Everesting is an ever increasing phenomenon. As of this writing, over 500 people around the world have completed over 800 separate attempts. I’ve made it to the summit 4 times now, and am starting to get a real appreciation of what it means to ride up and down the same hill until you’ve climbed a total of 8848 metres. I’ve been asked a few times as to what the secrets to finishing are, and have boiled down some key concepts.
A lot gets made of this, which I think is rubbish. I know a bloke that’s everested on a hill averaging over 20%, and I have personally done it on a hill averaging under 4%. Steep hills mean you cover less distance, shallow gradient means you can ride faster. Some talk about descents, and wanting a straight, easy one, but I feel this misses out on some of the fun. On all of the rides I’ve done, the descent has been a really enjoyable part of the day. You get to really know a descent when you repeat it so many times, and being able to hammer hard through smooth bends, finding the perfect line and speed, and pushing it time after time is the best recovery from a hard climb possible! These moments live with you much more than the moments with your head bowed, legs aching, doing everything you can to mentally overcome the pain. You spend so much time trying to ignore the discomfort, that you forget about the depths of it when time goes past. So choose any bloody hill, really it doesn’t matter. They all have their challenges to overcome, and discovering those as you ride is a great thing to treasure.
Point number 2 on the ridiculous things that people get way too worked up over, is what gearing to ride. Look if you were everesting something with a 20% wall in it, yeah, a tiny ring on the front, and a cog as big as a dinner plate on the back will come in handy, but it can be done without it. I everested an 8% average hill with a 36 front and 28 back. I did an 11% hill with a 34 front and a 27 back. Man I even once rode on an 18kg, 3 speed city bike to an everesting. I’m of the mail that if the early pro riders could get up the great hors categorie climbs of France on fixed gear steel bikes, then you can get up a hill a few times with the same gears that you regularly ride in the hills with. Standing up and riding isn’t toxic, you won’t die from it, so don’t be scared. I like riding this way, I find the change of position from time to time helps stretch my back and hips out a bit.
OK, you kind of need to train some, that’s fairly obvious. I see a lot of people get caught up in how they need to train though, and my philosophy is really bloody simple – just ride lots. Ride at different paces, ride using a different cadence, ride easy some days, ride your guts out other days. Ride a mountain bike, ride a fixie, ride an indoor trainer, ride a bike, and ride it as much as you can, as often as you can. I am a father of two small kids, both under 5, so I can’t just leave my wife to look after them for extended hours every weekend, whilst I go knock out centuries everywhere. So instead I just ride my bike every day. On my last everesting, the ride was 294 kilometres, all on dirt trail. But in the weeks preceding, I only broke 100 kilometres once, and even then, only just. I did however ride 300 kilometres every week for several weeks, and tried to gain as much altitude on my rides as I could. That consistency makes a huge difference. Plus it means I don’t get stressed having to stick to a training plan, and I can just enjoy riding my bikes.
EAT A LOT. If you aren’t eating, eat something. If you just finished eating, eat something else. If you are currently eating, think of what you are going to eat next. The same applies to drinking. Then double that same rule when it comes to drinking coffee. If you aren’t a coffee drinker, go and have a good hard look in the mirror. Consider selling your bike too. If you want to eat gels, go for it. If you want bananas, that’s all cool. Donuts are a gift from above to cycling, so put them in your mouth.
The rules for your food should be:
- Have a lot of it.
- Have a mix of sweet and savoury (you will get to a point where sweet foods will make you think dark, dark thoughts about the world)
- That’s about it.
Pizza is for winners, as are pies. I could not get enough cranberry juice in my mouth on the last one, and when I had a beer about 20 hours in, it tasted like a gift from heaven. Eat a little all of the time, and drink a little all of the time.
This is my favourite bit. You will need to prepare your mind for the challenge at hand. This means time in the pain cave, and a fair bit of it. Now I do not care how you do that, but you need to be uncomfortable, and I mean really uncomfortable, and then manage to find a way to tolerate that discomfort and pain. A hard interval set for 2 hours on the indoor trainer is a good one, especially if you turn the fans off, and wear a shirt whilst doing it. Riding by yourself for 4 hours plus in the dark when it is freezing cold and pouring with rain is also good. It steels you to overcome difficulties, as you will definitely face difficulties in your cycling challenge. Before one everesting, I had been a bit crook with a cold, and had had more time off the bike than I would have liked. In the week before, I had 2 back to back, full days of tattooing on my chest done. OH MY FUCKING GOD did that hurt. Screaming agony involves both screaming and agony, and I faced it in spades in those sittings. No painkillers, just grin and bear it. I came out of that pretty convinced that nothing else could force my mind to go that deep to manage pain, and I was right. Whilst the subsequent ride was indeed very hard, my mind had developed new channels through which to block discomfort.
To finish your ride, you cannot allow yourself to be afraid of what may come. I like to find things I am not confident with, or that I don’t like, and do them repeatedly. Hard intervals on a stationary trainer, riding steep hills, riding in the rain, the heat, the cold or the dark. All of these things I used to find boring or hard at one point, but after repeatedly doing them, the fear is gone. Yes it was training for my body, but the mental effect was far greater and longer lasting.
The last secret, and potentially the best one, is to tell people. Sherpas are legends, heroes, and the experiences you will have with them will form some of the very best memories of an everesting. (see what I wrote about sherpas here.) Now you’d expect your mates to turn up, and this on its own is inspiring and motivational. They’ll rock up, sometimes at bullshit o’clock, and just roll laps with you, bringing food and coffee to you, and otherwise be total legends. But strangers will also arrive, and this part RULES. Each everesting I have done, I have gained friends from. Good mates too. These are people who just get what you are doing, they don’t question why, and they are just there to support because it’s awesome. You are awesome for trying, and they agree with you. I would have never thought of this aspect before I did my first one, but when a bloke called James turned up to ride 10 laps with me, and I’d never met him before, I was incredibly humbled. He’s been a good mate of mine ever since.
Sometimes people will roll up to support one of their mates who is everesting with you, and they inadvertently become mates of yours too (big shout out to the Melbourne Hells 500 crew). People who like everesting, either because they have done it already, or because they think that it’s just rad, are TOP people. The Hells 500 crew is inclusive, and they want you in it. This crew will ride quietly with you, they’ll make truly awful jokes with you, they’ll go and get caffeine, beer, pizza, ibuprofen, donuts and pizza shapes for you if you need it. Can’t stress how good this crew is.
They don’t even have to be present either. If you are doing this ride, you’d better bloody gram it. Get on instagram, and tag #hells500 and #everesting. It can blow your mind how many people will follow along from home, sending encouragement and congratulations to you for your achievement. I know there have been plenty of everestings I haven’t been able to get to, but have followed vicariously through social media, sending as many well-wishes as I can think of. Also I have been in some dark, dark places on a ride, only to pull my phone out and see the TOP things people have written to me on a gram post.
So to recap: Any hill, any gears, ride lots, eat lots, train your mind and get in touch with the crew. That is how you complete an everesting. You will be a total badass when you do!
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