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Race Across the West

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Race Across the West

Postby RAAMrider » Tue Jan 03, 2012 11:19 am

Steve,

I am riding solo in this years RAW and have two questions. Should I go as far as I can go before I get off the bike or should I rest before getting too tired? I only plan to sleep for ~3 hours so should I eat solid food during that break or just stay on Hammer Nutrition.

I currently use a mixture of Sustained Energy and Heed after talking to you a couple of years ago and your advice was spot on, hoping this works as well.

Thanks,
John
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Re: Race Across the West

Postby steve-born » Thu Jan 05, 2012 2:11 pm

Hi John -

You ask an excellent question and the answer is really dependent on whether or not the progress you're making on the bike is worth the energy you're expending. In other words, do you just keep grinding it out, making progress (albeit at a slow and painful pace), or do you get off the bike for 1.5 - 3 hours to rejuvenate, which will pay dividends (going faster) as a result? That's always been one of the main questions an ultra endurance racer has to answer: How much time do I need to get a little recovery, which will usually translate into going faster when I get back on the bike, but without giving up too much time off the bike, while my competitors may still be out there putting distance on me?

Unless you're as fast as last year's winner, Daniel Wyss, going a distance of nearly 860 miles without sleep is highly unlikely. I mean, the guy did it in 2 days and I doubt he took a sleep break (a full-fledged one anyway) en route to winning the race.

For most of us, however, 860 miles is just too far to be done optimally without taking a sleep break... I think the furthest I went in RAAM without sleep was a bit over 700 miles and I paid dearly for it. Yeah, I was leading the race for awhile but there came a point where the progress I was making while riding couldn't be justified by the effort it took. Riders behind me were getting a little sleep while I was plodding along. I was putting distance on them but it proved not to be worth it. When they eventually caught up to me and passed me I didn't have a lot of energy to fight back. Granted, things went back and forth all race long because everyone was sleeping at different times and for different lengths of time. I ended up doing fairly OK in RAAM but in hindsight I think that earlier in the race I should have stopped for a sleep break a little sooner than I did.

For me, I have always found that I can't sleep the first night; I always ride through the first night and well into the second day. The biggest mistake I made was waiting too long before taking a sleep break... I'd go up to 45 hours or so before stopping. Great! I've done 700+ miles. Unfortunately, there was still 2200-2300 miles to go. I was pretty frazzled, pushing hard for the first couple of days, and I ended up paying for it for the next few days as the race progressed. I would eventually come around and re-pass some of the riders who'd passed me earlier, but looking back on my RAAM efforts, I think I bit off more than I could chew during the first few days of the race, which really hindered the middle part of the race.

If I were doing RAW, I would probably take a sleep break at the point, whenever it came, where I could tangibly notice that I wasn't riding strongly any longer but rather just puttering along. I would not stop if I was feeling halfway decent and still making good progress (and I'd definitely not stop if I had a tailwind), but I would definitely stop and rest before I got so tired that the progress being made wasn't justified by my speed or the energy being spent going slow. Yes, by getting off the bike I'm not making any progress towards the finish but I'm going to make that up by going faster when I get back on the bike, thanks to getting some rejuvenating sleep. Most of the time, I find that (for me anyway), I am the most tired right around dawn... that's when my speed would plummet and it'd most likely be the best time to stop for some rejuvenating sleep.

RAW is a little trickier in that you don't have as much distance to cover (3000 miles vs. 860), which means you don't have the luxury of making any time-wasting mistakes that you can make up for later on in the race. Translated that means:

1) Stay on the bike! Do not get off for any reason unless absolutely necessary (like taking a #2 bathroom break). You'd be amazed at how many things can be done while you're still riding and believe me, it all adds up in terms of saving time.

2) If you do get off the bike - be it for a bathroom break or a sleep break - you and your crew need to be super efficient. All stops MUST be treated as though they are mini Indy 500 pit stops. The one mistake I see far too many RAAM/RAW riders make is taking too long to do a sleep break. A 3-hour sleep break, for example, just cannot take 3.5 - 4 hours to accomplish. Time wasted is time you will never get back.

As an example, when I won Furnace Creek a long time ago, I was definitely not the fastest guy out there... far from it. I and my crew, however, were super efficient - I was off the bike for 10 minutes total (for clothing changes and bathroom breaks) throughout the entire race and I'm convinced that was a major factor in being able to win the race. I know that other riders took short 5 minute breaks - sometimes fairly frequently - just to get off the bike for a spell and get some rest. Now, you'd think that'd be acceptable in a race as long as Furnace Creek or RAW but it really isn't. Bottom line: Stop and get off the bike only if it's absolutely necessary and when you do, make sure you and your crew minimize your time off the bike. EVERY SECOND COUNTS!

As far as solid food is concerned, if I were able to do RAW in 2-or-so days I'd probably go liquid only. To me, solid food is a luxury, not a necessity. Now, if you're going to be out there for closer to three days, it might be nice to have some solid food to help maintain regularity. A portion of a Hammer Bar on occasion would certainly not be wrong. When I did the Double Furnace Creek 508, because this event/record attempt was longer (I was on the bike for 75+ hours), I couldn't imagine going without some solid food on occasion. I just made sure I made wise choices and I used it (solid food) infrequently, almost as a reward of sorts. With RAW being 860 miles, and with the prospect of it taking nearly 3 days (or slightly longer) to complete, I'd want to have a little solid food once in awhile, if only to break up the monotony of going "all liquid" the whole time.

I have probably provided much more information that you needed but I hope you will find it helpful. If you need more specific info please let me know or email me directly at sborn@hammernutrition.com

Sincerely -

Steve
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Re: Race Across the West

Postby RAAMrider » Fri Jan 13, 2012 11:19 am

Steve,

Thanks for the speedy reply and I will certainly put your advice into practice soon. We have a 500 mile practice ride in March so my crew can practice the transitions. Since I'm riding solo I hope they catch on quick so I can get them to hand me my hammer products through the window as I ride. :lol:

Thanks Again,
John
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