" I jolted up, startled and discom-bob-ulated (no pun intended) only to see a large puddle of saliva over my now translucent papers. "Um...it was just so...salivatingly interesting.." I attempted to joke. He stared at me curiously. A pretty awkward silence ensued, at the end of which he asked if I had been drinking the night before. Just in case I wasn't humiliated enough, he - my BOSS - had to point out my napping AND vodka-bingeing tendencies in one go. How wonderful. I felt truly special at this moment (and worthy of a PhD).

At least that time my supervisor already knew me (or should I say 'accepted my uniqueness'). When I first arrived in the lab I had an unfortunate head-bob defeat at one of my first lab meetings. To make matters worse, the post-doc who was presenting was the one I was working under. I knew nothing about her research, making it that much more important that I be paying close attention. I was sick at the time and had taken some VERY drowsy cold medication the night before and so was extremely tired (I am convinced it was still coarsing through my veins the next morning...though it may have also been *slightly* compounded by a 5:30AM workout and a complete lack of understanding of a word the post-doc was saying). Nevertheless, my eyelids soon felt like 5lb bricks crashing down on my face. I had no choice but to surrender to the ensueing head-dive. I hoped that since I was sitting near the back and that the lights were dim no one would notice. Oh, how wrong I was! Afterwards, not only did my supervisor ask me what the hell was wrong with me, but I heard the post-doc ranting in the next room about my insulting behaviour. What a great way to make a good first impression (I seem to be good with these in academic settings...).

So here we are, years later, and my desktop napping has reached its peak (or at least, I HOPE it's at its peak!). Luckily my supervisor is away this week, since I have been beaten by the head-bob at least once a day. However, it doesn't help that I sit in an open-concept office and right next to another professor in my department. I am pretty sure he thinks I am either the laziest person to set foot on the earth or that I am severely anemic. But when the wave comes on, there's nothing I can do. I suppose I deserve this for running 115 mile weeks and waking up at 5:30 every morning, and perhaps this is just a bad week. I have never been one to take real naps (I think I can count on one hand the number of midday naps I've had since highschool). so these intermittent 'time-outs' are quite frustrating. Not just because they interrupt my day, but because I become useless and unmotivated afterwards. The only thing I want to do when I come-to is crawl home and into bed. Instead, I usually have to go run 12 miles. I have yet to bail on an afternoon workout, but I fear that day will come soon. And that day will be an ugly, sad, guilt-laden day my friends.

Luckily, once I get out the door everything seems to feel fine. My workouts over the past two weeks have continued to progress. Last week was a solid 115 miles coming off the 10-miler that included two quality workouts. Thursday was my strongest workout as it included 10km of volume with three hard intervals (two 1k repeats and one 2k repeat) where I finally dipped under 7:00 for the 2k loop (6:58). I have wanted to do that for the past year! On Saturday I got in about 23k of marathon-pace tempo within a 34k run - it felt pretty tough, but I was satisfied with how it went considering how tired my legs felt going into it. This weekend I will be in Halifax visiting my brother for his 30th birthday (wooot!) and I will be attempting a milestone of my own - a long run PB of 45km! Oh dearie. There could be a lot of head-bobbing next week.

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