My mate Scott told me about Everesting in 2014. We had done a few Ironman races together, and were pretty keen to sink our teeth into any endurance challenge that we could find. Still, I thought the idea just sounded dumb. Seriously, what was the damn point? Ride repeats of a hill, until you have done a shed-tonne of elevation gain, and at the end you get….. a self five for achieving it. Yeah, nah.
Then I started caring less about triathlons, and focused a whole lot more on cycling. It wasn’t a conscious decision, it just sort of happened. I was riding as a tour guide during the Tour Down Under, and for whatever reason, I suddenly had a compulsion to complete an Everesting. Weird. It just came out of nowhere, and all of a sudden this was the most important thing that I could think of to do on a bike.
I read everything I could find online. Every article, anything that would talk about the experience. Obsessive kind of stuff, I just wanted to know! Pretty sure I learned everything and nothing from reading those articles. It would be hard, eat lots, you will get tired, it will take a long time. Coincidentally this is pretty much the same advice I would give someone now…
I decided late March would be a sterling time to knock out the ride. I was using the TDU week to prepare for the 3 Peaks event in early March, so I’d have two weeks after that to wind down, and then give it a shot. I put it out as an idea to a couple of mates, and they were both pretty keen. We tossed around a few ideas for hills to try, before eventually deciding that Pound Road would be the winner. 2.6 kilometres long, 8% gradient, beautiful, quiet, country road.
3 Peaks came and went, and I smashed it. Rode it easy. It actually felt too easy, and I could have gone a lot harder. Oh well, it was bloody enjoyable riding those mountains in Victoria. With a couple of weeks to go, both mates pulled out. They had also ridden 3 Peaks, but they were a bit burned out, and didn’t want to roll as hard as I did.
The day drew near, and I still had no idea of what to expect. I only knew 1 guy who had done it before, and even then, I didn’t know him that well. I had checked the Everesting Hall of Fame, and estimated that an average duration was something like 18 hours. I figured I was a good average bloke, so guessed that it would take me that long as well. I wanted to finish before sunset, so decided to start at midnight. From having ridden in 24 hour MTB races before, I knew that sunrise would be a huge boost to my mood. Starting at 12, I’d be able to ride for several hours on the excitement of the ride, then as I started to flag a bit, the sun would come up, and I’d be good to go again. Then ride my guts out to finish by sunset. That was as much of a plan as I had…
Tim was one of the mates that was originally supposed to do the ride with me. He still picked me up, and drove me out to the start, helped me set up, and then rode the first 6 laps with me. It was cool. Like actually cold. At the bottom of the hill it was like someone had left the door to the freezer open all night, you could feel it getting colder on the way downhill. I wore sleeves, and a vest and a jacket, and would still be cool. But the climb jumps into double-digit gradient for the first part, so I’d quickly unzip and push the sleeves up to avoid overheating on the climb. It was a delicate balance.
Tim stopped, and went and sat in his ute. He wanted to make sure I stayed alive until sunrise, so he checked on me sporadically. Bugger me if I know how, but riding up and down that hill in the cold and the dark, I was having an awesome time. I had a fat grin on my face, and got lost in the zone, the rhythm of climbing and descending was really enjoyable. I noted I was taking about 20 minutes per lap, and joked to Tim that I would be done by 2 o’clock at this rate.
Sunrise. Thank you to whoever created sunrise. It is the greatest gift an everester can receive. NOTHING lifts the spirits more. It is indescribable how the slow increase from total darkness, following just a circle of artificial light, through the soft glow of the pre-dawn, and into the first breaking rays of the sun can lift the spirits of a rider immensely. The best feeling. The best Jerry, the best.
Tim left, and I was on my own riding. Some people would come past, and I’d smile. They didn’t know what was happening, and they just continued on their way. Up and down, up and down, up and down. I’d eat and drink something on every lap. A 30 second stop to grab something from my table on the roadside, and back down the hill to begin another lap. It was easy. It was too damn easy. Everybody had said it was supposed to be hard, but I was rolling up and down at the same pace lap after lap, and was having no troubles at all.
A few mates came past occasionally, but I hadn’t told many people, so I mostly rode alone. My wife and kids came past for a visit, and it was great. That always lifts the spirits, having my little ratbags yelling out “Go Daddy!” makes me feel like superman.
I started to get a little worried. Everyone talked about “The Death Zone” which exists when you get above 7000 metres of gain. This is supposed to be when it gets really hard, and when a lot of people pull out. No damn idea how, but I STILL felt awesome. No pain, a little fatigue, a little boredom, but awesome sauce was being poured over my whole day. Pretty soon it was midday, I’d been at it for 12 hours, and I was well over 7000 metres of gain.
It was about now that James rocked up. I was half way up a climb, and some dude was coming down hill the other way in a white jersey. He had a pig ugly pair of fluoro green glasses on. He was as skinny as all hell, and was smiling profusely. He stared at me as he went past, and then turned around and rode up to me. “Are you the Everester?” he asked. Now that blew me away! How the hell did he know? He was a total stranger. Apparently a mate of mine had put something up online about it, James had seen it, and wanted to come out. He had everested previously on Mt Osmond (the shit side), and was just enthusiastic about the process.
I’m going to be honest, James was as annoying as stepping in dog crap. Blah, blah, frickety-blah. He wouldn’t shut up. I’d been out here riding in silence for a good 12 hours, and here he was chewing my ear off. He was certainly enthusiastic.
Tim came back out, and rode the last 6 laps with us too. Thank god. He was a distraction from James… I had a few other mates turn up and roll towards the end also.
2 laps left. IT WAS STILL SO DAMN EASY. I was certainly tired, but I could keep doing this all damn day. Normally when I write about endurance stuff, it’s in here somewhere that I bang on poetically about the beauty of the suffering. How digging deep within yourself and completing the uncompletable expands the capabilities of your mind. But not this time. This time I sang out to Tim and James at some point on lap 32 that I had made it. 8848 metres, easy like a Sunday morning. 2:30 in the afternoon, I had taken just 14 and a half hours to get it done, which at the time was the 29th fastest ever to complete the challenge.
The feeling of completing that ride was excellent. I got kudos from all corners on Strava, and messages from mates from loads of places. Hells 500 verified my ride the very next day, and I printed my little Veloviewer infographic and put it up next to my desk at work. It was enormously satisfying to keep looking back at the Strava file, to pick over the ‘flybys’, to stare at the infographic, and look at my name in the Hall of Fame.
It was deeply enjoyable to have completed this challenge, but I just felt like I had missed something. It was too easy. Shortly afterwards, the High Rouleur Society was launched, where you gain entry by climbing 10,000 metres in one ride. I realised I could have done that on the ride I did, and so my next challenge was born. Looking back, I can say bloody hell have I stepped up my ‘challenge game’ since that day last March.
So go out and set yourself an Everesting challenge. You will meet new friends (despite me hating on James, he is one of my closest friends these days!), you will join the best cycling crew on the planet, and you will experience a side of yourself not often seen, one that can be deeply rewarding to have encountered.
The Strava file from my ride can be found here.
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