Cycling Up Everest During Lockdown for the Helen’s Trust
Written by Spire Radio on 17 June 2020
This week I was asked “why Alpe d’Huez?” a very good question. But I suppose a better question is why Everesting? (It may become obvious that I like a challenge).
Here is the concept of the cycle challenge, Everesting (everesting.cc) is fiendishly simple: pick any hill, anywhere in the world (or virtually) and complete repeats of it in a single activity until you climb 8,848m – the equivalent height of Mt Everest. The climb I will be doing this on is a simulation of the famous Aple d’Huez, and is likely to take 14 hours, all without leaving the garden shed.
I had been focusing my training over the past 5 months with the Fred Whitton Challenge (fredwhittonchallenge.co.uk) in my sights (114 miles in The Lakes, with all the hard climbs included). However, due to the unwanted arrival of COVID and the cancelling of all cycling events, I felt somewhat lost, having invested many hours in the saddle building fitness and a sore behind. Thus, the question, “what can I re-orientate my training towards?” Everesting was the answer.
Everesting is fundamentally a solo event, a test of one’s physical fitness and mental focus; is it possible to ride a bike for 14 hours repeating the same stretch of road over and over? When I had first considered the challenge (pre-COVID) 6 months ago, I had thought it could be a good challenge to take on outdoors. The fun of planning (& then managing) logistics, people riding in support, being entered into the Everesting hall of fame for a first ascent, tackling the changing daylight, rushing of wind. Even though I could feasibly do this outdoors without breaking any Government guidelines it feels wrong to attempt some [needless] challenge that could put a strain on family and friends with so much going on.
Thankfully, I have an indoor trainer, Wahoo Kickr Core for the bike (PlanetX RT80) and a subscription to Zwift (think flight simulator meets exercise bike) allowing me to cycle a virtual world from the garden shed, thus allowing for a Virtual Everesting. Now it may seem a bit of a cop-out to take on this challenge indoors, and on the face of it, I agree. Yes, the miles are “fake”, you can get off on the descent, the toilet is located just meters away, you can watch TV, and your wife can supply food. But these, I believe, are outweighed by the fact that there is no open road to keep you engaged, no real hill to climb, no change in bike position, and no wind (the shed can get very hot!). So where previously this was an evenly weighted physical and mental game, it is now looking like the scales are tipping. A worthy adversary.
Once deciding on a Virtual Everesting attempt, the next question that doesn’t need much thought was, “which climb do I attempt?” The obvious answer is “Alpe du Zwift” (or Alpe d’Huez if you’re not partial to sitting on a bike in your shed). Alpe du Zwift, 3,399 ft (1,036 m) of climbing across 21 hairpin turns, is a simulation of the famous Alps climb, it’s the biggest climb in the Zwift world, and thus the default for Everesting. So, the real question is “how do I shoehorn Alpe du Zwift to fit my cycling ability?” The answer I have sold to myself, it’s a consistent climbing gradient (little need for wasting brain cells changing gears), it’s flipping long (~1 hour climb time), more importantly, the descent is also long and allows for comfort breaks (no need to steer a virtual bike) which should reduce elapsed time. It is also the only climb that most people (anyone who has better things to do than pedal nowhere) may have heard of.
Now that the challenge has been set, and the location decided upon, I needed to create some extrinsic motivation (accountability). Why not use this crazy bike ride as a means to raise money for charity? People do stupid stuff for charity, so I figured this could fit the bill. I have no strong ties to any particular charity but felt it would be good to support a local charity, these would likely be suffering most in the current environment. I asked around some friends, and one suggested Helen’s Trust. The local Peak District GP surgery she works for had originally set up the trust, it also feels a fitting charity for the current climate, sadly.
Helen’s Trust, based in Bakewell (their office is round the corner from my shed), enable anyone with a terminal illness to have the chance to stay in their own home at the end of their life. They fund and coordinate non-nursing care such as sitting services overnight and regular carer respite during the day. They also source equipment such as recliner chairs, overbed tables and bath seats in order to provide respite for those with terminal illness.
If you would like to support me in this stupid challenge please take a look at my charity fundraising page: uk.virginmoneygiving.com/TomChaldecott