In the first part of this Everesting blog I talked about the background to our ride and what it felt like on the day. In Part 2 I’ll take you through some issues on training and nutrition for an Everesting attempt. Part 3 will cover picking a hill, logistics, equipment and pacing.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise to you that Everesting is a challenging endurance endeavour. Even pro riders will be out there for 8 hours and most mortals will be riding for twice that. This means that you absolutely need a solid endurance base and you should be aiming to get months of consistent riding in your legs before attempting it. The best way to train for a long endurance event is, unsurprisingly, to include long endurance rides. Most amateur riders won’t have the time to put in 5 hour rides every weekend, so intensity will also play a part in developing your aerobic engine. You shouldn’t be spending any significant time above threshold, so there is no need to be developing your anaerobic capabilities. This isn’t the time for sprint interval training or a block of VO2max work. You will, however, want to train every muscle fibre you have to contribute to such a long effort and get your connective tissue prepared.
This makes sweetspot work the ideal choice. You can start out with blocks of 5-10 minutes and increase over time until you can complete blocks of 30-40 minutes with a total of 90 minutes or more during a ride. If you don’t have access to long hills, some of this training can be done on the turbo but you should also get outside to work on your climbing technique and, crucially, descending. To get the most from these sessions, include low cadence work. This will engage intermediate and fast twitch muscle fibres that you’ll need on the day and also prepare your connective tissue for the challenge. You’ll also want to change your position during your Everesting ride so practice riding both in and out of the saddle and transitioning smoothly between the two. Being an efficient rider will save you valuable energy.
The data below come from a training ride of about 3 hours with half the time climbing at sweetspot.
What goes up, must come down. Know the kind of descent you’ll be facing during your attempt and practice on it. If it’s straight, get comfortable at speed. For me, an arrow straight hill at 8% meant I topped out at almost 80km/h before reaching a built up area where I had to slow down. If your descent is technical, you’ll need to be really confident in your cornering. So confident, in fact, you could do it at speed after 15 hours in the saddle, because that’s exactly what you’ll be doing.
If you’re coming down fast then the chances are this won’t be true recovery and your weight might not be on the saddle. I included isometric strength work with daily wall sits to strengthen my quads for this aspect.
It's a good idea to have one or even two simulation rides of at least half the elevation you’ll face on the big attempt. Nothing is quite going to prepare you for the final hours, but your simulation rides are a perfect opportunity to test pacing, nutrition and equipment. Make the most of this ride by planning the details and sticking closely to your plan. Review your performance afterwards and consider whether you need to adjust anything. Give yourself adequate time to recovery after your first simulation to do another if anything substantial needs to change.
How you plan, prepare and manage nutrition on the day could make or break your Everesting attempt. Depending on your body weight, you are likely to be using 6-10,000 kcal during the course of your ride. While there is no chance of consuming this much while you’re riding, you can put yourself in a strong position by following a sensible carb loading protocol in the days leading in. Aim for 5-7 g/kg of bodyweight per day of carbohydrate as you reduce your training load.
For the ride itself, you should aim to take in 60-90g of carbs per hour. If you’re pushing over 60g then you’ll need to include a variety of carbohydrates (glucose, sucrose, maltodextrins). It’s really important that you test this as some people can’t tolerate higher amounts, especially large quantities of fructose.
The main advantage you have during your Everesting ride, compared to many ultra-endurance events, is the option to have your own base camp with a selection of food and drink options. Make the most of it! Ensure you have options to choose from because flavour fatigue is a real thing. That snack bar that you love might be great at the start but possibly not so appealing 10 hours in. Having something that you look forward to eating will help you keep the fuel going in. If you have a support crew, make sure they know exactly what you need so they can hand it to you and help you stick to the plan.
I was planning to use Mountain Fuel flapjacks, gels and energy drink for the majority of my ride. This meant I would take in 0.5 to 1 flapjack and around half a bottle of energy drink per hour and later, when solid food might become more difficult to take on, I’d switch to 2-3 gels plus half a bottle of energy drink per hour. I also knew from previous experience that I’d probably crave savoury snacks too, so had crisps and pork pies at base camp to enjoy when we stopped.
Another item you might want to add in for this ride is some caffeine. Again, this is something you need to test in advance to make sure it agrees with you. I made use of both cans of coke, which were really refreshing on a warm afternoon, and cola gels from Mountain Fuel so I could take it on while riding.
Finally, even though you’ll go in with a detailed plan, don’t be afraid to adjust it as you go. If you feel bloated with the food you’re taking on then try some plain water to dilute the sugar in your gut. Just remember that you’ll need to keep the food coming or at some point the wheels are going to come off. Keep yourself hydrated and fuelled and you’ll set yourself up for success.
What is Everesting?
Everest - Earth's highest mountain - official elevation of 8,848m above sea level
Not for the faint hearted, Everesting is described by Hells 500, keepers of the Everesting Hall of Fame, as “fiendishly simple, yet brutally hard.” Sounds like a fun day out, right?
First though, a bit of background to our Everesting ride. Holmfirth Cycling Club has been teaching kids to ride bikes since 2013 but there is an economic barrier to cycling and many children don’t have access to a suitable bike and a safe and enjoyable place to ride. This situation will be exacerbated by the economic downturn resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic. Children from homes experiencing financial hardship may be unable to access facilities for sports and recreation. To tackle this, I decided to Everest to raise money for new bikes so that every child in the area can access cycle coaching and develop a love for activity, challenge and adventure that so many of us share.
For a little more background or to donate (before 11 August 2020), go to
Originally conceived as a solo ride, I was delighted when coached athlete Hannah Tweddell (Lifting Gear Products/Cycles In Motion) allowed herself to be talked into joining me. It turns out having company on a ride like this is a big motivator.
Planning our ride
Like any ultra-endurance event, planning is critical for an Everesting ride. Location, date, weather, equipment, pacing and nutrition all need to be considered, tested and refined. More on detailed preparation to come in Part 2!
Picking the hill for the attempt was crucial and I found the ideal “Goldilocks” spot not too far away on Bradshaw Road, Honley. At 8-9% it’s steep, but not too steep. It’s straight for a fast descent and is close to civilisation in case of emergencies. It's a pretty steady gradient but tips up just a little so you can get out of the saddle and stretch your back. Trust me, you'll be glad of that! Based on the Everesting calculator, it would mean a total of 58 ascents and a total distance of nearly 220km.
When it came to fuel, there was only one place I’d go. Rupert and the Mountain Fuel team set us up with our core nutrition for the day – Raw Energy Fuel, flapjack bars and a mix of standard and caffeine jellies – so we could do most of our fuelling on the go. A support crew handing out bottles and snacks at the turn around helped us to minimise stops and keep the wheels rolling. We also stocked up on a variety of other food, including savoury snacks and cans of coke for later in the day.
And so it begins...
July in Yorkshire gave us a favourable 16 hours of daylight to work with. Sadly, it also brought us driving rain and strong winds on our target Saturday. Luckily, the forecast for our contingency day on the Sunday was perfect and we began at 5.30am, with clear skies and a light tail wind, as the sun rose behind Castle Hill (and Hannah).
Enraged by our good fortune, the Puncture Gods struck early, but a spare wheel from the support crew soon had Hannah up and rolling again and we remained puncture free for the rest of the day.
We pressed on through the first 20 laps in about 4h15, making the most of the early enthusiasm, delighted to have ticked off the first third of the ride slightly ahead of schedule. After a quick stretch we were back on it for another 10 laps. However, as if inspired by our ride, the temperature also continued to climb into the mid 20s, pushing up my heart rate and leaving Hannah looking like a human salt stick.
Breaking for lunch at 1pm we had over 5,000m of elevation in the bag in just over 7 hours. However, the hurt was starting to creep in as we contemplated the fact we still had around 4,000m of climbing to go.
It was inevitable that progress would slow a little in the afternoon as the pace that felt fine at the start became increasingly tough to hold. Digging deep, we kept the lap times on track and normalised power only dropped by about 5% over the afternoon. However, the repetitive strain of riding a bike up a steep hill for that long was taking its toll and it became harder to stick to the nutrition plan we had set. We relied on more regular stops to stretch our backs and break the ride into more manageable chunks of 5 reps, which provided a much needed mental boost during those final hours.
I won't lie, the last few hours were pretty grim. The supporters and sherpas were a real lifeline!
Throughout the day we had support riders popping in to complete one or more reps with us. We might not have had much to say while they rode with us, but we appreciated the company all the same!
Club mates came to see us before heading off on their weekend rides. We’d already been there for three hours. After their rides they came back. We were still there. Some came back after their dinner. We were still there.
Finally, as the sun was starting to set at 8pm, we started our final ascent. Just the two of us, side by side, cheered on by friends and supporters with cow bells and Queen’s “we are the champions” greeting us at the top. The summit of Everest and a coveted place in the Everesting Hall of Fame.
Espresso Performance Coaching works with athletes of all levels to help them reach their performance goals in cycling, running and multisports
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