I was looking forward to the cooler temps but the rain made this truly a sufferfest. The chill really sapped a lot of energy and by lap 10 (out of 25) I was ready to call it quits. Internally, I was trying to justify getting halfway there as a “win”. Thankfully, my crew kept encouraging me and by lap 14 I set my mind to getting it done…because I don’t plan to do this ever again.
Ironically, I got some unintentional motivation from @Nate_Pearson by way of the “Pearson’s Falls” sign that I passed on each ascent.
Many thanks to the entire TrainerRoad team for the training and podcast!
Congrats!! An excellent way to celebrate a 40th birthday
29,587 thumbs up!!
Oh yeah…happy b-day, too!
The mind power to do this is as massive as the physical.
Absolutely! I had “goals” and a “plan” which went right out the window as I got deep into the suffering. When I adjusted my thinking to be content with simply beating the challenge, regardless how long it took, I was in a much better state mentally. Then I could just focus on the task at hand.
Any essential tips-n-tricks you recommend for those of us yet to ascend into hell?
Oh, for sure! Below is a list that came very easily. Let me know if you have questions about something in particular.
- Stack the odds in your favor. I originally picked a weekend in mid-September and I rode in the mountains of North Carolina, USA. I figured the end of summer in the mountains would be slightly cooler and still have plenty of daylight. Unfortunately, some things happened which caused me to delay until the first weekend in October. Early in the week, the forecast showed low- to mid-60’s F (~16 C) and cloudy. I thought, perfect! The day before the event the forecast changed to drizzling rain all day long. The cooler temps AND the rain made me freeze and up the suffering quite a bit. Also, there were a bunch of leaves on the road and the rain caused some hazardous conditions descending which meant I had to go slower.
My point is that the challenge is difficult enough on its own that you don’t need weather to make it worse. Choose a time of year that suits you for temperature, daylight, precipitation, etc. Then be willing to delay the event if it’s not ideal. Honestly, the mountain temps are relatively comfortable in the summer and I could have planned to do it in any weekend in August.
Nutrition and hydration. Bring EVERYTHING you have ever considered eating or drinking on a ride. Since my laps were roughly 40 minutes long, I did not need to pack much with me. My wife prepped half of a water bottle with Tailwind for each lap and I would eat/drink something during the rests between laps. For me, Pop Tarts and pickles turned out to be the items I could stomach best. I definitely had gut rot by midday which added to the suffering and I just ate whatever I could, whenever I could. But we had a panoply of options.
Caffeine. I don’t drink caffeine…mostly just stick to water and alcohol. (Note: Checkout @Nate_Pearson’s Strava feed for @chad’s Kona beverage selection!) However, I recognize the benefits of caffeine vis-à-vis RPE…it’s been discussed numerous times on the podcast. I endeavored to drink some small amount of caffeine (Coke or High Brew Coffee) every four hours (0400, 0800, 1200, 1600, 2000, and 0000). I stuck closely to that schedule but snuck in a few sips more frequently in the latter half. With the exhaustion that you will undoubtedly encounter, the caffeine really did help.
Power for your bike computer. I ran a Wahoo ELEMNT Bolt that was plugged into an external battery pack the entire time. I used velcro straps to attach the battery pack to my stem. As I mentioned, it rained almost the entire time and I was concerned the battery pack was going to short circuit and then impact the Bolt’s recording. This was a legitimate concern most of the day that added to the stress. Thankfully, nothing bad happened. When I finished 21 hours after the start, the external battery pack was down to the last light and my Bolt had 100% charge. That battery pack (linked below) was the best $10 investment ever.
Bike computer setup. On the note of bike computers, I did test the battery+Bolt combo a few times before the big day just to ensure I knew how it all would work. I also played with my “lap” screen a bit to determine which fields I found most useful. I found 3-second power and average lap power to be very helpful to limit my efforts. I also had HR, cadence, lap number, time of day, and elevation gain (workout) displayed. All of that was helpful in its own way.
Let’s talk about effort. Go slow! Whatever you think is slow, go slower! I’ve read and heard that a ton and still didn’t listen. My plan was to maintain ~170w for the ascent. My most recent FTP test was 240w and I’m probably a little stronger than that, so I figured 70% should be good. Well, I started at 0400 and the sun did not rise until after 0700, so I couldn’t see the display on my Bolt (didn’t use the backlight). My first few laps were like 185w, 190w, 188w. That doesn’t seem that much higher but it really was. Again, I don’t think the cold+rain was helping any, but I was exhausted by lap 10. I think my lowest average was in the high-130s later in the night but my entire ride average was ~153w. So take it easy in the beginning. Like, real easy.
Use your backlit display in darkness! I already said that I had plenty of power to go on the bike computer. I should have used the backlight during hours of darkness (at least in the morning) to better gauge my effort.
Friends! I had two teammates ride with me for about 10 laps each (4-14 and 10-20). Tell them not to ask you questions or engage you in conversation. Just be there. I preferred being in front so I didn’t feel any pressure to hold a wheel. When the road permitted, they would ride next to me. It was very encouraging to have folks nearby to motivate me.
Music. If I were to do it again (and I don’t plan to), I would have someone bring a speaker to play music. I think that would help keep spirits up when you ascend into hell.
Chapeau on the ride, epic numbers!!! Poptarts have been the MVP of all my long rides this season.
Curious what your thought process was on the hill. And, if you were to do it again, any lessons learned about the route? To me, 5% seems to be a pretty good number, and having it be long enough that you don’t have to do 80 laps but aren’t spending a lot of time coasting downhill.
I’ve got a pair of velocity wheels. They’ve got about a buhguhzillion miles on them.
What measures did you take to minimise weight?
Nice work fella, well done.
Pop Tarts have been a recent addition to my “in activity” nutrition. I got turned onto Uncrustables this summer and have been eating them on most long rides. Both items are full of garbage ingredients but they really hit the spot when I’m putting in long hours on the bike.
I actually changed the hill just last month. I had intended to do another hill closer to where my family lives that was 8.3 miles in length with ~4.5% gradient. During my recon of that hill, I was ascending in 53 minutes and descending for 18 minutes. It would have taken me 13 laps to complete the challenge. The road surface was chip seal, there was no cell coverage, and it was further from my home (Charlotte, NC) so I was worried no one would want to drive out that far.
Last month I did a training ride up Saluda Grade (the hill I ultimately chose) simply because it was the closest significant climb to my home. The road surface was good pavement, I had cell coverage for most of the climb (top and bottom, at least), and much of the upper half splits into three lanes (two for climbing to pass slow vehicles). This meant less road vibration over the duration of the ride and presumably was safer because there were a lot of places for vehicles to pass with a wide berth.
Going back to my point #1, stack the odds in your favor. Find a hill that has good pavement and ideally has low traffic or safe places to pass.
As for the length and grade, I figured a 40 minute lap was better than 1.25 hours because it gave me more frequent stops and access to nutrition/hydration. I also considered that it would give me shorter breaks between pedaling, so I figured my legs wouldn’t want to shut down. I don’t recall a single time I had issues getting my legs moving at the base of the climb, which may have been an issue with the longer laps.
I was happy with the 5% grade and would even be willing to do 5.5% or 6%, but not much more. I think this is a personal preference more than anything (would like to hear from folks who did it on steep climbs). I definitely would not choose anything lower than 4% and would not want to climb for shorter than 10-15 minutes. I suspect you would lose a lot of efficiencies with 100+ laps, but I’d like to hear from someone who did that and what their experience was.
Our team doesn’t actually have any affiliation with velocity wheels. It’s a play on words VeloCity Cycling CLT.
Nothing major. I removed my saddle bag (tools, CO2, spare tire, etc) and one bottle cage. I removed my watch and only carried my cell phone for emergencies. (Note: phone was on DND and bluetooth disabled to preserve battery life on phone and Bolt)
I have Bontrager Aeolus Pro 3 (30mm) and 5 (50mm) wheels. I typically have an 11-30 cassette on the 3’s (for the mountains) and an 11-25 on the 5’s (for the foothills). I put an 11-30 on both wheelsets and had the 5’s in my dad’s car in case I needed to swap.
As mentioned, I was only taking half of a water bottle per lap since I didn’t need a full one for 40 minute turns.
That’s about it. The extra weight from the battery pack was the only additional weight, so I was probably 2-3 pounds lighter than usual. With the rain-soaked clothes, it was probably a wash (pun intended ).
Chapau on the performance. Everesting is a great accomplishment. In the weeks after you say “never again”, but once you get some distance to the effort the “urge” to do another one may start to kreep in.
Did HRS in August and can totally agree to the tips listed above. Some personal add-ons:
Vary the nutrition. I was so sick and tired of sweet stuff and sports drinks in the last hours I had trouble eating. Luckily I did my HRS as part of an event so they served some stew through the night. Unfortunately this is not easily consumed on the bike, which leads me to my next point
Limit your breaks. This might be a personal preference, but my body does not handle long breaks. The body starts to cool down and recover. I actually did my “stew eating” standing up to avoid this. Breaks also add up if you do several repeats (I did 82…), which means the clock is ticking.
Bring clothes for “every scenario”. This is of course dependent on your climate, but it still makes sense to have an excess of clothes available. If it’s hot and humid a new shirt might be useful, likewise a new bib. We had a torrential rainstorm in the middle of the night that was definitely not on the forecast. Several riders had to throw in the towel as they did not have the appropriate clothing. Most people don’t embark on an Everesting too often so it’s too bad when you fail do to clothing.
Simply KNOW it’s going to be a long day in the saddle. Mentally prepare different tricks that may or may not work (you really don’t know until you try…). I was curious to how I would react to the repetitiveness and thought perhaps my mind would wander and I would “philosophy” about “life and everything”. But rather I went in full focus mode and simply zoned in, focusing on the work to be done. Not too different from completing TR workouts
Get the shirt after completion. If other riders don’t show you the respect the grey stripe deserves, well "#¤#% them You did an epic thing and earned some bragging rights