Coming Away for the First Time Craving More
Please also remember that this was for charity and the National Center for Trans Equality still needs your help !!!!!
Before anything else, there is a long list of thanks that need to be given out. Firstly, I have to thank my family. Without your overwhelming support, none of the insane things I’ve done this year would’ve happened. So thank you to Gabby, Emma, Georgia, Maggie, Emma, my Parents, and Grandparents for your continued and tireless support of my endeavors. Next, thank you to Wheatridge Cyclery and Matt Mo for your generosity in keeping my bike running. Cycling is an expensive sport, and as a 19-year-old in the middle of a global plague, I would not be able to ride as much as I do if it wasn’t for your support. Finally, I would like to give thanks to the counseling and medical staff at UVM. It’s a wonderful life to be able to spend most of my days playing in the mountain, but it’s been hard to keep myself together throughout this year. So thank you for your kindness and extensions of care.
Wednesday, October 14th I set out to see how much climbing I could do on my road bike in one ride. And while I had built detailed spreadsheets, and spent numerous hours calculating what I thought could be possible given my training, when I clicked my Garmin to start my ride I was completely content with whatever results awaited me when I was finished. Overall, I’m incredibly proud of my performance. I made it through the Half-Everest (14,500ft of climb) losing less than 4 minutes (including having to get off the bike multiple times) on my very aggressive pacing strategy and continued for another 3,000 ft of climb (total of 17,337 ft). Yet, this is the first time I have walked away from an effort like this feeling like I didn’t find my limit. I could have kept going to 20,000 ft for sure, but even if I got to 20,000 ft I know I could have done at least one more lap. The past few days I have spent most of my (incredibly boring) recovery trying to understand what this performance means for me as an athlete, and what is next.
Everesting, or half-everesting with bonus laps in my case, is my favorite endurance event ideas out there. It combines my love for climbing with my disdain for route planning into a meditative exercise in self-motivation. The fact that a concept which is totally made up, and fairly niche has become such a prominent event in the endurance zeitgeist makes my climber heart very happy. I first became aware of Everesting after Kilian Jornet’s 24-hour ski record, as I began to become interested in some of the of more obscure climbing time trial records that were out there. Since then, it was watching Phil Gaimon’s first sub 8 hour Everest, Francis Cade’s double zwift Everest, and Charli’s fixed-brakeless Everest that really got me inspired to go for one of my own. Unfortunately just 10 days before my attempt this summer, I crashed at 40mph on Lookout Mtn and had to take 5 weeks of recovery before getting back into training. That crash, combined with the road season coming to a close and being back in school forced me to shift my focus from a full Everest this season down to “just” a half.
My training block for this started on September 4th and is one of my most focused and well-executed training blocks to this day. Similar to my summer recap I’m going to go through the weeks to give a brief overview of my workouts.
Week 1: Climb – 11,971ft; Time – 8h58; Relative Effort (RE) – 574
Week 1 was a great return to training and included my first summit of Mt Greylock (the highest mountain in Mass). I still wasn’t totally comfortable back on the bike, especially since I had spent the last few weeks only on my track bike doing easy rides with my dad. But, by the end of the week, I was pretty much mentally back in the routine of getting up and riding 2-3 hours every day.
Week 2: Climb – 13,748ft; Time – 9h56; RE – 498
I spent most of the second week exploring around my, now fourth this year, new roads. It was the first time that I did my Wednesday workout loop, which became standard as the weeks went on.
Week 3: Climb – 13,283; Time – 10h2; RE – 469
Week 3 was a pretty standard week at this point in terms of volume. After doing over 15 weeks above 20,000ft of climb this year, clicking off ~15,000ft weeks with some hard efforts is pretty routine. I put in another hard effort on the 3rd iteration of The Loop™ and some big watt QOM’s early in the week. My legs were turning over pretty strong all week and this was the week that I came up with my plan for River Rd.
Week 4: Climb – 16,722; Time – 12h17; RE – 566
Week 4 was my biggest week of the block and each day I was continually surprised at how strong my legs my felt. I did another hard lap of The Loop and a recon day on River Road where I did 12 laps at a 15-minute pace. I remember how difficult this workout felt and I am so proud of how well my training ended up, as I felt better on Lap 20 of River Rd than I did on lap 12 this day.
Week 5: Climb 10,890ft; Time – 10h9; RE – 453
This training block has been a reminder to myself of my growth and experience gained in being a self-coached endurance climber. This week I did my last huge workout on Saturday, a 95-kilometer loop from the house to the summit of Mt. Greylock and back with 5,000ft of climb, and then when I went to try and double the next day with another workout I immediately shut it down because I felt my legs were too tired. Reaching a point of self-reflection and knowledge to be able to know how to push massive workouts, but also when to shut them down is something I’m very proud of, and I believe will result in my performance continuing to increase as time goes on.
Week 6: Climb – 11,967ft; Time – 10h9; RE – 378
My final week of training before River Rd I did two last main workouts, a full-gas effort up the River Rd segment, and a long low heart rate climbing day. This was one of the few times in any training block that I have purposely had to hold myself back from going hard during workouts in order to save my legs. The entire week they were itchy to get out and do another huge day, but with River Rd so close I was able to quell that energy and spin out the whole week in under 400 RE while still managing to hit 12,000ft of climb. I was super excited when I finished out this week, and for the first time during the block, I started to allow myself to get excited for Rive Rd.
Week 7: Climb – 18,140ft; Time – 9h47; RE – 730
I started the week with one super easy 30min spin to make sure my position was dialed and my bike was ready to go. Everything went super smooth and it took a fair amount of strength to force myself to get off the bike and put it away until Wednesday.
The day started when I woke up at 5:57 and began tiptoeing around the house in order to get my things ready and avoid waking anyone up. I got an enormous 7 hours of sleep the night before and had a resting heart rate of 39bpm. This is by far the most rested I have ever been going into an ultra and makes me proud that I nailed the taper. Thanks to my copious amount of planning, all of my things were laid out and I just had to go through the motions in order to get out the door. When I finished packing my car up, just before I left I turned back towards the house and ended up being awe-struck by the brightness of the moon. I took a couple of minutes to soak in that moment, and the serenity that I felt there gave me confidence that things would go well.
After arriving at the climb following a short, and incredibly misty drive, I quickly set my bike and food up before throwing on the last of my kit. Once I was ready to go I ended up starting my watch at 7:31:20, which is the most on-time start I’ve had to something like this. The first lap was a little stressful. I’ve come to find that during these long climb repeat days the first rep is laughably easy in the legs, but my heart rate is absurdly elevated. Fortunately, I was able to keep it reasonable, and even though I would have preferred to be in the 140s, I was able to keep it just under 160. The next laps went effortlessly. I did the first two laps cautiously in 15:543 and 15:32, which was what I planned to do in order to ensure that I didn’t go out too hard like I had done in my 3hr test a couple of weeks prior. Emma arrived at 8:30 and was my first crew. She was wonderfully enthusiastic and won the day for the best bottle handoffs. I cannot thank everyone enough for coming out to crew me on this silly and selfish endeavor. It would not have been anywhere near as smooth going if it wasn’t for them. After picking up a fresh bottle from Emma the next 8 laps were all between 14:09 and 14:56. I don’t think I have ever climbed as smoothly and consistently as through those first 3 hours. Although I was a little worried about blowing up, the mid 14-minute laps did not feel hard, and I figured it was better to bank a few minutes where I could rather than force myself to go at a slower pace.
As it neared 10:00 and time for Emma to leave, I began to have my first slight lower back discomfort of the day. Fortunately right as Emma was leaving she was able to Tour De France style hand me some Tylenol out of her car as she headed home. This ended up being a lifesaver and allowed me to continue riding without my back ever becoming overwhelming.
After Emma left I had a short stretch on my own until Maggie would get there to cover the next crew shift. This segment continued to go smoothly. While I did have to get off of the bike a couple of times to grab bottles or change jerseys, I was still well within my pacing strategy. After an hour or so on my own, Maggie was able to refresh my bottles and send me off onto the longest, and hardest, solo stretch of the day. Setting off onto lap 20, after 5 hours and 10,700 ft of climb, I put my headphones in and continued to try and set a hard tempo.
Throughout the next 9 laps, I anticipated each one would finally be the place that I would begin to come apart. The most climb I had done previous to this in one day was 10,300 on Lookout Mtn. And, when I had done that I hit the 10,000 ft mark over an hour slower than the pace I was on. My back at this point was fairly tortured and I spent every descent try to stretch out to provide myself some relief. Yet, every time I clicked off the lap button on my Garmin I was shocked to see I was still doing 15-minute laps, and I was still right around 7-hour half-severest pace. Coming through the half Everest lap in 7h05 was quite a serene moment. For me, this was really the endpoint of the day in terms of suffering. I had done 4,000ft more climbing in one day than I had ever done before at a faster pace than I usually even hold for a couple of hours. It also was the mark that I think proved to myself that a full Everest would be possible next season.
My legs still felt surprisingly solid at that point so there wasn’t much time for celebrating. I turned the music back up loud (playlist) and decided to keep pushing until Georgia was scheduled to come at lap 29. (photo of me smiling on the bike)
Seeing Georgia after a couple of hours in the pain cave was a nice reprieve and after 7 1/2 hours riding I took a moment to step off the bike. My back was really starting to become more than just a nuisance and I could feel some slight tightness developing around my knees. My actual legs were still feeling good and my energy levels were surprisingly high given the effort thus far. Georgia told me right before I left for the next lap that Gabby and Emma were on their way. I decided that I would push to keep going until at least after they arrived.
The next few laps went okay, but I realized on lap 32 that I had reached a rather odd place. I knew that I wasn’t going to crack anytime soon. My legs were still feeling great, and I figured that if I were to take 10 minutes off the bike to massage and refuel I could probably have for another 3-4 hours if given the daylight. This was a pretty startling moment as I had performed so much stronger than I had expected. Going in I had figured I would probably crack right before the half Everest given my traumatic crash just 2 months prior, the time I took off for recovery, my moderate volume training, block, and the fact that I was averaging 160 bpm heart rate on the climbs. The fact that despite all of that I was still able to turn in this performance, brings me a lot of pride, but it also was not quite the day that I was searching for. As I finished up my last couple of laps while my friends cheered me on I tried to just enjoy the climbing and soak in the day. After 17,300 ft of climb I decided to call it a day as the sun began to set and I could feel the slightest bit of pain in my left knee.
Originally this summer I had planned to run the Silverton 100. This 62-mile race in the San Juans would’ve taken nearly 20 hours and I’m sure at least 2 heavy storms. I signed up for this race wanting to hit absolute rock bottom. It’s been since I was a senior in high-school running my first 50 mile (JFK 50 Mile 2018 Race Report) where I’ve truly hit that* absolute low in a race. And, after 2 years of training, I felt ready to try and see what it would take to get there and how I would respond this time. Unfortunately due to COVID, this race was canceled and I had to quickly pivot to other goals and aspirations. I am incredibly proud of the training season I managed to put together this summer and now into fall. It definitely wasn’t the one that I had planned on but it was so much fun and I learned so much about riding bikes and training. But, I’m still a little disappointed to come away without the experience that I had set out to have this year. The day I had on River Rd is proof that I have a lot more in my legs than I would’ve given myself credit for and has forced me to consider where my actual limits are. I’m hopeful that at some point this winter I’ll have another day without much going on, and my friends will again be willing to volunteer their day so I can climb a hill a lot of times so that I can have another attempt at finding my limits.
For the future, I have a few plans circulating so I’ll put them here if only as a bookmark to go and look back at later. In the next couple of weeks, I’m going to try and take some true off season time and ride my track bike while waiting for the snow to come. I’m hopeful that some early season snow will allow me to get some good skiing in during November before I leave for Colorado but I’m not holding my breath. From there I’m going to be targeting the USSMA National Championships in the Vertical race to see if I can pivot back down to a 20-30 minute effort against *actual* other people. I do plan on doing some sort of time-based skinning day early in 2021. So, hopefully I’ll be graced with good snow for that. Following the conclusion of the SKIMO season, I plan to be back on the bike and go for a full Everest and some stupid fixed-gear climbing goals (hey State, want to send me a bike ?? ❤ ). Overall though, my hope for the next season is to play in the snow with my friends, climb all the vert, and enjoy every second I can spend in the mountains. Thank you everyone for your support and I hope to see you all out there !!!!
My nutrition strategy was aggressive but pretty standard if you’ve seen any of my Strava posts. I did a bottle of triple scoop Gu roctane every 1h15, a rice Krispie on the hour, and a honey stinger caffeine every couple of hours. This worked out to 81.8 grams of carbohydrate per hour average, and I think that’s pretty spot-on for an activity of this duration and heart rate.
Gear for this ride was fairly standard. I was on my Carbon Tommasso road bike and road in my 34-27 the entire day. That gearing was the perfect cadence/speed for my pacing strategy, and after 6 hours I thought it would be funny to do an entire day on a road bike without shifting gears. Saddle was an ISM PS 1.0 which while comfortable, has next to no padding and I plan on replacing it with a saddle not intended for 30 minute time trials next season. Shoes were Shimano Carbon RC-7 wide which I absolutely love. They are perfectly still while still being comfortable enough to ride all day. I had no foot problems at all and cannot recommend this shoe enough. Bibs were a pair of Ostroy’s and they are genuinely the most comfortable bib I’ve ever road in. The chamois is something else and they are absolutely worth the extra money. Jerseys I wore 2: in the morning I wore a Band of Climbers thermal jersey, which was great for the 40*F start, and when things heated up I swapped to a Rapha Pro Team jersey. Helmet was just a standard Giro. Sunnies I did change quite a few times as the lighting conditions changed. I started the day in my Oakley Wind Jackets because they’re easy to put on my helmet, when the sun came out I swapped to a pair of Goodr OG’s, and then when the light began to dim again I put back on the Oakleys.