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PBP (1200km) ultra-marathon - can I afford to sleep 8h at night?

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PBP (1200km) ultra-marathon - can I afford to sleep 8h at night?

Old 12-10-21, 11:00 AM
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Morimorimori
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PBP (1200km) ultra-marathon - can I afford to sleep 8h at night?

Hi.
As the next PBP is just a year ahead (2023), I was thinking about trying my first ultra-marathon using this opportunity. One thing still may become a blocker. If I'll decide to try it, I'll have to have a mandatory all-night sleep at least about 8h long (I have some health conditions I need to be wary about, and riding 1200km in 90h is stressful for my heart enough, on its own; riding without proper sleep may end up badly, in such case).

Factoring in my target speed (20-23kph on average, taking into account it's quite a hilly route, I reach 25-28 on average in plains, in endurance pulse zone), my calculations show it's doable in 90h - assuming I'll be starting about 20:00 at the first day, and will ride this one night without a sleep, but next 2 nights will have a proper 8h long sleep.

But I can't understand the restrictions placed by the event's rules, they seem to imply you must honor control points' closure times as well - and those are quite strict. I believe if I'll sleep all night, I won't be able to reach the next CP in time.

So the question is whether or not I have to strictly follow each CP's closing time? Can I, for example, just stop at one of them for the whole night, even if this means I'll be late to all the next CPs since that moment - as long as I'll be able to reach the finish within 90h?

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Old 12-10-21, 11:20 AM
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There have been homologated riders who were tardy at intermediate controls but I would not count on it myself.

If you average 22 kmh that gives a riding time of 55 hours, which allows for 16 hours sleep easily but can you get 2x 8 hours....? It would take a lot of planning to make a good estimate but off the top of my head.....unlikely.

I did around 75 hours in 2019. On the way out, I slept almost 3 hours at Fougeres, 2 hours in the midday sun in Loudeac, and 6.5 hours in Brest. I took a nap in the sun in Loudeac (not sure how long....maybe an hour or so) and then 6 hours in Tintineac for around 17 hours total. I wasn't killing myself on PBP in 2019 but it also fair to say, I can be a faster than average rando.

Your speed numbers suggest to me, given being very efficient at controls, you could start in an early 90H group and get to Carhaix and get a full 8 hours sleep Monday night. Wake up and ride to Brest and return to Tintiniac for maybe 4-6 hours sleep and if all goes well, a nap before smelling the barn.

A possible alternative is you truly can average 23 kph would be starting with the 84H riders Monday at 5 am and if you are financially able to use a travel agent to book rooms for you, to do PBP as 3.5 days and 3 nights. There are riders who ride very little at night.

In reality, I would suggest trying a 200K and 300K.....if you like it, step up to the 400K. That should give you some insight.
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Old 12-10-21, 11:34 AM
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I've already done a few 200k-s, and I plan to complete 300k next year. Also had plans for 400k as well, I suspect I'll be able to overcome it, it's just one sleepless night, with may be 1-2h of sleep along the route somewhere.
But starting 600k, it becomes a problem. Riding 2+ nights without proper sleep is too much strain for my body, and I wouldn't risk it.
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Old 12-10-21, 11:48 AM
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Anecdotal facts:

I started in the 84h group in 2019 and did PBP “the normal way”, with rather minimalistic sleep.

Between Mortagne and Dreux on the way back I was overtaken by five guys from the Alberta Randonneurs. They had also started in the 84h group but were going strong and very fast, almost at the end of the event. I was really wondering what was going on.

Later I found out (by hearsay) that they were known for not liking to ride in the dark. Instead they apparently had two evenings with nice dinners and two full nights of sleep. In the end they were a bit faster than I (but probably also a bit stronger overall, and a very well functioning group of a good size). Tactics can be very different!

Maybe one of them reads this and can confirm or correct the rumors ;-)
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Old 12-10-21, 12:18 PM
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Originally Posted by Morimorimori View Post
I've already done a few 200k-s, and I plan to complete 300k next year. Also had plans for 400k as well, I suspect I'll be able to overcome it, it's just one sleepless night, with may be 1-2h of sleep along the route somewhere.
But starting 600k, it becomes a problem. Riding 2+ nights without proper sleep is too much strain for my body, and I wouldn't risk it.
You have to know your limitations and maybe a 1200k is too much. Many, many randonneurs focus on 200k and 300k distances and rarely go beyond those.

Honestly, a bigger challenge is finding a place logistically where you CAN sleep 8 hours straight on PBP. Usually travel agents will have gobbled up the hotels near controls and that might be a good option. Monday and Tuesday in Loudeac and Wednesday closer to the finish could also be a strategy. Paris to Loudeac is about 445 km and with a Sunday 7 pm start, can you get there by 10 pm (27 hours)? Then sleep til sunrise (6:45 am) and begin the ride to Brest and back, which is sort of like a hilly Double Century but not quite. Sleep again. The last day or so would be a challenge because there is no 8 hour sleep left in that plan. What I am sort of saying, to do PBP with 3 days of riding and 2 nights of 8 hours sleep takes a strong rider with good logistical skills. It is certainly possible
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Old 12-10-21, 01:15 PM
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If you take 8 hours sleep per night I really can't see you making the 90-hour time cut. Even if you take three nights sleep (assuming no need for sleep on the first night as it starts in the evening) you are taking 24 hours out of your 90 hours.

In context, in 2007, I was in the 90 hour group starting on Monday evening but finished in exactly 84 hours on Friday morning having just 4.5 hours sleep spread over the four nights I was on the road.

https://www.bikeforums.net/long-dist...l#post21296868

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Old 12-10-21, 01:58 PM
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Maybe the 84h morning start could actually be easier, with (almost) four full days and only three nights until the cutoff time. If you are fast enough on the road that should require relatively little night riding and a very normal sleep schedule, as opposed to messing up your rhythm by riding through the first night after the 90h start.

84h minus 3x9h for the nights would require an effective average of about 21.5 km/h (including all daytime stops). Not easy, but possible with efficient stops.

The other critical issue is to accumulate enough time in the bank before the two evenings, so that sleeping does not get you behind the cutoff times of the morning controls.

Last edited by siebengang; 12-10-21 at 02:03 PM.
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Old 12-10-21, 03:02 PM
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Miscellaneous thoughts from me... hopefully you can find a diamond or two in the dunghill.

I had gotten interested in, and briefly tried, polyphasic sleep a few years before doing PBP in 2015. While I didn't stick with it for more than a couple weeks at a time, it gave me some tools that came in handy. It's amazing how much a 5-20 min nap helped when I felt myself getting too drowsy. And getting a 1.5 hour nap in Fougeres on the way out really helped. For this to work, you can't have a lot of caffeine or other stimulants in your system -- I liken it to skipping a stone across a pond.

If nothing else, being able to break up your sleep into 3-4 hour chunks would go a long way toward making this feasible. I'm curious (but won't pry) what medical condition requires sleep in 8+ hour blocks... having a randonneuring friend who can do the ride with you may be something to consider, for safety.

+1 on GhostRider's comment about being efficient when stopped. I wasted countless hours in 2015 on things that shouldn't have been necessary: trying to find the right cable to connect my battery pack to my headlight (I'd packed a USB micro when I needed a USB mini, or vice versa, d'oh!), buying additional batteries for the taillight, finding and buying arm and leg warmers because it was much colder at night than I expected, buying more ibuprofen when I ran out, and trying to find electrolyte supplements when I feared I hadn't gotten enough. And all of these were hampered by my non-existent French-speaking skills.

In 2023, I hope to have more time for sleep thanks to dyno lights, packing lightweight arm and knee warmers (and potentially doing more of my sleeping during the coldest parts of the night), packing more ibuprofen but ideally needing it less, and consuming a more complete stream of nutrition as I go. And speaking better French.

I'm on the fence about trying the 84-hour group versus just going with the 90 again. On one hand, I think I could definitely get the whole thing done a few hours faster (and go back to bed sooner!) with better preparation, but on the other hand a lot of things did go well in 2015 (no flats or crashes during the ride!) and the universe doesn't owe me the same luck next time...
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Old 12-10-21, 03:45 PM
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It is very easy to spend 20-60 minutes at each of the what is it....13 controls.

Most brevets I don't really care about time but sometimes, it is important to practice being efficient getting thru controls. I set a hard limit of 5 minutes on local brevets and am happy if it is 3 minutes. OP could practice such extreme efficiency in order to sleep. The drawback is constantly joining a new group on PBP.

OP mentioned 400K just being one sleepless night. I would think a little different. Most 400k in USA anyway begin at 4 am. With 20-23 kmh, you should try to learn to ride as efficiently as possible to finish around midnight on a not too hilly route. why? To get the kind sleep you need, you must be miserly with time at controls. In southern New Jersey, that is pretty easy but in Pennsylvania, it is pretty darned hard. PBP averages 1% or 50 feet of climbing per mile. Not really hilly but not flat. Often, randonneurs will do about 400k on the first day and sleep 3-6 hours. On my first 600K back in the day, I slept thru the alarm and the sun woke me up. I did not even pack my stuff. I jumped on the bike and put it on the big ring. I was late to the next control, but they let me slide as long as I finished under 40 hours. It took two years in a row doing a SR series for them to let us into PBP. Probably not a bad idea and would strongly suggest OP not have PBP be their first attempt. Maybe try a 1000K this year?? Sorry for the ramble.
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Old 12-10-21, 07:57 PM
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I would get some 600k's finished before I even thought about a grand randonnée. Much less traveling to France for my first grand randonnée. Of course, pbp was my first 1200k, but I'm here to tell you it's a bad idea. And that was my 4th season and I had finished 4 SR series. It would have gone so much better had I ridden a 1000 or 1200 in the U.S. because most of those rides have a lot more structure and operating on automatic is very important when you have been riding for a couple days straight.

If someone is very fast I would have fewer concerns.
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Old 12-11-21, 02:21 AM
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OP....if you have experience riding in pacelines, another strategy would be to ride a very early wave, say 5:30 pm start on Sunday and latch onto fast groups and ride right to Brest arriving in under 30 hours. Sleep there and then again for 8 hours halfway back. You have to be able to climb fairly well.

To repeat my suggestion in more detail. Do a few 200K this spring and focus on skills and logistics for efficiency. Then, do a 300K. I would treat the 400k as a final exam of your logistical and efficiency. If you can finish a moderately hilly 400k in around 20 hours with less than 90 minutes stopped, you have an outside chance at getting the sleep you require. If you can do a moderately hilly 400K in under 18 hours, I am sure you could meet your goal if you can manage the controls. If it takes 21-25 hours to do the 400k as it does many randonneurs, you won't get a ton of sleep on a 1200k. If you decide to go beyond 400k, try to get a 1000k under your belt before PBP. I failed my first PBP and had done two SR series and much more in prep, my failure was due to my stupidity. After 200-300K, it is all mental and some of that is knowing what not to do. Most people like me have to learn this the hard way by experience. You need to get that experience......this year. PBP is not easy.
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Old 12-12-21, 10:16 AM
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If I was fast enough to get 8 hours of sleep a night, I would get 5 hours of sleep a night and spend 3 hours a day in cafes and stopping to talk with locals. Okay, I did spend 3 hours stopping to talk with the locals and it got me behind on the clock, so it probably was a bad idea. Not to say I would change it though.

You can close a control, nobody is keeping track. If it were a domestic 1200k, they would know but they wouldn't care. On PBP, there is no way to know without scrupulously investigating your start time and they don't even do that when you show up to get a stamp upon incoming. The main problem is there are always 2 secret controls. And they are almost always right after Loudeac. If you are going fast enough, don't stop at Loudeac to sleep. Stop at St Nick outbound and Quedillac on the return. If you are a normal human, Loudeac is a great place to stop for sleep on the outbound and the retour.
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Old 12-12-21, 02:27 PM
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Don't overlook the usefulness of speed. PBP is a ways away. Between now and then, working to increase speed is a worthwhile endeavor. The combination of stop efficiency and moving speed can give you the time you need.
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Old 12-12-21, 03:26 PM
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I remember that someone saw Lon Halderman's bike on PBP, and it had a list of control opening and closing times. They were surprised that he worried about that because he was so fast, but he was planning on getting 8 hours of sleep each night.
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Old 12-12-21, 05:45 PM
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Originally Posted by downtube42 View Post
Don't overlook the usefulness of speed. PBP is a ways away. Between now and then, working to increase speed is a worthwhile endeavor. The combination of stop efficiency and moving speed can give you the time you need.
That reminds me: working on flexibility and neck strength are also good ideas between now and then. To help you hold more aerodynamic positions (even if just a little more), and to be able to hold your head up toward the end of a long ride.
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Old 12-13-21, 06:14 AM
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Originally Posted by downtube42 View Post
Don't overlook the usefulness of speed. PBP is a ways away. Between now and then, working to increase speed is a worthwhile endeavor. The combination of stop efficiency and moving speed can give you the time you need.
So true. Increasing average speed 10% from 20 to 22 km/h saves almost 6 hours towards that 8 hour respite. Ways of doing that are beyond my silly post here but wanted to share how I see PBP terrain and where time can be saved. I see it as 440 miles of relatively flat riding, 160 miles of moderate climbing and 160 miles of moderate descending. In terms of time, it is 50% flat, 40 % climbing and 10% descending. Increasing speed 10% on the flats riding solo is really hard, it takes around 30% more power whereas it only takes 10% more power to increase speed 10% when climbing. (Of course).

To pick on myself, I am overweight now and to point out one way to get faster. If my bike and me weigh 100Kg and I can pedal with good solid effort at 200 watts, I am climbing at 2 W/Kg. If I lose the 20 Kg of lard, my total weight is 80Kg. If I also increase my fitness to 240 watts, my climbing ability is now 3 W/Kg. This means I can climb 50% faster. In terms of time, it saves our slightly lardy rider 6.5 hours overall on PBP.

Improved climbing has a hidden benefit. You can easily stay with groups (not getting dropped) and get the benefit of a draft where the speed benefit is more than 10%.
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Old 12-13-21, 11:25 PM
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Have you run this plan by your doctor? I’m no cardiologist, but if getting less than 8 hours of sleep is dangerous for you, I have a hard time seeing how riding 1200km in 90 hours would be safe. 8 hours or no it’s a huge strain.
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Old 12-14-21, 05:17 AM
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Originally Posted by samkl View Post
Have you run this plan by your doctor? I’m no cardiologist, but if getting less than 8 hours of sleep is dangerous for you, I have a hard time seeing how riding 1200km in 90 hours would be safe. 8 hours or no it’s a huge strain.
I was thinking the same thing. I can't see how a person with a heart condition should be riding more than 200k, but I'mno doctor. More exercise is not healthier past a certain point. Some rando is past that point, unfortunately. Let's no fool ourselves into thinking this stuff is good for us.
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Old 12-14-21, 07:44 AM
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I don't think OP indicated the nature of the medical condition, I assumed he has had medical clearance and assumed it was not cardiac related.

I have always had some timing issues with the ticker giving me sleep issues. I had some issues leading into PBP and ended up seeing 4 different Cardiologists (One surgeon, one EP, Two sports specialist Cardiologists) with all the tests, some twice. They all said I should do my long distance riding and were 100% supportive. If OP has not been cleared and checked for whatever ails, he/she should do so for sure.

To get a true 8 hours straight sleep on a grand randonnee, it has to be a hotel room and that is the logistical challenge in rural france. My plan in 2019 was to sleep a long sleep in Brest and I had a hotel booked, I just made the stupid mistake of thinking it was going to be easy to find. I ultimately gave up looking for it and slept at the control Monday night. If a rider can get to Brest Monday night (say 28-30 hours), they have essentially two full days to return back making it a hard 600K and a leisurely touring 600k. There are quite a lot of hotels about halfway back in Fougeres, too.
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Old 12-14-21, 08:35 AM
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Originally Posted by GhostRider62 View Post
I don't think OP indicated the nature of the medical condition, I assumed he has had medical clearance and assumed it was not cardiac related.


I have always had some timing issues with the ticker giving me sleep issues. I had some issues leading into PBP and ended up seeing 4 different Cardiologists (One surgeon, one EP, Two sports specialist Cardiologists) with all the tests, some twice. They all said I should do my long distance riding and were 100% supportive. If OP has not been cleared and checked for whatever ails, he/she should do so for sure.

I (and @samkl too, most likely) was reacting to the part I bolded below.


It seems to me that it's important that the doctor in question has some experience with endurance athletes and really understands what both the prior training and the event itself will entail. Some heart problems can be caused by too much cycling intensity for too long over too many years, but who knows if that applies to the OP.


All I know is that a hard 300K feels more stressful than getting a lousy/short nights sleep.


Originally Posted by Morimorimori View Post
Hi.

As the next PBP is just a year ahead (2023), I was thinking about trying my first ultra-marathon using this opportunity. One thing still may become a blocker. If I'll decide to try it, I'll have to have a mandatory all-night sleep at least about 8h long (I have some health conditions I need to be wary about, and riding 1200km in 90h is stressful for my heart enough, on its own; riding without proper sleep may end up badly, in such case).
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Old 12-14-21, 08:45 AM
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I guess I interpreted OP's post wrong. He should get clearance. Trying to get 8 hours sleep on such an event is darned near impossible unless your initials are LH.

My average HR on a long brevet is often under 100 BPM and never above 120. My Cardiologists told me they would be more worried about orthopedic issues than cardiac doing such a long rides. Nonetheless, I do agree too many long distance events can be counterproductive. Interestingly, Mark T. had a coach helping him prepare for a Charly Miller ride and she cut his mileage and brevet schedule rather significantly. So, you have a good point Steamer.
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Old 12-14-21, 08:46 AM
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Yeah, that's concerning. But there has been research done on how much sleep you need, and at least one study found that 8 hours is too much. I would be ecstatic to get 4 1/2 hours of sleep a night. You get over it pretty quickly. Randonneuring has taught me how to sleep and I'm a lot better at it now.
However, I don't think a 1200k is all that stressful. The most dangerous thing about PBP for the majority of participants is the flight home, because there is a slightly elevated chance of having a stroke. Wear compression socks.

My opinions on this may be colored by my approach, which was to ride a number of 200km brevets before my first series, then a number of super randonneur series before my first 1200k. After having 4 super randonneur series done, nothing about PBP was surprising. Except maybe that it was easier than I thought it would be.

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Old 01-03-22, 08:48 AM
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Originally Posted by GhostRider62 View Post
I guess I interpreted OP's post wrong. He should get clearance. Trying to get 8 hours sleep on such an event is darned near impossible unless your initials are LH.

My average HR on a long brevet is often under 100 BPM and never above 120. My Cardiologists told me they would be more worried about orthopedic issues than cardiac doing such a long rides. Nonetheless, I do agree too many long distance events can be counterproductive. Interestingly, Mark T. had a coach helping him prepare for a Charly Miller ride and she cut his mileage and brevet schedule rather significantly. So, you have a good point Steamer.
“ My Cardiologists told me they would be more worried about orthopedic issues than cardiac doing such a long rides.” People don’t drop dead from orthopaedic issues.” That being said, you need to be careful to get advice from a cardiologist who knows what he/she is talking about - I.e. exercise physiology etc. some don’t (I know!) and will take the default position of ‘advising caution’.
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Old 01-03-22, 10:27 AM
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GhostRider62
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Originally Posted by tomgdaly View Post
“ My Cardiologists told me they would be more worried about orthopedic issues than cardiac doing such a long rides.” People don’t drop dead from orthopaedic issues.” That being said, you need to be careful to get advice from a cardiologist who knows what he/she is talking about - I.e. exercise physiology etc. some don’t (I know!) and will take the default position of ‘advising caution’.
I saw four Cardiologists and eventually one who specializes in endurance athletes (Ironmen and Ultra Marathoner types). So, I agree with you.

I had every test done. I have a problem but they don't know what it is.

It is hard for me to divine why someone must have 8 hours sleep on any night. I'm clearly not a Doc. But, I have not had more than 4 hours per night for 3 months and I am alive. Getting 8 hours nightly on a Grand Randonnee is quite the challenge. It could be done.
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