Here’s John Hughes’ advice:

  • Take a sleep break if you can – you’ll ride better the following day.
    Danny Chew used to take 3 hour sleep breaks on RAAM while his competitors were only taking short breaks or not stopping.
    As a result he was fast enough to win RAAM twice.
  • If your event is long enough that you have to deal with two nights then sleep the first night and skip the second night. Etc.
  • Be as efficient as possible at controls.
    They’re controls not rest stops.
    Multi-task. A good goal is no more than an average of 5″ per hour of riding.
    If you do a 400K in 20 hours then you get a total of 100 minutes off the bike. The time you save at controls is time saved to sleep.
  • Know your personal sleep cycle.
    The average is 90 minutes but there’s a lot of variability.
    How long does it take you most nights at home from when you fall asleep until you first wake up? 6 hours = four 90 minute cycles. 5 hours = 75 minutes. 6:30 = 97 minute cycles. Etc.
  • Know when you ride best at night.
    Some ride best until a few hours before dawn, take a sleep break, and then start again near dawn. Sunrise helps them get moving.
    Others do better with a sleep cycle around midnight – 1 a.m. Feeling (a bit) refreshed they ride though the night.
  • A sleep break is a sleep break not a time for dinner, a shower, etc.
    You should try to consume at least 500 cal. before your sleep break because you’ll have time to digest it.
    Liquid nutrition is good here – you can fairly quickly consume the calories while you are taking off your shoes, helmet, etc.
    And drink more while you’re getting ready after your sleep break.
  • Keep your blood sugar up. Your brain only burns glycogen (unless you are on a keto diet). If you don’t eat enough you’ll get sleepier.
  • Chew something.
  • Don’t wear too many clothes riding at night – if you’re a little cool it’s easier to stay awake.
  • Do something to keep your mind active.
    Talk to other riders, sing to yourself, recite the alphabet backwards, count backwards from 200 by 7s, do mathematical calculations, etc.
  • Scan your bodily sensations to increase alertness.
    What do you hear?
    Can you smell something?
    How does your face feel?
  • Never draft at night.
  • As long as it’s safe, ride in the traffic lane rather than shoulder.
    The traffic lane usually is clear of sharp stuff that’ll cause flats.
  • Scan the road and your surroundings constantly to help alertness instead of staring at the beam from your headlamp.
  • Move your upper body frequently.
    Change hand positions, do the cat stretch on the bike, stand, do one-arm windmills, etc.

An anecdote. Before Boston-Montreal-Boston in ’92 I visualized it twice, 400K at a time.
As I had visualized, by the first night I was ahead of everyone and to stay that way I planned to ride through the night.
Also as I had visualized, in the wee hours I started to doze on the bike. I spotted a store, lay down on the porch, ate a bar and took a 20 minute nap.
I’d even visualized napping on a store porch!
I finished in 52:35, a course record.

John Hughes

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