Home » Everesting by bike: Ruth Winder unveils her day of suffering

Everesting by bike: Ruth Winder unveils her day of suffering

Everesting by bike: Ruth Winder unveils her day of suffering
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The US National champion recounts her Everest Challenge, the hardest and longest ride she’s ever done.

The concept of Everesting by bicycle is simple: pick a climb to bike up and repeat until you climb 8,848 meters (29,029 feet), equal to the height of Mount Everest. Without any races, there has been a keen uptake in those brave enough to attempt to Everest, including a few professional riders. 

 

While Trek-Segafredo rider Giulio Ciccone completed a virtual Everest on his Saris smart trainer in April, US National champion Ruth Winder took on the challenge a month later, outdoors on her favorite climb at her home in Boulder, Colorado. It was by no means an easy feat, even for an accomplished professional. After she had recovered, Ruth spoke candidly about the highs and lows of her Everest challenge. 

At times I thought I would throw up, it was so hot and miserable. 

Everesting – by Ruth Winder

It wasn’t actually my idea.

Caley Fretz from CyclingTips thought about doing an Everest Challenge first and asked if I was interested. I quickly agreed.

This was quite soon after I came back from Europe, so really early into the coronavirus lockdown. We thought it would make a nice story, and it gave me something to focus on. The date we decided was May 20th, and we had about a month to prepare.

The climb that I chose to Everest was Flagstaff Mountain, and I had to scale it 14.6 times to reach 8,848 meters of vertical ascension. It’s a climb anyone in Boulder will know well. It’s been one of my favorite climbs since I moved here. At the base of the mountain, you get these gorgeous views, and then it’s got lots of twists and turns. It’s really steep at the bottom, then levels out and has a couple of hairpin turns, and later it gets super steep towards the top.  

I knew it wasn’t the most efficient climb to Everest because the descent is long and twisty, and there can be a lot of traffic which slows you down, and it’s quite flat in parts, so you don’t gain the elevation quickly when going up. Not to mention the altitude – it starts at around 1800m and reaches 2339m at the top, but it was never the plan to try to set a super-fast time. I wanted to Everest this climb because if I’m going to spend all day on my bike, then I can at least do it on my favorite hill.  

I set my alarm for 5:03 am, but I woke up at 4:40 am because I was too excited to get the day going. I left the house at 5:45 and rode to the base of Flagstaff, which takes under 15 minutes. I’m a little bit bummed that I couldn’t count those climbing meters because it’s uphill all the way from my house.  

photo: ©M.Thurk

Fuel Plan 

 

I had a plan of how much I would eat, but I didn’t want to stop too much because the elapsed time during Everesting counts for your overall time. I would grab a drink and some food and smoosh it in my mouth as I was going downhill. One of the things I’m most impressed about is that I managed to ride my bike for 12 hours and 37 minutes and only paused for 30 minutes. Normally when I go for a five-hour ride and have less than an hour of added time, I think, ‘good job, you didn’t sit at the bakery for too long today.’  

 

I baked some blue corn tahini cookies to keep me going, and they were so delicious. I also made  my own rice cakes. 

 

I came in and out of being at a low point pretty frequently. I felt like every other minute I swapped between ‘I got this!’ and ‘I haven’t got this.’  

Doubts 

 

I started to have serious doubts on lap nine. It was a real struggle. I was trying to break it up into thirds – I had to do almost 15 laps, so after five laps, that’s one-third complete, and then I thought about the next five laps. The problem was that after the first five laps, I still faced another eight hours of riding!  

 

On lap 11, people were coming up to me saying, ‘You got this! Only three laps to go.’ And I replied, ‘You do realize that means three hours plus of pedaling?!’

 

I came in and out of being at a low point pretty frequently. I felt like every other minute I swapped between ‘I got this!’ and ‘I haven’t got this.’  

 

I had a good group of friends who stood on the mountain for five hours, and they were at the top of the steepest section, so I had to put on a good face every time I went past them. It was helpful to have them there – it was the support from people that got me through. I think if I didn’t have the support both online and in-person, then I probably would have stopped with Caley, to be honest.  

 

It was hot and windy and not fun conditions to be out on the mountain. The temperature reached over 80°F (27°C) at one point.  

 

At times I thought I would throw up, it was so hot and miserable. 

photo: ©M.Thurk

The Last Climb 

 

 I got to the point where I was told I had reached the required meters climbed, so I rode another 10 meters just to be 100% sure, then I turned around and got in the car. It was a romantic notion beforehand to think that I would finish off the final climb.

 

But that was enough for one day.  

 

On the last lap, I had to go only to the base of the steepest section. For the previous seven ascents, I had thought that I couldn’t make it up that steep part again, so on the final climb, when I didn’t have to, you’d better believe I chose not to! Some of my friends, who had spent hours cheering for me, and my boyfriend Zach, were waiting for me when I finished. 

 

I had been so tired for so long that when I finished, all I felt was tired. I was too scared to sit down in case I couldn’t get up again.  

Post-Everesting

We got Indian takeout, which was so good! I had so much naan bread and rice! I couldn’t quite tolerate all the spicy Indian food that I would usually love, but I had a delicious creamy chicken dish, although I didn’t eat as much as you would have thought after 12 hours riding.

Zach had bought a cookie and cream ice cream cake, and I had no problem getting that down! I had been eyeing it up since a few days before when the local creamery posted a photo of it online. After over 12 hours of riding, it was the best surprise. 

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eB8z50YDyPg?feature=oembed&w=1920&h=1080]

For more, watch the above video from Cyclingtips.

Key Figures

  • Riding time: 12:37:23
  • Total elapsed time: 13:08:41
  • Climbs of Super Flag: 14.6
  • Total altitude: 8,859m
  • Total distance: 210.88km
  • Estimated calories burnt: 7,169 kcal

Ride nutrition

  • 15 bottles consumed (a combination of water and Enervit mix)
  • 1 pack of energy chews
  • 1 M&M cookie
  • 8 rice cakes
  • 7 homemade tahini cookies
  • 1 iced chai latte
  • 1 Coke

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