Everesting, for those who don’t already know is where you pick a climb and you ride up and down it until you ride the height equivalent of Mt Everest 8848m. Last year I had a failed attempt after getting ill the week before supposedly heading to ‘The Tumble’ climb in South Wales with mates Ian and Alan. Ian had originally suggested the idea knowing I like a challenge and something we both hadn’t done before. It turned out that it was one brutal day to take on the challenge and only Alan managed to battle on for hour after hour in horrible headwinds to get the job done.
I hadn’t planned to stick this in the diary again but after Kielder Chiller 24 was cancelled due to high winds there was a fairly big hole in my ‘endurance ride until you’ve earned loads of food’ schedule for the year. Indeed winter isn’t a great time for endurance events unsurprisingly so I felt pretty lost when the cancellation happened. I’m someone that always needs some sort of goal to train for or I’ll be off the rails. What’s the point in turbo suffering if not for a purpose other than just to ‘keep fit’?
So after a few messages a date was set at the end of February. The other reason for this timing was that I was just about due to go get my hand chopped open to remove some 10 year old seasoned Scottish grit from a crash in Kirroughtree that left some fairly nasty scar tissue. This will mean some time off the bike so I thought it would be good to have some miles in the bank before this to offset the downtime.
Rather than trek to Wales or another more mountainous area we searched for a local hill. Cheddar Gorge first came to mind, obviously iconic and popular but from Alan Colville’s Welsh experience a quieter hill would be preferential. Then I thought of a fairly sadistic option, Draycott Hill up to the Glider Station just along from Cheddar. It also holds a bit of literal romance for me as it’s where I proposed to my now wife when we didn’t even live down here.
This hill is on the shorter side but savage in places at over 22% with most being about 10-14%. The upside is shorter climb intervals but still requiring 43? repetitions over the mile long stretch over 200m upwards. I’ve actually climbed the height of Everest a couple of times during mountain bike 24-hour races but obviously there is a bit more other stuff in between the climbs! So repeating over and over again is definitely a big mental challenge. This was my main concern really as I knew I probably had enough stubbornness to get the job done.
Having missed lots of events over the last year for various reasons and a spate of recent bad luck I was a bit worried my head wouldn’t be in it and I’d get a massive attack of can’t be arsed syndrome. Sure enough for the first couple of hours in the dark I was in that place mentally and really had to fight hard to keep going. Alan Colville and I started off together but we quickly fell in to different speeds (him being much faster!). However it was the big grin and passing shouts of encouragement from already 2 timer Everester Alan that perked me up whilst grinding away. I think we probably only did about 3 laps together all day, the rest of which was mostly spent nodding to each other as one flew down past at 30mph! The odd little passing check in was about as detailed as it got but we both knew that this was a crack on kind of affair and unless there was an issue there wasn’t a need to stop.
My weapon of choice for the challenge was my only real option, my commuting/road bike. This isn’t what you’d describe as a climbing bike as it’s pretty heavy. I’d also left the full mudguards on in case the weather turned bad as I didn’t fancy getting sprayed constantly in face/arse. This combined with some post Kielder cancellation plumpness blues meant for a non-racing snake like setup. I was just glad that the bike appeared to be working though as breaking two rear wheels the week before meant I had to revert to a rear wheel with a bent rear axle which made the cassette wobble somewhat disconcertingly. Despite Ryan Builds Wheels quickly sourcing parts I had to make do.
20 repeats felt like quite a big milestone and I had found a rhythm on the steepest section that saw me being able to stay seated compared to the earlier laps which somehow felt much easier. Nutrition was going OK as well using the same formula for ultra cycling, Torq gels and bars mixed in with the odd banana and a protein bar, occasionally washed down with full strength energy powder. As the afternoon wore on I sort of started feeling better and better weirdly. Putting my iPod on helped a bit for a singalong time passer and I found strange ways to keep my mind occupied like coming up with my own bingo style number association for every lap (37 I’m in heaven….). I find little rewards at certain target times helps as well, so a couple of strategically timed cups of tea from the thermos were a welcome little boost. Although a bit keen for a non race I also had a few caffeine gels together for the later stages just to make the time fly a bit quicker.
Fortunately the bike was working still apart from frying a set of brake pads on the steep descents which I changed out pretty quickly. This was my longest stop at a couple of minutes.
We were both a bit confused by a GPS error where we had both seemingly had issues for a period. I seemed to be missing a lap and a half by the end. Alan was a lap ahead of me by this point already so we just kept an eye on my altitude knowing that in all likelihood we’d end up doing more than the required reps just to be safe, ugh! Darkness came again so back on went the Exposure lights to add a bit of fun to the descents. Fortunately the traffic was fairly light/ polite all day so I didn’t have any issues there apart from getting held up a few times by cars going down.
The last few laps flew by and I just kept it measured as there was no need to race as Alan as he was already well on his way to taking the record for Everesting time on that hill (the previous being over 14 hours). I ended up doing a couple more reps than needed due GPS dropout so the recordings aren’t really correct so ride time was more like 13 hours to gain the height.
It was slightly strange towards the end as I had ridden a measured ride so, without a typical humble brag, it didn’t actually feel that hard during the last third.
Finishing was a relief not so much from the day but just to have actually got an event in the bag without mishap ( I still did set off without my toolbox that I had to go back for).
A few days later and it was time for hand surgery to remove Kirroughtree grit from a very old scar. It turned out to be a much longer operation than expected as they pulled big lumps out. They had numbed my arm so I was still awake throughout. It was like an alien abduction going in to the theatre room. I couldn’t feel anything during the chop session though the prods from the local anaesthetic beforehand were more painful than expected as the students were wheeled out to practice on the ‘young fit’ male able to withstand the extra prodding (not for the first time).
The op went OK though and haven’t needed many pain killers since. The doc said 6 weeks off but I guess I’ll play it by ear with the recovery process and might even dabble in some fake online bike racing one handed to pass the time. Lee Eaton at Transition Coaching will be guiding me through how to maintain some fitness whilst recovering so rest of the year goals can be targeted.