I didn’t know until about August that in September I’d be attempting to Everest. If you follow my socials then you’ll know I was training to ride the Tour de France a day ahead of the pro men with the InternationElles, an amateur women’s cycling team whose goal is to protest about the many inequalities in cycling.
Due to the COVID pandemic, our plans were foiled and we decided to do a Plan B. As a team of 10 (dispersed across the UK, America, the Netherlands and Australia) we were to cover the distance of the TdF as fast as possible, in a relay, on a virtual platform. After a day’s rest, each InternationElle was then going to attempt to do an Everest or a vEverest.
Everesting has been placed into our lives and vocabularies by Hells 500, aka The Keepers of the Clouds, and ‘is a fiendishly simple concept, and a fiendishly difficult ride to complete. Pick any climb, anywhere in the world and ride repeat after grinding repeat until you have notched up 8,848m vert. In one ride.’ vEveresting is the exact same concept, but you can ride a hill on a virtual platform and complete the challenge on your turbo trainer.
If six of our team completed an Everest/vEverest then cumulatively, we’d have covered the elevation of the entire TdF.
By the way, this isn’t about training for an Everest, but about getting things right on the day. If anyone wants to know about my training, just let me know!
Alright, let’s get to it! My seven S’s of Everesssssssting:
As with most endurance events, fitness is just one aspect. Planning and meticulous attention to detail are critical. And, like any sporting challenge, there are rules. You can check all the nitty-gritty out on the Hells 500 website, but the main ones are 1) ride 8,848m 2) do it on one hill 3) do it in one ride (i.e. no sleep) 4) only entire ascents count.
Lou Gibson, aka InternationElles Boss, picked the climb, recce’d it, checked the segment, calculated the ascents required and double-triple-checked with Hells 500 that the planned number of reps (27) would definitely get us there. To add a cherry on top, she contacted a friend nearby who ensured there wouldn’t be any road works or issues that might prevent us using the whole climb. If you’re going to attempt an Everest, I’d definitely recommend putting in lots of groundwork at the planning stage.
If you’re lucky enough to have people around you that will allow themselves to be roped into helping with mad challenges like this, grab them with both hands and book their calendar out for the day (and night). The less time you spend off the bike, the sooner you’ll be done. So, a support squad come in really handy for passing you food, filling bottles, grabbing layers or lights, driving to nearby villages for ‘emergency chips’ and generally getting you through the ordeal in one piece.
Not only does a support squad cover off the sustenance side of things, but seeing friendly faces, and even riding with supporters for some of the ride, will really help you mentally. To do an Everest is challenging. To do it alone is legendary. Kudos to all the soloists out there, particularly our non UK-based riders, JA, Carmen, Heather, Michelle and Jen who all did exactly that. The Wales-based group were so lucky to have Rob, Mow, George, Gareth and Lesley supporting us for the entire event, as well as guest appearances from Katie, Juliet, Ava and her dad, Daren, Clare, Lisa, Louise and a few others whose names I’m afraid I didn’t catch. To all of you – the biggest of thanks!!
Everesting is actually just an eating competition on a bike. If you want to complete this and not be in an 8,848-m deep hole by the end, then you need to be chewing almost as much as you’re pedalling. It’s likely you’ll be riding for many, many hours, so I’d suggest having as big a variety of food as you can muster. I’d really recommend as many real foods as possible too; gels and energy products should be last-ditch emergency options IMHO. They wreak havoc with your insides and you just can’t fill your bod with all that processed crapola and then expect it to be hunky dory. Pack sandwiches and wraps, crisps, cereal bars, chocolate, nuts, sweets, fruit, CHIPS…just things that you’ll actually want to eat. If you’re somewhere cold or going late into the night, have hot water in a thermos to make warm drinks or noodles/soup.
Eating is everything.
It’s easier said than done, but just hold your horses, okay. Setting off like a rocket isn’t going to serve you. It’s a mountain, not a molehill. So just take your time, settle in and find a rhythm. I knew from coach Ken, that if I sat at a specific heart rate and ate, ate, ate (see above) then I should be able to complete the distance. So even though your brain is saying, ‘Go on, babes. Just smash a few quick reps out because then it’ll be over sooner.’ IGNORE IT. Pacing is paramount. The fact is, it’s going to take a while, so just sit in and get used to that thought. Hurrying up now will probably slow you down later.
Make sure you’re ready for anything. Spare lights if your batteries run out. Spare tubes in case you get a puncture. Spare food in case you eat more than you think. Spare bike in case yours really has a tantrum… (This isn’t necessarily realistic for everyone, but InternationElle, Jules had issues with her gears and ended up jumping on Rob’s bike, which was brought along just in case). A spare set (or two) of kit. I put a whole new outfit on at about half-way through and it felt like a new lease of life! Basically, if space isn’t an issue, bring as much as you can to cover any possible scenario.
If you’re doing an Everest, mind-set is mega important because ‘Your mind gives up long before your body does.’ (Unknown author, sorry, sorry). If you get into a neggy brain space, then your chances of succeeding hit the floor. If you’ve followed suggestion 4, then you should be safe in the knowledge that you’ll complete the challenge (accidents and mechanicals aside), but it won’t prevent you from having low moments. Try to distract yourself if you’re going down a rabbit-hole of pessimism. Think about why you might be doing the challenge. Think about what treats you’ll have when you’ve finished. Listen to some music. Have a little chat – whether that’s with yourself or a fellow rider. Eat a bit more. Take a deep, cleansing breath. Namaste. Everesting is an emotional rollercoaster, so buckle up and settle in for the ride.
- Celebrate! (I know, I know, but… “sel-a-brate”)
Enjoy the little milestones.
Yay, quarter of the way there!
Wow, I really love this 19th mini malt loaf. So. Delicious…
Huzzah! Half way!! Etc. etc.
These little outbursts of joy will give you boosts and get you from one milestone to the next. Before you know it, you’ll be celebrating the biggest milestone of them all – the finish. And what a feeling that is! A mixture of relief, disbelief, joy…and probably a bit sick.
In the end, my moving time was 15 hours and 54 minutes, and the elapsed time was 17 hours 36 minutes. Check out the Strava file here.
I hope these little tipples will be helpful if you decide to take on this awesome challenge. The thing that’s ace is you can just decide to do it and then…just go do it. You don’t even need to tell anyone beforehand. You can do it slowly or quickly, by yourself or in a group. Near home or somewhere you’ve never been. If you’re struggling with the current lack of certainty in the future, perhaps setting yourself this challenge is the answer?!
All I know is, you’ll finish and say, “I’m never doing that again!” and then 2-3 days later you’ll be planning where to do your next one…
We certainly are!
Lots of lovely links to go and look at:
Our Equality video: Click me
Katie Kookaburra’s video: Click me
Juliet Elliott’s video: Click me
Lou’s post: Click me