14hrs 35min in the Saddle - My Climb for NHS Charities

14hrs 35min in the Saddle - My Climb for NHS Charities

Avenir Athlete Samuel Wyatt-Haines recently completed an incredible 'Everesting' Challenge to raise money in support of the NHS.  Mount Everest is 8848m high, nearly 9km straight up!  To put it in perspective, the most climbing in a stage of the 2020 TdF route is a 'mere' 4400m, so Samuel is riding up double that.  An absolutely incredible feat.

Read Samuels account of the experience below:

Samuel:

So, what actually is an Everesting?  Quite simply, it’s climbing a single hill repeatedly until you’ve accumulated the height of Mt Everest at 8848m.  But it is also possible to do this virtually (vEveresting) which is what I did on Saturday 18th April to raise money for NHS Charities Together to help during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

How it works virtually?

Zwift provides an opportunity to Everest on any climb in the game from the comfort of your own home on your turbo trainer.  For me, this meant using the Epic KOM in Watopia a full 19 times to accumulate the full height. Because smart trainers have the ability to accurately replicate the climb it is effectively the same challenge as doing it outside.  

How to prepare for a v-Everesting?

The first thing to think about is whether your cycling fitness is good enough to last at least ten hours, if not more. 

The next is picking your climb. You could go for something really steep which would mean collecting vertical metres quicker, but it’s much harder to pedal.  Or, you go for something shallower but it will mean cycling a great distance. 

Thirdly, do you have people to help provide you with food and water all day?  You might be able to do the first few hours of collecting supplies on your own, or having it next to you but by hour 8 you will be very reliant on others helping you out. 

My preparation to v-Everest 

I decided on the Wednesday before to attempt a vEveresting for that Saturday.  A little bit of a rushed decision, but hey, these things probably aren’t worth thinking too much about! 

As an experience Ironman Triathlete, I figured my fitness was in a decent place with generally 10-15hrs a week of cycling and another 5+hours of running a week. 

Additionally being stuck in lockdown meant I was surrounded by people who could help get food and water for me.  So that’s two of my three factors considered.  The third was which climb to do it on.  For me climbing a steady gradient at a controlled power was far more appealing than trying to go harder up a steeper climb, so instead of the usual Alpe du Zwift being used, Epic KOM was my choice.  With the decision made, it was just about preparing for the day and trying to get through a ridiculous endurance challenge. 

Athlete Samuel Wyatt-Haines riding for NHS Charities

My motivation - why I was doing it

For those of you who know me will know that I have a connection with both the NHS and endurance challenges.  Firstly, my eldest sister is Registrar in Respiratory Medicine and her boyfriend is a Registrar in Ear Nose and Throat Surgery and both are working incredibly hard during this period.

Secondly, I am lucky enough to race for HCI Digital (www.hci.digital) when competing in long distance triathlons.  HCI work very closely with NHS trusts throughout the country improving patient pathways.  They have a real emphasis on the use of video which given the current circumstances can really help reduce the number of people going into hospitals and GPs, but still enable patients to receive the necessary information for their effective care. 

My Equipment 

For this challenge I was on my Giant Trinity Advanced Pro bike.  Why a TT bike? Well it offers a variety of positions to be in which I thought would be seriously useful in an all day endurance event.  I also have Absolute Black chainrings (53/39) on this bike which I find make climbing much easier. So a combination of spinning an easier oval chainring, and an option of multiple positions, I thought this was my best choice. 

My turbo was Tacx Vortex Smart which is a wheel on trainer.  It isn’t the most top end trainer, but it does the job really well and is just very reliable. 

Finally and most importantly was clothing, in particular shorts. Being on the turbo you don’t get the same road buzz that you do outside.  This means you don’t move around quite as much and you certainly feel the pressure of being in one position for a long time.  However, a good bike fit and my trusty Avenir bib shorts (which have amassed thousands of km in training), I knew I would be in a good place.  I also switched between just being in a short sleeve jersey, base layers and also putting on my gilets or long sleeve jacket for the descents.  Yes even inside you get cold when you aren’t pedalling down a hill!

I was also surrounded by two fans, an iMac for Zwift and food and water everywhere.  

How the day went

I started at 8am in my full black matching Avenir short sleeve jersey and shorts. I felt fresh and ready, but the huge challenge was really beginning to become a realisation.  My kit felt comfy, the legs were good and the piles of food next to me looked incredibly appetising. But oh how this was to change...

My plan for the day was to ride at 190w which is at the bottom of my aerobic threshold. I thought this was a sensible aim as it should be something I can hold all day.  But after the first two climbs I realised that this power would result in a much much longer day.  So for the remainder of the day I lifted to 220w and this turned out to be a good decision. 

The first five hours flashed by which I was really surprised at.  Usually sitting on the turbo for an hour feels like a long time, so this was a pleasant surprise.  The main issue five hours in was that I had only climbed 3000m.  I had hoped this challenge might take 10-12 hours, but my progress meant it was going to be a 15 hour day.  As much as I wanted to increase my power I knew I had to be sensible as I had no idea how my legs would feel towards the end. 

Hours 7, 8, 9 were awful.  I stuck to my food and hydration plans, but other than that everything was just hard work.  I couldn’t talk to anyone, i just had to put headphones in and hope that I would come out the other side feeling a little better.  I kept changing my clothing in an attempt to feel fresher, which involved switching between just wearing my base layer or just a jersey, which definitely helped.  At 9 hours I changed my shorts for the first time and this was a real lift for the second half of the challenge. 

Athlete Samuel Wyatt-Haines riding for NHS Charities

As hoped, I did pick up and felt better after hour 10. By this point I had moved onto sweeter food having stuck religiously to whole foods like peanut butter sandwiches and bananas throughout the day.  A pack of white choc chip cookies did the job of taking me over 6000m and the finish line certainly felt within reach. 

Hours 10 to 13 were tough again but I had some great support online, as I had done all day. Having mates call me up and talk to me as we rode up the climb made it almost feel like we were back on the road together.  This company certainly made a significant difference in overcoming the mental challenge of the day. The other bonus was that I ticked over 300km for the ride.  I’ve never been this far outside let alone on the turbo, so this was a good achievement to tick off.

The 18th and penultimate climb was the hardest.  It was getting to half nine in the evening and I’d been cycling for 13.5 hours and fatigue was really kicking in.  I could only manage 180w average up the climb and that felt like a monumental effort.  Getting food and drink in was almost impossible but the finish line was in sight. 

The final climb.  Finally.  By 10 in the evening I was fed up with sitting on a turbo.  I just wanted to go to sleep.  But I was so close, and i just needed to put one last bit effort in.  I have no idea where my energy came from but I pushed 300w for most of the final climb.  It felt like an eternity but eventually I got to the magical height of 8848m climbed.  The bad news is you have to pedal for a little longer before Zwift recognises it and flashes that you have an Everesting achievement to make it official.  I think the feeling was more of relief than anything else. It had been obscenely difficult and I was just so relieved to have finally finished. 

The final stats were:

  • 14hrs 35mins total time
  • 356km ridden
  • 8861m climbed

The reality of the challenge

Physically it is one of the hardest challenges I have done.  I’d compare it very closely to Ironman Wales which for any of you who know is an incredibly difficult course.  I’ve managed to get through 10 x 70.3 Ironmans and although some more successfully than others, this was definitely harder than those!  Constantly turning the pedals for 14.5 hours is hard work.  It is much harder than I thought it was going to be.  But probably the main challenge was the mental aspect.  Zwift does a great job of making the climb feel real, but you certainly still remember you are on a turbo.  Not moving anywhere is absolutely draining.  Overcoming the desire to just stop was the hardest thing but I am over the moon that I was able to finish the challenge. It really is a challenge you do once and never again. 

And because some of you may want to know, no I did not have any discomfort at all in my undercarriage. I do have great trust in my Avenir shorts but I didn’t know how I would feel after a day on the saddle. So this was a real bonus! 

A huge thanks has to be said to everyone who supported me. Whether that was in my garage, on Zwift, on the phone, or donating to my page.  In total, I managed to raise £885.00 which is just phenomenal. Thank you to each and everyone of you got me through this!

And if you are ever thinking about doing it, don’t. It really really hurts. 

 

Samuel Wyatt-Haines is an athlete representing HCI Digital, Giant Twickenham, Absolute Black and Avenir Cycling.  Follow him:  @samuelwh_tri

@hci_digital | (www.hci.digital

@gianttwickenham | http://www.giant-twickenham.co.uk/gb

@absoluteblack.cc | https://absoluteblack.cc/