Get 'next-level' tough – Bike Magazine Australia

They don’t come much tougher than Sarah Cooper, 45, from Iowa. The mum of four, who’s been known to fire up some Slipknot to fuel her 3:30am indoor training sessions, fell into ultra-endurance sports via triathlon in 2008.

That “very slippery slope,” as she calls it, soon saw her lining up for Ironman races before going all in as a long-distance road and gravel racer. And we’re not talking just any gravel races. In 2016 alone, Cooper won the soul-crushing, self-supported Trans-Iowa race, which traverses more than 480km of often barely passible “roads,” and dominated Race Across the West, a 1500km odyssey from California to Colorado, in just two days, 11 hours, and 59 minutes.

That was all just a warm-up to this year’s big show, Race Across America (RAAM), where Cooper crossed all 4,940km of a continent in 11 days, 18 hours, and 56 minutes. She was first solo woman, 10th in the entire elite field, and Rookie of the Year. Quitting never crossed her mind – for any of it. Here’s her advice on how to get it done.

Get up wicked early

During the week, Cooper gets up at 2:30 (yes, you read that right) in the morning to train, which means winding down her day by 8pm and being in bed by 9pm. Admittedly, this works best if you’re a person who functions well on little sleep. “On an average weeknight I get four to five hours of sleep,” she says. “During heavy training weeks, I’ll try for seven hours. And I take naps when I can. I’m frequently seen dozing in my car while waiting to pick up my kids.”

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