Everesting – Why Suffer?

Romans 5:3-4

Not only so, but we[c] also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.

I finally finished an #everesting challenge! It was my third try after two unsuccessful attempts. I’m not always sure what to tell people when they ask “Why?!”, but maybe the verse from Romans, says it all.

I knew I was going to finish this time when I saw the image above at first light. It was my sign that all things are possible and I would not fail. Was it easy? Hell no! I think it’s the hardest challenge I’ve ever taken on. Was it enjoyable? Absolutely! Being outdoors, working hard, in the same general space for forty hours, essentially on my own, wakes up the senses. You see and hear things you wouldn’t have otherwise (And no, I wasn’t hallucinating!).  It’s amazing to see the light change on flowers throughout the day. It’s intriguing to feel the differences in temperature where the terrain changes slightly. It’s fun to watch the cows move about. It’s interesting to learn every inch (bump, scar, turn, undulation) of a road. It’s laughable, yet soothing to hear yourself gasping for air at the top of the run. Sunrises and sunsets are incredible! I witnessed two each this time. To me, that’s fun! To some, that is suffering!

 

I’m a numbers person. I have loops that I ride routinely and I know in my mind just how far one, five, ten and fifteen miles are. I’ve ridden those loops many times  in part to prepare for the repeats needed for an Everesting. I now know exactly what .2 km. feels like! I know how many pedal strokes it takes to get to the top of that hill. I know how many meters/feet I can climb in a minute. I know how many cars pass by in an hour. I know how many cows are in the field. I know how many bottles of water I drank. I know how many cracks are in the road. And it goes on. I count in my head as I do things. Weird, I know, but it helps to pass the time. For me, it’s fun and interesting. For others, it’s suffering.

Suffering is all relative. We all have our thresholds. I just find it “enjoyable” to go out and find what mine might be. That’s why I suffer. And I suppose, as Romans says, to build perseverance and character, and to find hope.

My lesson in doing this is never, ever give up! Always try, try again! You won’t be disappointed!

So what was different this time, and what did I carry with me from my other tries?

  • I had a plan and stuck to it the best I could. I wanted to average at least 10 repeats every hour. I started with about 15 to give me some cushion. On my last attempt, I allowed too much break time in between repeats as the hours wore on.
  • I picked a long holiday weekend where I knew I would have good recovery time.
  • The chosen hill was close to home so Mr. SAG could do what he wanted rather than hang out on the roadside. Would I pick that hill again? Probably not. The number of repeats were mind numbing, and it was too steep at the top for that many times (10-15% grade/391x).
  • I had my bio-break bucket handily nearby!
  • I didn’t have non-rider family/friends hang out to cheer me on. I found I was too tempted to stop and chat which took me off plan.
  • I didn’t announce that I was owing it. No pressure.
  • I still had the best SAG/Sherpa in the world! 

Why did I do this? After riding across the country 2 years ago, I happened upon this video and I was hooked. I knew I had to do an Everesting some day. I just had no idea how hard it actually would be. I have total respect for everyone who has done one. Mind you, many people have completed it multiple times (11x by one particular beast!) and others have done double, triple and even quadruple Evererestings! I really can’t even imagine! We all have our thresholds of suffering.

If I hadn’t come up short a couple of times, I wouldn’t have experienced the level of joy I had in finishing so my song of the day is:

So, I implore you to go suffer (but have fun while doing it)! Persevere, build character, find hope, and never give up!

What’s up next? A nice leisurely ride around the rim at Crater Lake. Can’t wait!

Ride on everyone! Ride on!

Everesting 2 – So Close, Yet So Far

“It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The hard is what makes it great.”   ~Jimmy – A League of Their Own

I’ve learned once again that completing an Everesting is really hard!  Everesting (Pick any hill, anywhere in the world and ride repeats of it in a single activity until you climb 29,029 feet – the equivalent height of Mt Everest.

I ended my second attempt last night after I had gained 26,703 feet! I would not have stopped except that it started to rain (not the ride killer – I’ve ridden in the rain plenty of times), I got a rear tire flat, and my derailleurs started to majorly malfunction. I think it had something to do with the minor crash I had a little earlier (no injury).  Mr. SAG changed the tire (at 1:00 am), but the derailleur issue was a bit more to deal with in the dark and rain. I had been up for nearly 60 hours at that point too and was becoming disoriented and it felt dangerous. Did I really need to put myself at risk to get those last few thousand feet in? I decided “no.”

Everesting 2

I may have another “fail” or “DNF” notched next to my name (virtually, at least), but I don’t see it as a failure. It was a great couple of days of riding, and I learned a lot, once again. Not too shabby for 56 either!

What was different this time, and what did I learn?

The hill I chose this time was shorter, but a bit steeper than the one for my first attempt. This meant I could do more repeats in the same amount of time and gain roughly the same elevation. I chose the hill because it is at the end of the road I live on. Mr. SAG could stay at home and just come by if I needed something. He decided to hang out for a while too.

I have the most unconditionally loving and supporting SAG team on the planet!

I trained better for this one. I did a lot of cross training over the winter, including TRX training, running, weights, stair climbing and core training using various methods. My power to weight ratio was much improved and I even improved my VO2 max (Seems I still have a ways to go, though).

I refueled and hydrated better and more consistently. (I did have my breakfast of champions after I finished!

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I had the right gear with me – including cold and rain gear, charging stations for my electronics, glasses with lenses that work in different lighting and lots of lights for night riding.

The high number of repeats did not bother me at all. I completed 315 of the necessary 341 (or so). I say “or so”, because the altitude measurement is based on barometric pressure. Since we had a cold front moving through the area, when I started the ride, my Garmin gave me credit for about 85 feet for each repeat (the Strava segment for that hill gives it about 90 feet). By the last hundred or so climbs, Garmin was only showing the gain as 72 feet! That’s a big difference!

I can stay awake for a long time! I knew I could, as I’ve done a few 24-hour challenges in the past. The moving time for the ride was just over 24 hours, but with my rest stops and the mechanical issues, I was there for 60 hours (something to work on reducing).

I actually can do this. I could see the finish. I feel like actual Everest climbers might, who get to the final camp, awaiting the final push to the summit when something happens – weather changes, altitude sickness ensues, etc., and they end up not being able to summit after putting in all that time and effort. It is still a great accomplishment, just not the ending hoped for. Although I did reach the height of Annapurna, it’s not the same.

I called it last night when I was feeling disoriented and exhausted in the dark. Since I was so close, I know that if not for mechanical challenges (I should have had my back-up bike ready to step in) I could have finished, so I expressed that I was DONE! No more Everesting needed for me. But, Mr. SAG, knowing me better, argued that I will try again because once things get in my head, I can’t let them go. Apparently he was right. I’ve already started listing things that I need to change for my next attempt! Dang!

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If you feel so inclined, I am using these personal challenges to help fund Multiple Sclerosis research. I’ll be participating in a Bike MS ride in the Fall, likely after another Everesting. You can find my fundraising page here:  Bike MS Personal Page

In search of up!

Thanks for your support!  Ride on!

 

All In

Everesting – Pick any hill, anywhere in the world and ride repeats of it in a single activity until you climb 29,029 feet – the equivalent height of Mt Everest.

That is my next challenge. Looking to attempt it Labor Day weekend.

Why? That’s the first question people typically ask. Well, I’ve always been someone to do things all or none, all in or not at all, and to test and push my limits. If you can hold your breath under water for 30 seconds, see if you can do it for a minute, then for however long (Good test for other things if you know what I mean, DR-O!) If you can make 25 baskets (basketball) in a row, go for 50, then 100, then more. If you can ride 25 miles, go for 50, then 100, then 200, then ride across America! And the beat goes on.

I didn’t have a “challenge ride” planned this year. I decided I wouldn’t ask Mr. SAG to support me on any out of town, long rides.  After all, he gave up half his summer last year to do just that.  I figured this year was for him to decide on vacation preferences, and I didn’t think it would involve an RV or a bike! But, alas, me being me, I suppose the challenge idea was always there in the back of my mind. And once I heard about Everesting a few years ago, it has been calling my name.

I’ve also learned that the fitness benefit of cycling alone, does not motivate me. I’ve ridden substantially fewer miles this year since I had no pressing goal out there driving me – until the last 2 months. It turns out I need to have a challenge in mind and commit to it and it really helps if I tie it to a specific cause or need (purpose). I fit nice and neatly into what research says about motivation.

So, Everesting it is. This weekend! I’ve picked a relatively small hill to ride (average 5% grade, half mile long/mile lap). I picked it because it is fairly close to home so Mr. SAG won’t need to hang out there all day (he’ll want to), it doesn’t have a lot of traffic, and the grade is reasonable enough where even I may be able to sustain multiple repeats (about 250). I’m not a climber, so this is definitely going to be a challenge! Mentally too, I suppose.

Henry Hill

For the cause part, I decided that since the LCC K-9 Comfort Dogs were there for me with encouragement, food, shelter, and comfort/comic relief across the country last year, that I would support them this year. The LCC K-9 Comfort Dog Ministry is near and dear to my heart. I am a handler on team Aaron Comfort Dog who is on staff at St. John’s Lutheran Church and School in Napa, CA. He is one of over 120 Affiliate Comfort Dogs deployed by Lutheran Church Charities out of Northbrook, IL. They bring comfort to schools, nursing homes, hospitals, first responders, and families in need on a regular basis. And they deploy to areas having suffered tragic events whenever requested. They have been present after horrific school and other shootings, floods, fires, hurricanes, etc. They are often able to bring just a moment of happiness/normalcy to those who are hurting and it is a blessing to be a part of that. They never charge to go anywhere, but they do incur travel and living expenses, so I dedicate this ride to them and am raising funds to help them continue their good work. If you would like to help out, you can give directly through LCC, a church with a Comfort Dog on staff, or through this link to my Facebook fund raiser. 

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Check out Aaron and friends at work.

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“It is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves.” ~ Sir Edmund Hilary

Say a prayer or two for me this weekend! Whether I succeed or fall short, you can bet the farm that I will do it ALL IN!

Ride on!