Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Sleep Deprivation aka #CrossVegas and #Interbike

The Latest From Shimano's Parisian Groupo
We sent roving reporter Gumbo Boy to Cross Vegas.  A week after going All-In, he mustered the energy and clarity to write about the experience.

(by Gumbo Boy) There are a couple known quantities about Las Vegas – you aren’t going to get much sleep and everything looks close until you try to walk to it. There are also a couple known quantities about bike racers – they like to sleep and they hate walking or standing. Welcome to Interbike and CrossVegas – something’s gotta give.

Let’s Go!

Trips to Las Vegas seem to start out the same – unbridled giddy enthusiastic anticipation of all the possibilities – of which Vegas can accommodate pretty much everything. Couple Vegas with Interbike and CrossVegas and a CX geek’s thoughts are running a million miles a minute. Even for a bike racer you aren't thinking about walking or sleeping.

One for all, All for one

No matter what time you get to the airport - in our case it was 11:30PM PDT (for those looking for their calculator, that is 2:30AM EDT) - you have to see the strip. By the time we checked into our hotel and headed out to walk the strip and get some dinner it was easily time for me to get up and get ready for work back home. If sleep is high on a cyclist's agenda it was quickly being priortized down the list.

Red Bull and Food

That first meal hits the stomach and your body starts to talk back a little bit – uh we’ve been up since early this morning finishing off those TPS reports, doing last minute packing and flying out here – according to my watch it is closer to time to get up for tomorrow than time to go to bed – can we sleep? This feeling is negated by chugging a Red Bull and getting your wiiings.

It’s a Marathon not a Sprint

About 3AM PDT the calculator starts whirring in your head. The checklist of activities starts forming mentally. The to do list and the available time start colliding as you realize the gravity of the situation - I can't go the full 72 hours in Vegas without sleep. Already your brain is starting a mental budget not unlike the budget you put together that determines your CX racing calendar - the only difference is every decision is immediate. Its a struggle to remember 72 hours is a like a time-trial. If I go too hard early and crash I may end up in bed for 14 hours straight - putting 1/5th of the trip at jeopardy in one subconscious step.

In the Zone

Staying awake in Vegas is really very simple - the amount of over-stimulation available creates a false sense of day and night, a distorted sense of time, and almost certainly an ability to push through periods of mental weakness. At about 30 hours straight awake you enter a zone of heightened awareness, an uncanny ability to sense the people and faculties around you - almost as though you had become Neo in the Matrix. Time has stopped and reaction speed has doubled.

Valley to Rally

Eventually you succumb to sleep. The stimulation of Vegas has been overcome by the realization that Interbike and CrossVegas are still to come. You can't sustain 'the zone' for 48 more hours, so a bit of sleep seems wise. However, with a little sleep also comes a valley - its that period in a cross race where you can't do anything right - you slam into barriers, miss the apex of turns, dismount with stutter steps - and can't get on track. Then you remember your rally cap - a large Starbucks coffee. There is no valley that can't be overcome with a large enough coffee - much like those o-dark-hundred alarm clock calls the morning of the USGP. 

Stay in Motion

Cipo attracts just as many guys as the scantily clad women
We rallied to Interbike and walked an endless floor of booths of every product you can imagine. We saw pink chains that would match Mr Pink (Joe Biker's CX pit bike), we saw more disc brake setups and combinations that I can begin to remember, every combination of bike. Interbike for a bike junky made the glitz and glamour of Vegas seem underplayed. How could I possibly take all this in and digest it?

Leaving Interbike and back into the Vegas strip left us back where we started before the coffee - in a valley. We had to fight through it by staying in motion - another secret to Vegas. Once you stop moving, seeing, witnessing, pointing, and laughing your brain is able to get a word in and reminds you that since Monday morning at 6am (it is now Wednesday at 4pm) you have had approximately 8 hours of sleep - roughly a single night's equivalent over two night.

The secret is to stay in motion.

Page, Trebon, Driscoll, Johnson so close I can touch them
CrossVegas was exactly that - constant motion – do I watch the flyover? How about the uphill barriers that were hopped like tiny twigs left on the bike trail after a small rain storm? How about the stair stepped runup they were riding like it wasn’t even there? Hanging with an Elvis impersonator that sang Viva CrossVegas before the Elite race? Sooo much to do and such a brief fleeting moment of time to do it in.

Combine enough coffee and the constant motion of CrossVegas and the brain was spinning like the top in the movie Inception during a dream. How do you come down off this? I just watched Jeremy Power storm back in a field that included last years winner Van Der Haar, Trebon, Page, McDonald, Berden, Fluckinger, Johnson, and Kabush each trading blows to the gut like it was the Worlds – in person, at night, in a beautiful setting with the perfect temperature and a loud, excited crowd.

Wow. I can’t breathe or sleep.

Wednesday was an amazing day. Two events that I have always wanted to attend - both in the same day and a roller coaster of emotion. The lows of no sleep at breakfast to walking the floor of Interbike to rallying with motion to stay awake back to one the biggest highs in CX at CrossVegas - all in less that 15 hours.

Now, that is funny!

In the last 24 hours of the trip, even with some sleep and a meal in your belly you start running on fumes. Everyone knows what happens now – everything is funny – as in EVERYTHING. We came up with some product and money making schemes that if brought up at a party with wealthy investors would make them leave and walk to the next table.

I am reasonable sure that every product you see on an infomercial late at night was dreamt up late at night in Vegas after 54 hours of no sleep by four guys trying to one up each other at every step. How else could the Shake-Weight become an actual product that people would buy?

Where did all this crap come from?

You got any room to carry some of my crap home?
You have only been in Vegas for 50 hours…how can you not close your suitcase? You can’t check anything at the airport, it costs money and that money could be spent on bar tape, cleats, or entry fees. Oh yeah…we came here for a conference where they hand out paraphernalia on bikes and bike gear.

Not only did you pick up Chris King brochures, catalogs from Pearl Izumi, Cipollini, and Phil Wood, but you bought a pair of shoes that were a show special, a pair of Crank Brothers pedals (Interbike special!), CrossVegas t-shirts for yourself, 3 juniors back home and the rest of the family, and managed to collect three (3!) caps from Crank Brothers for friends back home.

Without sleep you have no faculty to separate yourself from anything you have collected. You manage to smash everything into your bags assuming that a smashed trucker cap will still be perfect for your buddy.

You can sleep on the red-eye

With only a few hours remaining at Vegas the body starts to shut down and feel the pain, but you persevere knowing that the pain is temporary – the loving comfort of a fully upright, economy class airplane seat is waiting for you to call home. A perfectly square blanket that isn’t long enough to cover half of your body, even when diagonal, is ready to keep you warm from the neighbor's vent pointing your direction. What could be better for a trip back home than a to sleep in an upright position fully clothed with no leg room, a cool breeze on your neck, and no pillow (some flights charge for this honor now)?

Your only solace is everyone else on the plane appears to have played the last 72 hours in the exact same fashion - all in.

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