On October 6, 2018 George Vargas Everested San Elijo Road in San Marcos, CA . He climbed 29,301 feet in 175 miles 1.6 miles 606 feet of gain 7.2% grade. He had one rear flat and no mechanicals. He felt great on the bike all day long on his way to completing his 6th Everest. Everesting is when you take one hill/mountain and do consecutive repeats until you attain 29,029 feet or 8,848 meters the height of Mt Everest. Follow me on Strava here follow me on youtube here older content on youtube here
The weather in the morning was cloudy, foggy, drizzling and even raining at times. Rain is rare in San Diego but I was more than happy to have rain. The cloud cover kept the sun away for several hours. It was a welcomed change from my last Everest attempt on September 8th. It was in the high 90’s that day and a tailwind which is usually welcomed cooked me while climbing. I was roasting and dripping sweat in buckets! It was hellish for about 10 hours until the sun finally set. But the weather on this Everest was, dare I say, enjoyable. I was happy with the cool weather and enjoyed the rain showers throughout the morning. The afternoon was overcast and the evening was fairly warm for October. I am sure the cloud cover trapped in the heat of the day and it made for a pleasant evening.
I climbed at Endurance Zone all day. I felt great from beginning to end. Endurance Zone for me is 140-189 watts or 2.17 w/kg to 2.93 w/kg. I know what you are thinking wow those are some low wattage numbers and you would be correct. But this is an endurance challenge not a race. You can ride at any pace you want as long as you complete your Everest. I find that riding at Endurance zone works best for me. Even riding at Tempo range you might dig a deep a hole too deep that you won’t be able to get out of later in the day/night. I think my pacing was perfect for my fitness leveland my overall capability as a cyclist. Some further analysis follows below.
I took my total time (18 hours) and divided it by 3 equal parts (6 hours). Then I looked at my Normalized Power (NP) and compared it for the three equal segments. For a refresher on NP click here. Basically NP is a calculation “takes into account the variance between a steady workout and a fluctuating workout. In a highly variable ride the NP will be much higher than your Average Power.” Let’s keep it simple for the purposes of Everesting. You want to maintain your NP within your Endurance zone. One test I used was to just breathe through my nose. If I could climb and breathe through my nose I knew I was still in Endurance Zone. This tactic works well for recovery rides too. Sure enough I would look down and my heart rate would be between 135-140 bpm. I conserved energy and maintained a consistent pace all day. To wit, for the last 12 hours my NP for 2/3 and 3/3 deviated by only 2 watts at 154 w (2.4 w/kg) and 152 w (2.37 w/kg) respectively. My first 6 hours I purposely was riding a little harder. The weather was cloudy, foggy, misting and raining so I was trying to ride fairly fast to take advantage of the cool conditions 174 NP or 2.72 w/kg. My tactics worked very well I climbed an extra 1,100 feet in the first 6 hours compared to the last 2 – 6 hour blocks. 1,100 feet may not sound like much but it is 2 complete laps which were about 22-25 minutes each lap.
I have also included my Heart Rate zones if that is more friendly to you than power data.
Did any of you watch the old Batman series on TV with Adam West? Maybe I’m dating myself a little here but…you can catch reruns on some stations that play 60’s shows I believe TV Land is one of them. In those old shows, Batman and Robin would be climbing a rope up the side of the building and some of the Hollywood celebrities of the day would make cameo appearances and pop their heads out the window and start talking to them. It’s funny that I thought of my interactions with other riders in that way. I spoke with only three riders that day: Will Barnes, Steve Fellows and Evan. Yep 18 hours only 3 riders. Why? Because most riders seemed to be in too much of a hurry to chat with me 🙂 I past a few riders but they didn’t seem to want to talk. I wonder if maybe they were in their own pain cave. In case you need a little reminder of how hokey the Batman show was I have included a video from youtube below. Strange things come to my mind when I’m on the bike 12 plus hours. Funny thing Robin mentions Mt Everest in this video compilation!
What was my conversation like with the three riders mentioned above? Will Barnes is training for a ride in the Palomar Mountain area I think he said Gran Fondo. Steve Fellows, he was a former Cat 3 racer who was always in the winning break but couldn’t close the deal when it came time for the sprint at LOTOJA. I eventually want to do LOTOJA. Evan, a full size guy, was doing one of my typical hill repeats ride “up and over”. He said he needed to lose some weight. We talked about Intermittent Fasting as strategy.
HOW LONG IS AN EVEREST?
I’d like to give you some idea of how long it takes to do an Everest. Here are a couple of examples:
I saw people gathering at this house mid-afternoon. On each repeat I would see this progression before my eyes almost like time-lapse photography shows you rose blooming. I then saw them partying on the patio. The sun set and they were still partying. In the evening, I saw them watching the Mcgregor Khabib fight and cheering. Cheering loudly I might add. I caught glimpses of the fight as it was projected on the wall nearly life-sized. More cheering and then some jeering. I then saw them enjoying their post-fight party. Each repeat I had a different vignette into their lives. Eventually, I saw the people leave and the lights go out and go quiet. Their action-packed, fun-filled and alcohol supplemented day with family and friends was done and dusted with everyone under their doona … and I was still climbing.
I saw a wedding party taking pictures in the park around the water fountain in the light of day. I then saw them convene at the local watering hole for a wedding reception. Between my repeats I saw people coming and going, dancing and cheering, laughing and hugging. More pictures and more hugs and more toasts. The shiny disco mirrored ball shining it’s random beams of light across the dance floor and out onto the sidewalk where I would ride through them. I felt part of the party for those few seconds I passed the watering hole. I wondered what it would feel like to be off the bike and dancing under the lights … you know being normal on a Saturday night. Then I saw the wedding party disperse. Then the clean-up and eventually the watering hole closed… and I was still climbing.
And this song was stuck in my head
I saw the local coffee shop open, serve coffee and breakfast. I saw it close. I saw it reopen for lunch. I saw it close after lunch. I then saw it convert from a local watering hole into a wedding reception hall. I saw it close for the last time … and I was still climbing.
The neighborhood security patrol began their rounds … and I was still climbing.
18 hours … it can also be your fasting window 🙂
These long epic days on the bike remind me of the time I was riding the Mulholland Double Century (200 miler with 17,000 feet) I was sitting at the side of the road just before the Decker climb. I was 150 miles into the event and I was just spent. I was running in the top 5, riding alone and completely hammered. I had to pull over and regroup with myself. I sat down next to a fire hydrant and drank an entire bottle while watching the other riders catch and pass me. I was no longer running in 5th, or 6th or even top 10. I have seen and ridden by that same fire hydrant since then and I have reflected back on this day.
As I sipped on my bottle and nursed my energy back up, I allowed myself and my mind to disassociate with what I was doing and then connected to where I was physically at that very moment. You might call it being present. It was May. It was Saturday. It was early afternoon. It was a beautiful sun-filled day with a clear sky. I still remember it. I could see people going about their day. Surfboards and bikes, you know the beach cruiser types. The type of bike you take to the beach and leave it there because you know no one will steal it. It will be there when you return from surfing. Couples walking hand and hand, carrying bags and towels and stuff heading down to the beach. Will they be joining friends or having an intimate date alone but together. Will they be staying until sunset? How romantic that would be? As beach goers sunsets are eagerly anticipated and watched with awe. As a cyclist, it means a completely different way of riding. What did they do earlier in the day? Did they do anything? Did they sleep in? What will the rest of the day bring for them? I allowed myself the time to think of being someone else for a moment and doing something else … for a moment and then it was time to get back on the bike. If I stay on task I might actually enjoy dinner tonight at a reasonable hour and maybe even at the same time as this couple.
So how long IS an Everest? It is long enough for the average person to wakeup, have a full day of activities with family and friends, get a modest workout at the gym or outdoors, go home change get dressed go out to dinner, go to a movie, then go to a bar, close it down, drive home get in bed … and I would still be climbing.
You would think after 10 Furnace Creek/Silver State 508’s and 50 plus Double Centuries that I would have the ability to pack all the requisite items for an endurance ride/race/event. Once packed and accounted for it you would think I would possess the organizational skills to have everything in it’s place and a place for everything. Well, you would be mistaken because I take too much for granted. The thing is you need to be very well organized because as the hours pass and fatigue sets in. During your Everest when you are looking for something you second-guess yourself whether you packed it or not. Logic, reason and memory functions are compromised the longer you are out there.
Allow me to provide for you two examples of the stress I experienced looking for things. The first was my knee warmers. I was sure I had packed them but I couldn’t find them anywhere. I usually keep them in a cubby drawer thingy that I tote around with me to do my Everesting and the Furnace Creek/Silver State 508. BUT… the weekend before I had taken them out to take to a Double Century up in Northern California (blog post in draft mode still) and I forgot to put them back in my cubby. The second was my top tube bag. I used it to hold my external battery pack to recharge my electronics i.e. Wahoo Bolt, Cell Phone, lights etc. I searched and searched and in the dimly lit cabin of my minivan I couldn’t find it. Eventually I found it when I was looking for something else. Isn’t that the way it usually works out? These are minor and it could’ve been a lot worse. But these two instances were huge time killers and time off the bike is time you don’t get back and it extends how long you will be out there.
I have already thought of how I will organize my night gear for my next Everest. Things like my top tube bag but also my reflective clothing, lighted vest and additional lights. I wasted a lot of time converting my bike to night mode. Next time I will already have my second taillight mounted on the bike but just not turn it on until after dark. The handlebar clip that holds my headlight, should have been on the handlebar as well. I mount my headlight under the handlebar so that the light doesn’t bother me. When I climb my hands are very close to the stem and the light on top of the bar would get in the way and cramp my style lol! But on the day of the Everest at the very least the clamp wouldn’t bother me as much and it’s a necessary evil anyway.
Would you believe that for me one of the biggest stressors during an Everest is keeping all my shit charged? It’s obvious to have your lights charged and to have backup spares as well. GPS units also need to be charged during an Everest – yes units. You should always have a spare GPS unit as well. If one craps out during your ride or one doesn’t upload properly you should have a spare GPS unit. In addition, I document with photos and videos during the event as a back up to the back up!
I had a couple of setbacks that also wasted time. A flat tire on the bike and a dead battery. I had a rear puncture. It’s so strange because at that time I had gone over that same stretch of road for approximately 6 hours. I flatted about .2 of a mile from the end of the climb so I just rode it to top to the van which I affectionately refer to as the Mother Ship vice SAG wagon.
The second setback was a dead battery on the aforementioned Mother Ship. A huge shout-out to my friend Paul Sims who came out and gave me a jump. When my tandem partner Lori, Everested the same hill last year her car battery died also. The battery being dead is a misnomer since the interior lights work but you don’t have enough cranking power to turn the engine over and start it. We didn’t notice until she was done and we were leaving but luckily I was there to give her a jumpstart. Here I was trying to be proactive and start my vehicle so as to prevent draining the battery but little did I know it was already too late. Fortunately, it was still early in the evening 745 pm. Thank you Paul!!
EVEREST TIP Two helpful hints when using your vehicle as your SAG:
- Turn off all interior lights
- Have a friend on standby not just for the jump but for supplies since you can’t leave your Everest location – food, ice, spares for your spare, clothing etc
For me this is the easiest piece of the “how to complete a successful Everest puzzle” I use a product called Spiz. Hour after hour I am completely fueled with all the macro nutrients and tons of other good stuff. I can “pre-make” my bottles by placing the powder in the bottles without water. This small step saves time. Sure you end up with a lot more dirty bottles to clean after the event. I then add water when I am ready to use it. I am usually one bottle ahead in the cooler. Each serving has 20g of protein so I don’t mix until I need it or at least not more than couple of hours before I need it. A 4 scoop serving is 517 calories. With Spiz you get your macro nutrients and everything you need to sustain your energy through your event and beyond. What do I mean by beyond? Because I am fully fueled during my, in this case, 18 hours of Everesting, my recovery was so much faster. You can purchase Spiz here. Please take a look at the nutrition panels for Spiz. You may contact me directly if you have questions. firstname.lastname@example.org
By the way, I bring other things with me but I don’t rely on them for any appreciable amount of calories or fuel for my ride. They are things that are treats and provide a cleansing of the palette. For example, I had the following items with me:
Peanut Butter filled pretzels (I love pretzels and I love peanut butter I had some of these)
Ms Vickie’s Salt and Vinegar potato chips (never opened the bag)
Black Pepper Triscuit (never opened the box)
Bananas (I had 2)
Grapes (a few handfuls)
Energy Bars (I had 3 – 140 calories each)
Energy chews (I didn’t have any)
Coca Cola – (I had 3 – my first one at the half way point 15k feet into it)
I have been experimenting with Intermittent Fasting or IF to lose those last 5 stubborn pounds. I wonder if doing the Everest in my Endurance Zone I was using more fat stores than glycogen and/or the carbs I was consuming as I was riding. I never felt like I was fading never felt extreme fatigue. This was the most gentle grade of all my Everests. It is my longest Everest at 175 miles. The climb was only 7-8% most of the way with a flat spot at the top. 1.8 mile climb with .2 of a mile at the top that was flat with a median in the middle that prevented me for making the u-turn sooner. 1.6 miles 606 feet of gain 7.2% grade
Besides being in fat burning zone, maybe, the real benefit has been losing those stubborn pounds, the last 5 pounds you just can’t get rid of. Enter Evan, late in the day I got the opportunity to ride with him as he was returning home. We had a chat about weight loss and the subject of IF. I told him that for many years I was 155 and no matter how many miles I rode I would always gravitate to 155 lbs. FYI- When I first started cycling I was 190 lbs. Then last year my focus was to get down to 150 pounds. Now this was the new normal and no matter how many miles I rode or calorie watching I did I would gravitate back to 150. So this year I thought I would shoot for 145 pounds. Success!! I can proudly say I am a member of the sub 145 pound riders club if there is one. I think IF helped because I just found a reason to restrict calories with a plan and goal in mind. I IF about 3 times a week. I eat regularly on weekends beginning on Friday if I am racing that weekend. I eat regularly on Friday pre-race, Saturday race day, and Sunday and Monday on my recovery days. However, regularly now means almost a complete elimination of carbs from my diet. I don’t buy rice, potatoes, pasta, bread and so on for the home. If I am out and it’s a race weekend then I indulge otherwise I abstain.
If you are considering an Everest I strongly suggest you give yourself the best opportunity to succeed and lose those pounds you have been thinking about losing. You will thank yourself as you are 15,000 -20,000 feet into your Everest.
Here is a video compilation of each time I stopped and documented the ride for Instagram (IG) and Facebook. IG has 1 minute video limitation so that was just perfect to get the pertinent information out to social media. It also makes the compilation short and concise.
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Here are my other Everests: