At one point, Paul had talked about maybe trying his Everest attempt the weekend after mine. I thought that was a fine idea, until I actually went on some rides after my attempt. As I mentioned previously, even rides that I’d used as relatively easy recovery spins felt really hard that first week. And I was tired. The thought of waking up in the middle of the night again was not so appealing.
For better or worse, the weather window actually turned out to be almost exactly two weeks after my attempt. That allowed me to take a couple more days off to rest, after likely trying to get back into things a bit too quickly. By the time the weekend rolled around I was still feeling a bit tired (and my resting heart rate was still a bit high) but overall I was MUCH better. And I was really excited for Paul. I knew this was to be his last attempt in 2020, and I REALLY wanted him to get it.
The plan was to make it happen on Sunday, 9/13. The weather was forecasted to be pretty chilly in the wee hours, going down from about 47 degrees at 3AM to about 43-44 degrees around 6AM. But the highs looked to be in the 70s, meaning there would only have to be a few hours of chilly darkness before the sun came out.
We woke up at 1:15AM, even earlier than we did for my Everest, a combination of Paul wanting to start earlier and his segment being about 30min away. By 2:30AM we were on our way, a happily uneventful middle of the night drive up into the mountains.
He kicked off the ride with a 10min warm up — an attempt to loosen the muscles and warm up the body before starting the more challenging climbing. And by 2:55 AM he was on his way for lap number one.
This time I was much smarter, and brought ALL the warm layers. Warm socks, jeans, puffy pants, flannel shirts, hooded puffy, hat, and gloves. I also brought a larger blanket so I could get extra comfy in the car. I had decided to hang out and see him through the darkest hours, head home for a bit at dawn, and return when he was about half way through. I settled into the car with my Kindle and set a timer for 19min so I could make sure to pop out and see him as he came down each lap.
He had adjusted his segment a bit so that the awful 14% grade wall of pain climb at the end was no longer part of it. This made the average grade a bit easier and each lap a bit shorter, but also meant he had to do more laps.
The morning was indeed cold, and it got colder as forecasted as the hours went on. But he was prepared, adding shoe covers and layers to try and stay warm. Even still, it’s hard not to end up sweating on the way up and getting chilled on the way down. And it’s hard to keep your muscles and your chest happy through all that cold air.
But 5:30AM finally brought first rays of light to the sky. I knew the morning would bring some renewed energy and warmth, and so I decided to head out. I wanted to go grab my bike and get some more snacks.
My time at home was uneventful, though I had an overwhelming fear that SOMEHOW I had forgotten to leave Paul the car key. I had triple checked when I drove off, but without cell service he couldn’t have called to tell me if something was wrong. I nearly drove back up but fought the urge. I tried to sneak an hour long nap, but I couldn’t sleep well. Around 10:30AM I decided to head back up, anxious to hear how things were going.
Jamestown was PACKED when I got back, and I spent the next two hours moving my car multiple times until I eventually landed a space next to Paul’s. I found him a couple laps shy of his halfway point, and quickly threw on my gear to join him.
The sun had come out, and cold weather gear had been replaced with sunscreen, sun glasses, and sweat. But he was right on pace, and in pretty good spirits. I inquired about the leg, the one that caused him to abort his attempt last time. He mentioned it was tight, but he was managing. It didn’t hurt as much as last time, but it wasn’t feeling great. It was causing him to get out of his saddle more, and that was taking up extra energy. Still, we biked on.
And just before noon he officially hit the half way point. If nothing else, this was another half Everest complete! This meant a lunch break and a chance to sit for a bit. Unfortunately, the leg didn’t seem to be loosening up with the break. We were both a bit concerned, but Paul wasn’t ready to throw in the towel yet.
So after about twenty minutes it was time to head out again. The first lap went okay, but it was clear the leg was becoming more problematic. He kept having to make adjustments to get it into a position where it was less painful. And even that wasn’t working too well.
Plus it was hot. The sun was fully overhead and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. Still, even though it had been a bit challenging for Paul to eat a lot at lunch, the fluid he consumed + a bottle of this magical stuff (bought specifically for this purpose) were starting to give him some energy.
However, on the third lap up from lunch everything came to a head.
The heat, and the stomach trouble, and the tiredness were manageable. But the leg/knee was too proving to be too much, even after taking a healthy dose of vitamin I. Incredibly frustrating, especially given the success and lack of pain he’d had biking alongside me during my attempt.
I suggested he finish out this set of four laps and we regroup at the car. But as we started up lap four he called a halt. The pain had become point specific, and he was concerned about damage.
There was some debate back and forth. How much damage was being done? Was there anything else he could do? We took a few minutes under a tree and sipped some water. But it was decided. There was still too much to go, and the pain was too great. We turned around and headed down.
We joked that it was another excellent training ride. A couple miles shy of a century and over 16,000ft of climbing. Incredibly impressive. Still. Not the end to the day we were hoping for. Paul was very good-spirited about the whole thing overall. Probably more so than I would have been. There was just nothing to be done.
I know he was disappointed not to have finished, and I’m quite sad that he was stopped by injury. I’m absolutely certain he has the fitness and mental stamina to complete this. If he hadn’t cared about damaging himself I suspect he could have muddled through even this attempt. But I also know he wants to enjoy the autumn cycling here, complete with the changing of the leaves and the cooler temps. I understand that completely. He already had to take five weeks off outdoor biking this year because of the broken clavicle, and more than one week was “lost” this summer as he tapered and recovered from previous attempts. Why miss MORE biking and risk serious, longterm damage? Not worth it.
I think he made the right choice, but I’m also bummed that this isn’t an endeavor we get to both celebrate completing. I think he’ll try again next year. I hope so. I look forward to him finishing, and to us both buying the silly expensive yet totally coveted jerseys that only an Everesting-finisher can purchase.
Until next time Jamestown parking lot…