Well! It’s been a couple weeks since my double Everesting attempt. In the biking world: I’ve sufficiently recovered, discovered group rides (?), done a rad women’s gravel clinic, and supported Paul on his own Everest attempt (which went very sideways). Which is to say, I think I’m finally ready to write some thoughts about my own attempt. To that end, a recap:
The day started out at a very reasonable hour, which was a nice change from last time. I started pedaling at about 5:30AM, which was about 15min earlier than planned. It was warm enough to be in shorts and a long sleeve jersey. The very nice folks at Boulder Bicycle Works had popped on a new cassette a few days before the ride, which gave me an extra half gear for climbing. I thought it was silly to get a whole new cassette, but my legs were very happy I had that extra half gear even as early as the first lap.
This is the elevation profile of my climb which was on a hill (Linden) just a few minutes from my house and that I ride regularly:
The average grade is 9.2%, which the max grade hitting about 14%. The beginning is a steep little kicker that got tiring pretty quick. But it would be that orange/red bit about 2/3 of the way in that would really come to be an issue.
The night before I had the realization that I had MISCOUNTED the number of laps I needed to do. I recalculated just before I went to bed, and roughly broke the ride up into sets of 6 laps. I estimated each set would take ~2hrs give or take a couple minutes. I planned for 10-15min breaks in between laps (partially because it took an extra few seconds just to get to the car). I was pretty sure I had to do 37 laps to get the Everest.
The first 3 sets went pretty much according to plan. Paul sat at the car and did work for the first set, which soon brought the sun fully up. By break one I was into my short sleeve jersey and adding sunscreen.
Paul headed home after that, and I did set number two as the sun creeped overhead. The tricky thing about Boulder is that it doesn’t really matter the temperature, if the sun is fully out it feels *hot*. And by 8AM it was already starting to beat down. By 8:30AM I had dubbed the stretch of road where all that orange/red is “the inferno”.
I also realized my Garmin was counting my elevation a little differently than I thought it would. After some math and a determination that my segment was a little wonky, we realized I’d need at least one more lap to hit my first Everest – so 38 laps.
Paul returned one lap into my third set, and joined me for laps 2-5. Things were starting to really heat up by this point, but I was still feeling relatively strong. The GI issues that had plagued me during Everesting #1 last year hadn’t been an issue (probably because I’d been training my gut, and also not drinking quite so much). Still “the inferno” was becoming rough. It turns up into a mini-canyon like area where the wind just doesn’t penetrate unless it’s blowing straight down. It felt like you were slowly being cooked in a hot oven for the few minutes it took to climb that part.
Just under half way, I took a 15min break. I was very thankful for some strawberry lemonade I’d brought with me, as well as ice cold water from the cooler. However, not long into my 19th lap (start of set 4) I realized the heat was starting to take a toll. I decided to push through three laps and then take a quick break to get more fluids in. I was aiming for 5min pause, but it was closer to 10 by the time I got everything taken care of. I don’t think I could have gone much faster. I also added some music to try to push through the next set of 3 laps.
At this point I started slowing down, adding about 2min/lap. I also realized I was dealing with some chaffing from my saddle – unusual for me and also uncomfortable. I didn’t really want to lose time going all the way to car to take of it, but I needed to do something. Thankfully, I had a tiny pack of Chamois Butt’r in my saddle back which I quickly deployed. The 6th lap of that set (lap 24) was hard. And I knew on the way down that I was on the edge of a breaking point. I rolled up to the cars and immediately asked Paul for ice water and sort of plunked myself down into the camping chair we’d brought.
I sat down for what was suppose to be my long 20min break, but I immediately knew I just needed to stop for as long as necessary to regain my oomph. After a cool and rainy start to spring, this was one of the warmer days of the year. I had tried to get heat acclimated ahead of time, but just didn’t have enough hot days to do it. Happily an ice pack, lots of fluids, and some snacks eventually made me feel better. I also changed my chamois and charged my devices. All told, the break was nearly 50min. WAY longer than hoped for, but much needed.
After that it was on to set 5, and Paul was joining me for three laps on/three laps off. The sun was still beaming but slowly, slowly, the clouds started to roll in. Hints of shade and breeze started to appear, and the climb was significantly easier when they did.
By set 6 the clouds had mostly come in, and things were feeling much better. We also got some company from Eric (from Boulder Bike Works) for a few laps which helped to raise spirits and sped up the time!
Throughout the past several hours I’d been thinking about my goal to do the double. For the first set and a half I was pretty committed to it. In the heat, I wasn’t even sure I was going to finish one Everest attempt, much less two. But as we started to get into early evening, the second Everest came back on the table.
The end of set 6 was a funny feeling. I was just over 15hours (elapsed time) into the attempt, and it was originally where I thought I’d be nearly done with Everest one, so I hadn’t allotted any special break. As the sun set and the dark rolled in, I paused for my planned 15min break. Paul wanted to join me for the finish of Everest 1, so we got ready to head out together.
However, as we went to ride away, Paul realized he couldn’t lock his car. The culprit? A dead battery ?♀️ We did a quick shuffle to put any valuables into my car, and he decided to join me to see me finish at least Everest one. At this point, the fatigue was hitting strong. All the work in the heat of the day had taken its toll. Those two laps were quite a bit slower, but about 16hours into the attempt (~9:30PM) I completed the Everest! Given the fatigue I was really thinking the double Everest wasn’t going to happen, but I did still want to make the Everesting 10K (10,000m) stretch goal. I hadn’t been able to do it my first time, and I really wanted to get it this go around.
So we went back down the cars, I took a quick a break to grab a couple extra snacks, and then I headed back up for what was ultimately lap 3 of set #7. While I was doing that, Paul jump started his car from mine and took it for a spin to get his battery charged.
I came down from that lap and took a longer break. I found that I was suddenly ravenous. A black and white cookie, banana bread, and other snacks were very happily consumed. At this point, I had 4 more laps to hit 10,000m. An Everesting is 8,848 m // 29,029ft but the 10K is (obviously) 10,000m // 32,808 ft. So that’s an additional 3,779ft. Doesn’t sound like much, but when you’ve already hit a big goal doing any extra is a major mental challenge.
Still, 10min later I was up and going. It was very dark out, but also pretty quiet. Not a lot of cars and no animals (that I saw), but a small handful of cheery lights in the occasional houses which was nice to see.
By the time I was down from that lap Paul had returned and joined me for another lap up. With two laps to go, I came back for another short break (I was definitely flagging at this point), and then got ready to finish the 10K.
The final two laps were slow. Many things hurt – my knees were sore, my butt was sore, my mouth was dry, and anything over 7% felt like I was biking up a wall. The uphills were still warm, but the downhills were cold. In fact, although the dark slowed me down a bit, it was the cold on the downhill that actually slowed me down the most. I didn’t want to go too fast so I’d stay warmer! The wind also had been picking up for a few hours, and by 10PM I was biking into a solid headwind for the first part of each lap.
I told Paul that I thought I could bike the easier parts (4-6% grade) for another few hours, but the steep stuff was feeling nearly impossible. But I just took it as slow as I needed to and finally, after 18hours and 50min, I hit the top of the last climb!
At this point, I was beat. My legs were (relatively) okay given all they had been put through. But my system was done. I think if I had needed to do ten more laps, I could have taken a break and then restarted. But the idea of doing another 30 laps was totally overwhelming. I knew a 2hour break just wasn’t going to be enough, especially with the return of the sun in the morning. So, I called it, sometime just after midnight.
Ultimately, I ended up having some mixed feelings about the whole thing. I was stoked to have finished a second Everest. I finished it on a steeper hill and in much faster time. In fact, even with the extra elevation I finished faster than I had on my first Everest. I also finished it feeling (generally) better throughout, and definitely with my legs feeling stronger. Plus I hit my 10,000m goal, which took more work than I expected. I know why most people don’t do it – it’s hard to keep going when you’ve already hit such a major goal! Only ~1,400 ppl have done it, and of those less than 100 were women and just 34 were women who completed it outside (as opposed to indoors on a trainer – which is hard for a very different set of reasons, but dealing with darkness and wind isn’t one of them).
On the flip side, I’d missed out on the ultimate goal of the double. I’d trained for it, I’d planned for it, and it didn’t happen. And what’s more, I didn’t even attempt it by taking the nap and starting again. I’d like to think it’s a sign of maturity, since given how I felt I was pretty positive the double wasn’t happening. Despite a lot of other feelings, on that point I still do remain pretty certain. Still.
I feel like I need one more season of hard bike training before I attempt a double again (if I attempt again). It’s still a big, audacious goal. But, for now at least, it’s getting shelved. I said all spring this was getting one good attempt, because then I wanted a break before turning to my racing goals.
Plus, with the help of my most wonderful friends, I raised $650 to benefit some amazing organizations (and contributed to the $100,000 raised from folks from all over the world for the challenge):
All in all, the whole thing felt like much less of an ordeal compared to last time. More casual. More like a very hard ride rather than a lifetime achievement. Quicker recovery, and ‘on to the next’. It’s funny how that happens. I’m not saying I could go ride an Everest whenever I wanted. However, at my current level of fitness, I feel pretty confident I could do another if I felt like it.
But instead I’m planning on just riding for fun all of June. No training schedule, no planned rides, just whatever I feel like doing. I took three days off, and then started back on my bike. 10 days later I did a big ride up into the hills which was just delightful.
Right after that I joined my first Full Cycle group ride – doing a gravel ride on my road bike and ultimately falling off my bike in the silliest spot and driving my knee directly into the dirt (I have a picture, but it’s kinda gnarly looking). I also did a Women’s Gravel Clinic hosted by Ned Gravel (the folks putting on the first gravel race I’ll ever do at the end of July). That was awesome – 30+ women learning gravel skills and riding together for a few hours – SO fun, and so many super strong ladies!
I haven’t yet shored up the time/energy it takes for training (group rides are not great training) with how fun just riding whenever/wherever/however/with whomever I want is. I love feeling super strong on group rides, but I know that I feel that way because I’m training. However, when I’m training, I won’t be able to do as many group rides or random fun rides. It’s not that training rides aren’t fun, but they are more prescriptive I know there’s a balance there, so I’ll be looking to find it as I continue riding.
But for now, I’m enjoying playing on my bike so that I can be stoked on July 5th to join Paul and many of the folks I met during winter BaseCamp for 8 weeks of RPI BaseCamp training ? I’m excited for my FOUR gravel races coming up, and looking forward to learning a lot and trying hard.
Long story short: I’m glad I tried. I’m proud of what I did. I still want a little more.
Ride on ✌?