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Agree with new RAAM sleep rules?

  • Yes. It might make the race safer or more appealable.

    Votes: 33 58.9%
  • No. I prefered the traditional rules. Rider safety is up to each rider.

    Votes: 21 37.5%
  • Neither. There are better ways that not been presented.

    Votes: 3 5.4%
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No Crybabies
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Discussion Starter #1
There is a huge debate in ultra circles about RAAM changing its rules to require 40 hours of "off the bike" time during the event, including several mandatory checkpoint stops of 2 hours each. The rules for 25 years were pretty much wide open about stopping and sleeping. All that was required is that the rider remained alert enough to ride the bike safely.

There were 2 deaths in the past 3 years, but neither has been directly related to sleep issues. The first was a team racer, where sleep should not be a big issue, who did a u-turn in the road to come back to a crew car. The second was a veteran racer who weaved out in front of a truck -- could have been sleep issues, but no one knows. The rules changes were implemented, it appears, to at least help to address similar problems.

The negative responses to the changes largely stem from the following types of thoughts:

1. RAAM should be tough, the toughest race in the world; it has been for 25 years, and it should continue to be.

2. Forcing particular stops might make the race even less safe; each rider has times when it is better to sleep or ride; forcing a mandatory stop, if it's at a time when the rider is not sleepy, might be a waste of time and then, in essence, force the rider to stay on the bike at another time when the rider might be very sleepy.

3. It will take longer to cross the country now, it is assumed.

4. Much in the way of tradition and respect for the event and riders who have done it will be lost.

5. There are plenty of other events that are either stage races or more like stage races (with plenty of sleep opportunity) that people can do.

6. This will change the race to be something more similar to the Tour de France, where faster riders can be more competitive, rather than sleep management and staying on the bike having substantial roles that helped to level the field.

7. This could be the start of a slippery slope where more and more "safety" rules are implemented and continue to change the character of the race.

On the other hand, the arguments are that this might make the race safer and might draw more racers who otherwise would not like to deal with the sleep issues as much. It would broaden the appeal and participation, and therefore the financial viability of the event. It would make it more competitive and keep riders closer together.

RAAM is retaining a category for non-stop record challengers, but it is reserved for a few with approval of the event directors.

The rules:

(1110) SOLO DIVISION CONTROL POINTS (New 2006)

1. The Solo Division is considered as one cyclist riding the entire distance from start to finish. These rules do not apply to Teams who exchange riders during the race. These rules do apply to Tandem Bicycles when two cyclists are riding the same bicycle for the entire distance while competing in the Tandem Division.

2. Solo riders will be required to accumulate forty (40) hours of non riding time at specific Control Points during the race.

3. There will be approximately twenty (20) Control Points of which approximately 5 will be classified as Mandatory Control Points where the rider will be required to stop for a minimum of 2 hours. All control points will be located at Time Stations located on the race route at various intervals. Exact locations will be published in advance of race start The Control Points will be located at approximately 200 miles intervals during the beginning of the race and 100 miles intervals near the end of the race. It is possible more Control Points could be added and the intervals between Control Points could vary between 50 and 200 miles.

4. Riders can use their 40 hours of non riding time at their choice of Control Points. A Rider can divide their 40 hours of Control Stop Time as the rider chooses depending on strategy and recovery. Riders do not have to stop at each Control Point. For example: A rider may stop for 2 hours each at 20 different Control Points or stop for 5 hours each at 8 different Control Points to accumulate their 40 hours of stopped time.

5. Riders can stop at any time or location during the race for any reason (flat tires, eating, sleeping) but riders will only receive time credit for the time spent at specific Control Points. It is to the riders advantage to use these Control Points for eating, showering, sleeping and mechanical repairs to maximize their race efficiency.

6. A rider may exceed 40 hours of Control Time at the Control Points but the rider will only receive the allotted 40 hours deducted from their finishing time.

http://www.raceacrossamerica.org/files/rules/2006Rules.doc


So, what do you all think?
 

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I don't ride RAAM so I'm just tossing this on the fire as speculation. . .

Many events are, for one reason or another, forced to evolve. New rule this, no more that and etc. As things evolve, I think there is often a loss of the original spirit or vision of the event. An event might be safer, more manageable, make more money, and more riders might be able to enter, but it will never be the same again. The original core will find something else, a new core will take its place. The event name will continue but the event will be gone.
 

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It would change the tactics of the race. Now it's a get there as fast as you can and decide for yourself what's best for you. By limiting the freedom of the racers to race their own race I think it would take something away from the event.
 

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It would be interesting to know if "liability Issues" had anything to do with the rules changes. Does anybody know if last years accident resulted in any lawsuits?
 

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I can guarantee you that if a car driver falls asleep and hits a cyclist, that story would be all over RBR. Cyclists don't deserve any special breaks w.r.t. rules of the road, and as such, sleep deprived cyclists shouldn't be on the road. Full stop.
 

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I would rather see mandatory awareness tests at check points where an official would check a racers ability to continue. The test could be simple DUI style tests. Failing the test would require a racer to rest for 1 hour. The process repeats until the racer passes the test.
 

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Evolution

deadlegs said:
Many events are, for one reason or another, forced to evolve. New rule this, no more that and etc. As things evolve, I think there is often a loss of the original spirit or vision of the event. An event might be safer, more manageable, make more money, and more riders might be able to enter, but it will never be the same again. The original core will find something else, a new core will take its place. The event name will continue but the event will be gone.
Not necessarily gone, just different. The early versions of the Tour de France had very few, very long stages, with some starts in the middle of the night, and no mountains. The race evolved. You can argue 'til the cows come home about whether the race is better now than in its original incarnation, the only thing everyone will agree upon is that the race is different than it was. RAAM will be different with these rules.
 

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Completely agree

alienator said:
I can guarantee you that if a car driver falls asleep and hits a cyclist, that story would be all over RBR. Cyclists don't deserve any special breaks w.r.t. rules of the road, and as such, sleep deprived cyclists shouldn't be on the road. Full stop.
I think I chimed in on this discussion last year some time after watching a documentary on RAAM, the one cyclist almost killed himself by trying to continue riding while obviously impaired by sleep deprivation to the point where he would ride 8 feet, fall over and when he finally hit the pavement he'd wake up. I can not site a specific study but I am hearing that sleep deprivation is as bad as being DWI.
 

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firstrax said:
I would rather see mandatory awareness tests at check points where an official would check a racers ability to continue. The test could be simple DUI style tests. Failing the test would require a racer to rest for 1 hour. The process repeats until the racer passes the test.
The problem with this is the problem turned up by people studying sleep deprivation and driving. You can take a cat nap and feel better for just a little bit, but that better feeling doesn't last long. You end up back where you were. Moreover, testing someone like that is not that accurate.
 

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I like the new rules change. Now instead of a sleep deprivation contest it may turn into a true endurance cycling contest.
 

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Evolution can be a good thing....

It appears the vote here so far is that the change could be good.

I think the promoters are really missing the boat on this race. It has to be one of the longest running cycling events in the U.S. and yet, even the occasional cyclist has little to no knowledge of the event.

Bring on the promoters, make it a real stage race, not a who can go without the most sleep. Here is an idea, next years Survivor will be..... Survivor RAAM... No pro racers allowed and cute chicas in spandex. Guaranteed hit and finally puts RAAM on the public map.
 

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This is a good thing. RAAM has always been "race" for nutters--akin to who can balance an egg on a spoon while walking across the country the fastest. No one cares about it, and rightly so. You cannot build a following for a sporting event that the potential audience cannot identify with.

Even among serious cyclists there is no love for RAAM. Cyclists dream about competing in the Tour de France. Who dreams about going without sleep for seventy-two hour stretches while riding a bike across America, much of it in the middle of the night?

With some format changes, competing in RAAM could be possible for a larger group of people. What the organizers should be aiming for is something like the Eco Challenge, a difficult event that an average hardcore adventure racer could envision doing--if only just once in their life.

The new rule change is a small step in the right direction.
 

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Doug, I think this is a very, very interesting topic.

I'm not an ultra-rider and don't aspire to be, but several close friends hold the women's team record (set in 1996, still stands). Obviously, team relay riding doesn't implicate the sleep deprivation issue the same way, though.

Anyway...

My immediate reaction was that the timing of sleeping and eating (or the variation in such needs from rider-to-rider) is part of the strategy of RAAM just as it is part of the strategy of virtually all other endurance events I know of. So, my first reaction was opposition.

What do we do with the fact that humans can be too stupid for their own good? That a rider will keep going despite hallucinations, or inability to keep the bike upright? Honestly, since the risk is to rider only (hey, they aren't driving semis) I'm still inclined to oppose the change, but I'm not firm on it.

Tough one.
 

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firstrax said:
I would rather see mandatory awareness tests at check points where an official would check a racers ability to continue. The test could be simple DUI style tests. Failing the test would require a racer to rest for 1 hour. The process repeats until the racer passes the test.
That sounds like a good idea although I don't think traditional sobriety tests would work well as I don't know about you but when I get off a bike after riding a long distance I have just a little trouble walking normal and could actually look drunk. ;)
 

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Discussion Starter #17 (Edited)
the way it should work

jtolleson said:
Doug, I think this is a very, very interesting topic.

I'm not an ultra-rider and don't aspire to be, but several close friends hold the women's team record (set in 1996, still stands). Obviously, team relay riding doesn't implicate the sleep deprivation issue the same way, though.

Anyway...

My immediate reaction was that the timing of sleeping and eating (or the variation in such needs from rider-to-rider) is part of the strategy of RAAM just as it is part of the strategy of virtually all other endurance events I know of. So, my first reaction was opposition.

What do we do with the fact that humans can be too stupid for their own good? That a rider will keep going despite hallucinations, or inability to keep the bike upright? Honestly, since the risk is to rider only (hey, they aren't driving semis) I'm still inclined to oppose the change, but I'm not firm on it.

Tough one.
From what I know, the way it should work is that the riders' crew, who must attend them most all of the way, and trail immediately behind them all night, is supposed to monitor the riders' condition and have the authority to make the rider stop and sleep, if necessary. In theory.

When I rode the Furnace Creek 508 in 2001 solo, there were 2 points in the race where I just about fell asleep on the bike. The first was on a very long descent about 3 o'clock in the morning, where it was a bit cold. I had nothing to do but just sit there on the bike, and I just about feel asleep on the bike. Luckily, I perked up when I started pedaling (at Shoshone, for those familiar with the route). I was just fine again until around noon, when I had just crested a 22 mile climb, when I was bonking, hyponatremic, and severely dehydrated, all of which exacerbate and even mimic sleep deprivation. As I started a long descent, I got tunnel vision and started weaving around on the road. I had just enough sense to pull over, tell my crew to wake me up in 30 minutes, and instantly fell asleep in the front seat of the car. When I awoke 30 minutes later, I was fine for the rest of the race.

So, I know first hand that even in a 36 hour race, sleep deprivation, along with everything else going on, can be a problem. The issue is what to do about it. If there had been a control stop along the route, but in the wrong place, it may not have helped. What if I was not sleepy at that point in time? I would have wasted time off the bike at that stop, then felt compelled not to stop again when I was really sleepy. It could have been worse. Imagine these issues multiplied by the effects of an 8-12 day race, and it probably gets much worse.

Ultimately, I think each rider and crew must take responsibility for themselves. Even in a half delerious state, the rider deep down inside knows when it is necessary to rest. Each must have the discipline to keep the sleep issue in the forefront of consciousness, so that sleep takes place when needed. The crew must stay on top of it, too.

I think it's ok to have a unique race where some extreme conditions take place. Not every human endeavor need be "as safe as possible." As long as riders know what they are getting into, and by this level of racing I'd expect all do, then they consciously take the risks.

Also keep in mind that similar accidents could happen on just about any training ride, event, or even a USCF race. In 25 years of RAAM, in only one instance has it been even remotely suggested (far from convincingly) that sleep deprivation was a contributing factor, in one death out of three total. That's a pretty good record, actually.
 

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I don't like the rule change. As Kerry pointed out, RAAM this year will not be the same as it was. It almost makes the old records obsolete, as you will see higher avg speeds and quicker elapsed times now.

It will still be grueling, but not to the level it was. It will also most likely allow people that couldn't win it otherwise to now do so.

I infact would like to see a TdF in the old style. Six stages, 400k each. Something like that.

Signed, A cyclist that does like pure endurance competition.
 

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bigrider said:
I like the new rules change. Now instead of a sleep deprivation contest it may turn into a true endurance cycling contest.
I really don't think the new rules will keep it from being a sleep deprivation contest but may reduce it a little. 4 hours a night over 10 days still isn't much. I'm planning on doing solo RAAM this year. My opinion is that the rule change won't make it safer and if anything it will make it more dangerous. The rule still aren't nailed down but the draft says 40 hours off the bike but it must be taken at a control point. Any sleep in between won't count. Even if the control points are 8 hours apart that still takes away a lot of the flexibility on when to sleep and everybody has different times that works for them.<br><br>Lets say it's 7pm when I get to a control point. It's too early for me to want to sleep so I continue. This means I'll be at the next control point at 3am. Around 1-2 am I've gotten really sleepy during RAAM qualifiers. Now I have 1-2 hours before I can get credit for sleeping but I can't stay awake. Of course I'm not going to want to stop even though I know I really should.

Rob
www.ultrarob.com
 

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Who cares if it's the same, what the riders think, or whatever. RAAM operates on public roads, and as such, the riders need to operate safely. Having a riders crew check him/her or be responsible for him/her does nothing since most probably have no medical training. Hell, testing itself is not reliable. A sleep deprived person can appear alert and ready to roll one minute, and then a few minutes later he/she can be headin' across the yellow line into oncoming traffic.

As I mentioned earlier no cyclist wants to be on the road w/ sleep deprived car pilots, so why is it somehow different for a sleep deprived cyclist? Tradition? If it's tradition, then that is the most lame reason, completely devoid of any substance or logic.
 
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