All or nothing! Time to get epic. How a Track Sprinter conquered Everest
In case of total shutdown- plot an Everest
Famous last words. I put the idea out to the universe, I had to follow through.
In all truths, I had been plotting this for a while. I first got the idea in 2013. Cycling tips put out an article on Everesting. It was the first I had ever heard of it. At that point I was a roadie, doing 25000km/year and the idea of doing an Everest was tempting and probably do-able. But also at that time in my life, I was at a crossroads. I was speed skating, had just got into track cycling, and was just realizing I was a sprinter. The idea stayed an idea.
As the years went on, I planned several rides, none of which I followed through with. I always had good excuses. I had a sprint race coming up, the hill I was planning is surrounded with bushfires, I have a job, I haven’t ridden more than 100km in one ride in the last year. Solid excuses.
Then Covid hit
With the entire world being shut down, it was my time. I had nothing else better to do. I jumped on all my bikes and started smashing the k’s.
But as soon as it started, Australia had seemingly beaten the outbreak. Sydney was at zero cases (except the ones coming from hotel quarantine), and everything was opening up. Racing was back on, and there was a glimmer of hope for me to race the sprints at Aussie nats. I was a sprinter again!
I continued on with life. I raced everything, and 2020 wasn’t all that bad.
After a disappointing end to 2020 and a shocking start to 2021, I decided it was time to deal with a small niggling injury I’ve needed fixed for the last decade. And by small, it was a full ankle reconstruction. I needed the joint re-shaped, bone fragments cleaned out, and one of my ligaments pinned back on and re-enforced with an elastic band. I planned it so I could race states on the track, do the VicDivide bikepack route, have surgery, recover over the winter, then get back to racing by the time summer hit. Solid plan.
All was going good, the surgery was successful, and I was back on my bike.
Simmering in the background was a Sydney limo driver, who caught the Delta strain and ended up out in Bondi junction for a week. As I was getting closer to full clearance, Sydney was getting closer to a second wave. At this point, I had been in the gym doing everything to keep conditioning and fitness.
As the likeliness of another lockdown became larger. I re-visited my idea of doing an Everest once Sydney went into lockdown. My original hill (sandwich climb) had been west-connexed. And the road was closed. I had to find a new hill.
Going to a place near and dear to me (actually I hated this hill all last year), I decided to plug Oatley Hill into the Everest calculator.
That looked totally reasonable and achievable. At this point, I figured an ankle reconstruction was the perfect training taper to prep for this Everest attempt.
Original Segment details
It all started when I was rolling down a hill, minding my own business, when suddenly I decided it was time to break my collarbone. I was still in my moon boot and felt like I needed to do more recovering.
Personally, I think a broken collarbone is a good excuse not to Everest.
It was probably a good thing. Sydney went into lockdown, and I was able to work on my ankle rehab. I was going to the gym, Andy was writing programs that accommodated my ankle rehab, and the fact I was in a sling. I really threw him all the tough variables and he was able to come up with stuff that really set me up for a good recovery. Thanks Andy (I still hate you).
Lockdown extended! Everest is back on!
At this point, I still hadn’t gone out to the hill to investigate the actual numbers. But I had my suspicions. When looking at my old race data, and the elevation graphs, the numbers weren’t adding up. I knew it was going to be a lot more than 143 laps.
1 week to go, I did a recon ride.
It was worse than I expected. I put the new segment ptofile into the calculator- 280.9 laps, 457km. ooft. That’s ok, it’s lockdown, I can take as long as I like. It’ll be something to do. I announced it on facebook, made a full ride plan, gathered supplies, packed my base camp bag… and found another excuse!
The restrictions got tighter. I was now restricted to a 5km radius (Oatley is 10km from my place).
And the night before show time, I had to postpone the attempt
I was gutted. And not because I couldn’t do the ride. I was more embarrassed that I had made it public, got some hype, and then backed out. Although my excuses were all pretty legit, it just felt like I was backing out of a challenge.
107 days of Sydney lockdown
There was 107 days of Sydney lockdown, and I couldn’t find time, or a hill to Everest. This was probably the hardest lockdown. I was struggling. My usual outlets of riding and going to the gym were greatly restricted, either through injury, or government regulations. It sucked so much.
There was a silver lining. Andy was still writing me workouts so I could do things at home. The gym also offered zoom stretching sessions. Doing those meant I had to keep myself accountable to stretch, and I had the bonus of interacting with humans. This was so good.
I was doing 3x home workouts and 3x(30-45min) bike erg sessions a week. My ankle was getting back to 100% and my collarbone had completely healed after I got the plate put on. Weather was warming up, my fitness was pretty much back to pre-injury, and restrictions were starting to ease.
Just quietly, I was getting ready to Everest.
October 11- freedom day for Sydney. On that day, I’ll be able to travel anywhere within Greater Sydney! I marked it in my calendar, October 11 was the day I was going to complete Everest.
Except, I did not. The weather was absolutely foul. It was not a good day to get out. I cancelled the idea before I could even mention it to anyone. Ok, regroup. Friday it is! But same thing, the weather is looking average. Average with glimmers of fan-fricken-tastic. Friday it is!
From freedom day, I was dropping hints. I did another test hour to confirm my laps per hour schedule.
I made food and announced I was doing ‘a lazy Friday ride’
Everything was subtle, and no one caught on. Perfect. Although I did mention my full plans to a few curious people over DM’s.
Thursday October 14th
I woke up that morning only 90% certain I was going to start riding at midnight. Storms were predicted to go from 10pm to about 2am. Not ideal. Plan B was to just start riding a couple hours after midnight. Also not ideal. But I was at the f-it lets get this $h1t done mindset.
I packed my bag, and put myself to bed at 2pm to get 8h sleep before waking up to see if I was going to ride.
My alarm went off, the storms had passed. I announced the Everest was about to begin!
yes I had a plan, one does not just wake up and do an Everest. As my bags were already packed and ready to go, all I had to do was wake up, coffee, food, coffee, kit up, coffee! And head out the door. Caffeine was essential on this ride. As my training was minimal (more on this later), I was relying on base fitness, caffeine, and a stubborn personality to see me through the next 24h.
Prior to starting I had completed 2 test hours. The purpose was to get an idea of how many laps I could do in an hour. 14 was the magic ‘easy’ number. I had planned on doing 14/h for the first 12h then 13/h for the next 6, and 12/just hold on till the end. On this schedule I would comfortably be able to ride, get ahead of schedule and have luxurious breaks.
I arrived into Oatley on schedule. Got to the hill, set up base camp, and then slowly went down the road cleaning up any major branches/debris. I also gave the gum nuts around the flowerpot a bit of a sweep (those things are treacherous at the best of times). I re-set everything and hit go! 11:50pm I was 10min ahead of schedule… that was the last time I could say that.
What I didn’t realize, was the heat and moisture from the storms had resulted in the valley being coated in thick fog. It was nice because it was warm, but it meant the ground stayed wet, my glasses fogged up, and I couldn’t see more than a few meters in front of me. I never hit the 14 lap/h average.
Ya’know what, it was a fantastic ride. I’m saying this 3 days later, and I will never do it again, but it was truly one of my great ill-advised adventures.
From 11:50-5:48am sure the fog was thick, but my legs were tapping over at a constant pace, I wasn’t cold, and everything was close enough to the schedule. Because I started 10 min early, I was constantly reminding myself I was technically 2 laps ahead. I was blissfully unaware of how slow the fog was making me. I had my backlight for my garmin turned off, so I really had no idea of time/distance/pace. On the plus side, because I knew storms had just passed, and there was a possibility of drizzles through the day, I had a fender fitted to my bike. I was the queen of the wet roads dry bum society. And soon I would be the queen of Oatley Hill too!
There was something calming about counting to 10 in the silence of fog to the rhythm of my cadence. I really enjoyed being outside. Being outside my 5km. I didn’t turn any music on for the ride. Human! At 4:30am a light emerged from the fog around the back of the flowerpot. I think it was a runner. He said something along the lines of ‘you doing sprint efforts’ lol. I wish. I replied I was doing an Everest. And before I could make out his reply, his voice disappeared into the fog and the clicking of my gears shifting down as I went back up the hill for another rep. I didn’t see another human until well past sunrise.
Once the sun was up I was able to see where I was going. I still couldn’t get the pace up. First time check. I was supposed to be done 108 laps sometime before 8am so I could rest until 8 and resume from there. That never happened. I hit 105 at 8am and figured because I wasn’t cooked just yet, I would just ride through without a break… My next time check/scheduled long break wasn’t due until 3pm. An easy 7h away.
In-between I had Nicholas Johns and Andrew Schotte pass through for a few laps and a solid heckle. They also did a run to re-fill my water bottles. Huge thanks for that. Then the unsung heroine of the day, Chris Moore’s mom. This isn’t the first time she’s saved me. She is best known for being the supplier of goodies just as you need them during bike packing adventures. She was just doing laps of Oatley park, but for me, she was a target half way up the hill that I could chase so I could ask about her ride. We exchanged several smiles until this one lap, I was able to catch up! I asked how far she was planning on riding, and she said she was just doing loops; no goals, no pace, not time, just the joy of riding, this lifted my spirits. George Helou was next. He was a huge help, really pushing the pace, and letting me sit on his wheel for 15 laps. Joining George was Finn, a super energetic junior wearing his school shoes. Here i was struggling up the hill using the full pedal stroke, and this kid was in his school shoes powering up. It made me chuckle. Both guys were great company for well over an hour. This was just before my 3pm time check, my morale was down, and my laps were suffering. It was an amazing boost to have someone pace me for such a long effort.
Alas, my next break was not to be. I did a quick run to the toilets, changed kit, shoved food in my face, messaged Ben, and kept going. I was supposed to start 3:00pm at 200 laps. I was only at 190. I was still feeling good, so I pushed on.
200 laps, near as makes no difference, 2 imperial centuries. Nice! and although a little slower than I had hoped, they were pretty easy. It was nowhere near the pain I was in after the imperial Century of Vanilla Hills I did a few weeks earlier. Selina popped by for some heckles! Morgan did a few laps… Kev, Aldo… others. I’m so sorry if I forgot who popped down. At this point everything was going down hill (except when I was going up hill). I stopped being able to stomach food, and everything was spinning. I was not in a good way going into the evening and my second night shift.
From here I remember very little. There was a brief thunder storm. Then it got windy. The Cockatoos did not want to get out of my way. Ben arrived at sunset. I was just tapping my legs over. It rained again. The sun set. I was just tapping my legs over. Then I saw a bright light. As I went towards the light at the end of my tunnel vision, I realized I hadn’t died. It was Ivan! He had come down to pace me for my final laps… my final 30 maybe 40, my final way too many laps. Wow, I cant thank him enough. I was barely functioning. Going up the hill slowly, but I could still bomb it down. He was such a good wheel to follow. I already knew that from racing the Oatley Handicap races, but on the final laps of an Everest, it was reassuring to have someone there. He told stories, pushed the pace on the way down, chatted about nothing in particular, really pushed the pace downhill, and didn’t expect anything more than the occasional grunt, or yep from me. Such a good club mate for the final push to the top of Everest.
For those wondering, Yes I did do a ‘sprint’ on the final lap. And by sprint, it was more like a poof of fumes and a slight increase in speed.
Did I mention I was not in a good way? I was always going to finish, even if it took a long time. I ended up finishing 2h later than I had planned. When I got off my bike, it was like I was drunk. I was unsteady on my feet, my vision was blury, and I wanted to chunder. But it was late, Ben needed to catch a train, and Ivan had a wife to go home to. Gratefully Ivan gave me a lift home.
I always imagined I would finish an Everest, pop a beer, and celebrate an achievement. This was nothing like I had imagined. I was in a world of pain. Like I know how to hurt, but I have never been in so much pain. My body had completely shut down. By the time I got home, I was rushing to get out of the car to chunder. Then rushing to my apartment to chunder. It was all acid and stomach bile. I had zero desire to eat or drink anything. I had a shower, a tumms, and slept on the couch. Luckily the tumms worked. I managed a couple hours sleep. I also imagined I would finish an Everest and sleep for 24h. Nope that didn’t happen either, I woke up just past 5am and couldn’t get back to sleep. Took another tumms, and was finally able to drink some water, then eat some cheese!
Couple hours of restless napping later Ben got up and asked what I wanted for breakfast. Sourdough toast with Vegimite and scrambled eggs! I wanted the salt, butter, carbs, and protein. He went out and bought supplies. As I went to make breakfast, I cut off a bit of bread to munch on. Much to my horror, I couldn’t swallow it. When riding, I had been breathing so much I aggravated the back of my throat, and it had become hypersensitive. No vegemite toast for me. But the scrambled eggs went down a treat. Next, I tried Krispy Kreme’s, surely those would just dissolve in my mouth. Nope I struggled. No donuts, no toast. I managed to have a decent afternoon nap before waking up for a big bowl of Pho for dinner.
Eating Sucked, Sleeping Sucked, but my legs were feeling not too bad. I’ll take that as a win.
I went to bed at my usual time, and woke up the next day at 6:00am so I could have a slow roll to the beach and soak my legs in the ocean. The water was freezing, and I got the biggest bowl of porridge into me after. The slow roll home was also painless. Power felt down, but nothing I hadn’t experienced before.
I’m now 3 days out from the ride. All food is back, a celebratory beer has been had, I’m heading to Hurstville Velodrome tonight to continue to spin the legs out.
Full Ride Details
I did the training thing.
I had an ankle reconstruction, I broke my collarbone… I was well rested.
I was initially working with my Physio at the start of lockdown to get my body functioning. From there I passed physio Instructions onto Andy at Cross-fit Sydney to write gym programs to keep my general strength and conditioning at a decent level. I also had Michael Jordan, the Physiological Performance Analyst, from Track Cycling Academy penning ergo sessions for me. This kept me from just doing junk k’s and potentially aggravating my injuries.
I love over training, but in this case, I think I essentially did no training.
My training program was:
- Taper (get injured)
- Weights conditioning
- Base ergo
- Hilly imperial century
It worked, I didn’t die, I would not recommend.
All and all this was a great way to celebrate coming out of lockdown. I said I wanted to hurt myself on my bike, and I absolutely achieved that objective. This was the type 2 kind of fun that will be the source of legend for years to come. Sure there were probabally easier adventures/challenges I could have done. But I wouldn’t change a thing.
Now for your enjoyment, here is my strava heat map with my 2 favourite places now fully lit up bright!
- 281 laps of the Oatley Everest Segment
- 8992m elevation gain
- 23h 27min 24seconds
- Bike- 1983 Geoff Scott Clamont Professional 531
- 10 Speed Shimano 105
- 34/50 Compact Cranks
- 11-32 rear cassette
- SRAM S60 wheels (freshly re-built by Omafiets)
- Rear fender
- Champion Systems Road Crit suits
- 16x Nescafe Strong Cappuccino Sachets
- 14 Twiggy Sticks
- 16 Ultimate cookie dough brownies
This ride was supposed to be Un-supported Solo. In reality, I couldn’t have done it without the support of my Cycling Club- St George CC. Their cheers, heckles, laps as well as knowing I had people near by watching me, making sure I was safe. It all allowed me to dig deeper than I’ve ever dug before to finish the Everest. If you feel like my effort deserves a donation towards something, please support the club that supported me and drop a few coins towards our development program.