On December 23, 2018 George Vargas completed the REV Cycling Million Feet of Climbing Challenge. 2018 marks the third year in the last four years he has achieved 1,000,000 feet of climbing in one calendar year. The previous years were 2015, 2016 and now 2018. That is the headline if you would like to learn more please read on.
Let’s turn the clock back a few years. Initially, I had intended to climb 1M in 2014. I set the challenge to my REV Cycling team/club members in December 2013. But on my first ride of 2014, January 2, I crashed and broke my right femur. You can find the posts here that expound on my injury and recovery. I finished out the year with some fairly strong numbers considering I was off the bike for four months.
Now 2015 comes around and I’m raring to go. I would have a full calendar year to do it but in fact I completed the REV Cycling Million Foot Challenge in only 10 months. Additionally, I was proud of doing it in less than 10,000 miles. The last two months of the year should have been a bunch of “coffee rides” but I still accumulated another 106,422 feet and 1,079 miles on top of my 1M and 8,889 miles at the end of October. When you do the math you can see a few fantastic numbers — in my opinion of course. Ironically, I’m proud of completing the 1M in fewer than 10,000 miles and yet I am the founder of the 10K/1M club on Strava! 10K/1M is 10,000 miles and 1,000,000 feet of climbing club.
1,000,000 feet in only 8,889 miles = 112 feet per mile
1,000,000 feet in 242 rides = 4,132 feet per ride
8,889 miles in 242 rides = 36.7 miles per ride
The breakdown of the additional feet and miles AFTER I completed the challenge are found below.
November 2015 (13 rides)
December 2015 (18 rides)
2016 I was determined to remove as many “junk miles” as I could in getting to 1M feet. I had climbed 112 feet per mile in 2015, so how much more juice could I squeeze out of the lemon? LOL! Regardless, I was on a mission to accomplish 1M in fewer than 8,889 miles. Keep in mind I am still doing centuries and Double Centuries (DC) throughout the year that wreck my average since there is only two DC’s on the calendar that have 20,000 feet of climbing. In my opinion, they are too far to drive and do them but once every few years. Most hard DC’s have about 13,000-15,000 feet. The most difficult ones are 15,000 and above.
I digress, with my mission in mind throughout the year I did accomplish my goal of getting 1M in fewer than 8,889 feet but just barely! I completed the challenge in just the nick of time on December 22, 2016! It was getting so close to the end of the year that actually had my biggest month of climbing for the entire year was in December, nearly 129,000 feet.
December 2016 was a crazy month! With all that was going on with my business and my life I needed 125,994 feet to get to 1M. I amassed the requisite feet in a scant 809 miles that’s 154.7 feet per mile!! The biggest bang for my buck in December was an Everest of 29,203 feet in only 78 miles. At the time it was the shortest Everest in North and South America! And as I stated earlier, there was one of those low elevation Double Centuries mixed in there of only 7,448 feet which completely wrecked my average feet per mile.
I only did one more ride in 2016 after completing the 1M challenge of 27.5 miles and 2,923 feet. The final stats for 2016 look like this:
1,000,000 feet in only 8,384 miles = 119 feet per mile
1,000,000 feet in 245 rides = 4,081 feet per ride
8,384 miles in 245 rides = 34.2 miles per ride
2017 was a busy year for my business and so I didn’t get out and ride as much. I think I had decent numbers and a year most people would be proud of … I was anyway!
2018 YEAR IN REVIEW
Thank you for indulging me to bring you from 2014 until today. I realized I hadn’t posted a blog post for any of my previous 1M completions.
2018 is more of a tale of two seasons. We can easily split it up by everything that happened before I got sick and everything that happened after I got sick. Looking over my ride files it’s specifically, everything thing that happened from January until March and everything that happened from April 7- December 23!
Here is a synopsis of what I accomplished in January and February. Not much to talk about just 2 notable rides.
Now let’s talk about my illness. For the entire month of March I was sick and I didn’t ride. But not only was I too sick to ride, which may be shocking to many of you that know me well, I was too sick to work! A minimum of two days a week I lacked the energy to get out of bed and get to my store. I tried to work from home but I didn’t have the mental focus to read emails or process internet orders. I had never ever felt this sick before!
I had Influenza B, pneumonia and Strep throat. I had sores in my mouth and throat. There were blocks of time 12-24-36 hours when I didn’t eat or consume fluids. I dropped weight dramatically. I weighed over 150 lbs in February. During my month-long battle with the flu I reached an all-time low was 134 lbs by late March. When I remounted April 7th I was up to 137 lbs but I felt completely out of shape – no leg strength no cardiovascular fitness – nothing. My journal entries point out a very elevated Heart Rate (over 185 bpm) for very minimal effort.
I need to emphasize something before we begin digging into the 2018 season. I had no intention in climbing 1M this year. The only reason I went after it was BECAUSE I was got sick and wanted a goal that seemed out of reach to do something epic for 2018.
April 7th I got back on the bike and I was on a tear. I had a lot of time to make up and a lot of feet to gain. I was routinely did the math of how many feet I was behind the million foot pace. Every time I would start to make some progress I either had work commitments, a Double Century or just life.
So that the math below makes sense to achieve 1,000,000 in 365 calendar days you need to climb 2,740 feet per day EVERY DAY. If you take a rest day or skip a day then well that is 5,480 feet – skip two days and that is 8,220 feet just to break-even! With that basic calculation let’s now extrapolate what being off the bike for over a month looks like. 31 days in March and 7 days in April — that’s over 104,000 feet behind schedule.
JUST 33 RIDES
How did I close this huge gap? From April to December I set out to do some pretty epic shit. Many of my rides were big rides! How big? Take a look at this statistic — 33 rides produced 454,842 feet! Nearly HALF of the million feet came from JUST 33 rides!! Let’s break this down.
454,842 feet in 3,755 miles = 121 feet per mile
454,842 feet in 33 rides = 13,783 feet per ride
3,755 miles in 33 rides = 113.7 miles per ride
Here are some more stats for just these 33 rides
It’s important to mention that of the seven Double Centuries I completed in 2018, six of them were on the tandem with the indefatigable Lori Hoechlin. She is as true as the North Star. Her steady, fluid and rhythmic cadence is as constant, predictable and reliable as the pulse of a quasar. As a stoker, and better yet as an athlete she has no equal. Oh yeah and she is a heck of a good human being too.
The months of September – December were especially busy with epic rides, career achievements and Hall of Fame inductions. Let’s review this four month timeframe.
Before beginning there is an honorable mention August 25, I visited the Eastern Sierras and climbed three monster climbs: Onion Valley Road, Horseshoe Meadows and Whitney Portal Rd. 17,000 feet in 127 miles.
Sat, 9/8/2018 EVERESTING San Elijo/Twin Oaks #5
Career Achievement Furnace Creek/Silver State 508 – 10 Finishes Award and working the race
Sat, 9/22/2018 Beach Cities Double Century #51
Sat, 9/29/2018 Knoxville Double Century #52
Career Achievement California Triple Crown Hall of Fame Induction for completing 50 Double Centuries
Sat, 10/6/2018 – EVERESTING San Elijo Road #6
Sat, 10/14/2018 Mt Laguna Recce
Sat, 10/20/2018 Solvang Double Century #53
Sat, 10/27/2018 Oceanside Double Century #54
Sat, 11/3/2018 Mike Nosco Ride
Sat, 11/10/2018 EVERESTING Twin Oaks Valley Road #7
Sat, 11/17/2018 REV Laps #1
Thurs, 11/22/2018 Thanksgiving Climbfest
Sat, 11/24/2018 Local Steep Climbing Day
Sat, 12/1/2018 Fun Climbing Day
Sat, 12/15/2018 REV Winter Century Series #1
Sat, 12/22/2018 The Eleventh Hour Ride
Sat, 12/23/2018 The Coup de Grâce 1,000,000 ride
Some other things…
How about some other fun facts? In 2018, I saw a couple new power number PR’s.
My 5 second power number increased to 995 watts. Nothing to write home about I know but for me it’s fun to “sprint” every now and then. Actually my top two all time 5 second efforts were in 2018. 995 watts 15 w/kg while weighing 66.33 or 146.2 lbs
What about 1 minute power numbers? 608 watts for 1 minute 9.09 w/kg 66.88 kg 147.4 lbs. These increases came after repeated efforts at sprinting up local hills of over 8% grades. It is interesting to note that not only did I increase my absolute power number from 600 watts in 2015 by 8 watts but I also weighed less in 2018 which means I increased my w/kg as well! The numbers for 2015 1 min PR were 600 watts at 8.82 w/kg at 68.02 kg or 149.95 lbs
EDIT: 1/1/19 Finished off the year with 10,000 miles the last 3 days of the year I did two centuries and a 40 miler to tackle the last 250 miles. Last minute goal not even in the plans during the year but I got so close I just figured I should go for it.
There you have it a year of climbing 1,000,000 feet summarized in 1,000 words! What is next for George Red Eyed Vireo Vargas? I’m not sure. I haven’t made my goals for 2019. I guess I better get cracking on that eh?