Attempting Everest

Attempting to Everest,

I’m writing this whilst led in bed with zero and I mean zero energy.  Assumption is not to be over looked.  Everesting ride up a hill till you meet the height of Mt Everest.  Here’s my story of how it went and I hope a tip for any who are thinking about trying it.

Everesting is a challenge where you ride the same hill to the height of Mt Everest.  Sounds simple when you look at it but the reality is completely different.

How do you train for riding up and down the same hill, well I went about it by riding and finding as many hills as possible.  Along with maintaining some distance I felt good, I managed to over come the thought of riding and resisting giving in.  My training was perfect, I was getting stronger and able to maintain longer rides and feel good the following day.  I was ready for this and being super motivated with  a positive mind I was doing it.

I recorded the whole event on my Mio which preformed amazing, with times where I charged it up on stops and whilst charging on the move it never flinched.  It kept perfect time distance and worked perfectly the whole time.  In fact I believe I set a new record for using a Mio continuously to record a ride for over 24hrs. If you ever think about a unit to record your rides and want a unit thats going to work then look at a Mio. 

Now let me tell you how it went and what I went through, it wasn’t good not good at all…

It took me a while to find the right location to complete the challenge, I found the right hill with a distance of a mile and an average climb of 6.6%.  The weather was good and the conditions were perfect.  I was joined with two others on this challenge who agreed to take part, Jim and Jason were my companions for this epic challenge.

Unfortunately Jason made some conflicting plans and was only able to stay for part of it, but the support was brilliant.  We aimed to start at 9pm but Jason and I wanted to see if the route could be improved.  So we turned up to the location at 8pm and rode the neighbouring hills before we started.  Looking back at it, this was a simple case of second guessing my original plans and after riding the hills we agreed that the original hill was best.  This was a simple case of last minute nerves and when you look at the calculations it was pretty daunting what we were about to attempt.

Due to typical Friday night traffic Jim was held up and arrived with us at 9.30 pm, after getting ready we were ready to get under way and start what was our toughest challenge.

The location was perfect and I want to say from the beginning the KingsHead pub was outstanding and went above and beyond my expectations.  In fact everyone who turned up to support us were crucial, the support was simply amazing.  We set off up the hill on the first set of reps, fed and watered we felt good.  Lights on and smooth roads this felt perfect, the hill seemed perfect and with fresh legs we were confident that we would be adding our names to the list.

At the pace we were setting we worked it out that 5 trips to the top equalled 1000 ft, we needed to hit 30,000 ft and it dawned on us how many trips we needed to complete to reach the required height.  In order to maintain a good balance of riding to fuel needed we had a quick break after every 1000 ft or 5 reps.  This was our opportunity to get the required food and rest to get us through the next 5 reps. 

For the first few hours this felt fine and even though we had 30,000 feet to cover it felt achievable.  Every time we left base camp (the pub car park) we were cheered on, it helped every time.  After a few hours of riding the hill it felt different, I mean it seemed to have changed.  It never but we started to notice every little incline and where it was.  There were 3 sections that stood out and over time became an even bigger part of the challenge.

The first part was over a little bridge then into a gentle right turn, this was the first of the 3 sections that we noticed were steeper than we first expected.  With the hill gently winding up there was a slight left, which seemed a little tougher but not part of the 3 sections we picked. 

As the more gentler incline rolled up the hill there was a farm house half way up on the left, it was at this point we encountered the second section that became a pain.  The only relief was just after this point it went smooth and felt like we were going down hill, we weren’t but it felt like it.  This section was the worst and we named it purely because it was an absolute runt of a section (thats a clue to its name by the way).  Then after the slight level section there was the final little steeper section, it was at this point no matter what time we hit it we encountered a head wind.  Once we pushed up and round to the left we were close to the turning point. Then the decent, this was great a chance to rest the legs and to start with we flew down it. 

After a while though the decent’s became a lot slower, giving us the chance to rest a little longer.  Then when we reached the bottom it was a case of turn around and do it again.  This might seem simple and for the first ten or so it was.  However it dawned on us how monotonous this really was going to be.  Riding the same hill in the dark was a challenge in it’s own, no perspective and limited light it felt really claustrophobic.  There was no extra light, the moon wasn’t bright enough to provide any additional light, so we relied 100% on our lights.  In able to preserve the battery life in the lights I used the main ones on the decent and a dull one on the climb.  This worked perfectly but I still had limited light which wasn’t particularly comfortable.

Maintaining regular breaks and trying to eat when ever possible I was starting to feel a bit slugish, It was here that I started to suffer slightly, we were 7000ft into the challenge and I was feeling sick, had I ate too much and not allowed it to digest or was I not eating enough.  04.30 am and we were starting to feel really tired, every time someone would yawn the rest followed.   

Then we reached the moment we were all looking forward to, yep sunrise this was brilliant a clear and slightly fresh morning, with the sun lifting its head, to warm us from the night.  On our next stop we were resting and fueling as normal when a car pulled up along side of us,  “ Hi I’m here representing the SAS (salt and sham cycling club) from Bristol, would you mind if I joined you”.  This was brilliant and we welcomed Tom to the team.

Having another cyclist join us was brilliant, none of us knew him but he did message me a few days before to ask about the ride.  Whilst Tom prepared we had a little laugh and the atmosphere was still really vibrant.  Unfortunately it was at this point that Jason had to leave us, he was brilliant for the 9 hrs he was with us and the funniest part of it was that he talked the whole time.  Honestly Jason talked about his experiences and the past for the whole 9 hrs, as well as riding up the hill.  Plus he provided us with a constant flow of music, I cant say we knew any of the tunes and Jason said it wasn’t his play list but he did know the words to most songs…( all of them really ).

Jason left us with anything he could, to help us continue with, which was great..  A variety and a massive selection is crucial,  having the chance to eat what you want, when you want was brilliant but it still wasn’t enough.   Just before Jason’s departure we were rewarded with another visiter, my mum arrived with fresh coffee and bacon rolls.  Mmmmm perfect for the morning stint and I have to say my mum continued to provide the best support throughout the rest of the challenge.  Knocking up banana cake as well as potato and pasta salads and sandwiches  was brilliant.

With Tom helping us for for the morning shift it was brilliant, with friends arriving throughout the morning to say hi and take pictures was again great, thanks Keith.  We were maintaining a great pace, in fact we were able to pick the pace up a bit and were managing 7 reps an hour.  This was great and meant we could either have a few longer stops or finish earlier. 

Pushing on the hill was starting to fight back, Jim was feeling a bit shaky and light headed.  Tom spotted this straight away and we made a crucial stop, this was a well deserved break allowing Jim to get some much required food and fluid on board.  Luckily Jim caught the potential problem early and was able to push on with the ride.

During the ride into the afternoon we were joined by the local children who rode a numerous number of reps with us.  This was brilliant, it gave us something else to think about and a different conversation.  Kids are great and super inspiring when your doing a challenge like this, no matter what kind of bike they were on, they continued to ride the hill.  Not only that, the locals in the pub were challenging some of the locals to ride with us on the support bike.  This was brilliant as all the money raised went into the pot towards the charity.  Thats not all, the pub also provided a barbecue and all money raised also went towards the charity. 

It’s not until you take part in a serious challenge like this, you see how everyone comes together. The support from family and friends was truly amazing.  We managed to maintain a really good pace throughout the afternoon, with my wife and our daughters shouting support every time we reached the bottom.  Our afternoon saviour made all the difference, Zellah rode with me on the London to Paris ride and a while back offered to help.  Having a sports Physio there to replenish our legs was the best, painful but well worth it.  A good rubdown left our legs feeling fresh and ready for more, there’s something funny about seeing you’re friend squirm when he’s having his legs relaxed.  I was on the table and I remember looking at Jim whilst my legs were going through the treatment and Jim looked at me in disgust at my weakness.  It wasn’t until he was on the table and wriggling like a worm that I found it amusing, calma is brilliant. Thanks Zellah it made all the difference.

It was about 4pm when I started to feel really tired, I had been up since Friday morning now and cycling all through the night.  Sleep was all I could think about, that and the end of the ride.  We managed to cover 15000 ft at this point. Tom stayed with us for 9hrs and was a huge help throughout the day, but he also had plans and exceed the time he had planned to ride with us.  So thanks Tom for the assistance and I hope we ride again one day.

This meant, for the first time on the ride we were riding alone.  Then my friend arrived and jumped on the back up bike.  Not being a cyclist he did really well, pushing himself to do a good few laps.  I was really starting to find it tough now, without realising it we had reduced the reps to 4 an hr.  This was not good but we were getting to a milestone, 20,000ft was in sight and we agreed to have a little break at this point. 

Upon reaching the 20,000ft mark I really felt weak, even the decent was a struggle.  We made the decision to stop for some food but this was a challenge in its own for me.  I really struggled to eat, what ever I looked at I didn’t want, I ended up forcing half a chicken sandwich into me.  Along with a cake, I knew it wasn’t enough.  I had plenty of food but I felt so tired I couldn’t eat it, I should of forced myself to eat a load more but I couldn’t face it.  It was here that the bigger problem started, we knew how far we had to get and I think the thought of finishing at 6am Sunday was a real sole destroyer.  So instead of eating and resting more we picked at what we had and pushed on with the ride.

This was where I started to fall apart, after riding on and covering a few more reps I found my levels of energy had gone.  I asked my wife to get me a couple of cans of coke to try and get more sugar into me.  I also had a chocolate bar which made things worse as my filling in my tooth came out.  I was literally falling apart but I focused on the end and pushed on more. 

With all your friends and family there supporting us pushing us on I went through the pain barrier and continued cycling.  It was at this point I started to feel slightly dizzy, I knew I was starting to get to a point of wanting to stop.  About 5 minutes later a good friend appeared to help us ride through the evening.  Andy was a flash of hope to my challenge, I felt lifted and found the strength to push on further.  After what felt like hrs we managed to get past the 20,000 ft mark, we were on the closing stage.  We knew that the hardest part was always going to be the last section and after 20,000ft we felt like we were getting close. 

I don’t know how I did it but I continued to ride on, up and down this fricking hill, when did it get so steep, why did it feel so long.  Questions I asked myself on every rotating of my pedals but through shear determination I pushed on.  With my headphones on I had my head down thinking we were getting closer and closer to the end.  In reality though we were still over 5hrs away from the finish line.

It was about 8pm when I lost the sight in my right eye and I mean I couldn’t see.  I put this down to being tired and put it to the back of all my thoughts, an ability I’ve been practising for a long time.     I would go out and put myself in positions that I could either push through or phone for a lift, I never phoned for a lift so I know I was able to beat the mind. 

The pain at this stage was incredible, my right knee was shouting at me on every rotation, my wrists felt like they had been bent backwards constantly.  Weirdly my legs felt good I had no signs of cramp and my shoulders were fine.  I had a headache from hell, I couldn’t see properly and my energy levels were non existent.

It was around 10 when I really started to feel bad, I started to see things.  At one point when we were decending I thought Andy was coming towards me as I’m going down hill.  I was starting to loose it, we stopped briefly at the bottom where I drank another can of coke but it was too late.  I had nothing left in me, I don’t know how I did it but I pushed on further.  Every second that passed I just thought of the end, I was going to get there nothing else entered my head.  I managed 2 more reps and on the 3rd I broke completely.

Whilst pushing up to try another assent I lost all my sight, its at this point shit got real.  I fell into the roadside and lost everything, my vision was in and out and when I had some sight it was tunnelled. I had no energy, I passed the stage of feeling week hrs ago this was my body saying “NO MORE”.

I remember bits from that moment but not a lot, I remember Andy and Jim helping me into my sisters car.  Then I remember them saying I just needed to rest a little and get some food in me and I’ll be OK.  It was as we were heading back to the base I started to vomit, I knew as soon as I was sick it was game over.  I was not going to be sick and fought the sick swallowing everything that wanted to leave my body.  I couldn’t swallow any more, I opened the door and was violently sick.  Where had all this substance come from but this was it, I was finished.

I fought it all the way from my knee pain to the headaches, feeling like I wanted to be sick to loosing my sight.  I went through the pain and way into the unknown, I couldn’t walk and my ability to move was limited.  Jim felt bad, I felt bad, I let him down, we started and pushed through the ride experiencing every part of it together.  I had to leave Jim on his own to ride on, I gave Jim a hug and wished I was able to continue. 

I returned home had a shower and passed out, my daughters were as beat as I was.  Ruby cried constantly thinking I was going to die because of her.  She felt like this was her fault, that I was ill because I was raising money for the hospital that helped us.  I remember getting into bed and she cuddled me whilst crying into my chest.  Ellie got out the car and fell asleep on the sofa in the lounge, leaving the car door open all night.  We were all super tired but Jim was still pushing on. 

Andy stayed with him till 1am, my mum stayed as late as she could but everyone was struggling. I spoke to Jim today and he explained the remainder of his ride.  After I left him he carried on till 2ish but the gods were against him, from what my wife says, we had the storm of the century.  Andy said whilst he was driving home he had to slow down to even see, this resulted in the worst outcome.

The temperature dropped and the heavens opened, the smooth road turned into a skid pan and became super slippy.  Not only that but the wind was incredible, it was a nightmare and this put Jim in a position where he knew the outcome.  He couldn’t risk continuing and put himself in any further danger.  Alone and in the dark, if he collapsed like I did who would help him.  With the bad weather it confirmed his decision to call it a night.  He managed to reach the height of 26000ft, so close but still not quite the 30,000ft we needed.

Agreeing to take on a challenge is one thing but when it happens its a whole new world. Assumption is the biggest problem with any challenge, I’ll be Ok, It’ll be easy, it’s not as bad as it looks.  All and more are what you’ll think, what I have learnt from this is to enter into any event with a complete free mind.  If anything, think for the worst and prepare for it, be it health or weather prepare for every possible outcome and then add more thought to it.

One other thing I would also suggest is to have at least one member of the team or supporter watching to be the ‘yang’.  It’s easy to get caught up in the “ yeah you can do it atmosphere” but I think you need someone to say “Stop”.  With out this a situation could go from bad to really bad and quickly.  We were so focused on the final goal we lost track of everything in-between, I have never felt a bond as strong as I have with Jim from riding with me.  We had our ups and downs and at no point did we not support each other.  So if you get a chance to read this Jim, it was a pleasure and honour to ride with you. 

I’ve never been an emotional person but I really did feel a little lump in my throat when I had to leave this challenge.

I would also like to thank the following, My good wife Julie and our daughters,my sister Laura, Jason, Tom, Daz, Andy, the children of Coleford, the Kings Head, the locals of Coleford for the support and money raised, everyone who donated and those who continue to make a donation.  Everyone who came to support us throughout the event and I know this is from Jim as well as myself a huge thanks to my Mum, who was simply brilliant from early Saturday to the end.

So whats next, well rest and a pint. If you have any questions please feel free to ask. If you want to know how I felt the day after its not good, I still feel light headed, dizzy, numbness in my right hand and my toes.  I’m just eating little and often replenishing all that I lost. 

Thanks for taking the time to read this and I hope it helps you on the next challenge you plan for. Listen to your body before it’s to late.

Stay safe and remember Smile 🙂

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