Sunday, August 9, 2020

vEveresting - a race report?

 Ok, so I know it wasn't actually a race, but since this is 2020 and all races are canceled, I'm counting this one as a race. 

So vEveresting. Essentially riding up the same hill/mountain until you hit an elevation gain of 29,029 ft, the height of Everest. Simple right? Hells 500 has more information on how to do it, rules and regulations, and how to submit your ride to be in the Hall of Fame.

Since this is 2020, and everyone is not racing, crazy challenges have become pretty popular. I wouldn't say vEveresting is popular (based of the Hells 500 database), but there are quite a few people doing it as a challenge this year. Additionally, very few women have done it, so to say I'm stupid proud of Liz and I is an understatement. 

So how did I get to the point of wanting to do this? It's no secret that Liz and I have a penchant for doing stupid things. In my defense, I think there is something to be said when you are pushing your body to it's absolute maximum limits. The human body is amazing and the things that it is capable of doing deserve to be explored. I honestly can't imagine going through life without doing harder and crazier challenges. My brain doesn't work that way, and I can't just exercise to exercise. Anyway, back in the April/May time frame, Liz and I had started talking about the potential to do an Everesting attempt. It wasn't a near future thing then, but the seed was planted. Fast forward to July. MSM-JHC coaching has been putting on a "commit to it" challenge and one of the challenges was to climb the elevation of Mauna Kea (13,800 ft) in one ride. I  saw that one and thought this would be a good gauge to feel out where I was at physically. I talked to Liz and since it is like crack when one of us presents a challenge, we of course scheduled a date of 8/8/20 for the attempt. As things got closer, Liz mentioned that she might try and go for the Everest attempt. Welp, the carrot was dangled, I talked to my coach, and all of a sudden Mauna Kea doubled to Everest. Alrighty then. 

There is actually a lot of planning that goes into this, so it's honestly a bit nuts that we planned to do this with less than a two week turnaround. I do not recommend doing this and there are a few reasons we could get away with doing it this way:

1. The obvious: we are crazy

2. We live at high altitude. Every ride we do has a good amount of elevation gain. It isn't uncommon for 50-60 mile rides to have 4000-5000 ft of gain on a normal basis. When we have been riding on Saturdays, it hasn't been relaxed either. We've been hammering climbs and building a really good base for cycling. So even though our max gain in a ride for both of us has "only" been 10k, we are both pretty confident climbers.

3. Since both of us were training for ironmans, we already had the fitness base for an attempt.

4. I think the fact that we are both multiple time long endurance event finishers, really prepared us mentally for the dark times we knew would come. 

Ok so details on the route choice:

We considered doing with Pajarito Ski Hill (I think this would be 28 times up) and Santa Fe Ski Basin (8 times - ish up), but with monsoon season in full swing and the stupid amount of traffic from all the people getting outside lately we opted for Alpe du Zwift on Zwift. 13 hours on a trainer excites no one, but I knew once the fatigue set in, I just wouldn't be mentally aware enough to be riding in traffic. 

Alpe du Zwift was modeled to match the famed Alpe d'Huez. Zwift used GPS data to match the 21 hairpin turns and inclines. Alpe du Zwift is 3400 ft of gain at an 8.5% average grade, so it takes 8.5 times up to vEverest. Alpe is an intense climb to do solo, so the thought of doing it 8.5 times still is mind boggling even after I did it! Side note, you also need a smart trainer that simulates the climb to be able to do this indoors. While you don't have to deal with things like weather indoors, it is mentally a whole new ball game. Not only do you sweat more inside, sitting in one spot not actually moving is a mental mind f**k for 13 hours. There are pros and cons for the outdoor vs indoor attempts, so if you are wanting to do this, weigh them carefully. I think the biggest pro for indoors was being able to get off the trainer while your avatar descends (alpe is steep enough that you can do this) and being able to eat/stretch.

Some key things that I followed:

1. EAT. Eat early and eat often. At some point it becomes force feeding, but the calorie burn is insane (I burned 6400 yesterday!). I had a variety of food to choose from because you never know what your body is going to want during these things. The two snickers bars after lap 6 and 7 were glorious!

2. Get off the bike during the descents. My avatar took about 11 min to descend each time. While I had no plans of taking an extended break (some people do), these were perfect to mental reset and get ready for the next ascent.

3. Know your time frame. I started this at 2 in the morning. I expected to take between 80 and 90 min on the way up. With breaks, I was expecting to be done around 14 hours (to say I am thrilled with 12:59 is an understatement!). For me mentally, it was important to get a good chunk of this done by mid-morning. By 9, I was nearly done with 5 laps. Side note, most of the guides say to start at midnight, but I'm not that crazy.

4. Change clothes. So much this. You sweat so much on the trainer so definitely change.

5. Chamois cream. No explanation needed.

6. A comfortable setup. I normally have my tt bike on the trainer, but swapped it for a road bike. The geometry is just much better for extended climbs. I ran a 50/34 compact crank and an 11-28 rear cassette and I was fine. I think an 11-32 cassette would have been nice though for when the fatigue really sets in to be able to spin more, but I rode my normal climbing setup.

So for an overview of the day, I have it broken up by lap. Keeping a consistent heart rate was so important as my power varied through the day.

Lap one: 75:35, 170W, 143 bpm. Before lap 1 I weighed in so my w/kg would be accurate in Zwift and it is a requirement for the Hells 500 vEveresting. I felt great. I could tell my legs had some rest in them. I was so excited because it felt SO EASY.

Lap two: 73:25, 175W, 145 bpm. Ok this is cool, descend the laps. I was still feeling good here.

Lap three: 71:36, 180W, 147 bpm. Wow a segment PR! Unexpected, but my HR was still low and I was still feeling good.

Lap four: 84:17, 180W, 146 bpm. This was my slowest of the day simply because my power meter crapped out (even though I replaced the batteries the day before) so I had stop and fix the problem. Also, the last half of this lap is when things started getting dark and the wheels came off a bit.

Lap five: 82:35, 155W, 152 bpm. I wish I could forget the pain of lap 5. You hit the halfway point early on in this lap, but it did not excite me at all because you still have another 14,500 ft to climb. My power had dropped off 20ish watts and my HR was creeping up. Utimately, I think the reason why this lap was so hard was because it is a transition point in the ride. Your body is feeling the fatigue of climbing halfway up and this was also the point where eating solid food while riding became hard. Both Liz and I struggled immensely on this lap. I am actually glad we had started at different times. I was on lap 5, while she was still enjoying the lap 3 glory, so her message of "just one switchback at a time" got me through this one. I had started to think about how much time I had left (DON'T DO THAT) and that I wasn't going to make it, but the one switchback at time trick worked. When she was on lap 5, I was able to tell her that 6 was so much better. So my other key for this is, have a great support crew! Also, if you have a friend willing to do this with you, it will help so much! 

Lap 6: 78:38, 163W, 154 bpm. Second wind and back to sub 80 min laps. I thought my legs would come back around even more after this one (HAH). After the utter devastation that was lap 5, lap 6 felt great mentally. After lap 5, I had changed and taken motrin (I know this is not the smartest thing, but I was so swollen that I didn't have much choice). The break helped me get my head back in the game. Also, lap 6 is where you cross the 20,000 ft mark. For some reason "only" having 9,000 ft of climbing left really boosted my spirits. Also, a snickers after this lap was amazing.

Lap 7: 82:25, 155W, 150 bpm. Remember how I thought my legs were coming back? The fatigue is real people. Even though I was slowing, the reality of "I am actually going to do this" had settled in on lap 7. You are so close, but so far when you start the lap (for me about 3.5 hours from finishing), but you have already covered so much ground, you know you won't quit now. 

Lap 8: 83:01, 154W, 147 bpm. Bolstered by another snickers and caffeine after lap 7, I was ready to make my way up this bitch for the final time. I found myself wishing for the easy speed I had early on so I could just get this done, but my legs were just turning the crank at this point. You are running on adrenaline during this lap and much like an ironman, this is the tunnel vision to the finish point. Logan came in to see how I was doing at few points and one of them was on this lap, and he said "just go faster if you want to be done." We are still married today. Once you summit lap 8, you are 27,300 ft - just 1700 ft to go.

Lap 8.5: 46:46, 161W, 147 bpm. OH MY GOD. Cloud 9 right here. Even though pain was real (hello knees!), I had the BIGGEST smile on my face. Watching the elevation counter tick up to 29,029 ft was AMAZING. I like to compare this to the last mile of an Ironman, when you can hear the finish line and then you can see that iconic finisher chute. Of course, there is no fanfare here, just you and your elevation counter and the beautiful Zwift achievement banner for Everesting. I can't believe I did it. I'm still in disbelief that I was capable of it. Hells 500 recommends tacking on some elevation just in case before submitting your time, so I finally stopped at 29,252 ft and a final time of 12:59:21. Afterwords I "watched" Liz finish up in zwift and sat around for a good 90 min in stunned disbelief (and pain). 

Liz and I joined the low numbers of women who have actually done this yesterday and I could not be more excited and proud. We got confirmation last night that our attempts got accepted into the Hells 500 vEveresting Hall of Fame, which led to me eating cold pizza and half a pint of Ben and Jerry's at 1130 pm (hey my body feels post ironman, no judging!). Today the only thing my brain can really process is how the hell did we do that? That might just be the stupidest thing I've ever done, but I guess it is pretty rewarding! Finally, all the messages and support really helped!! One thing I did and am glad I did, was tag vEveresting in my avatar handle in Zwift. This lets others know you are making an attempt and a lot will send you messages of support and some even ride with you for a bit! So anyway, thank you everyone. As always, you guys make it worth it!

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