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Paris Brest Paris(10 posts)

Paris Brest Paristhe flying bean
Nov 26, 2002 6:05 AM
Me and a mate are hoping to qualify for the 2003 PBP. We've done 200k and 300k rides but have never experienced riding through the night. Could anyone out there tell of their experiences of doing their first PBP, especially relating to sleep deprivation and night riding! Thanks very much in anticipation.
P-B-P = Not Much Sleep (pas de dormir)Dale Brigham
Nov 26, 2002 7:09 AM
Dear Flying Bean:

I've only done PBP one time (1999), and I too hope to qualify for 2003. Regarding the qualifying brevets, the 200, 300, and 400 km rides are really just "day rides," meaning that no overnight is needed. The 600 km brevet is longer, of course. I did mine as a 400 km first day and 200 km second day. Again, not much sleep deprivation. PBP itself is very different from the brevets in this respect.

The amount of sleep deprivation you will experience in PBP depends on 1) the starting group you choose, and 2) how fast you ride. As you may already know, PBP has three starting groups, designated by the maximum finish time for each group: the 80, 84, and 90 hour groups. The 80 and 90 hour groups start at night (8 p.m. and 10 p.m., respectively), and the riders go all night and into the next day until resting. The 84 hour group starts the next morning (at 5 a.m.); that's the group I chose to be in for the 1999 PBP.

I chose the 84 hour start because I wanted to try to maintain (as much as possible) a normal circadian (day/night) rhythm. That is, ride in the day, and sleep at night. If you choose the 80 or 90 hour groups, you immediately turn that upside down, since you start out by riding all night. Some argue that such a disruption is not a factor, but I thought otherwise.

My four riding "days" were approximately 300, 200, 200, and 100 miles long (the '99 PBP course was a bit long -- about 780 miles rather than the advertised 750 miles). My riding partner and I rode until 2 a.m. or later the first 3 days, and with showering and other housekeeping duties and getting to and from our lodging, we got less than 4 hours of sleep a night (2 to 3 hours, usually). I had hoped to ride faster, perhaps finishing our days by midnight each day at the latest, but ce la vie!

Miraculously, I never felt that sleep deprivation was a problem. First, the excitement of the event keeps you going. Literally thousands of other randonneurs are out there on the road, and you will likely be in a clump of at least a few at all times. Second, the intermediate checkpoints (controls) allow for good rest breaks and cat-napping. You can even get massages at the controls. Third, there's always big bowls of French coffee at the controls and (this is what makes PBP the greatest event in the world) being given away to riders by folks on the side of the road. Fourth, the French people buoy you along with their encouragement. It's like nothing I've ever experienced in thirty-plus years of racing and riding.

Don't worry about sleep (or lack thereof), is my advice. PBP has an energy that will carry you to the finish.

Bonne Route!

P-B-P = Not Much Sleep (pas de dormir)the flying bean
Nov 26, 2002 7:24 AM
Thanks very much Dale. Very encouraging. May see you there next year.

Night riding during PBPDale Brigham
Nov 26, 2002 9:11 AM

I almost forgot that you also asked me about the night riding. In short, it is beautiful and safe to ride at night during PBP. It actually was my favorite time to ride. The relative heat of the day is gone and a new kind of beauty descends on the countryside. For example, in Brittany, the towns are typically built on hilltops, and at night when you peer across from a ridge to the valley below, they look like lighted ships on the ocean.

To top it off, there were clear skies and a full moon on the nights of the '99 PBP. There was almost enough ambient light to ride without headlamps. The roads were great (I never saw a single pothole), and the auto drivers (which were quite scarce at night) were both skillful and courteous.

I've done rando events in the States that required night riding, and it's been generally been a fearful and unpleasant experience. Night riding during PBP is a joy.

I will see you in Paris next August, Bean!

Bonne chance!

French Grammar check.Uncle Tim
Nov 26, 2002 1:13 PM
"Dormir" is a verb meaning "to sleep". "No sleep" would be accurately translated as "pas de sommeil", with "sommeil" being the accurate translation of the noun "sleep".

Il dort = he's sleeping or he sleeps.
J'ai sommeil = I'm sleepy.
No sleep = pas de sommeil.
Lack of sleep = manque de sommeil.

Not being critical, just trying to help. :)

Best of luck on PBP. Maybe I'll try that...
Words and other considerations..PatC
Nov 27, 2002 4:34 AM
I'll take advantage of your knowledge in the two languages, Tim.What would 'je n'ai pas fermé l'oeil de la nuit' be in English ? Would 'I couldn't get a wink of sleep' be OK ?
Because, to my mind, that's what PBP participants must experience a few nights before leaving for the 1200 km-long ride !
I haven't taken part in it yet. Actually I plan to have a try at it for the next edition (a pity I'll have to wait for another 4 years), it takes so much preparation.
Anyway, Dale and Bean, you should be mentally ready to have to face rain, because these parts of France may prove to be quite rainy - and when it starts raining, it may well go on for a few days. And it must be something of an ordeal to cycle at night, shivering from wet cold !!
Merci!Dale Brigham
Nov 27, 2002 6:54 AM

Thanks! I speak only "Tarzan French": "Me Dale. Me American." I appreciate your correction of my abyssmal French. Butchering a lovely language (and being graciously forgiven by the natives for my transgressions) is only one of the many charms of PBP.

My '99 PBP French language "howlers" include telling a group of kids who were handing out cider how friendly I am (I meant to compliment them on their friendliness). Made me sound like a child molester, I fear. Also, flustered at having lost my mandatory reflective vest out of my jersey pocket, I recall telling a PBP official that I am lost (meant to tell him that I lost the vest). May have actually told him that he was lost.

My wife got me a French language computer-based learning program. I better get on that before August.

Don't mention it !PatC
Nov 27, 2002 10:09 AM
And let me tell you, I doubt that you have enough time until August 2003 to get ready both to speak fluent French and to have an 'easy' time for PBP !
But you can try to master a few handy phrases, for sure ! Though getting them right at a time of utter exhaustion may prove difficult. Anyway I figure most French kids should be able to understand a few English words, the same goes for officials. You might even happen to ride with a participant who is fluent in French and English - that would be the best by far, wouldn't it ?
By the way,you don't say whether the official provided you with another reflective vest .....
Huh, huh, huh.....hey Beavis he said Brest.grzy
Nov 27, 2002 11:01 AM
Haven't done PBP, but have done a bit of night riding and a whole lot of sleep deprivation thanks to the Navy. Essentially you're trying to manage fatigue and boredom. You can do a lot with your training and conditioning before hand and being all pumped up for the event is great, however none of this will help if you don't manage your nutrition and effort during the event. You can fall asleep with your eyes wide open. Having another person keeping you going is very important and reminding each other to keep the calorie intake up and the energy output sustainable is critical.

I'd advise that you schedule some long ass training rides through the night just for fun. You need to experience the differences, see how your body reacts, and learn about the type of things that can go wrong. Once you get the hang of it and aquire the proper equipment riding at night can be a total hoot. You'll see and notice things that you wouldn't otherwise during the day. You also need to learn your body's warning signs for when things aren't going so well - they can be both subtle and sudden. Having a partner is helpful in terms of both objectivity and safety. Invest in good lighting systems and reflective gear - it's way cheaper than hospital bills.
hey Bean, you must be nuts!Old Dog New Tricks
Nov 28, 2002 6:22 AM
Hey Bean, you must be nuts! So am I. Looking forward to riding it with you.