The Freedom Challenge

The Freedom Challenge Race Across South Africa is an "unsupported" non-stage mountain bike race of approximately 2,300 km across South Africa. While recent winners have won in around 11 days, the race cut-off is 26 days. The race starts in Pietermaritzburg in early-to-mid-June, and ends in Paarl near Cape Town. Temperatures are known to drop as low as minus-10 deg. Celsius. While there are periodic "support stations" which will feed and accommodate riders should they require, the race is unsupported in the sense that riders must carry their own clothing and equipment, are responsible for their own maintenance and navigation (without the aid of GPS), and there are no marshalls or safety officials on the course (Race monitoring is done by satellite tracking). Estimates of cumulative ascent are around 37,000 metres, and the highest point on the route is approximately 2,700 metres above sea level. See the following link for an introductory slideshow by Mike Roy -

Saturday, 23 June 2012

How little sleep can the racing snakes get by on?

One of the features of the Freedom Challenge Race Across South Africa, for the race contenders at least, is very significant sleep deprivation. Martin Dreyer and Alex Harris are often sleeping 4 hours a night if they're lucky. This may get less towards the end of the race if it is neck and neck at that stage. Glenn mentioned that last year, when the final push for Cape Town started late in the race, and sleep was reduced to a bare minumum, that he would at a sage start dozing off on his bike while riding. A cold  power nap under an emergency blanket was the only solution, being woken up by the freezing cold after about an hour, and then continuing.

So this perhaps begs the question as to how long can the human being go without sleep? Below is an extract from an article from the New Scientist website for your interest....

Maxed out: How long can you go without sleep?

23 April 2010 by Graham Lawton
Magazine issue 2756. Subscribe and save
For similar stories, visit the The Human Brain Topic Guide

On 28 December 1963, Randy Gardner, a 17-year-old schoolboy in San Diego, California, got up at 6 am feeling wide awake and raring to go. He didn't go back to sleep again until the morning of 8 January 1964. That's 11 days without sleep.

Gardner's 264 hours remains the longest scientifically verified period without sleep, breaking the previous record of 260 hours. It was described in a 1965 paper by sleep researcher William Dement of the Stanford University School of Medicine in California, who stayed awake with Gardner for the final three days.

Gardner experienced mood swings, memory and attention lapses, loss of coordination, slurred speech and hallucinations, but was otherwise fine. His first sleep after those 11 days lasted just 14 hours.

According to Dement, Gardner did not consume any stimulants during his "wakeathon". He did, however, have people around him keeping him awake. Without such help ...

....And this 11 day feat was almost as long time-wise as the Race Across South Africa. But I'm sure that Gardner was not doing anywhere near the amount of exercise as Martin and Alex.

1 comment:

  1. managing sleep deprivation is such a crucial part of multi day adventure racing, that its associated illness is the name for the unofficial worldwide site - when the sleepmonster come visit, crazy things happen. Running away from them is what the winners do best.