Have you ridden 8848m/29028ft in one go yet?

In the recent past, a new kind of challenge has crept onto the bucket lists of hard-core cyclists who love pushing their own limits: Everesting.

The term coined by Andy van Bergen describes climbing one single hill of choice as many times until the elevation gain of the height of Mt Everest – 8848m – is achieved. The number of repeats range greatly. Alpe d’Huez would have to be climbed almost eight times, a small neighborhood climb of 40m vertical gain would require 221 repeats. There is a lot of strategy involved what climb to choose. But there is only one rule: It has to be continuous riding so no sleep between.

When I heard about Everesting the first time last year, I was intrigued. I love challenges that pushes me to my physical and mental limits.

But then I realized what that meant. Doing something repeatedly. Seeing the same corner, the same tree, the same crack over.
And over.
And over.

I am not good in that. I don’t do crits for exactly that reason.

So Everesting was off the table. Off the bucket list. Nada. Done. Won’t do it.

But it was tough to ignore it. The idea kept tickling me, cyclists from everywhere were doing it. It popped up on Strava, on Facebook, friends were talking about it, friends were doing it and randomly you come across a strange arrangement of furniture and food at the start of a climb in the middle of the night. Ah, yes, someone was in the process of Everesting.

Besides being surrounded by the omen of action, there was something else about this mystical circle of Everesting that made it increasingly appealing.

There is not a lot of talk about it. There is no pressure of doing it. No boasting. Just action.
I kind of like that!

But Monika, this is still not for you! The repeats don’t become fewer because of that!

Well, but then two weeks ago I was pushed over the edge to the side of serious Everest commitment business.

For two reasons.

The first reason is the main reason I ride my bike: the community. I will join seven guys who know how to have fun on the bike. A few of the many, many laps ahead will be absorbed by laughter, awe, tears and silence. More about this crew will be shared soon with some sweet film shoot material!

But another reason made me decide to do an Everest:

This is not about me.
This is not about a personal accomplishment.

It is bigger than that. It is to raise funds for Movember – a foundation for men’s health issues. Now, all of a sudden, the 120 something laps seem a minor obstacle compared to what bigger problems are out there in the world.

18th of November is the showdown.

A month to go. A month to get ready for the most elevation gain I will ever have ridden in one single ride.

Stay tuned for the next posts about the Everest challenge including introducing the crew, my preparation, training rides and anything else what I am not aware of yet!


My (mental) preparation for the Three Peaks Challenge– Melbourne to Mt Buller (260km/5000m elevation, 161mi/16400ft elevation)

 

When you are planning on doing something longer and harder than you have done before, the extra weight of five kilos on top of your neck will be your key asset. (Your head)
Having decided three weeks out to ride the Three Peaks Challenge, one of the hardest one day challenges in Australia (235km/4000m elevation), I needed a long tough ride beforehand. I wanted to see how my legs feel towards the end of a long ride but more importantly I needed that kind of ride as mental preparation. Getting my head ready for whatever lies beyond the failure of my legs. There is a “going into the red” for going anaerobic, I call it “going mental” for going beyond your perceived body’s ability.
I heard on Thursday that a mate, Damian, is planning on riding the next day from Melbourne out to Mt Buller. 260km (161mi). 5000m (16400ft) of elevation. 40km (25mi)  of gravel in unknown condition.  35 degrees (95F) temps.
That was exactly what I was looking for! It had the length, the pain and the uncertainty to make it very challenging.
For those kinds of rides, key is to be able to motivate myself on the toughest parts. Naturally climbs and in this case the gravel section would be something that would drain my mental energy. So for the short time I had to prepare for this ride (12 hours), I learned all about elevation gain, gradient, length of climb that could give me the ability to measure my progress while climbing. Plus, the more numbers you have to play around with, the more you can make all kind of (un)necessary calculations to keep your head busy.
The gravel section seemed to become my lowest mental point. With a limited pool of mountain bike skills, I had a very tough time to navigate through a very rocky terrain, no matter if uphill or downhill.
We just didn’t make any progress. That put me off.
In those situations, I try to either sing to myself or compare my current misery with an even worse situation from the past.  Keeping perspective is key and not letting emotions take over.
After the gravel section, the toughest part was actually just starting. Mount Terrible*. A 10 odd km (6mi) climb all exposed to sun and heat.  It was north of 35 degrees (95F). We were already dehydrated from the lack of water supply in the last 120km. We were 11 hours into the ride. I dealt with very painful hot feet. So in short: A great time to pull the plug, especially considering that our next stop, Jamieson, has a nice coffee shop to cool down, relax, refill and eat properly. Why would you want to leave?
As this the most dangerous time to waste time stopping, I was in “adventure racing” mode. Quickly refill on water and food and get out of there in the quickest time possible.
But when I strapped my helmet back on after all necessary refillings, I realized that Damian hasn’t even touched his food.
“Are you alright?”
“No, my head is still spinning, my heart racing. I am severely dehydrated. No way, I am getting out of here until I feel better.”
Wow. I was flabbergasted. I knew we were both dehydrated but I didn’t see that coming.
He must have been seriously dehydrated.
After an hour of recovery and rehydration in Jamieson, we decided the ride is over and we would ride to Mansfield. I left Jamieson still with the belief that I could get Damian safely to Mansfield and then push on.
But as soon as we got on the bike, all the adrenalin and excitement vanished. Seeing my ride mate in such a terrible condition plus the length of the stop put me mentally into a different state of mind.
Should I really ride on alone into the night?
Although it was only right to join him to get him safely to Mansfield, disappointment and a huge sense of failure set in. I couldn’t believe it. I was so determined to reach the top of Mt Buller. Now I had to give up short of it.
With those feelings setting in, I lost my motivation for this ride.
However, Damian seemed to wake up from the dead. He rode off strong and visibly got his energy back.
Although I had no desire to keep riding, I asked anyway if he wanted to change his mind to keep going up Mt Buller. I expected a “no” but to my big surprise he said, “let’s do it!”

What?!?

Thinking that the gravel section was the toughest mental part, this mental adjustment from deep disappointment to “hey let’s rock this” was huge.
It took me a few minutes to readjust my motivation to ride for another 50km (31mi) with 800m (2600ft) of elevation. But man, this overbearing sense of disappointment evaporated and hell, I was ready to finish this sucker!
With us both being aligned in our goals again, we made the next 50km as fun and exciting as possible. We both just came from very different ends of disappointment and here we are facing a legitimate climb in the darkest of dark, 15 hours into our riding. And we are having fun doing it!
The cherry on the ice cream was some surprise visits! Blake knew we were about to climb Mt Buller and stopped on the climb, cheering us on. Andy and Nicole stopped on the way handing us pizza! How awesome is that?!? Things like this make a huge difference in such a ride!
Damian and I truly enjoyed the last kilometres and it became a little bit celebratory finishing strong on top of the climb and completing what we planned to do after 18 hours.
A huge sense of accomplishment was setting in…….. A veeeeeery addicting feeling.
When can I do it again? Ah…right, Three Peaks next weekend!

Our route: Melbourne – 1 in 20 – Warburton – Reefton Spur – Eildon-Warburton Rd – Jamieson – Mt Buller

* On the way down from Mt Terrible a lyrebird ran actually in between my wheels. That was luck to both me and the bird that we actually got out of it ok.


How to succeed at tough races

Two months ago I signed up for one of the harder races in Switzerland: the Alpenbrevet, a 276km race with over 7000m of elevation. However, with a new job I have less time for riding and only two months ago I hopped on my bike maybe once a week.

Still, I signed up for the longest and hardest distance of the three racing options.
Finishing a race of that magnitude is not an easy goal, especially if your training capacity is mediocre at best.
However, although physical fitness is very important, what gets you really up the mountain, through nasty weather conditions and across the finish line is your mind!
Here are a few suggestions that help me get through tough challenges, even with less training:
Never doubt your success. You gotta be on the start line thinking that you will succeed. Any doubt will later, in tough times, knock on your mental door and question your sanity. During the first climb of the Alpenbrevet, all the different distance groups (Silver, Gold, Platinum) rode together. I asked a few riders what distance they will ride. A lot said `I will see. I was thinking of Platinum but if I do not feel well, I will go for the Gold distance`. All of them set themselves up for not completing the highest goal they could achieve.
Don’t focus on the pain. If you do it will only get worse. It`s the same with feeling sick. If you think about getting sick, you will. Distract yourself. Especially on long challenges, try to distract yourself with something else than your current activity. Sooner or later, you will find yourself thinking about it all the time anyway. Now, when it is easy to entertain yourself with other things, like chatting (if possible) with other riders, enjoying the nature, counting the white stripes of the middle lane, will make the latter and tougher part of the race mentally easier.
Tell as many people as possible about your goal. Because you would have to tell all of them you had to quit. Then try to imagine what you would tell them. If it sounds like an excuse, keep going.
Play worse-case scenario. If you are getting tired climbing up a mountain, ask yourself: How could it be worse? The grade could be steeper. It could rain. There could be headwind. It could be a cobble way. All of a sudden, your current condition does not seem too bad anymore.
After all it all boils down to:
Pain is temporary but failure lasts forever.
Plus, crossing the finish line after a very tough challenge is an indescribable addicting feeling.
What gets you through a tough race?

Preparing for a new level of EPIC – Alpenbrevet

There is no shortage of tough rides in the Alps, especially considering the endless possibilities of climbing up passes without a lot of flats between them. This ride was a preparation for the highly respected Alpenbrevet race. I was pretty exhausted after this ride of 147km and 4,300m elevation. The Alpenbrevet with an additional 130km and 2,700m elevation gain will ask for a new level of toughness in two weeks.

The route:

The elevation:

Barely any flats, climbing from 500m up to 2,400m

 

 

 

 

On the way down from Grimsel with the view towards Furka Pass

 

But before testing my climbing legs, the non-stop 1000km Tortour around Switzerland will challenge the endurance of my team and I. With a highly organized five person support crew, a camper, a follow vehicle and a loooooot of food, we are ready for the challenge starting this Friday EARLY morning. We hope to cross the finish line 39 hours later, Saturday evening!

You can follow us via live tracker. Link will follow.

Oh, this race will be so epic!