This continues my Everesting story from Part 1 – HERE!
We left off with me spinning my way along towards the half way point of the journey. At around 9:15AM I realized I’d just hit 11,200ft of climbing – the height of Mount Hood (tallest mountain in Oregon which I’d climbed a few times). That was a fun feeling! I spent a lot of time thinking about how lucky I was to get to spend a whole day just riding my bike, especially given the state of the world.
I kept cruising through my laps. Around lap 15 my legs definitely started feeling a bit heavier. However, while the sun had come out, the temperature was still relatively comfortable. What was less comfortable was my stomach. On the set of three laps before my halfway point my stomach started cramping up a bit. It felt like there was a pocket of air sitting on the ride side of my stomach. It made it a bit harder to engage my abs on the climb, and I decided to skip my snack at the top of the lap. This feeling would continue on and off for the rest of the attempt, always abating for at least a bit on the downhill (and sometimes for as long as a few laps). I suspect I’d just been trying to force down too much water (and maybe too much food). It was hard to finish a bottle in three laps, and I think my scramble to do so near the end of a set caused some discomfort. I never did get quite into an ideal eating pattern after this.
At lap 19 I saw Paul had returned! He was in the parking lot suiting up to get on his bike. I didn’t think he was going to join me until after my halfway break, so I was a little puzzled. He wasn’t quite ready to head up with me as I made my u-turn, but he came charging up after me a few minutes later and caught me near the top! It was fun to have him there when I celebrated 1/2 way done! If nothing else, I had another 1/2 Everest in the books!
The halfway break was super welcome. I was planning on it being my longest break, 20min, and I was looking forward to the rest. I switched my chamois (shorts). After some, ahem, irritation, in my 1/2 attempt, I was really focused on keeping the parts of me sitting on the saddle for hours in as good of shape as possible. I also switched my jersey, and applied some sunscreen. Cold brew coffee and a peanut butter and honey sandwich awaited me, as did some more cookie dough 😋 But then, just like that, it was time to go again.
I started off at 12:20PM, just a couple minutes over 9hours into the ride. I was still definitely on track for an 18hr ride, which I was excited about. Paul was to join me on this set of three laps, and it was fun to have some company! That being said, my legs were definitely starting to get a bit tired. They weren’t exactly sore or painful, just… tired. Somewhere in here, I remember looking down at my watch and realizing I’d been going for over 10hours. I had hoped the attempt would take me between 18-20hours (18:30 was what I’d planned for in my spreadsheet). When I realized I still had at least 8 hours to go, I was sort of shocked. EIGHT HOURS!? I pushed the thought out of my mind as fast as possible. That wasn’t going to get me anywhere. Just focus on the sets three, and keep pedaling. And like that another couple hours passed, and the bright sun slowly began to be covered by incoming clouds.
This proved a little tricky, because while the clouds didn’t produce any thunder or significant wind (THANKFULLY!), they did produce a light, spitting rain. The humidity shot up, a rarer thing here in CO. I found myself sweating on the way up, and chilly on the way down. In fact, the descents actually started getting cool enough to where I decided to add my very lightweight long sleeve. It stayed fairly breathable for the ups, but gave some protection while I zoomed down.
On my 8th set of 12 (so, laps 23-25) I decided to finally add some music. My legs had felt super heavy on lap 22, and I wanted a boost. I’d purposely downloaded some favorite songs and podcasts, and then saved them for this moment when I knew they’d be most useful. As soon as I heard the first few notes I felt my spirits lift. My first two laps of that set were quite a bit easier, though this was the set where the third lap started to feel really, really hard. Not impossible, just more challenging than expected. Interestingly, I actually wasn’t going that much slower. It was just feeling that much harder.
The traffic noise was also getting old. I had a couple of cars buzz by alarmingly close (even prompting me to shout at one of them). Most cars (and, happily, the big trucks) gave plenty of space. But occasionally a pickup truck would zoom by without giving a thought to me. The traffic was certainly the most dangerous part of this ride.
Still, the 2/3 mark was a welcome moment. I also remembered that I’d read that “your legs will take you to 6,000m [~20,000ft], and your mind will take you the rest of the way”. I knew this is where it was going to start to get hard. The last 1/4 of the ride starts to get a little blurry, but there are some definite things I remember.
Paul joined me for my final set before my 3/4 way break. where he caught some video and images that pretty accurately represent how I was feeling:
At this point I’d completed 115mi, so I was excited to tick off a century ride. It wasn’t yet the longest ride I’d ever done, but I was getting close. It also capped off 500,000ft of human powered elevation for me for 2020 – a goal both Paul and I had set in January. Just two more milestones that felt awesome to achieve!
It was a big deal when I realized I only had 9 laps left. I remembered earlier in the attempt when I celebrated finishing my 10th lap – “double digits!”. Now I could celebrate being able to count the number of laps left on two hands. AND I had a long break awaiting me!
Getting to the 3/4 break felt really good. It was about 5PM and I was still ahead of schedule. I had planned a 15min break, but I decided to take 20min (and actually took even slightly longer than that). I changed into my flip flops (a win!) and sat down on something besides my bike for the first time all day. I hadn’t sat down at any of my previous breaks, but I needed it now. I got some food into me, and just enjoyed not doing anything for a bit. I used baby wipes to clean away sweat and salt (especially in areas prone to chafing or irritation), reapplied sunscreen, drank some more cold brew (I only had one thermos of it, I’m just a slow coffee drinker), and tried to stretch out my hips a bit.
At this point, I was feeling cautiously confident about finishing. As in, I was pretty damn sure I was going to finish but who wants to think that when any number of things can still go wrong. But I had put over 22,000ft behind me, and I was ready to dig deep. I was also SO encouraged by messages of support that were coming into my phone. I was keeping it on airplane mode while riding, but would turn it on for a bit at long rests to post a picture or send a text. Although I couldn’t respond to most of them in real time, it was a really amazing feeling to feel like I had my community cheering for me from all over the place!
Finally, I was ready to go again. With 9 laps left, my plan was to ride 3 by myself with my music. Then, because the third lap was getting really hard to do, I was going to split the final 6 laps into three groups of two (instead of two groups of three). Paul would join me on two, I’d do two by myself, and then he’d join me for my final 2.
Knowing I didn’t want my muscles to get cold, I finally headed out. About 30seconds into the climb I realized I’d forgotten to reapply chamois cream. WHOOPS! But I couldn’t do a partial lap, so I pushed forward. After that lap I made a super fast stop at the car to reapply, and kept at it. I was still trying to eat at the top of the laps, but my mouth had become so dry. I’d been drinking, but I knew I was dehydrated. Honey Stinger protein bars were my saving grace at that point. No other protein bar was soft enough for me to eat. I had brought a ton of food choices, but I was regretting not taking more liquid-y options.
After my 31st lap, with just 6 laps remaining, I circled back into the parking lot. I had a small celebration as I’d hit another milestone – 130 miles complete and the longest ride I’d ever done! But I was definitely feeling it, taking a longer break as Paul got ready to ride with me again. It was about 6:30 PM, and dusk was falling. The dark clouds still loomed overhead and the on and off sprinkles continued.
We cycled up two the laps, and I noticed my pace start to slow a bit, but I was still on track for about 18hrs and 30min total time. We arrived at the car about 8PM with the light fading. As I was grabbing a snack, Paul mentioned he might just keep riding with me. The on and off, slow paced riding left him feeling pretty good, even though finishing with my would bring him to 10,000ft for the day!! I assured him I could do the next two laps myself. I was even looking forward to listening to some tunes. In the middle of this conversation, we suddenly felt a couple rain drops. And like that, without warning, the sky opened up. A full on downpour was upon us. The kind of hard, summer rain you get in late afternoons that just soaks everything. I was standing with my trunk open getting a snack, and suddenly my feet and legs were wet, the stuff at the edge of the car was wet, and I felt my spirits drop a bit. I wasn’t quitting, but this definitely was going to make for a long ending.
“Can you look at the radar?” I asked Paul. The forecast? Continuous rain for the next 60-90min, slowing around 10PM. He suggested maybe we wait it out. I didn’t think my muscles were going to manage a full 60min of doing nothing as the temperatures continued to drop. I added a pair of leggings, found my clear glasses, and kept snacking. We debated for a few more minutes, and in that time it went from torrential downpour to just steady rain. At this point, Paul was definitely in to ride with me, both for company but also to help us be more visible to cars. “Let’s go” I said. I wanted to finish.
It was a cold start, and we had both donned our rain jackets. I had debated adding my rain pants, but I worried about overheating. We had pulled up our hoods under our helmets in an effort to stay dry. However, about a 1/3 of the way up I was sweating. We stopped (the only time I stopped part way up a lap the entire attempt) and removed the hoods. The night had finally come, the clouds making it once again pitch black. We turned on all our lights. The road steamed, bursts of fog rising up 3ft from the surface. The top was a very welcome sight, and we agreed to spend no time there. Instead, we’d return to the car after each lap to dry off and eat.
But the way down was rough. Within moments my shoes were flooded with water, sloshing about on every turn. My rim brakes felt useless and I had to cut my speed significantly and break constantly to hold control (something my arms were very unhappy about this long into the ride). The wind was quite chilly, and the cars (with towels and snacks!) were a welcome sight. We toweled off our glasses, our faces, and our legs. Paul had teased me several hours before as I still had my janky back fender on my bike. I laughed, agreeing I probably could have removed it. Now? I was SO grateful it was there!
The next lap continued in a similar fashion. The rain settled into a more relaxed state – stronger than a drizzle, but not as intense as it had been. However, the rain, cold, and need to towel dry slowed the pace significantly. But still. Almost done! The penultimate lap was maybe the hardest of the whole day. So close, but yet still an hour to go. The weather, long day, and darkness was catching up to me. Plus I was definitely under-fed and dehydrated. I would have been thrilled if it could have been the last lap. I think it was the most tired I was all day. But even still, I felt encouraged – nearly. there.
And then, like that, it was the LAST LAP! I decided to take my time going up (not that I really had a choice with my tired legs 😄) and savor the final moments. The rain finally slowed to a drizzle, and about a quarter way up it stopped completely. The lights of the handful of houses along the route looked warm and cheery, and I think some adrenaline finally kicked in to send me up those last steep bits near the top. A cold, wet ending might not have been my initial plan but I had finished! It took me 19 hours and 15min to get to the top of that last lap (and a little more to bike down again). It was after 10:30 PM, but I was ecstatic!
I took a few extra minutes to enjoy the view, and then headed down the car. There, I stopped my Strava recording to make sure I had counted correctly, that my elevation was actually right. And it was! That’s when I really celebrated (and then immediately packed up all the wet things into bags and prepared to go home!)
That night I got a small snack, threw some of the wet gear into the laundry basket, and submitted my attempt to the Everesting Hall of Fame. Bedtime came just after midnight.
The following few days have been interesting. Tuesday I was absolutely ravenous all day. I woke up at 4:30AM needing to use the bathroom and ready to start eating (I didn’t, I went back to bed until 8AM). My throat was sore (likely from dehydration) for about two days. My legs were quite sore, but not nearly as bad as I feared. I took a nice mile long walk Tuesday night without any issues.
The final conclusion to this whole adventure came when my ride was officially approved! I was in the Hall of Fame, and that could never be taken away. I was, as they say, “crew”. And I was double-y excited that this was the first Everesting attempt on Sunshine Canyon, giving me an extra “yellow badge” signifying a first successful attempt on a route.
Wednesday and Thursday this week I took short spins on my bike to keep my legs loose. The flat, slow rides felt wonderful. Friday and today (Sat.) I went for longer rides (both 32mi). Yesterday’s ride had 2,200ft of elevation, and today about 1,400ft. Both were rides I’d consider recovery rides for my current level of fitness. But both felt harder than anticipated. I do believe that even as the soreness has faded, my muscles are very much still repairing themselves. I’m still quite hungry (though I’m eating through a box of rainbow cookies as I type this!) and still a bit tired.
I plan to continue taking it pretty easy for the next week. I did schedule myself a bike fitting for the new bike, since while my bike clearly can do these amazing adventures, I hear it might be more fun on something a little lighter/faster 😉
I also hope to support Paul on an attempt of his own soon (maybe even on Monday!?). The weather is changing towards fall, though this week is particularly wonky with measurable snowfall predicted on Tuesday.
I suspect early morning rides will cease soon, and afternoon rides will get dark.
I’m not sure what biking for me will look like moving forward, but for now I’m excited to continue riding the high of finishing this massive goal for a while. I’m so grateful to everyone who helped me, but especially to Paul for his marathon assistance for nearly 24hrs. More reflections later, but I wanted to get this written down before I forgot how it felt. Which, all in all, was amazing.