define('DISALLOW_FILE_EDIT', true); define('DISALLOW_FILE_MODS', true); Virtual Everesting Challenge – Red Peloton Cycling Team

Red Peloton Cycling Team

Virtual Everesting Challenge

For 2020 season, I had three major events I was targeting: Copperopolis Road Race (4/11), Berkeley Hills Road Race (5/9) and Mt Diablo Challenge (10/7). I had started working with coach Amber Smolik since February to help me get my training and fitness to a new level when the COVID-19 events started to unfold. Prior to the “Shelter in Place” (SIP) mandate came to effect, I had been doing great training rides with teammates Kurt Holt, Nick Grudzien, and our coach Amber and I felt my fitness was rapidly improving.

Once SIP took effect, I made the decision to exclusively ride indoor. To help me keep my sanity (or maybe prove I have gone insane), I started looking at something I have heard before but never considered of doing myself: “The Everesting Challenge.” It all started some years ago in Australia, and the goal is to ride the equivalent of Mt Everest elevation in one ride. You can do it either outdoors or indoors following some rules. Now that I had the time, I did the research and I seemed to have everything they required for it to be official attempt and eligible to the Hall of Fame. These are their requirements:
• Have a smart trainer (direct drivetrain is preferable). • Use Zwift as the virtual ride platform. • Set up the gradient as 100% (This is before Zwift updated the software and got rid of the feature)
• Weight yourself before the ride and make sure your weight is accurate on Zwift.
• Pick one climb and repeat it up and down until you are done with the challenge.
• You must ride to the top every time, no turns halfway to recover.
• Use a heart rate monitor.

I brought the idea up to Amber and she was supportive of it, we picked up the date (March 27th), and she had me tapper for the event. The plan was to stay in zone 2 (around 182w) for the entire effort. We calculated that it would take me about 12 hours to complete so I prepared for a long day in the saddle. I had a table with lots of food, a cooler with water bottles, Gatorades and protein shakes. I bought an extra fan to have one blowing from the front and another from the back. I was planning on changing Bibs three times during the whole event because when riding indoors, sweat accumulates a lot more than riding outdoors.

In 2019 I did the Terrible Two (200mi / 18,000ft), which took me about 12 hours, so in my mind I was thinking it would be a similar ride. In this case, I would do 134 miles and 29,029 ft of climbing (a total of 8 ½ times up Alpe du Zwift). I planned to start at 8 am and be done by 8 pm. I told all my friends on Zwift and invited them to join me for a while to keep me company and motivated.

March 27th, I woke up, had breakfast, kitted up (with the cool new RP kit), and weighted myself while Celia was recording it. I start at 8 o’clock and Jerry Roach was there ready to start the ride with me. He was pacing me up the climb for the first 4 repeats (That was almost halfway through the challenge!). His son, Nick Roach joined us for lap 3 and 4. I was feeling strong and motivated for those four laps. Then, they had to go back to their daily commitments, and I was alone for the first half of lap 5. That is when all the dark thoughts started to get in my head. I was so far from the end, but I had already committed so much time and effort and had made it halfway. I stopped and prepared myself a ham and cheese sandwich, which made me come back to life, and then Nick Grudzien joined to boost the moral and help me get going on lap 5. He then had to go back to his commitments and Aaron Isotton, who was taking a break from his work, joined me for a while to help me get to the top of lap 5.

Austin Hermosillo was quick to jump in and pace me through laps 6 and 7 and keep the moral high with his clever comments and funny jokes. Having people cheer me up via text messages, FaceTime, and discord was a big help! Half of the battle on those long rides is the mental aspect of it, because if your mind thinks you are done, then your body will start to believe it. When Austin had to leave after lap 7, I felt like I could handle one last time up the hill. I could almost feel it… it was so close!

I did lap 8 by myself, which turned out to be the fastest lap of the day. I was excited, and I was emptying the tank (finishing strong as they say). Donald Hersam jumped on to pace me through the last portion of the challenge; this time I had to only do half of the climb and I was ready to be done. Then the magic sound of Zwift achievement notification made me aware that I was done with the challenge!

Now I see many pro riders like Mark Cavendish, Giulio Ciccone, and Luke Rowe, complete the challenge at incredibly fast times! About 2 hours faster than me and it reminds me of an incredible experience I had with a great support group where I got to push the limits of my fitness. Thanks to all the riders mentioned above for taking up time from their day to help me achieve this crazy challenge!
When life gives you lemons…
Here is the link of the Strava ride: https://www.strava.com/activities/3225867761
Enrique Rojas
Cat 4 (road)

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