Thursday, September 09, 2010

Running and Driving

Ah Thursdays, I'm always a little slower on Thursdays these days. Thursdays are when I get up early and join a group of friends for an early morning 12+ miler in the Marin Headlands. It's a great group and it has certainly made me stronger especially on the hills. I'm not a morning person though. I like being up late and getting up at 4 AM hurts me. I am good at functioning tired and there is always coffee but one thing I don't do well tired is driving.

I don't have a car but I will rent a vehicle for races. My first 100-mile back in 2004 I had to rush home after the awards ceremony because of an event I was a part of in my church. That first one took me over 27 hours and I was thoroughly beat afterwards. At the parking lot I fell asleep in the car for an hour before the awards ceremony. Halfway through the drive home I had to exit and do jumping jacks on the side of the road to wake myself up. Now there was a sight, myself, trying to do jumping jacks while blistered, sore and stiff. It did work and I was able to make it home without having to pull over again. Well I still find myself in situations where I am driving home from a race tired and exhausted. I'm smarter about taking breaks or not driving at all but it still happens. I'd like to share a post from a member of an email list that I belong to about this very topic. I liked his response and got permission to repost in the blog.

Wanted to chime in on this topic regarding DUI of Ultra's or what I refer to it as"driving while fatigued." Over the last 23 plus years I have investigated
hundreds (probably more than a thousand, I don't keep count) of motor vehicle accidents and the predominant factor continues to be operating a vehicle while
fatigued. Numerous times while interviewing the drivers, invariably someone admits that they have been up for close to 20 hours, and none of these people just got done running for 20-30 hours through the woods. If anyone jumps in their vehicle after completing a 100 mile race, you are literally putting your life at risk as well as those with you and around you.

I recently attended a school titled, "Investigating Fatigue Factors." Although this school was based on accident investigations involving commercial vehicles
and airplanes, the conclusion was the same for automobile accidents. Driving while fatigued led to extremely poor decision making; namely getting into the
vehicle and attempting to operate it in the first place. It was also concluded that the amount of time spent awake prior to driving increases the chance of
becoming involved in an accident. The amount of time used in the studies began at 10 hours, which can't hold a candle to 20 plus straight hours of running.
The level of impairment, yes impairment, increased dramatically as the hours of sleep deprivation increased. Again bad decision making, taking unnecessary
risks coupled with motor skills deteriorating. It was determined that operating a motor vehicle while fatigued was essentially the same as operating one under
the influence of liquor or drugs; the less sleep or more liquor or drugs, the more impaired you will become. Think stumblin and bumblin not to mention
hallucinating out on the trail at 2AM. Would you want to operate a vehicle in that state of mind?

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration oversees and administers commercial vehicle rules and regulations. It was determined that commercial drivers can drive up to 11 consecutive hours but then they must have 8 hours of continuous rest. What do you think they would say about 20 plus hours of running (well for me 34 hours at MMT) and then driving a vehicle?

I will leave you with this, not to be overly dramatic but to give an example on how fleeting life is. Two weeks ago I assisted in an accident investigation
involving a fatigued driver. The young man, 20 years old, went to the casinos with two friends and was up in excess of 15 consecutive hours not to mention
that he had a couple of "beverages." This created a synergistic effect which exasperated the fatigue factor. On his way home he fell asleep and rolled his
vehicle. He survived but his two friends did not. He now faces 10 plus years in prison not to mention the unimaginable burden that this memory will leave.
Something to think about.

So friends, run hard, then sleep harder..................

AJ Johnson
Ocean View, NJ

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