So, I am afraid. I am not afraid of the distance or the climbing. Ok, I AM a little afraid of the downhills. But I am REALLY afraid of the sleep deprivation.
Anyone who knows me is probably also afraid for me. I am not one of those people who loves to sleep. I can’t sleep in (faire une grace matinée), for example. In fact, if I am not out of bed by 5h30 or 6h00 in the morning, I feel like I’ve wasted part of the day. But then again, after 9 at night, I am a zombie. Anyone who has had the bad fortune of inviting me to a party or late dinner can confirm this. I am the worst guest in the world, as I struggle to stay awake at the dinner table or make conversation at the party. It almost always ends in someone saying, “Wow, you look really tired. Maybe you should go home.” And I am usually the first to leave, much to the embarrassment of my husband, Eric.
It is just that way and it has always been that way for me.
I have good sleep hygiene: in bed at the same time every night and awake at the same time every morning. So, what is the problem?
The problem is the approximately 5 days we will have to stay awake during the Tor, with an estimated maximum of 10 hours sleep. How am I going to do it? Or how am I going to do it without falling off the side of a mountain or tripping over rocks and breaking all my teeth. That’s my nightmare!
To calm my fear, I read about how to deal with sleep deprivation in endurance events, here http://www.angelfire.com/electronic/ultramentor/articles/2000sleep.html and I felt a bit better. Just try to sleep at the same time every day and take 10 minute micro-sleeps when needed, with your head on your sack and your feet elevated. I can do that. Infact, research shows that muscle fatigue is less after 200 miles than after 100 miles. Hurray!!
But, then I looked into the reality, here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j9GvFOrMuaU Nickademus Hollon’s video on hallucination stories from the Tor des Geants in 2014. See also
Now, I’ve hallucinated before, during the Diagonale des Fous. Not the first time I did it, in 39 hours with 30 minutes of sleep; but the last time I did it, in nearly 60 hours with 3 hours of sleep, (feeling a little less well!). I’ve had the vision that is like television screen “snow”; I didn’t know where I was or how I got there; I saw kids and animals on the trail at night, where there were only rocks and plants. But I’ve never had any of THAT on mountains as high as 3,000 meters (about 10,000 feet), on trails that drop off hundreds of feet on one side.
Is a 10 minute micro sleep and a gel with caffeine going to keep me from falling asleep when and where I definitely should NOT be falling asleep? Are they going to keep me on the trail, when it seems that the rocks are rolling like waves under my feet and the roots are snakes climbing up my legs?
I really don’t know. And I guess I won’t know until I’m in the moment. As Hamlet said, “…to sleep, perchance to dream – ay there’s the rub…”