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Long Distance Competition/Ultracycling, Randonneuring and Endurance Cycling Do you enjoy centuries, double centuries, brevets, randonnees, and 24-hour time trials? Share ride reports, and exchange training, equipment, and nutrition information specific to long distance cycling. This isn't for tours, this is for endurance events cycling

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Old 04-25-13, 01:47 PM   #1
chandltp
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maximum uppper time limit

I realize this will vary from person to person, but what would you consider the maximum upper time limit for a ride without sleep? The reason I'm asking is I'm debating between two different goals for the end of this summer:

1. A 24 hour ride, where I plan a route that will take at least 24 hours, but provide me with several bailout points along the way should I reach my physical and / or time limit.
2. A 400 mile ride from Erie to the West Virginia border and back. At my current rate, I would figure this would take me 40 hours. I do hope to improve my average speed, but I don't know by how much I'll be able to do that. If I reached mental or physical exhaustion, I would allow for one night in a hotel / camping, but my goal would be to ride straight through. This was inspired by the Crush the Commonwealth (which I was in no shape to do last weekend)

Thoughts?
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Old 04-25-13, 02:01 PM   #2
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I did a 1000 km brevet (625 miles - over three mountain passes, including the long and steep backside of Stevens Pass in WA). I was shooting for 40 hours, but made it in just over 45, with about 30 minutes of sleep at the 30-hour mark. It was raining heavily at the end, and I missed a turn and went a few km out of my way, else I could have finished maybe an hour quicker. But what was interesting was that on my drive home, about 46 hours after I had started, I started hallucinating. I'd say the hallucination point would be the sane upper limit.

The big ultra "races" tend to be around 500 miles (Furnace Creek 508, Hoodoo 500), so I figure they must take this into account. They limit the finishing time to 48 hours, which sounds about right. Most guys finish in 30-44 hours, just before the hallucinations start.

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Old 04-25-13, 03:32 PM   #3
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I can do 28 hours without sleep but the longer I push it, the more I risk 1) falling asleep on the bike 2) hallucinating.
For me, I found the trick is to eat a lot, not just little protein bars but huge meals to stay awake.

It also depends on when you start and how bad the hills are:
---The fairly flat triple century that started at 4:30am and ended at 3:30am, I had no problem
---The very hilly 600Km that started at 6am had me falling asleep on the bike at 4am
---The PBP that started at 8pm with med level hills was fine but I stopped at 11pm the next night for a rest

For me the conclusion is that I don't do well after 4am.
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Old 04-25-13, 04:01 PM   #4
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I did my first 600K, which I finished in 36 hours, without sleep.

But going 25 or 26 hours (taking into account before and after) without sleep (like on a 24-hour event) is probably more comfortable.
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Old 04-25-13, 06:08 PM   #5
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24 hours is usually no problem. My first 600k, I stopped for quite a while at the 400k overnight (about 19 hours in), but didn't sleep. I had trouble staying awake until I fell asleep on the bike and the resulting adrenaline rush kept me awake for the rest of the night. I was pretty miserable for the rest of the ride, I would have been better off eating quickly and going to sleep for 1 1/2 hours. Since then, I have never had any trouble staying awake during the first 24 hours. Three hours of sleep per day is plenty for me on a 1200k, and 1 1/2 will do fine in a pinch.
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Old 04-26-13, 09:26 AM   #6
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Thanks for the information. It sounds like it may be possible. I may plan on finding a quiet place to sleep for a couple hours if I need it. Fortunately, all I would need to do is park my trike and put my head back.
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Old 04-27-13, 09:22 PM   #7
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I've done the Texas Time Trials and found that to be a tricky question to deal with.
One time: I wasn't getting too sleepy, but was getting dry-eye syndrome so bad I couldn't see the road, and had to stop for the night (3 hours or so).
Then also: The ride started at 6:00 PM, I had it planned out that I would get to a motel early, sleep all day, then hop on that bike. So I get there early, I'm all keyed up, can't sleep a wink. So that theory is right out the window.
I've gotten so sleepy I've had to stop a few times. On The Texas Time Trials, I was able to stop where volunteers were, just sack out in a chair a few minutes, then continue. Anyway, that kind of thing works fine if the weather is nice, but if it's miserable weather out, would be hard to pull off, too.
Staying at a motel "in case you get sleepy" sounds great, but if you get sleepy 4 hours before you get there or 2 hours after you've passed it, you're kinda screwed.

I've seen a couple of cases where people did 600k's and rode straight through, and wound up finishing maybe an hour ahead of people that slept 4 or 5 hours. The guys that rode straight through still stopped at that overnight control, for maybe an hour or more, then got so exhausted and sleep deprived, they were riding 10 mph, so they pretty much lost all the advantage of riding straight through. I think a fast rider would be better able to take advantage of a ride-straight-through approach, even though they're the ones that need it least.

On 600k's, I can sit here in an easy chair and theorize "Well, garsh, I'll just go ride for30 hours straight and be done!" And it sounds like a great idea. But then when I actually finish the first 400k, I'm totally wiped out and have zero desire to keep on riding through the night, and I am really really glad I didn't plan it where I was stuck doing that.
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Old 04-27-13, 10:29 PM   #8
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Never actually ridden more 250km at one stretch, but I used to work all night and study all day getting 3 hours sleep if that a night. Sometimes during that year of hell I remember not getting my 3 hours and staying awake for 50 hours solid. A very bad idea. I think the limit to staying sane is around 40 hours.
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Old 04-30-13, 10:09 AM   #9
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Depends on the circumstances. Several years back I ran into a situation...yeah rather intriguing situation, I ended up sleeping all of about 15 minutes in a 60 hour stretch. Yeah, I wasn't doing anything physically active at the time and I was coming back from having been on a 22 day fast and I was 5 days back into eating. I guess the body must have had a nutrient imbalance or something. The first night was incredible but scary since I wasn't used to spending all night awake. The second night was better and that night had me thinking I was living in movies/tv shows I had seen before where guys are hearing voices in their head. I wasn't actually hearing voices but it sure did seem strange that while I was typing away at the computer I wouldn't be watching the screen but I always seem to know if I made a typograpical or grammar error. It was the strangest experience ever. When morning arrived I laid down to see if I might be able to grab a short nap or not. I wasn't really tired and that was the main problem. I also knew I was expecting a phone call and wanted to make sure I was awake for it...cell phone not land line. I slept for 10-15 minutes and then I was awake until I finally laid down around 7PM. I had spent pretty much 60 straight hours awake. It was 48 hours straight through.

I still keep wanting to try on an overnight ride but I haven't did it yet. I'm wandering what will happen at the usual hour before sunrise sleep period. As a kid I always use to try to stay awake from 7AM Saturday-11PM Sunday the fourth weekend of June. I always lost out about an hour before sunrise...every year.
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Old 04-30-13, 11:00 AM   #10
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my experience is that I see things when I am sleep deprived and riding in the dark. Not horrible things, just stuff like I feel like I am passing under a bridge -- for miles on end.
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Old 05-01-13, 04:50 PM   #11
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It depends a lot on your own personal sleep needs. I've gone for ~35 hours with only a short nap on the floor somewhere in the wee hours and it was fine. 24 hours with no nap is usually fine, too, although I can benefit from a short nap. It helps to be very well rested when you start, obviously. Sometimes it makes a difference what time of day you start; it's easier to stay awake when there's daylight than in the dark.
But people's sleep needs really vary. Personally, I really need 8 hours a night on normal days. But I have a friend who sleeps 4-5 hours a night tops, and has always been that way. At least one of his kids is like that, too. He came with us on a brevet once, and complained about having to just stand around while the rest of us took naps on the ground. He just wasn't sleepy.

The most sleep-deprived I've ever been was probably a 1267k I did where I kept getting lost and wound up with an hour and a half the first night and nothing longer than 20 minutes or so after that. What with going over mileage by 180 km and all, I finished in 98 hours. I am pretty sure that some of my navigational difficulties later on in the ride were probably related to getting stupider and stupider at reading maps and cuesheets. I didn't hallucinate, but at one point I got separated from the guy I'd been riding with and later neither of us could remember when or how. I do remember looking at the map and having a hard time figuring out what all those squiggly lines meant. I was nodding off constantly that last night, and was at a point where even sitting up and slapping myself in the face with both hands didn't work and just felt like too much work.

But generally if I can get a couple hours of sleep per night on a longer brevet, I'm sleepy at times but able to function without nodding off on the bike.

I've also found that getting chilly makes me feel sleepier before it makes me feel cold, and not eating enough makes me feel sleepy before it makes me feel bonky. I also tend to get sleepy on descents, between the colder wind and the drop in heart rate after the climb.
Of course, YMMV.
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Old 05-01-13, 08:22 PM   #12
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In my youth, I rode my R60US from NYC to Seattle via Route 66 and Bakersfield in the middle of December in 5 days flat. I slept 3 hours in the California desert. It wasn't particularly difficult, but I could have easily fallen asleep and been killed. I've worked at my physical job for 72 hours straight, also not terribly difficult but one gets very stupid. These things are not the same a riding a brevet, which is much more difficult.
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Old 05-02-13, 10:32 AM   #13
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I've only done short rides in the dark up until now.. usually 2 or 3 hours, where I start before dawn or finish after dusk. I know on the pre-dawn rides the sun is always a glorious site. I need to get some dark riding practice in I think before I try to do it extremely sleep deprived. It's a different experience.. I feel so isolated from the world around me.
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