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San Diego’s Earliest Risers Share Their Routine

16 locals who are up and at 'em while you're still sleeping

Thomas E. Gomes (Tommy the Fishmonger)

57, Ocean Beach, Fishmonger at Catalina Offshore Products

Alarm set for: “No alarm needed; I wake up at 3:30 a.m.”

At work: 4:15-4:30 a.m.

Bedtime: 9 p.m.

“What I like most about the morning? Checking the surf along OB and Sunset Cliffs, watching the morning birds along the San Diego River, listening to drunk chefs’ voicemails because they forgot to put their orders in on time.”

Jared Whitlock

32, Encinitas, Health Care and Biotech Reporter/Surf Writer

Alarm set for: 6 a.m.

At the beach: 6:30 a.m.

At work: 9:30 a.m.

Bedtime: 11 p.m.

“Often my alarm is set for 6 a.m., but if I know the surf will be good, no alarm necessary. The excitement and anticipation jolts me awake predawn, sort of like six-year-old me on Christmas morning. It plays into my wife’s narrative that I’m just a big kid. The weightless feeling of dropping into a wave gives me a reprieve from the things that make me anxious. I’m looking at you, HomeGoods and people who push their dogs in strollers.”

Mariel Cota

48, Downtown, Owner of Flowers by Mariel and Supervisor at San Diego Fair Flower Show

Alarm set for: 4 a.m.

At work: 5-6:30 a.m.

Bedtime: 8:30 p.m.

“As soon as I wake up, I stay in bed for three or four minutes and repeat my affirmations: Regardless if it is a hot, cold, cloudy, rainy day, any day alive is a good day. Then I get up, turn my music on, and fix my coffee. After my 10 minutes enjoying my coffee, I wake up my son and ask him what he wants for breakfast. Every morning since I can remember, I sing and cook. I am a terrible singer, but I love and enjoy my music.”

San Diego's Earliest Risers Share Their Routine

San Diego’s Earliest Risers Share Their Routine

Crystal White

33, Bird Rock, Owner of Wayfarer Bread & Pastry

Alarm set for: 3 a.m.

At work: 3:30 a.m.

Bedtime: Between 7 p.m. and 10 p.m.

“The moment I get to the bakery, I check the oven temperature, put on my apron, put my hair up, and pour myself a big cold brew. I put on some classic rock and I catch up with the morning baker who arrived 30 minutes before me.

My favorite thing to do between bakes is step out onto the patio, cool down in the morning breeze, and listen to the roar of the waves, which can be heard because the streets are still empty. It feels like the day is so fresh and promising. The city is quiet, and there’s a peaceful calm that you can’t find at any other time.”

Mario Caldera

42, La Mesa, Airside Operations Senior Duty Manager III at SAN

Alarm set for: 4:20 a.m.

At work: 6 a.m.

Bedtime: 9-10 p.m.

“Our airport has a 6:30 a.m. departure curfew, so I enjoy the hustle and bustle of watching the air carriers prepare their morning. Watching the dark sky transition into the blue is very peaceful. I definitely have a greater appreciation for the last twinkles of the stars and planets before the sun comes out.”

Steven Luke

42, Scripps Ranch, News Anchor at NBC 7

Alarm set for: 4 a.m. on weekends

At work: 5 a.m.

Bedtime: 10:30 p.m.

“I lay out my clothes the night before and take all of my toiletries into my kids’ bathroom so I don’t wake up my wife. I’ve never been a morning person, and I’m actually still not one today, but I do love how quiet it is, and getting up to speed on the daily news before everyone else.”

Maya Monza

25, Pacific Beach, SoulCycle Instructor

Alarm set for: 4:15 a.m. when she teaches the 6 a.m. “Rooster” classes.

At work: 5:30 a.m.

Bedtime: “I try to put my phone away by 11 p.m.

“Lay your clothes out the night before or sleep in your workout clothes. Not only does it save a few extra minutes in the morning, it also means you are one step closer to your workout.

First thing I do when my feet hit the ground is drink a glass of water and brush my teeth. Brushing my teeth first makes me feel like I am actually starting my day and not lounging.

Eyelash extensions (although they can add up) are so worth the investment for me. I save so much time in the morning not worrying about putting on makeup. I am all about the ‘I woke up like this’ lifestyle.”

Randall Cannon

37, Tijuana, Sleep Technologist at Pacific Research Network

Alarm set for: 4:45 p.m.

At work: 6 p.m.

Bedtime: 7-10 a.m., depending on when a subject wakes up

“My day doesn’t start in the morning, it ends there. I have never been, nor ever will be, a morning person—I am the perpetual night owl. Even before I got a job that requires this schedule, I was often up all night; it’s just the way I’m programmed. I probably take after my grandma, who went to bed at 3 a.m. and slept until noon most days of her life.

I’ll generally eat an early breakfast at 4 or 5 a.m., might have a cup of coffee for a pick-me-up, and then prepare for the routine of waking up subjects participating in the sleep study, take their vital signs if necessary, and unhook the subject from the electrodes and monitoring equipment I placed on them the night before.

On my drive home, I get to observe how quiet the city is. I like hearing the birds chirp and nature starting its day in the early morning hours. Unlike New York, this city sleeps every night.”

Lt. Nathan Neher

30, Point Loma, Plans and Tactics Officer on the USS Sterett

Alarm set for: 4:40 a.m.

At work: 6 a.m.

Bedtime: 9:30 p.m.

“I always leave by 5:40. It’s quiet and dark. About half the people I see in cars are wearing uniforms or in a car with out-of-state plates (insinuating they are military). Sprinklers usually start in the neighbors’ lawns around 5:30. People usually stop shorter at stop signs.”

San Diego's Earliest Risers Share Their Routine

San Diego’s Earliest Risers Share Their Routine

Bridget McKenna

45, Point Loma, Florist and Owner of Briddie’s Floret

Alarm set for: 4 a.m.

At work: 4:30 a.m. [in her Vanagon on the way to Mayesh Wholesale Florist in Carlsbad]

Bedtime: 9 p.m.

“In the very early hours, it is so quiet and dark that my sense of smell is heightened. I am really able to enjoy the fragrances of my cutting garden.”

Lemar T.

27, La Jolla, Lyft Driver and Robotics Engineer

Alarm set for: “I rarely use an alarm clock and typically rely upon my body’s internal clock, which wakes me up between 4 and 4:20 a.m.”

At work: “I start driving for Lyft around 5:30 a.m., then head into my day job at around 8:45 a.m.”

Bedtime: 10 p.m.

“My morning routine consists of listening to business news while I make a pre-workout smoothie. I work out for about 45 minutes in my home gym and afterward, prepare breakfast, shower, and get dressed. I iron or steam my clothes daily; it’s a ritual since childhood. While the rest of the city is sleeping, I get to take advantage of uncluttered freeways and watch the amazing California sunrise.”

San Diego's Earliest Risers Share Their Routine

San Diego’s Earliest Risers Share Their Routine

Mindy Settles

35, Hillcrest, Senior Primate Keeper at the San Diego Zoo

Alarm set for: 4:33 a.m. “When I come in early and work with the aye-ayes, which are a nocturnal lemur species, it goes off at 3:20.”

At work: 5:50 a.m. most days

Bedtime: 9-9:15 p.m.

“I get to hear the first roars of the lion, and the first chirps from the birds, and see the full moon just above the trees. When the zoo is just the animals, the moon, and me, it’s an amazingly free and beautiful feeling. I get to just be in the moment. One of my favorite things to do in the whole world is to be on a night hike in the jungle, turn off all lights, stand or sit quiet and still, and just listen to all the sounds of the jungle. The zoo in the dark gives me a little taste of that without traveling to another country.”

Nancy Moya

33, Tijuana, Green Business Program Coordinator for the National City Chamber of Commerce

Alarm set for: 5 a.m.

At work: 9 a.m., but arrives at the San Ysidro border crossing at 5:30 a.m.

Bedtime: 10-10:30 p.m.

“I haven’t always been a morning person. But since I moved to TJ and work in National City, I had to accommodate my schedule. I shower at night to have extra time to sleep, and I have my breakfast while waiting at San Ysidro—I buy my coffee and burritos there. When it’s a holiday in Mexico, I hate the mornings because I know there will be more traffic.”

San Diego's Earliest Risers Share Their Routine

San Diego’s Earliest Risers Share Their Routine

Daniel F. Balona

56, Valley Center, Account Executive/Operations at Specialty Produce

Alarm set for: 12:27 a.m.

At work: 2 a.m.

Bedtime: 8 p.m.

“I feel so fortunate that I get to see San Diego at its most tranquil state. Even though this city has grown so much, the calm remains. On a personal level, early mornings have rewarded me with the ability to watch my family grow, and participate in school events and athletic coaching. It takes discipline to commit to such a rigorous schedule, but at the end of the day the old saying is true: “Early to bed, early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.”

Adam Dailey

42, La Jolla, CEO of FunLy Events and Winner of the 2019 La Jolla Half Marathon

Alarm set for: 5 a.m.

At work: 8:15 a.m.

Bedtime: 10:30-11 p.m.

“Every Thursday, rain or shine, I go to run club. There are seven of us; it’s invite-only. We run about 57 minutes for the eight-mile loop around Mission Bay. Sometimes it’s faster and sometimes it’s slower. But it’s always conversational. There is a camaraderie among the people who are out running or walking when it’s dark outside—we’re all kind of crazy. Every morning, I also try to write in my journal, then write one of my kids a letter and write my wife a letter. Yes, it takes time, for sure. I went to a seminar last year (Wake Up Warrior) focused on entrepreneurs who are fathers or husbands. And it laid out a framework, which I bought into. I have five kids, so they love getting the notes. For my wife, it allows me to be grateful and celebrate her somehow. For me, it’s about building habits.”

Jason Isaiah Fernandez

45, Temecula, Winemaker at Ponte & Bottaia Wineries

Alarm set for: Depends on the harvest schedule, typically 11:30 p.m.

At work: “When the grapes call!” Usually midnight–1 a.m.

Bedtime: 7-8 p.m.

“We harvest most of our fruit overnight to take advantage of the natural cooling. At this time of night, the air is crisp and a relief from the hot summer days. It’s an opportunity to put on a long-sleeved shirt, enjoy the stars, and share in the camaraderie of the night crew.”

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