Team Novo Nordisk has an exotic race calendar that sees us compete in a smorgasbord of countries around the globe. Even in the first few months of this year, I had turned the pedals in Spain, Australia, the Philippines and Brazil. For me, this is fantastic because it means I get to see some of the lesser-visited places on Earth but on the downside, it also means a LOT of transit.
As well as fending off thrombosis and water retention, crossing so many time zones so frequently also means a constant battle with jet lag. Sleeping patterns and circadian rhythms go out the window and don't get me started on what it does to other bodily functions.
To give you an idea, a few weeks ago, I left Spain and went three hours ahead for the Tour d'Azerbaijan. After a week there, I went back to Spain for one night before moving nine hours behind for the Amgen Tour of California. Then I had another overnight in Spain before gaining an hour at the Tour of Estonia. One hour may not be much, but when Spain exists in a time zone of its own, a few hours behind the rest of Europe, one hour can make a big difference! After Estonia, I had three more nights back in Spain before gaining seven hours flying to where I am currently laying wide awake in bed.
Last three weeks:
- Spain→Azerbaijan = gain three hours
- Azerbaijan→Spain = lose three hours
- Spain→California = lose nine hours
- California→Spain = gain nine hours
- Spain→Estonia = gain one hour
- Estonia→Spain = lose one hour
- Spain→Korea = gain seven hours
I'm actually writing this blog at 2:30 am in Korea, two days before the Tour de Korea starts. I have to admit, I’m pretty angry at my Spanish teammate, David Lozano, because he is somehow fast asleep, comfortably snoring in his bed at a respectable time.
My Fitbit says that last week my average sleep was 5hrs 4mins per night. Not ideal when you consider that I am supposed to be racing and recovering.
They say that for every one hour of time difference, you need one day for your body to adjust. When we travel to a race, we usually get one day to adjust... period. It doesn’t matter if it is nine hours difference or three. There are things that you can do to make it easier. One way is to fight off sleep during a flight, so I have a better chance of sleeping later. Another is degrading myself and drinking decaf, so it doesn't keep me awake. But I am only human!
Some teammates (an Irish one in particular) seem to be immune to jet lag. We call him the King of Sleep. No matter where he is, how much travel he has done or how much sleep he has had the day before, Stephen Clancy can fall asleep within minutes of closing his eyes. Not only this, but he can wake up 12 hours later, oblivious to the fact that I have been staring at him enviously for the last four hours from my bed on the other side of the room.
I try everything... Counting sheep, reading the race book, listening to classical music or even early Coldplay, but nothing works, and it always ends up the same: playing Crushing Candy until I run out of lives and then just laying there twiddling my thumbs.
Getting three hours of sleep the night before a stage race is not ideal. To be honest, it's pretty annoying, but sometimes it's just unavoidable. After a couple of stages, the physical tiredness usually nulls the jet lag, yet the tiredness is probably enhanced by the jet lag itself. It's a vicious circle.
I know that time travel isn't possible (yet?) but I'm pretty sure that I have mastered it.
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