Sunday, January 23, 2011

History of RAAM Sleep

Here is a brief history of our sleep patterns during our first cross county rides.

John Marino set his coast to coast records in 1978 (13 days) and 1980 (12 days, 3 hours). He eventually slept less and less during his 1980 record and was sleeping only 4 hours per night.

In 1981 I started my Double Transcontinental Record Attempt from New York City. My goal was to ride 3,000 miles in 12 days or 250 miles per day. Many days I was able to start at sunrise and be finished by dark. Many nights I slept a full 6-8 hours. As I headed west across Kansas the headwinds were bad and I started riding more at night to miss the wind and heat. I finally reached California and I was usually sleeping from 1:00 AM to sunrise. Sometimes I was taking an afternoon nap. My East to West Record was 12 days 18 hours so I didn’t break Marino’s West to East Record of 12 days 3 hours. (my East to West Record still stands....somebody should be able to do it in under 10 days).

I slept 4 hours in California and started back at 3:00 AM.

On the return trip I started riding 275 miles most days during daylight hours. The first two nights I didn’t ride in the dark and got a full eight hours of sleep. The last couple nights I rode more at night to be sure I arrived in New York City before morning rush hour traffic. I finished in 10 days, 23 hours breaking Marino’s Coast to Coast Record.

Susan started her Transcontinental Record the next year in June 1982. She was making good time the first 4 days and she was on pace with my 1981 record. She had some slower days in the middle so she started riding more at night. She basically rode nonstop the final 600 miles from the middle of Ohio to New York City the final 2 days finishing in 11 days, 16 hours.

The Great American Bike Race (the first RAAM) started in August that year. After watching Susan ride the final 600 miles nonstop at the end of her transcontinental I calculated I could ride 600 miles nonstop at the beginning of my race. I rode the first 500 miles in 32 hours to Flagstaff, AZ and then 125 miles that evening to complete 625 miles in about 40 hours. I went to bed at about 1:00 AM because of thunderstorms and headwinds brewing in the area.

When I woke up at sunrise the next morning I still had about a 6 hour lead on John Howard. Those were the days of limited communication between racers and we only receive one vague update about rider positions per day. We had no idea if a 6 hour lead was good or not. Gradually I increased my lead by about 1-2 hours per day. I was sleeping about 3 hours per night. That GABR was my toughest race and I was totally wasted by the time I reached Kansas on the 4th night. I had a few total collapses the 7th and 8th nights and I slept about 6 hours those nights. I still finished with about a 15 hour lead but I was trashed.

Over the next 2-3 years the RAAM riders learned how to sleep less and pace themselves better. The diets and equipment made staying on the bike easier. Eventually Pete Penseyres and I cross the country in 7 days, 14 hours with only 9 hours of total sleep....(6 sleep breaks of 1.5 hours each).

Racing RAAM is always a balance of pushing to the limit and still having enough energy to race again the next day.


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