The call up
I certainly didn’t expect to be planning an Everesting attempt when I got the invitation from Laura Wilson from Specialized Australia to catch up over coffee little over two months ago. What she proposed to me over that coffee seemed madness, but something not totally off my radar. She asked me to represent Specialized in a little Everesting attempt that Hells500 were cooking up. There was no expectations for me to participate, it was merely an offer. My eyes lit up.
I have been following the Eversting craze ever since Andy van Bergen from Hells500 set it up back in September 2013. I’ve been attending Andy’s Hells500 Tuesday #RFWYA rides for a while now and following the stories of many others who have completed their Everests. The proposal Laura and Hells500 had put in front of me was outstanding – how could I not be involved. 25 women + Mt Donna Buang, 8848m, the largest group everesting on record all to inspire, motivate and encourage female cycling around the world that anything is possible. I immediately said “yes”. February 7th at 11:59PM we were going to begin our Everesting attempt of Mt Donna Buang, 25 women attempting in solidarity, but all riding together to climb Mt Everest. The date went straight into my race calendar, I would clear it with the coach later!
The enormity of what Andy had planned for the 25 Everesting women didn’t really kick in for a few days. I began researching what Everesting Mt Donna Buang would involve – 300km, 8848m elevation, 20hrs+ in the saddle. The good thing was that I didn’t really have the time to dwell on the details too much. I was too busy racing my bike. For those that follow my blog will know, Specialized Securitor had a very busy summer schedule. January went by in a blur of Bay Crits, Nationals, Santos Womens Tour in Adelaide and Cadel Evan’s Great Ocean Road Race. The bad thing was that I wouldn’t get much, actually ANY, endurance training in the legs at all. The furthest I’d ride in the lead up to the Everesting attempt would be racing Cadel’s race the weekend before. So as far as physical prep, I didn’t really have much. While I focused my physical and mental energy on racing, it was only the week before (once racing was over) that I had time to think about things properly.
For me, the most important part of the ride was my clothing/equipment choice and what I would be shoving in my mouth for fuel. They were the two things that were key to Eversting success. I spent the week leading up to the event writing lists, charging lights and getting my gear together. Laura had organised a Specialized care pack for me, which included some clothing for all occasions and some prettly slick high power Flux lights. The next thing that I had to organise was my nutrition. From what people had told me, it was all about real food. As much as possible. So that’s what I did. On the Friday I spent the day baking fruit cake, making sandwiches and picking bananas. I think I was sorted. Too many clothes and too much food. Check.
Excitement was brewing as word got out about the event. Andy had organised a Domestique ride on the day so that the community could come to support by riding a lap or two with us. The women, from all walks of life, chatted excitedly on our Facebook group and rallied our friends and family to support us on the day. Before I knew it, it was 10PM and my partner Purdie and I were driving out to Warburton. Purdie was going to ride the first few night laps with me, then go off to assist the Start Foundation fundraising BBQ she had organised, then re-join me in the afternoon. I had friends coming to roll laps throughout the night and day, so I was never going to be alone. The fact that I was never going to be alone, made the whole thing way more palatable. As Purdie and I chatted about the pending epicness it became apparent that Purdie could actually Everest too (we had friends that could manage the BBQ)… We got to Base Camp at about 11PM to a massive crowd of riders and supporters, we unpacked our bikes and food and soaked up some of the atmosphere. It was buzzing, a mixture of excitement and nerves. A little whisper to Andy and Purdie had her name added to the rider sign on board and it was official, she was doing it too! That grey stripe we often talked about, we were about to earn together.
Lap 1. Our Garmin’s were started at 12:01am and we were off, pockets full of food. It was a balmy 17 degrees at the summit, quite humid, but perfect weather. Dressed in short sleeves, we rolled into the darkness, beginning our first lap into the unknown. The group stayed together for most of this lap, chatting away, full of energy. It naturally broke up as people climbed at their own pace. We needed a strategy to get through the monotony of 9 laps and had planned to break it down into bite sized chunks to allow us to get through. 3 blocks of 3 laps, with a short break in between seemed the best way for us to get through. This meant that we would break as it got light at approximately 6:00am. Purdie and I rode in relative silence for the first lap, concentrating on the road in front of us, getting used to riding in the darkness and enjoying the peaceful surrounds. The decent was a little scary, buy we had high power lights that were shining the way. There was a huge sigh of relief when we completed the first lap, simple because we did it. It was possible.
Lap 2. The second lap I was feeling sleepy and hungry, it was time to eat some food. It was just gone 2am, a time where I would very much be asleep. Again, I concentrated on the road in front, turning the pedals. I checked my phone at the top and saw a welcome message from my friend Luke. It said: “I’m 20 minutes away, see you at the bottom”. I couldn’t believe it. It was 4am now and we weren’t rolling a lap alone! Lap 2 video here.
Lap 3. Having help at lap three was just what we needed to keep us awake, someone new to talk to and distract our droopy eyes. It was just starting to get lighter as the sun rose between the trees. The sky was turning a beautiful rose colour and we began to see our fellow everesters, passing up and down the mountain on their respective laps. I couldn’t stop smiling, it was perfect. It was a magical time of the morning and a time at which Purdie and I were hanging for our 1st proper break. We arrived at the bottom to be greeted by our next two helpers, Bec and Tanya. They all waited patiently whilst Purdie and I filled our water bottles, pockets full of food and put on a new set of lower power lights – the sun was up!
Lap 4. We were feeling much slower at the beginning of lap four. We had lapped the first three in just under two hours, this lap seemed slower. We couldn’t really complain, Bec had forgotten her cycling shoes and was to ride the next lap with us in her runners. Now that is dedication and a true sign of friendship and support! With the new help, we were a group of 5 and we chatted away, passing the time quickly. Descending this time was a lot different, we had full visibility as it was now around 8AM. We could see the massive trees and ferns – absolutely beautiful. As we climbed there was a constant exchange of waves and an encouragement yell to the women we passed! The time was flying! Luke left us after this lap, only to be joined by more friends – David, Martin and Grace.
Photo @fairflyer and @fameandspear
Lap 5. Our group had grown again. We were a group of six at lap five. I was feeling the pinch at this stage, we had been in the saddle for six hours or so and feeling rather weary. Here we did split up a bit, which didn’t matter. We waited for each other every few kilometres. I mean, Purdie and I were in it for the long haul. We were going to ride it together. Our helpers were fantastic at riding at our pace, not once did I get half wheeled or felt pressured to ride faster! We had some fun along the way with Ron and Andy who were taking some photos… Before we knew it, that was that. We were about to descend, ready for lap six. The final lap of our second set.
Just waiting for some mates.
Lap 6. We started lap six feeling weary. Though Bec, Tanya, Dave and Martin had left us, we were joined by our other friend’s Bec and Sam. This would be by far the hardest lap for Purdie and I. This one felt like a never ending grind to the top. Each pedal stroke hurt. I just wanted to get to the top… I knew that the sooner that I got there the sooner that it would be over. I ended up riding the second half solo, whilst Purdie rode with Bec and Sam. Purdie was hurting. I felt bad that I had left her. But I needed to get to the top. For my sanity, and hers too. The last three kilometres of the climb are the worst, I felt like I watched my garmin like a hawk as each metre passed by. The relief I felt when I crossed that mark at the top was amazing. It was only a 25 minute decent to our next big break. As I waited at the top, I got a text message from Purdie. She needed food and I had just eaten my last piece of fruit cake. I felt terrible that I didn’t have any, so I scrounged a banana from a stranger (thankyou) and rode three kilometres to where she was to deliver it. Purdie got to the top and we decended like mad women to Base Camp, sat in the room and ate everything in sight. Without stopping for breath I ate two sandwiches, two pieces of fruit cake and smashed a can of lemonade. We sat there on the floor, looking at each other, not speaking a word for what seemed an eternity. Once we came to, we laughed. I think that’s what bonking feels like! We filled our water bottles and with new energy in our legs, we set off once again.
Lap 7. It was 2pm and the Domestiques had began their support ride. As we rode, we bumped into our friend Monique, who we rode with until the top. She was a welcome distraction and set a perfect pace for us to follow. She provided much welcomed inspiration with her epic stories of racing across America. Lap seven flew by, a combination of distraction and excitement that the end was near. We knew that after this lap, we only had 1.2 laps to go! Purdie and I had a good laugh at each other this lap. Laughing at the fact that we managed to let ourselves bonk in such a manner and also at the fact that we were nearly there. We were nearly at the end! There were so many supporters on the road at this time who rode with us for various amounts of time. Everyone was excited and we were smiling from ear to ear! There was a huge crew at the bottom at this stage, Janet was handing out baked goods and heaps of people cheering us on…One more lap.
Food thanks to JK
Lap 8. Our final full lap. We were so excited for this lap. Joined by our Wednesday crew, Manni and Bec (again), we smiled from the top all the way to the bottom. We were smiling, but our legs were screaming. I felt like mine were on fire. I had been grinding away at an average cadence of 60 for just about 15 hours now. I was starting to fatigue both mentally and physically. The distraction that Bec and Manni provided was an amazing help in getting us through. Seeing our fellow everesters pass us on the decent for their respective laps was encouraging too, everyone was so happy with the knowledge that it was almost over. We had almost completed our Everesting. As we approached those final 3km I could see a familiar car in the carpark up the road. It was my friend Meg. She had driven all the way from Melbourne to see me come past on my final lap. I can’t even begin to describe how I felt at this moment. I stopped and gave her a sweaty hug and she pushed me off up the final 3km. I can’t thank her enough… Purdie and I had a little hug when we reached the top. We had done it. Only 0.2 of a lap to go. We signed the board for the final time and sluggishly accelerated off up the Mt Donna Buang climb for the final time.
The Wednesday crew ft. Andy van Bergen
Lap 0.2. This was it. We had just under 4km to go. I had mixed emotions – so happy that the end was near, and utter relief that the end was in sight. Those 4km ticked the slowest of the whole day. We turned the pedals in sync, going so slow we were almost going backwards. We were cooked. We crossed the line together, breathed a sigh of relief, high fived and decended that bad boy (or girl) for the last time. At the bottom there was a crowd, cheering us on. Purdie and I proudly signed the board for the final time. 7:59PM. Doneski.
Signing off at the end of a long 20hr day.
What an unforgettable 20 hours we had on that mountain. Sharing this experience with a group of women from all walks of life, levels of experience and all with different stories to tell. Although we all rode in solidarity, we rode together with the ultimate and almost unthinkable goal achieved – we Everested. There were some that didn’t get to the end, but they fought hard to get there and tried their god darn hardest. I hope that our feat has inspired and encouraged women to dream, believe, push themselves, and ultimately get a bike and ride it. I have raced many hard races in my short cycling career, this was the hardest thing I have done on the bike up until now. We waved goodbye to Donna at 9:30pm. We stopped off and demolished a pizza on the way home, and I vowed never to do that again… (well, for this year anyway).
Thank you so so much to all those that came out and supported me, both on and off the bike – you know who you are. Thanks so much to Andy (and Tam) from Hells500, to the Warburton Community. Thanks to Specialized for giving me the opportunity to be an ambassador – representing Specialized women around the world. Thanks to my team Specialized Securitor for supporting me and our sponsors, Specialized, Securitor Financial Group, Adidas Eyewear and Capo Cycling. Thanks to my super coach for letting me do this crazy thing… and finally, thanks to Purdie who supported me wholeheartedly in the lead up to the everesting attempt and at the last hour decided to join me on the road. I’m not sure I would have been able to do it without you. Couples that Everest together, rest forever together! (we didn’t even argue once, although we did get a little hangry at 9:00pm before we ate pizza). Pro photography thanks to Ron @fairflyer and Andy @fameandspear.
On a final note, Purdie and I wanted to make this ride something special and give something back to the cycling community. We want to dedicate this ride to raise money for START Foundation, Ride for the Adelaide Hospital which Purdie is participating in April. If you have a spare few dollars, please head over to their website using this link and donate to Purdie Long.
The stats (my stats)
Everesting check my Strava file here.
Elevation gained 8848m
Moving time 17:05:06
Average cadence 62
Average speed 16.6km/hr
Average power 103w
Temp average 16C
Elapsed time 20:03:00
Suffer score 394
Friends – many
Non riding friends – 1
1 peanut butter and jam sandwich
1 vegemite sandwich
1 avocado and cheese sandwich
8 slices of fruit cake
2 cans of lemonade
and much much more